Shopping in Japan can feel a little overwhelming at times. There is so much of everything, sometimes I don’t know where to start. So knowing this, of course I came equipped with a short, but well researched wish list.
Japan is paradise especially for those who love make up, want quality, innovative products and ingenious beauty tools. But since I do not wear make up any more, I focussed mostly on the best Japanese skin care available. Simple, non-irritating, alcohol-free formulations are important to me, and for make up, I prefer it easy and fuss-free.
These are the Japanese beauty products I purchased in Tokyo.
Komenuka facial oil
What it is: Oil won from komenuka, or rice bran, is rich in beneficial enzymes, anti-aging antioxidants, proteins, the vitamins A, B2, B12 and particularly high in Vitamin E. It can be used as make up remover, hair care oil or moisturizer.
Why: I was looking into facial oils in order to prepare for winter, and found Tsubaki, or Japanese Camellia, and komenuka oil to be the most commonly used in Japan. I was eager to try either of the two, and simply happened to find komenuka oil first. It was around ¥1000 at Tokyu Hands, so the oil turned out to be inexpensive, too.
Verdict so far: I had read that both Tsubaki as well as komenuka oil were non-comedogenic, but now that I dug deeper into the matter online there is conflicting info on this. As far as I can see, however, the comedogenic rating of komenuka oil is between 0 – 3 with 5 being the highest.
I have only used the oil once so far by rubbing three to four drops between my palms, then gently pressing it onto my skin. For now, it has not clogged any of my pores and absorbed quickly. The greasy feeling typical for a face oil was subtle and did not bother me very much.
Cure Natural Aqua Gel
What it is: A water based exfoliator with natural plant extracts from rosemary, gingko and aloe vera, which performs gently enough for even the most sensitive skin. Supposedly the #1 exfoliator in Japan with “a bottle sold every 12 seconds.”
Why: Gentle exfoliation? Count me in! Although the deciding moment was when I test tried the gel on my hand.
Verdict so far: The texture is runny and clear, but rub it into your skin, and… it pills as if you had been working with an eraser. Very odd!!
Fans of this product maintain the particles are dead skin cells which the gel helps to come off. Realistically speaking, however, and judging from the ingredients, I cannot quite believe it. I suspect that the particles are formed when something in the gel solidifies upon surface contact. These particles then act as gentle beads which exfoliate the skin through mechanical friction.
Also, I have yet to try this on the face.
Kiss Me Heroine Make Long and Curl Mascara
What it is: A long-lasting, waterproof curl-maintaining mascara containing polymer fibers which lengthen, and Chamomile Recutita Flower Extract and Camellia Japonica Seed Oil which nourish the eyelashes.
Why: I am true and loyal to Kiss Me Heroine mascaras and used to use the Volume & Curl version myself for years. But this one I got for my friend who months ago mentioned that she was looking for a mascara that would absolutely not smudge.
Verdict so far: I both assured and warned her that Kiss Me Heroine mascaras are heavy duty stuff – which is a good thing! But it is also so durable on the lashes that I always had a hard time getting it off again at night.
So recently I saw my friend after she had had a long, hard day during which there may or may not have been a few tears involved. And indeed, not even a single little pigment of her mascara had budged throughout it all, and her lashes remained curled. The mascara also seemed to go on clump-free, but if it is volume you want you will need to consider the Volume & Curl.
Perfect Whip Cleansing Foam by Shiseido
What it is: A luxurious but inexpensive foam cleanser known for its ability to lather up to a thick, dense foam.
Why: If there is one Japanese beauty must-buy you need to know about it probably is this. Perfect Whip is undisputedly one of the most popular beauty bestsellers in Japan. I got one tube just to see what the hype was all about.
Verdict so far: I am still in the honeymoon phase with my Hada Labo cleanser, (see below ↓) and I have yet to use this. But at least I can say it was very inexpensive, and easily available pretty much anywhere in Tokyo.
Addiction Perfect Concealer Covering
What it is: A lush, highly pigmented cream type concealer that comes in two colors, #1 (light) and #2 (dark).
Why: Addiction, the brand, launched at about the same time I went to school in Japan in 2009. Back then, their range of products was still small, and they were hardly available anywhere even in Tokyo. But from the very start this concealer got in all the magazines and received rave reviews. I got my first pot right then, and found all the hype about it to be more than justified. Now in 2015, the brand has significantly grown under Kosé, and is more widely available in various department stores. I got my new pot in #1 at the Duty Free in Narita.
Verdict so far: I love this concealer! It is impossibly thick, and even more impossibly pigmented. It is so high coverage, just the teeny weeny itsy bitsy tiniest amount is enough for almost the entire face! This makes the ¥2600 I spent for it completely worth it, and means the pot will likely last me for a while. Please not that it is normally ¥3240, though!
I have tried a couple of methods to apply this, but conclude that fingers still work the best. The warmth of the skin helps melting the concealer and give it a more easily spreadable creamy texture. I dab it on wherever needed, and blend out with tapping motions. The concealer covers blemishes and discolorations reliably, blends out nicely, and stays put for a long, long time. As it works almost like a camouflage paste, it should also cover up instead of emphasize dry flakes around blemishes.
ANESSA Perfect UV Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++
What it is: A lightweight water-resistant sunscreen of typically high Japanese quality.
Why: To be honest, I only bought this because we had exactly ¥1500 left at the airport, and I knew this to be popular. But the bottle is tiny, which makes it a fairly expensive sunscreen, and it does contain alcohol, a skin care ingredient I am weary of.
[Read more about alcohol and other skin-irritants here.]
Verdict so far: I have not tried this yet either, soo…
Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Foam Cleanser
What it is: A gentle cleanser infused with Hyaluronic acid to restore and preserve the skin’s natural moisture free from alcohol, fragrance, mineral oil and artificial coloring. It is also skin pH-balanced.
Why: Our long awaited and highly anticipated trip to Seoul and Tokyo started out nice and tidy with our luggage lost in transit. So my very first purchase in East Asia in a very long time were a pair of panties, and a cleanser. The cleanser happened to be this.
Verdict so far: Before the trip, I was very, very happy with my tried and trusted SK-II Facial Treatment Cleanser. So I had many things on my list to buy in Asia, but a new cleanser was not one of them. That is, until I used Hada Labo.
I have not touch my SK-II again once ever since, and instead bought four more tubes of Hada Labo in Tokyo. From the very first moment, it has become by far my favorite and most loved cleanser in the world. That is why I will cut this mini-review short right now, and dedicate a longer, more detailed post on it here!
Things I did not buy in Japan
Google best Japanese beauty products, and there are certain products that always make the list. I went through all of them very carefully, and finally decided against some of them:
Any cleansing oils: Nowadays I prefer to use balms.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence: Although it was available for “only” I think a bit more than €100 for 210ml at Don Quixote, I was just not ready to shell that kind of money out for a very basic formulation.
[Read more about the essence here.]
Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion: I do not doubt this is a wonderful moisturizing toner. But I have more exciting products waiting for me at the moment, and hydration alone is a bit yawn.
LuLuLun Balance Moisture Masks: These masks are immensely popular, but I simply hate sheet masks. Not for their performance, but just the whole experience of wearing them. Judging from the ingredients, however, they looked promising.
Kosé Sekkisei Emulsion and Nameraka Honpo Shittori Keshousui NA: Both contain alcohol, an ingredient I try to steer clear of as much as possible.
Do any of the Japanese beauty products I purchased in Tokyo interest you? Are there any you want to read more about? Let me know in the comments.