Cosme Shopping: What to buy when you’re in Japan

We’re spoiled now in the age of e-commerce and especially Amazon … most of the world is at our fingertips, ready to buy with just a credit card number and a click. Still, that convenience can come at a price (or not at all). Often imported items, thanks to duty and availability, come at a big price increase. Other times, lesser-known items aren’t available outside their home country at all. So a savvy beauty shopper (ahem, you) will take advantage of their travels, stocking up on the best their destination has to offer. And here, my humble opinion of some of the best cosme shopping that Japan has to offer.

Japan Cosme Shopping: Lashes

First: if you’re into false lashes, Japan is home to massive selections of high quality, moderately priced lash sets. Literally aisles of them at some stores. Even the Daiso lashes even are pretty nice, and shopping at your local supermarket, you can find sets in the impulse buy section at the checkout. Celebrity makeup artist Lisa Eldridge says she brings suitcases of them home with her from her trips to Japan.

cosme shopping
Hi, My Name is The Best Damn Eyelash Glue on the Planet.

On the same front, if you’re doing lash cosme shopping in Japan, you need to pick up a tube or three of the best lash glue ever. Literally this glue is life-changing. Which glue? D.U.P. I don’t know what D.U.P. stands for, and honestly I don’t care, because this stuff is gold. This glue has no odor, glues down tight (with no eye irritation), and removes easily. Nothing in the states comes close.

And still on the lash front, Japanese mascara is serious business. Mote, D.U.P. and Heroine Make all make amazing formulas, for way less than what you’d drop at Sephora stateside. I personally use Heroine Make (around 1200 yen) as it’s completely bomb proof (for realsies, ultra marathon, beach, swim, dragon boating proof). Consequently, it can be difficult to remove when you’re ready; I also use Heroine Make’s remover (700 yen), which is this super innovative oil-based remover that comes in a mascara wand. You brush it on your lashes with the plastic applicator, wait a few seconds, then cleanse like normal. Nothing works as well, at least not that I’ve tried.

The cult classic (and amazing) lash curler from Shu Uemura should also be on your list. A $21 splurge in the states, it runs about 1200 yen from Don Q in Japan.

Japan Cosme Shopping: Sheet Masks

You knew this was coming. Sheet masks are huuuuuuuge right now, on the entire planet. Asia is the best place to buy high quality, moderately priced masks. I’m personally a super fan of the offerings Kose has to offer.

This summer, reach for Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion SPF 50+. Now at NORDSTROM.

Babyish: These come in resealable multipacks (convenient!) and offer a lot of hydration and brightening for not many yen. There are a few flavors, I haven’t noticed a ton of difference between them. Kose recommends these for younger women (in their 20s), though I am quite established in my 30s and I enjoy these masks still.

Kose Cosmeport: These come in small boxes of individually wrapped masks (very nice for travel vs the Babyish mondo packs). The hyaluronic acid ones are extremely hydrating and plumping (temporarily kiss those fine lines goodbye!), and the vitamin C ones are hydrating and very brightening. Overall, you can’t go wrong with anything from this line.

cosme shopping
Such value, much results! BUY ALL THE EYE MASKS!

Kose Eye/Smile Line Masks: These eye masks are amazingness. Total miracle workers. They come in huge 32-set packs (64 eye masks) for about 800 yen ($7.50 USD) which is a massive value if you have ever shopped for eye masks. They are super thin, don’t need to stay on very long, and have retinol in them to provide long term benefits in addition to the crazy-amazing short term benefits they have. The only downside: they come in resealable packets, like baby wipes or makeup remover wipes, and you have to make sure they reseal properly or risk drying them out.

Japan Cosme Shopping: Blush

Do you love blush? Me too. It gives me life. Not literally, but it helps me fake looking alive and well-rested. Japan is home to some beautiful offerings.

If you’re looking for cream blush in your cosme shopping, you’ve come to the right country. Sooooo many terrific offerings from drugstore to department store abound, thanks to Japan’s obsession with beautiful and glowing skin.

Kate cream blush comes in only two shades, a pink and a red tone. It has a beautiful, satin finish with no shimmer and lasts a full 7-8 hours on my combination to oily skin and mimics a natural flush perfectly. It runs about 800 yen.

cosme shopping
KATE cream blush in “classy pink.”

Canmake cream blush runs even cheaper, at 700 yen, and comes in a variety of shades including more orange and fashion shades. The packaging is a little bit, errr, tacky in my opinion, but this blush is a cult classic and considered a must-buy for many Japanese cosme lovers.

Powder blush abounds as well, and mosaic blushes are very popular in this market. Again, inexpensive Canmake has a very popular, or ninki, option with a few different tone ranges and costs around 800 yen each.

On the higher end is the mosaic blush from Maquillage, a Shiseido brand. This is a department store brand and has been featured several times by Ms. Eldridge herself. The case is beautiful, and like many things in thrifty Japan, is reusable. Consumers can buy refills for the case for a marked discount from the whole enchilada.

Japan Cosme Shopping: High End Japanese Skincare

Finally … if you’ve always wanted to try a luxury Japanese brand like SK-II’s products but could never bite the bullet … No export duties in Japan make cosme shopping the top shelf products much more affordable.

I recommend the starter sets of SK-II’s famous essence, which come with a full-size bottle plus other goodies (what’s included depends on the retailer; Aeon usually includes one of SK-II’s ridiculously famous and ridiculously expensive sheet masks, plus a few other things). These sets run about 6400 yen where I live.

Sekkisei Medicated lotion from Kose is one of my all-time favorite skincare products. It’s a “whitening” product, which despite the name is not going to bleach your skin. It fades marks (acne scars, age spots, etc) and brightens, and is also a good moisturizing layer. A medium size bottle should be around 3500 yen. If you’re cosme shopping at New Year’s though, you can score mega packs of Sekkisei products in lucky bags for big savings.

cosme shopping
Haba Squalane Oil, 30 ml. I think this was around 2700 yen if I’m not mistaken.

If you like higher-end beauty oils and oil cleansers, look no further than HABA. HABA bases much of their line off squalane oil (FYI, squalane oil is very quickly becoming a darling of the Western skincare world). Most of their line is based upon shark-sourced squalane, but in Japan you can also purchase their Squalane II products, which are made from plants. This oil is fantastic, even for oily skins like me, and their oil cleanser is a bit of a cult classic. See here for more info on squalane benefits.

Japanese Cosme Shopping: Sunscreen. Of course.

I’m beating a dead horse here, I know. Japan is the mecca of sunscreen. It’s the best. Bring an extra suitcase for the cases you should buy while you’re here.

What are your favorite beauty items in Japan?

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