Asia is known to produce some of the best skincare and cosmetic products. Japan, in particular, is renowned among beauty-lovers (yours truly) for its very high-quality, , result-oriented, affordable cosmetics.
For a beauty product addict like me, the Land of the Rising Sun was heaven! I visited the drugstores about 4 times. The first 2 times I found it really intimidating and rushed out. With mountains of products and ads everywhere, visiting a Japanese drugstore is a multi-sensory experience and can be very overwhelming if you don’t know what you are looking for.
On the last week of our trip, and after watching about 10 YouTube videos and reading a plethora of articles, I had a list and I was ready! Japanese drugstores here I come!
Once in and armed with a list and a credit card, I faced another issue – packaging! Skincare experts will talk a lot about Asian beauty products, but rarely do they show you the box that contains them, and sometimes it is pretty much impossible to find a product because the packaging looks so different.
So in this post, you will find a list of skincare and cosmetic products I recommend buying in Japan, with a picture of the packaging when needed. I also tried to link to the products when I could find them online.
Another tip, you can buy all cosmetics tax-free in the regular drugstores, as long as you don’t open the bag before leaving the country. Great way to spend more… I mean save more!
1 – Sunscreens, sunscreens, sunscreens
Japanese women look ridiculously young. I know it is mainly thanks to genetics but they do wear sunscreen religiously. The minimum SPF available in most shops is 50+!
I myself wear sunscreen every single day, so I thought I would try some that are not available in Europe. I went for the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence, a bestseller there that came highly recommended by Gothamista, whom I adore. I also got a couple of the Biore mists useful to have at the ready on my desk for lunch breaks this summer. My future self will thank me in 20 years.
2 – Eye-makeup
One thing Japanese people are good at is eye makeup. They love a very thin eyeliner and very long lashes, a look right up my street!
I have hooded eyelids which means my makeup constantly crease or smudge, and with the promise of smudge-proof-everything, I had to try a few products. I went for the Dolly Wink eyeliner which is SO GOOD that I bought a second one on my last day in Japan. I also got an Avance eyelashes serum (because who doesn’t like long lashes?) and a Shiseido eyelash curler (Shiseido is a lot cheaper in Japan).
3 – Masks
An obvious one! Like in South Korea, Japan has a lot of sheet-masks on offer. I got the pink LuLuLun ones a bestseller, which has excellent reviews. I also got some Kose ones with the ‘top 1 bestseller’ logo.
Finally, I saw the Black GelPack Materic mask and had to have it! It’s black, sticky and promises to leave your pores squeaky clean.
4 – Nail clippers
Wait, did she just said nail clippers? Yes, I did!
For some reason, nail clippers are excellent quality in Japan so I bought a few. I have to say, they feel very sturdy and the blades are really sharp. They never break or chip the nails.
5 – Eye drops
If it’s good enough for Lily Aldridge it’s good enough for me! I heard about the notorious ‘minty’ Japanese eye drops before. People describe the feeling they give as a third-degree burn followed by the clearest vision.
The third-degree burn feeling is a massive exaggeration. Yes, it feels very cooling, yes you will tear-up for 30 seconds, but it really isn’t that bad. I got two types, a normal one and a contact lenses friendly one (did I ever tell you that I am as blind as a bat?). After the first 30 seconds, the relief feeling kicks in, and it is amazing! Your eyes feel fresh and moist (yum!), and they look whiter than usual. My new best friend to deal with a sleepless night (*cough* hangover *cough*)!
6 – AHA
Alpha Hydroxy Acid is great to gently exfoliate the skin. As an alternative to an aggressive physical scrub, I bought the BC AHA soap and the Rosette AHA face mask/scrub. They should be perfect to peel off my winter skin!
7 – Kose Medicated Sekkisei
I heard very good things about the Kose serum, a best-seller in Japan. With summer around the corner, I thought I could do with a light serum/moisturiser. It is supposed to make me look flawless so that’s good.
8 – Lip stains
A big trend in Japan is the ‘lollipop lip stain’ effect. Young women have a little hint of colour on their lips just like after sucking on a lollipop. It’s cute (‘kawaii’) and natural looking, I liked it so I bought one of the million lip stains on the shelf of the drugstore!
9 – Camellia oil
A best seller in Japan, Camellia oil is supposed to be great for hair. I hope it will tame my frizzy hair.
10 – Oily skin little helpers
Combination skin means mid-day greasy shine – a problem Japanese people are familiar with. To help tame my mid-day ‘glow’ I bought some Shiseido blotting papers (once again, MUCH cheaper there) and a nose primer. You read that right, it is a primer solely dedicated to the nose area.
11 – Very random things
Japanese drugstores are full of very random surprises! You can find detox masks for your feet for instance (yep). My feet being fine, I went for warming lavender eye masks, because why not?
I wanted to buy many more things but my bank account didn’t let me, so for now, here are my 11 Japanese must-buys! Until next time Japan!