Person brushing their hair
Royal jelly extract, camellia seed oil and honey... Japan's bestselling hair products are hyped for a reason. Image Credit: Shutterstock

A tub of creamy hair mask is the latest product to star in BeautyTok clips. Behind every video featuring glassy, lustrous locks, there's an unmistakable red lid somewhere, belonging to Shiseido Fino's Premium Touch Hair Mask.

After garnering 7.3 million views on TikTok, the mask propelled a new-found interest in Japan's approach to hair care.

We can't blame the internet - Japanese hair care is an intriguing cocktail of natural ingredients and good chemicals. Beauty enthusiasts will notice honey, royal jelly extract and squalane in nearly every trending product, be it a hair oil or mask. But, what does such a formula mean for the health of your tresses?

We spoke with Dr Shruti Kakar, a specialist dermatologist at Medcare Medical Centre, Al Barsha, Dubai, to help you make an informed choice about Japanese hair care. She shares that this viral line of inquiry has even reached her patients.

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Is Japanese hair care for you? Here's what a dermatologist has to say. Image Credit: Shutterstock

"Japan is known for its fusion of tradition and the latest technology, so what I can gather from the ingredients used is that they combine natural products, like honey, glycerin and royal jelly extract, with the bare necessary chemicals. These seem to be healthy for hair types that are chemically treated with colour or keratin, and most of these products are sulfate-free or low on sulfate, which we know causes hair damage. Plus, the fragrance is an add-on," said Dr Kakar.

Over time, the Shiseido Fino hair mask spurred a do-it-yourself challenge in the Chinese beauty community, where a dollop of the mask is mixed with baby oil and hair oil, and, then, applied to the locks for an intense glassy shine. If you're eyeing this technique, Dr Kakar says the additives may backfire.

Baby products, like baby oil, try to make up for low sebum levels in infants, and this can cause excess sebum in our hair. The results would most likely be unpleasant oily tresses. "Use a hair oil before shampooing your hair - we don't recommend applying it with a mask," said Dr Kakar. The product is all you need.

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People with bleached or chemically treated hair will benefit the most. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Our dermatology expert also breaks down a key ingredient found in Japanese hair care - royal jelly extract. 

"The best way to describe royal jelly is that it's a precursor of medical-grade honey, like manuka honey and acacia honey, that's not mixed with impurities. This purer form of honey is full of vitamins and minerals, and hydrating properties, which act as a barrier to keep moisture in. It can help with dandruff and scalp psoriasis," explained Dr Kakar.

Before introducing new products into your regimen, it's always recommended to conduct a patch test behind the ear to test for potential allergens. "If you're treating hair fall and other conditions, check with your dermatologist first in case there's an underlying medical cause," she added.

If this is the pick-me-up your over-processed and damaged tresses need, jump into our curated list of viral shampoos, serums and oils, below. Amazon's beauty and personal care products are available with a Prime membership for free, fast delivery.

1. Best Overall: Shiseido Fino Premium Touch Hair Mask

The purpose of this jelly-like hair mask is simple - to repair dry, damaged hair that's been in contact with harsh weather, ultraviolet rays, dyes and chemicals. Its famous formula not only features the humectant royal jelly extract, but also squalane, which adds to the moisture. Dr Kakar further highlights phytosteryl, a plant-based ingredient used in treating damaged hair, as well as glutamine to prevent greying of the hair. A hair mask is only meant to be used once or twice a week, and the Shiseido Fino mask is no different. Our expert advises keeping it on for 10 to 15 minutes post-shampoo, avoiding the scalp, and rinsing it out. Even curl heads in the reviews give their approval, while others marvel at how it's brought back their heavily bleached locks to life.

2. Best Value Hair Mask: Shiseido Tsubaki Premium Repair Hair Mask

Japanese beauty brand Shiseido's separate line of hair masks is a close second. Give your locks a salon treatment at home with the Tsubaki Premium Repair mask. It uses an instant penetrative technology to deliver nurturing ingredients straight to the cuticles. This means the components are so small that they're quickly absorbed, and the mask can be rinsed off right away. Like our best overall, this mask contains royal jelly extract and phytosteryl, besides glycerin and camellia seed oil. Reviewers see brilliant results for their frizzy or bleached hair, even after blow-drying. There's no weighed-down effect with this one.

3. Best Shampoo: & Honey Deep Moist Shampoo 1.0

& Honey's extensive shampoo and conditioner range has quickly found itself in people's hair routines. They rave about the Deep Moist line the most. It works on dry hair by using a formula that dedicates 90 per cent of its mix to deeply hydrating and moisturising ingredients, such as honey, royal jelly, argan oil and hyaluronic acid. The rich honey blend is medical-grade, made up of manuka honey from New Zealand, acacia honey from Hungary and raw honey from Japan. A sweet bonus is that the shampoo is free of sulfates, mineral oil paraben and silicones. Reviewers with dry scalp and dandruff love their experience with the Deep Moist shampoo. Many comment on the delectable Bulgarian peony honey fragrance. Don't forget to bundle this purchase with the conditioner.

4. Best Hair Oil: & Honey Deep Moist Hair Oil 3.0

In search of a new hair oil? & Honey is again the brand to watch out for. The interest in its shampoo naturally trickled down to adjacent products, like the Deep Moist Hair Oil. It retains the honey-rich base formula from the shampoo and adds rose flower extract, keratin and ceramide to reinforce hair strands. "Hyaluronic acid adds shine and moisture, while the many ceramides join bonds and treat damaged hair," explained Dr Kakar. The hair oil is a miraculous softener for over-processed locks, say reviewers, who even apply it to wet hair as a leave-in treatment.

5. Best Leave-In: Kracie Ichikami Japanese Grass Essence

If your hair type doesn't react well to oiling post-shampoo, pick up the Kracie Ichikami Japanese hair essence, instead. Rice bran extract, rice fermentation broth and rice germ oil help with hair growth, while squalane holds onto moisture. These Japanese botanicals have healing properties that get to work when you leave the serum in the hair. It's also great for protecting the hair from UV damage and frizz. According to buyers, the texture isn't oily so the essence sits nicely on the strands. Curly-haired reviewers love that the product doesn't add a cast over their ringlets.

6. Best Multipurpose Oil: Oshima Tsubaki Camellia Hair Care Oil

Some would prefer the intensity of a single-ingredient oil, like the long-time favourite Oshima Tsubaki Camellia hair oil. The 60ml bottle is nothing but 100 per cent pure camellia (Tsubaki) seed oil, cold-pressed from the same flower naturally found in Japan. Great for managing curly, frizzy, dry or damaged hair, camellia oil is packed with oleic fatty acids to moisturise and protect the hair from external pollutants. You can go ahead and apply it to the body and face, as well. Buyers say that the oil is surprisingly not greasy and absorbs quickly into the hair and skin. All you need is a drop or two for one-time use.

7. Best Shampoo for Dry Scalp: Kracie Dear Beaute Himawari Oil in Shampoo (Rich & Repair)

Another trending product to consider is Kracie's Dear Beaute Himawari Oil in Shampoo (Rich & Repair). It was awarded the best shampoo of 2022 by Cosme, a renowned Japanese beauty review site. Himawari or sunflower is the star ingredient here - premium organic sunflower oil, sunflower extract, sunflower seeds extract and sunflower petal extract, along with honey, make this sulfate-free shampoo a boon for dry, frizzy or unruly hair. Those sensitive to strong fragrances will find the scent mild, add reviews.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.