If you’re just starting out in the world of Japanese beauty, or if you’re already an addict wondering what you should buy next, check out my simple guide to this year’s must-haves, including the best of Japanese skincare and makeup.
Kose Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil is a real Holy Grail product: it only costs a few dollars, and can easily remove even stubborn waterproof makeup without irritating skin. The formula contains rice bran oil and mineral oil to nourish your skin, it won’t clog your pores, and it turns into a milky emulsion that easily rinses right off. If you can’t get ahold of this, the Shiseido Senka Perfect Oil is an excellent alternative.
Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioner is a versatile moisturizing toner with some great ingredients. It contains Dipotassium glycyrrhizate, a popular skin conditioning agent that reduces skin’s dryness and helps restore suppleness, and Job’s tears, packed with (Hatomugi and coix seed. Hatogumi is rich in vitamin B1 and B2, making it perfect for a whole host of skincare troubles, including soothing irritated skin, minimizing acne scars and hyperpigmentation spots, improving skin texture and elasticity, brightening dull skin and tightening pores. Not only does it do all that, but you can use it as a toner, a lotion mask, a mist or a body moisturizer! The huge 500ml bottle and affordable price make it a perfect choice for the woman on a budget who needs a multitasking product.
Quality First All-in-one Sheet Mask are the number one sheet masks in Japan, and once you try them you quickly understand why. They contain a bunch of super moisturizing, skin-plumping and skin-firming ingredients like hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed silk, glycerin, platinum powder, botanical extracts and many more. Like Naturie Hatogumi Skin Conditioner, these masks are great multi-taskers: they act as a toner, as an essence, as a serum and as an emulsion. Even better, they are sold in boxes of 50, meaning you get plenty for the price. A word of warning, however: as much as I love the moisturizing version I don’t find the whitening version truly worth the price nor the hype as the sole skin-lightening ingredient is arbutin.
Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion is probably the most popular toner in Japan – if you go shopping in Tokyo you’ll see women buying them in bulk! This lotion is perfect for plumping skin and reducing fine lines and sensitivity. It’s free of alcohol, fragrance, oil and colorants, is very moisturizing yet lightweight and doesn’t feel sticky on the skin. The premium version contains five kinds of (vegan) hyaluronic acid and is even more powerful at reducing fine lines and firming saggy skin.
Cure Natural Aqua Gel is the most popular exfoliant on the Japanese market, with one bottle is sold every 12 seconds. This product is natural, made with 90% purified water and plant extracts. Like me, you might initially be sceptical as to how a product made with 90% water can exfoliate the skin, but it really works.It’s extremely gentle, but extremely effective, and free of fragrance, colorant, animal ingredients, oil and preservatives to suit even the most sensitive skin.
Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner is another bestseller. It is extremely long-lasting and smudge-free, but not waterproof, so it comes off easily with warm water. This is probably why it is so popular as no one wants to come home and rub their eyes for an hour with makeup remover. It’s a cheap drugstore eyeliner that everyone should have.
For a more heavy-duty product, Isehan Kiss Me Heroine Make Smooth Liquid Eyeliner is an extremely waterproof, 100% smudge-free intensely pigmented eyeliner. The Kiss Me Heroine’s cosmetics are known to have an incredible lasting power, and the felt tip allows a stunning precision.
Isehan Kiss Me Heroine Mascara Long And Curl is the mascara everyone should have in their makeup pouch. Like the eyeliner above, it is immensely popular, and doesn’t smudge. It extends your lashes, makes them ultra fluttery, and gives curl that lasts all day long. The product has been recently reformulated, and while it’s not for everyone, most of us find it even more volumizing.
Kao Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ is the most perfect sunscreen ever made. Unlike a lot of sunscreen this one doesn’t feel greasy and doesn’t leave a white cast on the skin. It’s very lightweight and hydrating and can be used daily to prevent photoaging and protect the skin against UV. I also highly enjoy the Watery Gel version.
Kose Sekkisei Medicated Herbal Gel is another great Japanese product with multiple benefits. This hydrating gel is formulated with botanical extracts to improve skin’s radiance and calms inflammation. It’s lightweight but packs a powerful moisturizing punch. You can use it as a moisturizer, a massage cream, or make the most of its promise of eight hours’ of continuous hydration by using it as a night cream or a sleeping mask.