When it comes to product quality and innovation, Japanese makers are the cream of the crop, with exceptional achievements in the automobile and electronics sector. Apart from high-tech machinery, the Japanese also create beauty products of excellent quality and value, something that they’re rarely recognized for outside of Asia.
Beauty and fashion website, The Cut by New York magazine spills that makeup artists backstage at Fashion Week often use beauty tools and cosmetics from Japan. The Cut, together with Japanese makeup artist Maki Ryoke, shares seven Japanese drugstore beauty buys that even women in the West are in love with!
Walk into a drugstore in Japan and you’ll instantly be overwhelmed by the myriad of products available. New York based Japanese makeup artist Maki Ryoke explains that, “If a drugstore product is not good and cheap, it won’t survive. It’s a very severe market (in Japan). It’s the only place you can find high-quality makeup for super cheap”.
If you’ll excuse this writer’s humble opinion, drugstore makeup in Japan is by no means “super cheap”, but most of these affordable products function as well as (or in some cases even better than) high-end over-the-counter products. Here are the seven wonder products picked up by The Cut, together with some alternative brands derived from my experience using Japanese makeup items for over five years and two years of working at a company dealing with Japanese beauty products.
1. Fake eyelashes
Japanese women swear by false lashes to help complete their makeovers. I’ve even heard of girls wearing up to four pairs of fake lashes at once! Massive demand creates a highly competitive market for high quality eyelashes that are durable and comfortable to wear, yet very affordable.
A typical drugstore in Japan can carry up to hundreds of fake eyelash designs, some of which are produced by popular Japanese fashion models and icons such as Tsubasa Masuwaka and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. No matter whether you like your lashes natural and sweet, or voluminous and dramatic, there’s bound to be a design that suits your look of the day!
▼ Falsies galore at a Japanese drugstore!
▼ Eyemazing false eyelashes produced by pop icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.
▼ Dolly Wink lashes produced by fashion model Tsubasa Masuwaka.
Many Japanese (as with many Asians) tend to have fine, short and straight lashes, so many women rely on mascara to give their lashes a boost, regardless of whether they’re wearing false eyelashes or not.
Japanese mascaras generally have long-lasting hold even during humid summer months. Popular brands such as Imju and Fairydrops are more accessible in the States, but The Cut and Maki have picked Shiseido’s Integrate mascara as their favorite for its ability to make lashes appear “crazy, natural, long” with its non-clumping properties.
▼ Shiseido’s Integrate Mascara
If you need something that is extremely waterproof, try the waterproof mascaras from Shiseido’s Majolica Majorca line. They’re so incredibly durable, you’ll need the brand’s very own eye makeup removing gel to remove it as regular makeup removers just don’t cut it.
▼ Majolica Majorca
Mascaras formulated with beauty serum in them are also immensely popular in Japan as they have moisturizing properties to gently care for your lashes while they look prep and pretty.
Many of these mascaras are also formulated to come off under hot water (not boiling hot, of course!) so you can simply remove them while in the shower! Dejavu’s Fiberwig is a long-selling favorite, among other notable drugstore brands such as D.U.P, Leanani, and Little Witch’s Mote Mascara (a personal favorite!).
▼ Dejavu Fiberwig
▼ Mote Mascara
Q-tips, otherwise known as cotton swabs or cotton buds, are a must-have in every household, be it for makeup application or for cleaning your ears. According to The Cut, Japanese Q-tips are finer, denser, and sturdier than American equivalents “which break in half and crumple any time you exert a little pressure”.
It’s also nice to note that Japanese Q-tips come in various shapes for different uses, and in colors such as bright pink and black (perhaps to blend in with your room’s interior, or to hide the color of your earwax).
4. Cure Natural Aqua Gel
A water based exfoliator that gently yet effectively exfoliates your skin, without the use of scrubbing beads or any of the like. Although this product’s formula consists of more than 90% water, its unique and gentle formula efficiently removes dead skin and impurities just by massaging a small amount of it over clean skin.
It’s almost like magic. Cure Natural Aqua Gel has remained undefeated as Japan’s top-selling exfoliator for a few years running, and is currently winning over international users at an explosive rate. Customer reviews on Amazon have rated it a high score of 4.6 stars, with user reviews raving about its amazing results. Bigger brands such as DHC and ettusais have released similar products in Japan, but none of them have managed to surpass Cure Natural Aqua Gel in terms of popularity and sales.
5. Tsubaki shampoo and conditioner (Shiseido)
One of the characteristics that defines “Asian beauty” is a head of shiny, beautiful black hair. Tsubaki, which is Japanese for camellia, is formulated with camellia oil, an ingredient used in Japanese beauty routines since the olden times.
Complete with beautiful packaging and a stellar line of celebrity endorsers, Tsubaki is the best-selling mass shampoo in Japan. Users love how the shampoo leaves their hair smooth, lustrous and frizz-free.
Other drugstore favorites inspired by the concept of “Asian beauty” include Kao’s Asience, formulated with oriental botanical ingredients, and Kracie’s Ichikami, which uses Japanese botanical ingredients including sakura (cherry blossoms) and rice extracts. The Ichikami line includes a silicone-free shampoo, which is said to be healthier for hair in the long run.
▼ Asience (limited edition packaging)
6. Deep Cleansing Oil (DHC)
When it comes to removing makeup, many women would probably agree that it is difficult to find a good makeup remover that is strong enough to remove even waterproof makeup, yet gentle on the skin and wallet.
The Cut puts their vote on DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil, which is said to effectively yet gently remove makeup with “the lightest of touches”. The product boasts 2,000 five-star reviews on MakeupAlley, an American makeup review site.
▼ DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
Fancl’s Mild Cleansing Oil has a steady following of users who love it for its efficient cleansing powers despite its deceivingly light and smooth texture that is extremely gentle on skin. If price is an issue for you (Fancl’s product is slightly more expensive than DHC’s), the Deep Cleansing Oil by HIPITCH has been gaining good reviews among Japanese users for its cost-effective performance.
If you’re not into oil type cleansers, the Mandom’s Bifesta makeup removal solution is a must try! Its water-based formula quickly and effectively cleanses all traces of makeup without leaving any oily or stinging feeling. The series also has an eye makeup remover that promises to make removing long-wearing waterproof eye makeup a breeze.
▼ Bifesta, endorsed by rock singer Anna Tsuchiya
7. Sekkisei emulsion (KOSÉ)
Sekkisei is a skin care series well-received among Asians for its whitening properties. While Westerners may not be as crazy about skin brightening or whitening products, it seems the editors at The Cut have taken a liking to the texture of Sekkisei’s moisturizing emulsion. Formulated with five botanical extracts, the product appears as a milky lotion, but feels smooth and light when applied, melting into the skin for instant absorption. Popular Japanese blogger Madame Riri shares that perhaps moisturizers of such textures are uncommon among Western made products, hence its popularity among Americans.
However, although many drugstores carry Sekkisei products, the skin care series produced by one of Japan’s major cosmetic makers, KOSÉ, bears a slightly more hefty price tag than the average drugstore product.
▼ Sekkisei emulsion
Hada Labo’s skin care line formulated with hyaluronic acid has been a hot seller over the past couple of years, and is still going strong. The brand also has a whitening line for those who wish to have fairer skin.
▼ Hada Labo (produced by Rohto), endorsed by popular idols Tomohisa Yamashita and Atsuko Maeda.
If you’re not into the whole skin whitening trend, Minon’s Amino Moist series has been gaining popularity among Japanese ladies as of late. The brand’s Moist Charge Milk is said to be formulated with nine types of amino acids to provide optimal moisture, and is gentle enough for use on even sensitive skin.
▼ Minon Moist Charge Milk
It takes a fair bit of selflessness to share beauty secrets because by doing so, people who have benefited from these tips may end up looking more ravishing that you. Such a bummer! Nonetheless, we hope these tips on Japanese drugstore beauty secrets will come in handy!
If you have any personal favorites to share, leave it in a comment below!