Last year I went to Tokyo, and I was frankly, beside myself. Whether in beauty halls, pharmacies or 100 yen stores I was surrounded by cult products I’d heard about for years, and fascinating bits and bottles I’d never seen before. On the one hand are the super cute, super colourful, super kawaii ranges of false lashes, killer fibre mascaras and high pigment Harajuku girl colours, on the other there’s the beautiful bespoke brushes and high end foundations… AND THEN THERE’S THE SKINCARE. Japanese skincare brands are miles ahead when it comes to technology and innovation, and their products are some of the best in the world. So let’s kick off with some of that mind blowing skincare shall we?…
If you haven’t yet heard of double cleansing, then listen up, because in my humble opinion this is the only way you should be washing yo face. Exactly as it sounds: cleanse the face once with a cleansing oil to remove makeup and a second time with a cleanser to truly purify the skin. Practiced for centuries in Japan, while most of us choose “oil-free” skincare products, Japanese women love products “oil-based”. Contrary to popular belief oil dissolves oil and will not clog pores; allowing makeup, sebum and other gunk to easily melt away.
1. Shu Uemura Cleansing oil – From £30 . . . Shu Uemura isn’t only famed for his fabulous lashes, he also developed the first modern cleansing oil in 1967. Now available in a variety of options for various skin types, it remains a best-selling, award-winning product to this day, with a loyal global following including many of your fave makeup artists and models.
2. Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil – $48 . . . (Currently US/Asia stockists only, sob.) One of the most famous Japanese beauty secrets, camellia oil has been used for centuries, it’s even written in The Tale of Genji, one of the oldest books in the world, that the women in the court used camellia oil, and it is classically used by Geishas to remove their heavy white foundation.
3. Camellia Oil – £11.50 . . . (Shhh, don’t say it told you but… You can also buy 100 percent natural camellia oil in pretty much all Japanese pharmacies, this version of exactly that by Fushi should do the trick. A true bargain beauty product, it has the sexy added bonuses or being great for hair and nails and can also used during pregnancy to prevent stretch marks.)
4. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil – £21.50 . . . A staple in every Japanese woman’s skincare routine, this classic cleansing oil boasts TWO THOUSAND five-star reviews on Makeup Alley. Nuff said.
5. Bifesta Cleansing Lotion – From £16.95 . . . If you’re really not down for the oil cleansers, then Mandom’s Bifesta is a must. Kind of like a Japanese Bioderma, it comes with a super handy pump dispenser and additional toning and moisturising properties.
6. Shiseido Perfect Whip – From £7 . . . This cult, super cheap Japanese cleanser is purrrrfect as the second stage of your double cleanse. The lovely whipped texture remove any nasties and pore clogging oils from the skin without stripping your skin of your natural moisturising oils. Clever huh? It’s a little like the Asian dermatologist-recommended version of Cetaphil and Lord knows I love that stuff.
7. Cure Natural Aqua Gel – £33.90 . . . Undefeated as Japan’s top-selling exfoliator for a few years running, you will find no gritty, somewhat useless, exfoliating beads here. This product does exactly what you really want an exfoliator to do. Without any vigorous scrubbing the gentle gel effortlessly targets dead skin cells and has you watching in fascination and grossed out glee as the dead layers of skin ball up and wash down the sink.
And if you think that sounds a little gross but exactly what you’ve been after, then get a load of this;
8. Baby Foot – £19.99 . . . Creepy by name slightly creepy by nature, Baby Foot will have you donning a pair of plastic bag booties and then being both thrilled and terrified as you witness just how much dead skin it is possible to remove from your neglected hooves. I won’t share the wonderfully gross pics of the process with you here but feel free to give them a Google. Never again will a pedi-egg or a foot file come close to sufficing, this one has you shedding that dead skin like a snake.
9. Sekkisei Moisturising Emulsion – From £34 . . . There is a rumor that every nightstand in Japan has seen this navy blue bottle at one time or another, it’s that much of a classic. A light, milky emulsion that quickly melts into skin meaning it can be used in the winter as a serum, then in the summer, alone as a light moisturizer.
10. Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion – £18.90 . . . Toted as the country’s number one beauty product, it’s said that one bottle sells every 4 seconds in Japan. Blimey. Containing the purest ingredients and three types of Hyaluronic acid that penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, it promises that “one drop locks up an ocean”, referring to how much moisture is retained in the skin moments after use. A little poetic perhaps, but they certainly ain’t lying.
11. Yu-Be – From £13.50 . . . Another cult product, this time loved by the clever and notoriously picky folk at Sephora and Space NK. With its unique super-moisturising glycerine formula you can slather this on elbows, knees, lips and basically anywhere that is crying out for some added TLC. And praise be to God you can get it in Boots!! I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and say this is a miracle product, people swap their Crème De La Mer for this sh*t.
Once you use a Japanese sheet mask, you’ll wonder what the hell you’ve been doing with your life up until that point. Sheet masks are simply gel-soaked cotton masks, that arrive in individual sachets and have a foolproof, mess free application. Just place the sheet, with its eye, nose and mouth holes onto your face and neck and allow it to do its thing for 15 minutes or so, whilst looking like something from a horror film. Until you remove them that is, pat in the remaining gel, no need to rinse, and enjoy your fabulous skin, glowing and plump and fresh in a way you’ve never seen it before, I kid you not!
12. SK-II Facial Treatment Masks – £86 for 10 . . . This super hydrating mask is a true cult beauty product, and a favorite among makeup artists around the world to prep skin before makeup. SKII’s star ingredient, Pitera, works quickly on dehydrated skin, leaving it soft and hydrated, with a noticeable glow. This was the first sheet mask I ever used a few years back and no joke, in terms of instant, visible results, I would say it is one of the best products I’ve EVER used. All of the things you want skincare to do, all of the ways you want your skin to look; glowing, healthy, hydrated, plump… that’s what this does. The price can seem a little alarming, but per mask it could be considered quite the bargain, considering the results!
If you’re looking to try out a more bargain version however, hows about…
13. Kracie Hadabisei Facial Masks – From £7 . . . (No UK stockist, but easily sourced on Ebay/Amazon) or…
14. My Beauty Diary – From £6.90 . . . Originally from Taiwan, but super popular in Japan, with a vast range from Hyaluronic Acid to Diamond and Caviar (?!) and additional mini sheet masks for your tired and weary under eyes.
I’m just going to let all that awesomeness sit with you and sink in for a moment… And that was just the skincare.
Now before you buy your plane ticket and leg it to Japan immediately, just hold your horses and take a minute to head over to Part Two, for the makeup side of things. Just you wait.
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