According to the World Health Organization, women in Japan have the longest life expectancy in the world at 86.8 years. Want to know what their secret is? Same. That’s why we enlisted health and beauty expert Erica Angyal, who was not only the official nutritionist to Miss Universe Japan from 2004 to 2012, but was also featured in the country’s most notable publications and TV programs, including The Japan Times, Vogue, and Elle Japon.
According to Angyal, here are ten key Japanese health and beauty rituals you should incorporate into your own routine.
Balance Your Macronutrients
While younger generations are starting to eat more westernized foods, the traditional Japanese diet has serious health benefits and includes lots of fish and seasonal vegetables, as well as tofu and seaweed.
“[The Japanese diet] is high in omega-3 fatty acids; powerful antioxidants; isoflavones, which help keep hormone levels balanced; and minerals like calcium and magnesium,” explains Angyal, adding that eating these foods is important for “maintaining a healthy body weight and for aging beautifully.”
If you want to follow this style of eating, you need to balance your macronutrients and eat protein, fat, and carbohydrates with each meal (for example: fish, rice, and a vegetable dish).
“This balance prevents a spike in blood sugar and also in insulin,” says Angyal. “The results are twofold: Lower blood sugar and insulin levels make it easier not to gain weight and also help prevent accelerated aging, since studies have shown that high levels of blood sugar accelerate aging.”
The second benefit is that the traditional Japanese diet includes small dishes featuring a variety of seasonal ingredients, meaning that each meal may have up to 30 ingredients and, ultimately, many micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which could reduce the risk of chronic disease.
Consume More Fermented Foods
Fermented foods and drinks such as amazake (made from rice), sake kasu (the sediment left over from sake production), shio koji (a type of seasoning), and various fermented pickles are all popular on Japanese menus and are important for not only your health, but also your weight.
“Fermented foods contribute to a healthy microflora and intestinal environment,” says Angyal. “A healthy, balanced intestinal microflora helps prevent obesity, metabolic syndrome, and weight gain.”
One of the more popular fermented supplements from Japanese wellness brand Kazumasa Kawasaki combines soybeans, bamboo leaf powder, kumazasa leaves, green tea leaves, and grains – and will ship to the U.S.
Drink Green Tea
Swapping out your daily coffee for a traditional Japanese green tea could be a smart move, says Angyal. “Green tea is an amazing source of the powerful phytochemicals called catechins,” she said. “Studies have shown that the green tea catechins help protect against UV damage and ultimately prevent premature skin aging. Additionally, green tea catechins have been shown to reduce both body weight and BMI.”
You should be having at least four cups per day to see benefits, so drink up.
Apply Tsubaki Oil
Tsubaki (camellia) oil has been a big part of Japanese beauty rituals for centuries. As a fast-absorbing, hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic (meaning it won’t block your pores) product, tsubaki oil used daily on your face, neck, and chest is believed to be able to help prevent the signs of aging.
Eat Seaweed for Healthy Hair & Nails
If you subscribe to the thinking that what you put in your body is more important than creams and treatments you put on it, then you’ll understand why commonly eaten seaweeds in Japan, like wakame, jikiki, and kombu, can make your hair shiny.
“They are all incredibly rich sources of minerals – notably calcium, iodine, and iron – that are all vital for glossy hair and healthy nails,” says Angyal.
Use Cling Wrap over Your Sheet Mask
“While skincare in the West is often part of a routine, much like flossing or brushing one’s teeth, in Japan it is very much a ritual, which can often include double the amount of steps compared to the West,” says Angyal. “And the key to beautiful skin is found in the whole skin care routine: prepping the skin with massage, steaming with personal steamer devices, and moisturizing sheet masks, sometimes with the addition of cling wrap.
“If you go into any drugstore, you’ll see an endless array of sheet masks, which help hydrate the skin, and some women cover the skin with cling wrap over the mask with holes for the eyes and nose for 20 minutes to further boost hydration,” continues Angyal.
Get a Personal Steamer
A personal steamer like Panasonic’s Spa-Quality Nano-Ionic Facial Steamer is a must for many women in Japan and is supposed to give spa-like hydration results at home while quickly removing makeup and dirt.
Do a Daily Lymphatic Massage
Lymphatic massage is also a popular beauty ritual in Japan that can be repeated at home with your hands or using a specific device like the ReFa CARAT.
“Massage a serum or a hydrating lotion or even an oil into the skin, neck, and décolleté, and then massaging not only the face but behind their earlobes, around the collarbone, and under the armpits to help stimulate lymphatic flow,” says Angyal.
Drinkable beauty products are popular among Japanese women; however, be sure to check the ingredients before trying them for yourself: “Many of these types of drinks include less-than-desirable ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose,” warns Angyal.
Avoid Overexposure to the Sun
This is an obvious skin-care tip that too many of us ignore, particularly at this time of year, but staying out of the sun is a must in Japan.
“Arm covers, large hats, gloves, and sun parasols and umbrellas are popular in summer or on sunny days to protect against UV damage,” says Angyal.
A version of this article was originally published in July 2016.