Korean skincare products are HUGE right now (and for good reason), but don’t let that buzz distract from the amazing stuff coming out of Korea’s neighbor, Japan right now. Japan may not be quite as flashy or in-your-face, but dang girl, have they got just as much amazingness going on over in the land of the rising sun (this cracks me up a bit, as I moved from the “land of the midnight sun” to the “land of the rising sun” … why so many suns?!). If you’re stateside, there are lots of re-sellers that can get you almost any goodie your heart desires … even the oh-so-convenient Amazon.com. Keep reading for my personal favorite Japanese skincare products (so far) that are readily available on Amazon.
I picked this mondo (500 ml) NID Placenta and Coenzyme Q10 bottle of lotion at a local Drugstore Mori recently, made in Japan by SOC (Shibuya Oil Company). It cost about 600 yen, or $5 USD, and came in three varieties: Placenta, Hyaluronic Acid, and Collagen. All also include Coenzyme Q10. I was immediately drawn to the hyaluronic acid flavor, which was visibly depleted on the shelf, but on a whim decided on the (somewhat icky sounding) placenta variety.
First: the elephant in the room. The placenta extract is from animal sources, but … why? Purported benefits are increased moisturization, collagen synthesis, and brightening/skin tone evening (“whitening” in Asian cosmetics). In fact, I drink a tonic each night (not gin and tonic, unfortunately) from my kampo (Chinese medicine) pharmacist that has, among other things, collagen and placenta extract in it to support the skin.
Is it effective? Well, like a lot of stuff we smear on our face and stuff in our bodies, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of science-based evidence proving it works. And, like many Japanese products (well, beauty products in general, to be fair), even if it does, there’s no indicator of how much of this giant bottle of lotion is actual placenta extract. So, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. Though just a $5 crapshoot.
Placenta and CoQ10 Lotion: Feel and Results
This has a similar viscosity to Hada Labo’s hyaluronic acid power house lotion. Thick, transparent, and leaves a slightly tacky/sticky feeling on the face. I don’t notice any scent to it.
It sinks in pretty well, and pretty quickly. I didn’t notice any huge gains in anything; no brightening or crazy hydration increases. It just, was. Not bad; I could apply makeup and it never has reacted weird or balled up on me.
Would I re-buy? Mmmm. Probably not. This is a good option if you’re on a very tight budget (on one of the Japanese review sites, a reviewer said she had switched to this from another product while saving for her wedding and said it was good for the price). I would personally just buy the $10ish dollar Hada Labo lotion and bite the bullet for a face moisturizing lotion.
BUT–this isn’t a bad product. You can use it with the dry sheet masks you can buy at Daiso to make your own DIY sheet masks (for pennies), a good option for those on a budget or somebody throwing a slumber or spa party. This lotion is fine for me when I apply it to my face normally, but stung like some snail mucin sheet masks I bought in Taipei a while back when I used it in a sheet mask. FYI, Daiso sells a lot of different dry sheet masks. Don’t buy the ones in the picture. They’re just awful.
For me, what this product is the bomb.com for to use in lieu of water for powdered face washes and masks–by using a lotion like this, you are just increasing the nutrient density of these products, versus diluting them if you were to use plain tap water. Did you ever watch the Rachel Ray 30 minute meals cooking show? No? Well, she always said to add flavor at every possible opportunity, so instead of water into a savory dish she would always use stock. This is the same concept, except you don’t get to eat it after. I use it in my Amore Pacific enzyme peel and it works pretty damn awesome.
The Japanese language Cosme beauty reviewing website had just a few reviews on this, and most were good, praising the product’s solid performance for price and you can use it freely without worrying about wasting something more precious. The hyaluronic acid variety had many more reviews and 5/6 stars, so it may be the one to buy if you want to try this out. You should be able to find this product at most larger drugstores or Don Quixote in Japan; I haven’t seen it at my local grocery store or convenience store.
One of the (full size!) goodies from my Klog Box from Soko Glam this month was a tube of Klavuu Pure Pearlsation Revitalizing Facial Cleansing Foam. Made in Korea, this tube retails on that site for $30 USD, which seems to be an average going price in the US (like many things, with K-beauty outside of Korea it pays to shop around). Like many products SG sells, this one is currently on trend in Korea, even being featured in Vogue. So, without further adieu, and since I couldn’t find a Klavuu review when searching, my Klavuu review on the Pure Pearlsation Revitalizing Facial Cleansing Foam.
Scent: It’s lightly scented (fragrance is listed in the ingredients), and I personally really enjoy the scent. It’s a lovely (not artificial-smelling) sweet honey-like scent mixed with a powdery freshness. I don’t know, I’ve never smelled anything like it, but I enjoy it.
Appearance: It comes out of the tube very thick and creamy looking, with a beautiful pearlescent sheen to it when you look closely (it has pearl as one of its active ingredients, hence the (crazy-long) name of the product. A little goes a long way, it has good slip and spreads easily and creamy over the face. As you work it with your fingers (and especially if you use a tool like a foreo or clarisonic or the like), it creates a dense foam. If you like foaming cleansers, I think you will enjoy this.
Claims: This creamy cleansing foam features over 30 natural plant extracts to help remove all remaining traces of makeup and dissolve impurities your oil cleanser may have missed. Pearl extract brightens and provides anti-aging benefits while seaweed and algae extract boosts hydration. A delightfully light and soft lather for a luxurious cleansing experience. (from the Soko Glam website)
My Klavuu review:
First, I will be straight up with you: I don’t typically like to spend much on cleansers because, well, they aren’t on my face very long. I don’t think it’s a good place to plunk down the bulk of your beauty budget, whatever it may be. Though I do agree with many people, particularly in the Asian beauty community, that proper and thorough cleansing can solve many of your skincare dilemmas.
The pH of this cleanser is 7. This sounds perfect, right? Well, for some lucky and perfect skinned people, their skin can tolerate damn near anything. But, there’s a good bit of research out there now that an acidic cleanser maintains the skin’s acid mantle (the skin naturally sits a little acidic), so it’s less likely to “strip” your skin and leave it feeling tight after washing. Also, acne doesn’t grow as well at acidic pH. If you’re curious about pH, Goals to Get Glowing is a bit of a genius on skincare pH.
This cleanser is plush as hell; I don’t usually use a foaming cleanser, and this one’s foam is dense and luxe. You could sit and wash all day and never run out of bubbles (or so I would imagine). My own face feels ever-so-slightly tight after using it. If I wash and move straight to a toner, I don’t notice it, but if my skin gets a good dry down (if you use retinol, this is often recommended to reduce irritation), things start feeling a bit too small.
Klavuu Review: My thoughts
This cleanser is totally different from anything I usually purchase, or would have picked on my own. I love the smell. I love seeing the pearlescent color of the cream as I work it in my hands. If you perused the ingredient list, you saw that there’s a laundry list of skin-soothing botanicals at the ready to make your face glow.
Would I repurchase? Probably no. I will enjoy this bottle, and I expect it will last a very long time, as a little really does go a long way. But, for the tightness I get afterwards (likely from the pH), and the price point, at this point I just personally don’t think I will reap the rewards it may offer another user. The reviewer on the Klog, where I bought this from, mentioned the pH and said for her, it wasn’t an issue at all, so like with everything, mileage will vary.
Overall, I think this is a lovely sensory experience and an effective cleanser (I use it after oil cleansing to be totally up front). For me, I get a bit of skin tightness after which doesn’t make me want to spend $30 USD for another bottle when it’s done, BUT it’s not a deal breaker that will keep me from enjoying the bottle.
Have you tried this cleanser? Or anything else from Klavuu? It’s hard to find many English language Klavuu reviews online. I’m curious to hear more reviews on the brand, as this is the first thing I’ve tried from them.
If you’ve been to Japan, and particularly if you have been lucky enough to live here, you know about the magical outposts on every corner known as konbinis, or the convenience store to us gaijins. Whether Family Mart, Lawson, 7-11, Coco, et. al., you can do damn near anything from a Japanese convenience store. Send mail, pick up an amazon package, forward your luggage, buy tickets or sign up for a race … that’s in addition to the myriad of (useful) products and (tasty and fresh) foods they also sell (for a pretty reasonable price). These are not the convenience stores of the west. In Japan, there’s (quality) convenience store skincare.
What was shocking to me, a frequent shopper and admirer of the konbini, is the quality and selection of skincare items available at my local, humble Family Mart. Honestly, I don’t know why I was surprised. Silliness. So many well-loved cult classics in the west, ordered and hoarded by lovers of Japanese skincare, are literally on every corner here.
So, if you find yourself in Japan sans any elements of your skincare routine, here’s my recommendation (based on my closest Family Mart) for a pretty solid routine, from start to finish.
Convenience Store Skincare: Cleanse
Step One: Oil Cleanse, Biore Perfect Oil, 1274 yen (including tax), or roughly $10 USD. This was a tough choice, as there were two great drugstore options at my konbini. I sided with Biore here. This product is definitely a little lower priced at other stores, but it’s a solid oil cleanser.
Step Two: Second Cleanse, Muji Mild Cleansing Gel, price not labeled (it sells for 780 yen (roughly $6.25 USD) before tax at Muji, so it likely sells for that at FM too since the package is labeled as such). YES, Muji is sold at Family Mart. Like, every Family Mart. I told you konbinis were magical! (I have it on excellent authority that 7-11 on mainland Japan has its own exclusive line from Freshel). And you can see in the picture how the Biore cleansing oil was a tough choice, as Muji also has one (and has a travel size, if you don’t want to buy a huge jug while traveling).
Convenience Store Skincare: Tone and Treat
Step Three: Toner, Muji Light Toning Water (High Moisture), price also not labeled (1,200 yen before tax, or $10 USD). Um, I love this stuff. It’s not sexy or fantastical (I mean, neither is Muji), but it’s a good, solid moisturizing toner and I use it everyday. And you can buy it at Family Mart!
Step Four: Essence/Serum/Treat, Hada Labo Gokujyun lotion, 838 yen ($7 USD) with tax. There aren’t a lot of fancy, well, anything, at the convenience store, but this is a cult classic workhorse featuring super-humectant hyaluronic acid (I reviewed it’s premium variety here). Tap in a thin layer and move on to your last step.
Moisturizer and Sunscreen
If I’ve got a good moisturizing situation going on (like with the Muji toner and Hada Labo lotion), in super-humid Asia I often will skip a moisturizer and use just sunscreen (my local Family Mart did have moisturizers, but I skipped over to SPF).
Since it’s winter (ok, “winter”) in the subtropics, my convenience store didn’t have much of a selection of sunscreen. Typically they all carry (everyone’s favorite) Biore Watery Essence Gel and others, but today, this is all I found.
It’s a full SPF 50 (sunscreen here typically aren’t advertised above 50 factor, as the amount of protection you get beyond even 30 factor is minimal) and PA ++++, the highest UVA rating available in Japan so … I haven’t tried this, but when you’re in a bind … try it out! Price was also not listed (apparently my local shop is a little lax on things), but likely under 1000 yen ($8 USD).
Convenience Store Skincare: Extras
Did I mention Japanese convenience stores have everything? Collagen is just making the rounds in the U.S. as a miracle skin, joint, everything cure, but that’s old news in Japan. Forgot your collagen supplement? Or just want a boost after a long, dry flight (or long run)? The konbini has you covered in the energy/vitamin drink section too:
So yes. You CAN cobble together a skincare routine even the most jaded Asian beauty aficionado could appreciate from the lowly convenience store (and this is just a neighborhood store; you should see the Lawson Natural stores!). At least in Japan.
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It’s Nordstrom beauty sale time; they’re price matching a LOT of products and brands including Laura Mercier, SK-II, Urban Decay, Dior, Shiseido (unfortunately not the product I reviewed yesterday), Origins, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Beauty Blender, MAC, Philosophy, Smashbox … you get the drift. A brief highlight reel of the 42 sale pages (42!!!):
Anastasia Brow Wiz $17.85 (15% off)
Mac Face & Body $23.80 (15% off)
Mac Pro Long Wear Concealer $18.70 (15% off)
All of the large Urban Decay Naked palettes $45.90 (15% off)
Smashbox Pore Minimizing Primer $13.60-33.15 (15% off)
**note: this post contains affiliate links**
I like Nordstrom because a. they offer free shipping and returns, at any price point (no minimum order). They ship quickly to not just the lower 48 but to Alaska, Hawaii and APO/FPO addresses. They are awesome about returns and customer service issues. And no, they definitely didn’t pay me to say that.
Also, beauty purchases right now from the Nordstrom beauty sale come with three free samples.