Discover the Ancient Japanese Secret to Flawless Skin with Sake

How Sake Can Help You Achieve a Healthy and Glowing Skin Naturally

Take a gander in the world of beauty bloggers and TikTokers and you'll find a bunch of posts discussing the skincare benefits of fermented rice water and DIY posts on how to make your own.

The benefits of sake (fermented rice water) are well known in the Western beauty world today after it became a popular ingredient in K-beauty, where it's commonly labeled as rice water or rice ferment filtrate on product ingredient lists.

But did you know that the original form of fermented rice water is actually Japanese rice wine, also known as Sake?

It started as an age-old Japanese beauty hack that was passed down as a folk tradition from one generation to the next since 794 AD and incorporated into skincare by the brand SK-II in the 70s.

Fermented rice water can be produced using different rice types and processes. However, the traditional Japanese method of making sake is the most effective due to the unique fermentation yeast found exclusively in Japanese breweries.

This special fermentation process not only maximizes the nutritional potency of rice, making it richer in amino acids and peptides than non-Japanese fermented rice, it creates new compounds like Kojic acid, which bring even more benefits to the skin.

While the overall benefits of sake's powerful brightening, hydrating, and anti-aging powers are pretty well-known, there's still yet another Japanese beauty secret that's only just beginning to become known outside of Japan!

It's another fermented rice product that can only be sourced from Japan, but is even more potent and nutrient-dense than sake!

rice for skin
sake kasu

Table Of Content

  • Sake's Evolution into a Timeless Skincare Ingredient
  • The Science Behind Sake and Skincare
  • Unveiling the Potent Power of Sake Lees (Sake Kasu) - Japan's Latest Skincare Obsession
  • Is Sake Lees Right for Me? 
  • How to Incorporate Japanese Sake Lees into Your Skincare Routine
  • The Ultimate Guide for Using Rice for Flawless Skin

Sake's Evolution into a Timeless Skincare Ingredient

Sake fermented rice water is good for my skin?

Referred to as Japan's National Drink, Sake is rice wine that is made through the controlled fermentation and distillation of carefully harvested rice grains. Like wine, sake comes in varying grades and classifications, with some fetching tens of thousands of dollars per bottle.

Sake is known for providing numerous proven health benefits, such as the prevention of cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. Studies have also shown it to have enormous beauty benefits like anti-aging, hydration, and skin brightening.

Dermatologists, beauty editors, and estheticians alike extol the wonderful benefits of sake. In fact, recently interviewed several board-certified dermatologists who explained the myriad benefits that sake has to offer.

rice water for hair history
sake kasu skincare products

How did the application of rice and sake in beauty start?

The first known use of rice in beauty extends all the way back to 794 AD, during the Heian Period in Japan.

While the rice fermentation process for sake was still maturing and its skin benefits were still yet to be discovered, court ladies around this time already had the practice of combing the rice water that was leftover from washing rice grains through their hair.

Rice water helped these women achieve long, straight, thick, glossy hair, which was considered to be a great social asset at the time.

As sake production matured and its myriad skin benefits became known, people began to find creative ways to leverage the powers of sake and its by-product sake lees (which we go into detail further down).

Examples include using sake as a natural skin toner to remove makeup, polish off dead skin cells or applying a sake lees paste mask to tighten pores, softening dry patches, and even out skin tone

Perhaps our favorite example is the practice of taking a sake bath - that's right, a bath infused with real sake! Not only is it hydrating due to elements like glycerine, soaking in a sake bath raises your body temperature and blood circulation, so you can sweat out the impurities that clog your pores. .

An article by Condé Nast takes a peek at some of the hot spring inns (aka onsen ryokan) in Niigata prefecture, Japan's top sake-producing region, where guests can soak in a hot sake bath.

Read about this beauty editor from Allure who shares her personal experience of traveling to Japan and partaking in a sake bath.

If you want to take a sake bath at home, here are a few tips:

  • Fill your tub with at least 1% by volume with sake (around 30 ounces). Feel free to use more.
  • You don't have to use super premium sake, but the sake should have no additives
  • Fill your tube with hot water, but not too hot. Remember that prolonged exposure to hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation.
  • Add optional additional natural ingredients like salt (100~200 grams), lemon (1 lemon thinly sliced), ginger (1 knob of freshly grated or thinly sliced ginger), or honey (2 tbsp).
  • Soak in your tub for at least 15 minutes.
diy sake bath

The Science Behind Sake and Skincare

The story of Master sake brewers and their secret to the fountain of youth

The popularity of sake (fermented rice water) in the modern skincare market today is a fascinating story that goes back to the 1970s Japan.

To meet growing consumer demand for new effortless ways to maintain beautiful skin, skincare scientists turned to the same natural ingredients Japanese people had used throughout history for clues.

Naturally, they took a closer look at sake to see why it was persistently a beauty favorite throughout history.

Toji Master sake brewers at work

During their research, these scientists noted that the hands of elderly Master sake brewers (Toji 杜氏 in Japanese), appeared unusually smooth, supple, and decades younger than their face.

The scientists realized that their youthful hands was a result of the the sake brewers spending their days immersing their hands in the fermented sake "mash", aka Sake Lees.

After years of research and development, scientists extracted one of the compounds, called Galactomyces.

SK-II utilized this Galactomyces sake compound to become one of Japan's first and most premium skincare brands.

They trademarked the compound as Pitera which have been found to be especially effective in fighting against uneven skin tone, dark spots, and the free radicals that cause the appearance of skin aging.

SKII and Pitera

Since then, interest in sake for skincare surged across Japan and even spread to the rest of Asia, where for several decades SK-II dominated the premium skincare market and enjoyed a loyal following. Some of SK-II's most popular products include a Japanese sake toner, sake face mask, and fermented rice face cream.

It wasn't until around 2015 or so that the benefits of sake were introduced to the rest of the world via K-beauty under the name fermented rice water.

By now, the secret is out about the amazing benefits of sake and what skincare enthusiasts are calling a "miracle ingredient".

It's popping up all over the place in both Asian and Western skincare brands alike, from Olay, to Drunken Elephant, to K-beauty brands like Amore Pacific.

However, Japan’s best-kept beauty secret still lies in the humble Sake Lees (aka Sake Kasu) which has yet to spread outside of Japan.

What is Sake Kasu?

Unveiling the Potent Power of Sake Lees (Sake Kasu) - Japan's Latest Skincare Obsession

What is Sake Lees and how does it relate to Sake?

The word "LEES" may seem unfamiliar to non-sommeliers.

Lees are the sediment of a liquor (such as wine) during fermentation and aging.

In the sake-making process, sake lees (or 酒粕 sake kasu in Japanese) is the residual fermented rice mash from which the sake beverage is distilled. It has a doughy to paste-like texture with a fruity aroma similar to sake.

Sake lees is even more nutrient-dense than sake itself and is commonly upcycled and sold as health food ingredient or incorporated into skincare products.

Until recently, sake lees was still a well-kept beauty secret only known and used in Japan, but is now gaining keen interest across France, Switzerland, Germany, UK, and Nordic countries.

What is Sake Lees?
Koji mold

What also sets the sake fermentation apart is a special yeast called Koji, also known as Aspergillus Oryzae.

Certified as the "National Mold" of Japan, Koji is uniquely responsible for the ever popular skin-brightening compound, Kojic acid.

The fermentation of rice is especially helpful for skin because it breaks down the nutrients within the rice into smaller particles, which allows them to penetrate the skin more deeply and be absorbed more effectively.

Not only does the fermentation process increase the potency of existing compounds, it also produces new ones, such as probiotics, lactic acid, Kojic acid, ceramides, and peptides.

What's more, fermentation also helps to prolong sake lees' shelf life by introducing natural antimicrobial components, thereby rendering any synthetic preservatives or harmful parabens unnecessary.

sake kasu vs rice water


Various scientific studies have shown that fermented skincare ingredients are much more potent in comparison to their non-fermented counterparts.

For instance take a look at the chart above, which shows the nutritional breakdown of sake lees (left column) and the original form of the rice, which had not gone through the Koji-assisted fermentation process (right).

Scientifically Proven Beneficial Compounds Found in Sake Kasu Fermented Rice Mash

Sake Lees (sake kasu) has:

  • over 26x vitamin B2 which helps prevent dryness
  • 10x the amount of Niacin which helps build keratin, a type of protein that keeps your skin firm and healthy
  • 56x the amount of Folic acid, which increased hydration by maintaining skin barrier function and is known to significantly reduce the signs of premature aging by helping with collagen production
  • nearly 2x Pantothenic acid, which is best known for its hydrating, soothing abilities. It helps repair and soothe damaged skin barrier thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties

Discovering the Potent Skinloving Nutrients in Sake Lees

Is Sake Kasu Right for Me?

Sake lees is a natural source of more than 100 types of skin-loving nutrients!

These include antioxidants, vitamins, peptides, probiotics, enzymes, and amino acids. They include Galactomyces, Ethyl α-d-glucoside(α-EG), Glutamic acid, Proline acid, Ferulic acid, Kojic acid, Lactobacilli, Glycine, Lysine, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Saccharomyces, Vitamins B1, B2, E, and more!

why amino acids are important for your skin

Why are amino acids so vital for skin health?

They are the essential building blocks of proteins that make up the primary component of the skin's Natural Moisturizing Factor NMF on the stratum corneum, and is responsible for maintaining skin moisture, plasticity, and barrier function.

The interactions among these hundreds of nutrients in Sake lees provide powerful anti-aging and skin protection properties, such as the ability to smooth and soften rough skin, brighten skin and reduce dark spots, moisturize and firm up the skin, balance skin tone.

anti aging skin compounds

The biggest cause of aging is damage from ultraviolet radiation, which destroys collagen and hinders the skin cells ability to repair and regenerate.

The amino acids and vitamins in sake lees work to counter the signs of aging and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that can absorb UV light and help shield the skin against sun damage.

Meanwhile, Proline acid, Niacin, Ethyl α-d-glucoside help to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, promote cell turnover, and repair sun damage.

exfoliating property of sake

Sake lees contains enzymes that gently exfoliate dead skin cells without stripping moisture from the skin, while also helping to boost healthy skin cell renewal.

The amino acids and saccharide compounds such as alanine and Ethyl α-d-glucoside(α-EG) help to suppress skin roughness caused by UV damage, smooth out uneven skin texture, maintain skin elasticity.

sake for acne prevention

Sake compounds can help reduce pore size by increasing skin hydration, controlling sebum production, increasing skin elasticity, softening the skin and exfoliating dead skin cells and oil.

Galactomyces, in particular, is observed to have a significant moisturizing capacity and to decrease sebum (oil) production stimulated by UVB irradiation.

sake for skin brightening

Sake lees is a rich source of kojic acid, arbutin, and ferulic acid. Sake lees helps to turn around dull and tired skin for a brighter, more glowy complexion.

Kojic Acid, a potent antioxidant is known for its powerful ability to reduce hyperpigmentation such as melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) by blocking tyrosinase, an enzyme that causes the abnormal overproduction of melanin, the pigmentation of your skin.

Both Kojic Acid and Arbutin are considered to be two of the best natural alternatives to hydroquinone because they provides the same skin-lightening benefits without the associated risks.

Ferulic acid is a natural UV absorber and works to inhibit the production of melanin. When combined with Vitamin E, ferulic acid can prevent and revert hyperpigmentation.

rice water to hydrate skin

Sake contains many different kinds of amino acids, moisture-boosting ceramides, and other compounds that keep your skin hydrated and give it a supple appearance.

In particular, Ethyl α-d-glucoside(α-EG) and Glutamic acid work to increase the water content in your skin cells and prevent moisture from evaporating.

Additionally, the galactomyces in Sake lees increases the skin's natural production of hyaluronic acid, which draws in moisture from the environment and help the skin retain its elasticity as we age.

These compounds work together to increase your skin's elasticity, give you the appearance of plump, youthful skin.

boost skin carrier with rice

Your skin has a natural protective barrier that is crucial for preventing moisture loss and shielding against irritants that cause dry, flaky, itchy, inflamed skin and undesirable conditions such as eczema.

The niacin, arginine, glutamine, and lactobacilli in sake lees can help to repair and strengthen your skin’s protective barrier and reduce redness and soothe inflammation.

japanese sake barrels

How to Use Japanese Sake Lees into Your Skincare Routine

Try it yourself! How you can add sake lees to your skin regimen

In Japan, you can buy Sake Lees in the local grocery store, which are sourced from various rice fields and breweries from around Japan.

It's a must-have in Japanese kitchens not only for its useful application in health food ingredient but also a skincare.

Sake Kasu is usually refridgerated and is good for a few weeks in the fridge. They also sell powdered dry sake kasu although that tends to have slightly less nutritional value.

where to get sake kasu
SKII and Pitera

If you're not in Japan but are lucky enough to live close to a Japanese food mart that stocks sake lees, you can try using Sake Lees in these creative ways:

  • Mix Sake Kasu to water in a (1 sake lees : 2 water) ratio to make a paste and apply the paste to your face for 10-15mins. Rinse thoroughly afterwards.
  • Make a Sake Toner at home! Download the guide below 👇
  • Buy a high quality sake face mask online and feel the calming effects.
  • Try a sake bath in your home! A 2002 study found that patients with atopic dermatitis who bathed in rice water twice a day experienced a 20% improvement in skin healing!

Get the Ultimate Guide to Using Rice for Better Skincare

The Fountain of Youth is in Your Kitchen! Get Radiant Complexion in 3 Days.

Easy ways to see if your skin is getting all the nutrients it actually needs?

Learn how to create your own rice water serum.

Step-by-step guide on creating your own fermented rice body and face mask.

Get your soak on, and learn how to whip-up a Sake-tastic bath bomb.

27 pages chock full of minimalist skincare tips!

INÉ Skin Nutrient Bar: Your Key to Unlocking the Ageless Beauty of Fermented Rice Water!

Introducing the INÉ Skin Nutrient Bar

An Artisan Soap Bar Made with Japanese Sake

Immerse yourself in the transformative power of fermented rice with the Skin Nutrient Bar, meticulously crafted with 100% organic Sake Kasu, a legendary secret from ancient Japanese skincare rituals.

Each bar, lovingly crafted to preserve the full, potent benefits of Sake Kasu, is designed to cleanse, nourish, and rejuvenate your skin from head to toe—all in the meditative mist of your shower. Just as the Toji's hands glow from daily immersion in sake, your skin too can embrace the radiant benefits of sake.

  • Free from Harmful Additives
  • Vegan Friendly 
  • Non-Comedogenic
  • Safe For All Skin Types
  • No Artificial Coloring or Fragrance
Learn More

Say goodbye to complicated routines

Great skin starts in the shower.  Your shower routine should not only clean but also nourish your skin.

Infused with Sake Kasu, a cult secret fermented rice extract from Sake breweries, our nourishing Skin Nutrient soap bar is packed with all the nutrients your skin craves...over 100 skin loving nutrients including Kojic acid, Ferulic acid, and Galactomyces 💯

It's like giving your skin a big ol' hug from the inside out, leaving it feeling nourished, healthy, and radiant.

No Extra Steps; Just Shower With It

Bask in the Sake Kasu. Just lather up in the shower.