Japanese Beauty and Skincare Shopping Guide
I’m lucky enough to have been to Japan a number of times, mostly to visit family, and so am often asked for my recommendations. It’s quite hard to find Japanese beauty products online for reasonable prices, so I often stock up on my stash in person!
So if you, or a loved one, are headed off to Japan this is my guide to shopping for cosmetics in Japan.
It includes my recommended places to go, products to keep an eye out for and some top tips!
- Travel Kits – You can often find travel size versions of the big brands, as well as travel kits, within convenience stores, aka combinis. So do have a look, as it’s a great way to try out products without committing to a full size product.
- Refills – Refill packages for lotions/foam cleansers/shampoos etc can be found for popular products at drugstores. These are good for buying backups of your product, without having to buy another bottle. They’re usually slightly cheaper and more malleable, so you can store more in your suitcase.
- Duty Free – Carry your passport with you. A lot of the central Tokyo stores will offer tax off your shopping, but you need your passport with you. Don’t unseal the bag it comes in, and claim back at the counter within the store. Or in some stores you can go to a VAT/Tax-free counter and it will be deducted when you purchase. This only applies to products for personal use outside Japan.
- Top Ranked – Look for the “Cosme” ranking sticker on products. This is a Japanese cosmetics award across all products and categories. There’s usually a prominent sticker or label on the product itself if it ranked well. Gold, silver and bronze.
Stores to Visit
By no means exhaustive but these are the stores where you’ll be able to get most of your beauty fix!
I highly recommend going to Shibuya Station and then nearby Harajuku. Most of the stores listed below are within walking distance to these two stations.
For those looking specifically for Korean products only, Shin Okubo is the location of Korea Town. However the prices at these stores can be marked up, so be aware.
Matsumoto Kiyoshi – Matsukiyo
Domestic drugstore with numerous stores across Japan. They often allow for duty-free purchases and stock the most common products.
Website: Matsumoto KiYoshi
DonQuijote – Donki
Megastore of everything from cosmetics to cosplay at affordable prices.This place can be overwhelming to the senses, but well worth a visit. You can stock up on Japanese snacks here as well. Numerous locations across Tokyo.
Daiso – 100 Yen Store
A must visit, this store is well-known for having good quality items at low prices. Numerous locations across Tokyo
Ainz & Tulpe
Cosmetic store with a great outlet on Omotesando Street, nearby to Harajuku station.
Website: Ainz & Tulpe
Loft is a Japanese department store which of course includes Beauty. You can find one in Shibuya, but there are branches near other main train stations as well.
If you’re someone who loves collaborations this is the store for you.Often stock Sailor Moon and Disney branded make-up and skincare.
Website: Its’ Demo
If you’re looking for more high end, luxurious cosmetics this is the department store for you.
It’s based at Shinjuku and is very close to the station.
What to Buy?
First a disclaimer. Everyone has different skin types and skincare concerns, so there’s no magic one product fit all answer to this question. However below are the products and brands that I personally like and some others which are highly recommended.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Do let me know if there are any you’d strongly recommend in the comments!
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil – Olive oil based cleansing oil. Also comes in travel size for those not sure they want to commit to the full size.
DHC Lip Cream – My HG lip balm. Reviewed here.
Hada Labo Hyaluronic Foam Cleanser – Cult favourite, low in pH and reviewed here: Foaming Wash Review.
Hada Labo Hyaluronic Lotion – Comes in different varieties. The moist is the most popular, but the premium (gold bottle) is slightly thicker and more hydrating. Great to use to DIY your own sheetmasks. Reviewed here: Lotion Review.
Sheetmasks – Simple and hydrating sheetmasks.
Melano CC Spot Treatment Essence – My HG vit C product, reviewed here: Spot Treatment Essence Review.
They also have sheetmasks, lotions and creams in this line.
High Moist Lotion is highly thought of. They also have emulsions and creams in this line.
Sana Nameraka Isoflavone
This is the Soybean brand from Sana, which is high in the Cosme rankings.
Lotion, foam cleanser and eye cream in particular are the highlights.
140 years old, probably the best known Japanese beauty company worldwide. Check them out for their make up as well.
Senka Perfect Whip – Famous cleansing foam. Due to the high pH I use this as a shaving foam. Reviewed here.
A more expensive brand, can be found in most department stores.
Eyelash curler – My HG curler, adds curl to my dead straight lashes.
Cleansing Oil – Famous but expensive cleansing oil.
Eyebrow Pencils – Soft but pigmented
A more expensive brand, can be found in most department stores.
Kose Softmo Cleansing Oils – affordable mineral cleansing oils
Cure Natural Aqua Gel – Well-known physically exfoliating gel.
Bifesta – Make up remover and cleansing oil
LuLuLun – This is a prominent sheetmask brand. You can find all different varieties and are a good affordable sheetmask. Often they come all in the same bag. By which I mean five sheetmasks within the same bag. Which is better for the environment, but means they can dry out more quickly.
Kao Megurhythm Steam Eye Mask – This comes in different varieties of scent, and is a relaxing hot eye mask
Japanese sunscreens are well loved for being cosmetically elegant. Though it’s worth being aware that there’s usually a high alcohol content as well. There’s a number of different brands to recommend and it probably deserves it’s own post.
Below are a few of the favourite brands:
Make Up Highlights
Popular cosmetics brand. Their blushes and eyeshadows in particular are good. Sheer application, as with most Japanese make up brands.
Their mascara lines are fantastic for their long wearing power.
Rose de Versailles Eyeliner have good pigmentation and are easy to apply
High quality brushes
Hair Product Highlights
A couple of suggestions for hair specific products. Conditioner is also sometimes known as rinse.
Oshima Tsubaki Oil – Camellia oil.
Shiseido Tsubaki Shampoo/Conditioner – These come in different varieties, worth googling to see which would suit your hair type
Daiso – Tools and Affordable Cosmetics
Daiso has some amazingly affordable and innovative products. I would definitely recommend that anyone, regardless of if they have an interest in cosmetics visits. As they have everything from stationary to kitchen goods from a low price of 100 Yen.
Sheetmask Mask – Plastic mask which holds sheetmasks in place
Compressed Sheetmasks – Compressed sheetmask tablets which you can soak in lotion/toner/essence to create your own sheetmask
Oil Blotting Papers – Can never have enough of these!
So those are all the recommended stores and some highlights of the skincare/beauty items that Japan has to offer! Hope that you will find this guide useful when visiting Japan.
I’m always on the lookout for more products to try, so do leave a comment with your favourites!