In Japan, the humble drugstore is an absolute wonderland for skincare and cosmetics shoppers. Great quality for the price points, fun packaging, and serious active ingredients make bargain beauty shopping a breeze here, and if you visit, you can pretty much throw a dart and find a huge selection in any ward in Tokyo. Here’s an updated roundup of some of my favorite Japanese drugstore beauty products.
Product: Gel Volume Top Coat
Price: Under 600 yen (like five bucks US)
Why it’s awesome: Super long lasting, a fellow expat turned me onto Canmake’s nail line a few months ago. The polishes go on easy and maintain shine for a solid week. For the price, they really can’t be beat.
Product: CoQ10 Sheet Masks
Price: Under 500 yen (~ $3.50 US)
Why it’s awesome: These are everywhere… EVERYWHERE in Tokyo, but not all sheet masks are the same. With CoQ10 as the hero ingredient, these masks fight free radicals, promote elasticity, and soften fine lines. Cheap and cheerful daily maintenance.
Product: d program Medicated Concealer
Price: Under 4000 yen (in Japan… buying in the States it runs about $45.00)
Why it’s awesome: Two words: maximum coverage. I tested d Program in the store and my nose pretty much disappeared. It’s like a magic eraser, and loaded with active ingredient Phellodendron amurense (a.k.a. amur cork tree bark), it clears blemishes and fights red weirdness without over drying. Considering the Mercier concealer palette is around $32.00, it’s not exactly a bargain, but if you breakout and want a serious concealment… this is the go-to.
Product: Lip Cream
Price: Under 650 yen (in Japan… buying in the States it runs about $8.00)
Why it’s awesome: Not too hard, not too soft, DHC’s super emollient lip cream is just right. Fragrance-free, olive-oil based, this cult classic both in Japan and in the States is everywhere in Japan (even the convenience stores). DHC is to Japan what Clinique is to the States: a simple, nationally renown brand found in every woman’s beauty arsenal. My apartment in Tokyo is literally six minutes away from two DHC shops.
Product: 1 Day Tattoo Eyeliner
Price: Under 1300 yen (in Japan… buying in the States it runs about $15.00)
Why it’s awesome: A razor sharp tip and almost indelible formula make 1 Day Tattoo a forever favorite. I’m not a pro makeup artist by any stretch, so on most days nailing my cat eyes is literally a stroke of luck. K Palette is the Japanese standard for long lasting, super fine liquid liner. I’m not as crazy about the eyebrow version, but for a sexy stiletto eye, 1 Day Tattoo is my top choice.
Off to stock up for my trip to the States!
Upscale, but not insanely spendy. Natural, but still a little glamourous. Effective, but not mundane or medicinal. When it comes to skincare and foundation makeup, Koh Gen Do hits all the right notes.
I’d heard from the blogs about the line ages ago and filed it away under “stuff I gotta try.” Then I forgot about it, until a trip back to SF last year when I saw it at Sephora. With so many amazeballs products to check out, quite honestly, I jut never got around to truly test driving it until recently.
I was granted the ultimate beauty blogger assignment by Savvy Tokyo: A test drive of four of the best foundation lines in Japan… with samples of everything from primers to color correctors, powders, creams, and of course, the foundations. And one of those lines was Koh Gen Do.
The foundation review is coming up on Savvy soon, but I wanted to share some of the other goodies KGD carries that I’m lusting after…
Spa Cleansing Water
This stuff gets rave reviews on the blogs and at Sephora… my editor at Savvy called it a “life-changing product,” (and she’s a hard-core beauty pro). Cannot wait to get my hands on this one.
This moisture-locking glossy lip color has no parabens, no artificial colors, and the pink beige might just be the mythical “perfect nude.” I’m on it.
This reminds me a lot of the Laura Mercier concealer palette. Again, a super natural and high quality choice, I’m looking forward to testing this one’s staying power.
After testing the foundation products, I’m pretty much convinced that Koh Gen Doh is my new favorite Japanese line. I’m heading back to America for the holidays so I’m on a spending freeze, but when the bar is lifted, I’m super excited to check these out. If you’ve tried any of these products… let me know your thoughts!
Tokyo is the undisputed beauty champion of the world. Every week I see game-changing products at the counters and in the speciality shops, and especially, and somewhat surprisingly, at the drugstore. There’s a reason SO many beauty blogs are dedicated to Japanese drugstore loot– it’s inexpensive and generally pretty awesome. Because the market is so saturated here (seriously you can buy BB cream at the convenience store) the big beauty companies know they have to give up the goods.
Anyway– that’s a long intro just to say here are a few new finds I’m playing with, from fancy shops to the corner Matsumoto.
Shiseido Pore Smoothing Corrector
Shiseido is one of my favorite brands even before I moved to Japan. I picked this up at the amazing Shiseido the Ginza store a couple weeks ago. LOVE. I’m a primer and BB cream fanatic– I’ve tried at least 20 types in the past 12 months. This primer is matte, goes on silky, and doesn’t do that weird cakey thing when you apply foundation afterward. PS? Shiseido the Ginza is amazing– it’s been described as a “Beauty Theme Park” and I totally agree. If you’re in Tokyo you have to check it out. The displays are so cute and they have every product under the Shiseido sun at every price point… I could spend hours there. If you’re in the States, you can get the primer here.
Tuberose on the rock please….The perfume bar at Shiseido the Ginza.
Now. Onto to some of the drugstore finds:
The Konjac Sponge
I was chatting with a reader the other day about the konjac– it’s been a big buzz product in the US market for a while now, and after picking one up at Tokyu Hands the other day, I think I see why, but the jury is still out. Konjac sponges have been around in Japan forever– it’s a 100% natural, super gentle exfoliator and facial sponge. Surprisingly, they come moist in the package, and have a really interesting texture. Soft and spongy like you’d expect, but also kind of like foam rubber? I just started using it and can definitely say it leaves my skin squeaky clean without stripping or being too abrasive, which is nice since I’m microderming like a nut after all the sun I got in Vietnam last week. It’s more gentle than my Clarisonic and more effective than a wash cloth, so my guess it that it’s great for sensitive skin or for anyone doing a peel series or any kind of med-spa treatments. At 700 yen (15 bucks at Sephora), I say give it a try and tell me what you think.
Cheap, effective, available at any drugstore in Tokyo… these kind of blew me away. I’m kind of addicted to tooth whiteners and wanted to try a Japanese brand, and let me tell you, these seriously work. Totally gentle, they’re kind of like Crest Whitestrips but they’re padded so they stay in place really well and the formula foams up nicely. These are really only available in Japan as far as I know, so for my expat peoples, these are worth checking out.
You don’t have to leave them on too long– the online translation says a few minutes, but I left them on for like an hour? My teeth are flipping WHITE. Maybe too white? I’ll back off for a while… in this shot they’re whiter than my pearls… whoops.
Wishing you smooth skin and pearly (but not TOO pearly) whites. 🙂
Hello Summer. You sexy thing you. I’m still a bit drunk from all of the beach and sea love from Vietnam. Seriously the people and the beaches were so lovely it makes me want to pack a bag and wander Southeast Asia for a few weeks. That said, when I got back to Tokyo, I did a full beauty inventory and realized that even slathered in sunscreen and limiting my exposure I got quite a bit of sun. Yikes!
In Japan, tan skin is a big no-no, especially for modeling and commercial work (read: my agent is gonna kill me). No one wants to shoots dry hair or peeling skin. So right now I’m in full-on replenish mode to keep my skin glowing and hair shiny. Here’s the plan for the next week or so:
1) Take it off. This means getting my ends trimmed and exfoliating EVERYTHING. My hair is ombre and my afternoons at the beach have turned the tips of my hair white blond. Kind of cool looking, but also a bit fried. I’m getting a half inch chopped off across the board for a fresh edge.
I’m also using Shiseido’s Tsubaki Treatment Mask on the lower half of my head every other night for a next few days. I alternate with a purple conditioner so my blonde doesn’t turn brassy. Tsubaki gets mixed reviews on some of the JP beauty blogs but I have to say for my texture (fine hair, color-treated, and and lots of it) it totally works. And at less than 1000 yen, it’s a steal.
I’m also using my home-grown coffee and brown sugar scrub every day in the shower to slough off dead skin, and moisturizing heavily with coconut oil both in the morning and at night.
Here’s my recipe for the scrub- it’s super easy and always in my shower:
- Day old coffee grounds (about a cup)
- Brown sugar (about half a cup)
- Lemon juice: it’s a natural toner and skin brightener (about 2 TBSP)
- Almond Oil: Enough to bind the mixture
2) Shed a layer. As far as my complexion– I’m going hard core. Sun is a major ager, and while I didn’t burn, I could tell right away it was a bit too much sun love. I’ve been dermaplaning (the Japanese technique of facial fuzz and skin removal– LOVE– and wrote about it and the coffee scrub here.) and will microderm tomorrow night. I’m also breaking out the big guns and slathering Cle De Peau’s Le Creme all over my face at night. It makes a major difference and as cleared up the dry weirdness around my nose. This stuff is insanely expensive (525.00 USD an ounce!!), but after using my sample size from Shiseido the Ginza, it’s no question the best moisturizer I’ve ever used– and that’s saying something. Another luxe cream I adore is La Prairie’s Anti-Stress Cream. At 142.00USD for 1.7 ounces, it’s still super expensive, but at least attainably so. And it’s a major transformer as well.
So help is on the way. And even though tan isn’t popular in Tokyo, I personally love having a little glow. I feel like it looks healthier and I’m a bit more body confident.
You can take the girl out of California… 😉
June brings a fifth season to Japan (and a many parts of Asia actually…)– rainy season. It’s pretty warm out most days but the rain cools things off and makes this time of year really pleasant. There’s something kind of romantic about warm, wet weather… a messy, sundresses and rainboots kind of thing. I like warm weather so summer in Japan doesn’t really bother me (I can hear the groans from my fellow expats now…).
Anyway– I’ve been out and about and picked up a few summer beauty finds for glowy skin and a chill vibe.
Missha Super Aqua Snail Hydro-gel Mask
You know how much I love Missha, and their snail line is really the gem of this brand. I put my sheet masks in the fridge and slide one on at night… soft, bright skin and a nice way to chill at the end of a hot day. Snail slime extract is known for its regenerative effects on the skin, and the Baobab and green tea extracts fight free radicals– key for any anti-aging products. Plus it just feels good.
Obagi Vitamin C Serum (Japan Line)
Obagi is different in Japan than in the US and they sell it everywhere. This might be one of my favorite things about the country. I loved the line in SF, but had to buy it through a med spa and it was super expensive. I’ve already written about the benefits of topical vitamin C, and this stuff delivers in a big way. Darkness under my eyes is fading, and my overall skintone is tight and smooth. I bought the 5% to test it and use it nightly after toner and before moisturizer. Seriously– this is a product that delivers real results in just a few days. Obagi does have a pro-line available in the States… you can try it here.
Kobako Finishing Puff and Multi-use Sponge
My Laura Mercier puff was toast and it was time to upgrade. I went to Isetan in Oimachi and found this little cosme tool line out of Gifu called Kobako. I’m not a huge fan of powdering during the summer and I try to wear as little face makeup as possible– I apply foundation only wear I need it (chin, nose, anything red) and blend lightly with the sponge. Then I take the tiniest amount of pressed transparent powder (right now I’m using Chanel, but I need to find a good mineral alternative!) and buff it down with the puff. The result is a polished but slightly unfinished look. I try to avoid looking to “done” in hot weather… feels weird!
The Body Shop Smells Like Summer
I was in Ginza getting my computer fixed (it EXPLODED) and I found a Body Shop! I picked up their Body, Linen, and room spray in Sandalwood and Ginger, and a Green Tea and Lemon essential oil for my diffuser. Right now I’m obsessed with my apartment smelling like a spa at all times, and usually this stuff is pretty expensive… but the prices at BS are super reasonable.
And again– being a bit anti-lipstick for summer, this Born Lippy tinted lip balm is beeswax based, makes your lips super soft, and tastes like strawberries. And the color is subtle and sheer, but adds enough oomph so I’m not washed out. LOVE.
If you have any summer beauty finds (especially mineral powders!) let me know– I’m doing a major cosme edit and looking to pick up some new, preferably natural go-toos!
The biggest beauty and spa show in Japan. Every year, Beauty World showcases the hottest trends in skincare products and gadgets– thousands of people descend on Tokyo Big Sight to check out what’s going to be on the shelves next year.
The biggest trend? Natural everything. Organic, all-natural products. YAY. I’ll do a product post later this week after I’ve tried some of these goodies out.
I did double duty at the show: I went to write a roundup article for GaijinPot so expats could check out the beauty buzz, and I worked as a model for my makeup artist pal Yuki Haba, hair master Asuka Higa, and rockstar photographer Ryo Onodera. It was way too much fun. 🙂
Here are a few shots from the work we did for Atelier Raison— a professional makeup artist product company in Tokyo.
Asuka is a hair genius. I want her to come over to my house every morning and braid my hair.
Yuki used stencils and a Temptu airbrush for the effects. I love the way Temptu feels!
Next week I’m shooting with Yuki and Ryo for a creative test— both of these guys are absolute masters. So excited to see what we come up with! Oh! And you can check out more behind-the-scenes shots on my FB page.
Next post: The Beauty World Haul!
In my quest to perfect the “No Makeup Look” for summer, I’ve tried several combos of foundations, BB’s primers, and concealers and figured out a few things that work on me. This is an unedited photo after I did my makeup this morning… which took me about ten minutes since the only eye makeup I’m wearing is brown mascara (Loreal Voluminous… MUAs love this stuff!)
NML Rule #1 Less Product, Better Product
Makeup, it turns out, often looks like makeup when you put it on. Shocker, I know! But if you cover every little discoloration and spot, as tempting as it may be, you might as well go all the way with the eyes and lips too because your perfectly covered face is kind of a giveaway that you’re concealing your skin. I discovered 24h Cosme (super popular, all-natural cosmetics line) while randomly shopping for epsom salts the other day* and fell in love.
Check this one out:
24h Cosme Stick Cover Foundation (I’m using #2)
- All-natural, chemical-free and additive-free
- Contains jojoba oil, aloe extract and Vitamin E
- SPF 50 PA+++ for maximum sun protection
Because the coverage is reallllly good and the formula stays put, I really just use it on my nose, chin and eyes. Blend with my Armani Foundation blender, and NO POWDER. This isn’t a matte look. I pat a dry sponge all over my face before using cheekbone highlighter and bronzer. No blush.
What I used:
Too Cool For School Highlighter in Clubber (I’m almost out– addicted to this stuff!) It’s a subtle sheen that makes a world of difference.
Addiction anything, really. This is an amazing Japanese product line.
I finished with a neutral lip liner (I stained my lips, no outline) and added my absolute favorite lip balm by natural Japanese company, Daily Delights (デイリーディ). It’s shiny and sexy and healthy. LOVE. I’m still on Peach Melba but am thinking these would be perfect in a gift box I’m making for someone back home. An excuse to try something new!
So bottom line:
1) Use awesome, high-quality, preferably all-natural products in small doses. 2) Take pristine care of your skin so you don’t need much to begin with!
Let me know your favorite natural cosmetics… I’m on a massive research bender for the good stuff.
(PS: Epsom salts– a lot of wellness experts swear by salt baths… too bad you can’t find them anywhere in Japan!)
To be sure… I love all the pretty Japan makes. The formulas are generally spot-on, and when I can find colors that suit my “non-Asian but still ethnically ambiguous palette” * I am generally super thrilled. As a whole, drugstore makeup is more expensive here than in the States, but the quality, variety, and color range is also WAY better too.
All of that said—I’ve noticed that while there are a metric ton of Japanese cosmetic options—the organic options made here are just a sliver of the market. I asked a Japanese co-worker what she recommended for organics—and in true form, she came back to me with brochures and samples (so sweet! Thanks H!) This is the one the ladies here like: Naturaglace.
- No parabens
- No synthetics
- High SPF (yay summer!)
- Moderately priced
And pretty freaking lovely to boot. And made down the road in Kanagawa!
Here’s what I sampled…
Naturaglace UV Base Milk, SPF 43 (PA++)
Naturaglace Make-up Cream SPF 30 (PA ++)
I’ll admit… when I first applied the Base Milk I thought, “NO PHOTOS TODAY.” The high SPF of this product gave my skin a very masky glow (and not a good glow… more like a ghost glow). But I wanted to give it a fair shot. I then applied the Make-up Cream (I added a bit of liquid bronzer because the sample was too light for my olive complexion) and finished with a light dusting of powder, a little highlighter, and nude eyes. The coverage is SUPER sheer, so I built it up around my chin and nose and spot concealed as needed.
At first I wasn’t super blown away… until I went to run errands and caught my face in a mirror. My skin looked SO SMOOTH. Really even, poreless coverage. YAY! Natural makeup that works!
(Not the most flattering photo, but I wanted you to see how even the coverage is. And yes I fixed my eyebrow before leaving the house!)
This is a great sunny day product—it’s sheer and lightweight, and the major sun protection kind of makes it a no-brainer. Add a little bronzer, some mascara, and a tinted lip balm and you’re set! I’m going to play with this line and update this post as I learn more about it. But at first use… it’s a keeper. Check out the line at Rakuten!
(product shots courtesy of naturaglace.jp)
Yes. Winter gloom has finally melted. I’ve been itching to play with my hair for a while now, and knowing with shoots I can’t do anything too drastic, I opted for some subtle ombré (the cool kids are calling it sombre…). Whatever you want to call it, it feels good to lighten up. The winter layers are gone, and a touch of blonde was just the thing to pick up my look for spring.
I usually do a single process in natural dark brown at home- nothing crazy, so it never really damaged my hair. I did notice after the foiling, my hair was a bit dry. And with warm weather and beaches on the way, I needed a new plan of attack.
I picked up the Lux Super Damage Repair system at Matsumoto for super cheap- like 700 yen? It’s the typical hair pack: wash, put in, let it sit for a few minutes and rinse. After day one, texture immediately felt better. The highlights still look dry to me, so we’ll see how it looks at the end of the week when I’ve done the whole 4-day she-bang.
I’ve also stopped washing my hair every day. I still rinse it and condition, but the word on the street is that daily surfactants overly strip your hair (makes total sense.)
Having super dark hair for the better part of a decade, even this subtle change feels pretty drastic… But I’m liking it so far. It’s fitting my lighter, brighter, healthier mood these days. We’ll see how light I go by summer!
YOU MIGHT LIKE
Holiday Lust List: Hair Shiny Hair for Lazy Girls I <3 Big Hair
The C Word. Drugstores, supermarkets, high-end beauty counters: in Japan, everywhere you look, you can buy collagen to improve your skin. From beauty drinks to supplements to topical creams, masks, sprays, gels, collagen is sold to women across Asia as an anti-aging and skin improvement treatment.
I’ve heard of it… but what’s collagen?
Here’s a basic definition (quoted from smartskincare.com)
Collagen is a protein (a biological polymer consisting of amino acids) that serves as a key structural component of connective tissue such as skin, bones, ligaments, etc. Dermis, the inner layer of the skin, contains large amounts of collagen whose fibers form a supporting mesh responsible for skin’s mechanical characteristics such as strength, texture and resilience.
I wanted to believe I could just drink it and have awesome skin forever. But the more research I did, the less hopeful I became. A few months ago I was doing beauty research in Seoul, and sat down with U.S. trained, board certified dermatologist, Dr. Julius Jon at his med-spa clinic in Gangnam (arguably, the skin-perfecting capitol of the world…). “The collagen industry is 100% marketing,” he told me, “It doesn’t work.”
Your skin can’t eat it, and eating it kills it.
Collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin– even if they were broken down to a molecular level, where your skin could absorb them, the most the will do is attract water to temporarily hydrate- collagen doesn’t build collagen. And if you eat it, your digestive enzymes break it down long before it can produce any kind of skin boost. I KNOW I’M SAD TOO.
So ingesting or applying collagen doesn’t work. BUT… boosting collagen does, you just have to do it the right way. topical Vitamin C is one of them.
Can’t I just drink OJ?
No– I mean sure… Vitamin C is super good for you overall, but drinking or eating it just means it’ll get broken down in your system and used for energy… it won’t reach your skin for the collagen promotion Vitamin C is known for. You gotta slather it on. Here are a few I’m looking to check out. (I added the Sugar lip balm from Fresh yes, because it has Vitamin C, but it’s also just an amazing product– comes in both tinted and un-tinted. LOVE.)
I’m heading to Sephora this week while I’m in SF… so I’ll post my wonder C product on my Instagram.