A Quality Skincare Routine from the Convenience Store: In Japan, It’s Totally Possible

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
Convenience store skincare
Step One: Oil Cleanser (I know you’re eyeing the hado labo hanging out there)

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.

Convenience Store Skincare
It’s Muji! At the corner store!

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


Convenience Store Skincare
Look … just look at it all …

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!

Convenience store skincare
Yep, this picture again. But now, it’s totally not ADHD of you to be eyeballing the Hada Labo. Go ahead. Ogle away.

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.

Convenience Store Skincare
I don’t know how much you cost, but I see FOUR plusses after the Pa … don’t let me down, rando sunblock.

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:

Convenience Store Beauty
Beauty is just one tiny drink away …

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.

**the following are affiliate links, which don’t cost you anything to purchase from**

Nordstrom Beauty Sale

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**

We’re price matching! Select beauty now 15% off at NORDSTROM. FREE Shipping. FREE Returns.

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.

Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum, or, I Try Yet Another Pore Spackle

Well, no need to beat around the bush. I have a new love in my life. It’s new, but believe me, it’s serious. I am self conscious about my pores on my face; I don’t know if it’s the change to being an oily skinned person living in the sub-tropics, or just getting older (shudder), but I didn’t notice my pores before, unless they had morphed into blackheads. Now … now they’ve developed a life of their own. I did a brief review of the pore filling primers in my life on Instagram a while back, but on no-makeup days, I had concerns they were all going to just slide on down my face in hot weather without any other products on top to glue them down. All of those primers are silicone based, and have that dry silicone slip to them. Then, Sephora sent me a product suggestion (gee, thanks): Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum. The product was supposed to blur and fill pores and texture using a micro powder (instead of silicone like the rest of my stash). Uhhhhh … where do I sign up?

Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum
There she is …

There weren’t many reviews on the Sephora page, and there’s no Sephora within a thousand miles of me to try it … but happily, my local base exchange carries Shiseido (the export line I should say), so I schlepped down one day to see if they had this item to check out.

Hurrah! Shockingly they did (unfortunately there was no tester though). They also had the other two “blurring” primers I wanted to check out, the First Light Filter Face Primer and Backlight Filter Face Primer from Becca. Thankfully they had testers of those two products to compare.

The Backlight Filter Face Primer was seriously half perfume. I’m not kidding. I could still smell it, after washing my hands numerous times that day, into the evening on my hand. It was also very glittery. Hard pass.

The First Light Filter Face Primer is lilac colored and looked pretty on my hand, though it did seem to cast a bit of color onto my skin under the store’s fluorescent lighting (which isn’t particularly cute when you are almost morbidly fair to begin with). It thankfully was sans the godawful perfume of the first (seriously, why does nobody mention that?!) but it didn’t seem to do much.

Later, in the sun walking to my car, I was glad I had passed it over as well as, while smaller and less noticeable than the first Becca primer I tried (El Stinko), it still had micro glitter, which I personally don’t care for all over my face on a no-makeup day.

Aaaand I Bite the Bullet on the Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother

Despite lacking a Shiseido tester, I decided to buy it anyway. I haven’t met much from Shiseido that I didn’t like. Aaaaaaaand you see where I’m going. It’s amazing. It’s everything I was looking for. It blurs pores. It feels dry and undetectable on the face (not so with silicone based primers). It’s completely colorless and there is no glitter.

I tried the Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum under makeup next. I put my Make Up Forever Water Blend over the top. I love this foundation, but I do jokingly refer to it as my “why bother” foundation as it’s very thin and has very light coverage. Over the top of the new primer though, it seemed to be able to get its bearings and grip a lot better than over skin or silicone primers, giving a bit more coverage than it normally does. A better together pairing for sure.

You are supposed to be able to layer this over makeup as well … that often doesn’t go well, but I have found it to be true for this product. Though to be honest, personally I prefer to just blot oil with blotting papers instead of adding more product.

Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum: The Not-So-Great Bits

First, there are parabens in the formula, so beware. Also, if you are looking for vegan products only, squalane oil is included in the ingredient deck. Like I talked about when reviewing the Haba Squalane product, squalane can come from shark livers or from plant-based sources. I don’t know what the case is with this product, and couldn’t find anything online in reference.

Second, the price. This bottle is tiny at .67 oz/20 ml. That’s 2/3 the size of a regular foundation or primer bottle. The retail price is $23, which is pretty steep for such a tiny little thing. To be fair, the product is pretty thin and spreads easily, and covering my whole fat face takes a pretty small amount of product. But still … Shiseido, why did you make this so tiny?

Final Thoughts on Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum

If you can’t tell, Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum is a keeper. It’s in the top two of awesome new products I’ve tried in the last year, hands down. I love how my skin looks with it over my sunscreen and nothing else, and I love how it works as a primer under makeup. It is the best and sadly, for my wallet anyway, I will keep shelling out money for the teeny tiny bottles because it’s that good.

Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum
My precious

If you followed the link to the ingredients, the product has a smattering of good, botanical skincare ingredients (and squalane!). Which makes sense since it’s from their Ibuki skincare line, not their makeup line. How much? I don’t know. I wouldn’t skip any skincare steps before, but it’s nice to have a bit of extra goodness thrown in, right?



My March Klog Box: It’s Here! (What’s a Klog Box?)

I decided to take the plunge and order a Klog Box this month. A what? A Klog Box is a curated one-time box (vs. a subscription) from the Korean beauty online shop, Soko Glam. I don’t know how often they do these, but this was my first time ordering from the shop. I was on the fence; the box is $50 including free shipping (the value of the items is close to $100 I believe) because it contained a non-waterproof version of a Missha sunscreen that I had tried before and not liked (kind of unfair of me, comparing apples to oranges, right?). But it had a trial size of Neogen peel pads that had been on my radar for about a zillion years so I broke down and ordered.

My thoughts on the retailer (Soko Glam)

If you are new to K-beauty, or even to skincare, this shop stands out from its competitors because everything is broken down, explained and reviewed. The owner is also a licensed esthetician, and she seems to curate what she offers from current trends in Korea. There are lots of reviews, recommended products, and collections (several products sold in a bundle, for a bit of a discount) addressing several skin concerns for people not sure where to start.

The company is U.S.-based, so American customers won’t be waiting for things to be shipped from Korea. They offer free shipping at $35, and they have a corresponding blog, or Klog, with more information.

Downsides: not always, but often other k-beauty retailers can beat the pricing (not by a lot though I would say). Also, if you’re a sample junkie **raises hand** I got just one sample with this Klog Box, a Missha BB cream packet (I actually use and really like this product). A lot of retailers will include a few to even a handful of them. Probably not a deal breaker, though.

Thoughts on the Klog Box Itself

It was shipped in a large (Stitch Fix sized) sturdy box, and made it to my APO address in Japan in about a week, which is as fast as anything gets here. The box was shipped quickly after I ordered it as well so A+ from me there.

Klog Box
Voila! My exciting mail day.

Inside was the Klog Box itself. Do you love packaging? Do you love reusing nice boxes? You will love this. It’s super sturdy and sleek and on the inside of the front (magnetic!) flap, a little funny face.

klog box march
It’s so pretty inside!

From the  website (links below are to the retailer’s reviews on each of these products).

March Klog Box
Everything (but the sample) from March’s box.
Final Thoughts On My Klog Box Purchase

I’ll (probably) review each of the items later, but for now I’m happy I ordered the box. I haven’t tried any of these before now, and the retailer was great to order from. How the package arrived and was packed surpassed my expectations (anybody that’s had an APO/FPO box can share some stories). I would recommend it to people just starting to read about K-beauty, and really anybody wanting to try out a bunch of different top-rated Korean skincare products.

FYI none of these links are affiliate links and all the opinions are my own.

Hado Labo Gokujyun and Erborian Yuza Double Lotion: Same But Different

If you’re new to Asian skincare, the term lotion may be confusing as in the West, the term lotion has equated moisturizer for a long time. In Asian skincare, a lotion is a lightweight moisturizing layer, sandwiched between your toner/essence and serum/ampoule/oil/moisturizer. They come in various consistencies, from a very liquid, essence-like quality, to more viscous and can utilize any number of active ingredients to try and tackle, well, whatever it is you want your skincare doing for you.

Case in point: Hada Labo Gokujyun is a very popular (and in the West, a cult classic) lotion from the drugstore in Japan. It prominently features hyaluronic acid as its active ingredient of choice. Erborian Yuza Double Lotion is from Korea, and features the yuza fruit, which is a citrus fruit, from Jeju island. Both are called lotion, but vary in how they look and feel (and of course, what they claim to do).

Note: I have only used the Hada Labo lotion in the ‘premium‘ variety as, for an extra 100 yen or so (less than $1 USD) I could upgrade to five (5!) different types (molecular weights) of hyaluronic acid. How could I say no?

Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium and Erborian Yuza Double Lotion — such sunny packaging!
How each lotion looks/feels on the skin

The Hada Labo lotion is clear and has an interesting slip to it. I don’t notice any scent in mine (mine is from here in Japan, so I don’t know if that’s the same for exports). It takes about 3 drops, which come out of the bottle easily, and it absorbs quickly into my skin, and my skin doesn’t feel sticky afterwards. Like most Japanese products I’ve tried, it doesn’t leave an emollient or greasy feeling to my skin once it’s absorbed.

The Erborian Yuza lotion is a two-part lotion; it contains oil, and needs to be shaken before using it to emulsify everything. It has a light, citrusy scent that I personally enjoy, and which goes away pretty quickly. It is more watery feeling than the Hada Labo and is opaque and white. In fact, it comes out of the bottle quite fast, maybe because of the thinness of the formula, and is tricky to not go overboard with. Once on the skin, it absorbs quickly, and maybe because of the oil, leaves the skin with a slicker feeling than the Hada Labo lotion (it feels like you’ve applied a beauty oil, if that makes sense).

Ingredients and Claims

Here is a link to Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium lotion’s ingredient deck (in English). It uses glycerin and, like stated before, five different hyaluronic acid ingredients. Hyaluronic acid is used for moisturizing, but specifically it’s a humectant. That means it pulls water out of the air and delivers it, ever so gently, to your skin. If you live in a humid climate (like, you know, all of Asia), this is a really, really fantastic thing. If you live in Siberia and it’s winter, the amount of water in the air is pretty negligible, making it a rather useless product. Also, if you’re a paraben avoider, listed last in the Hada Labo ingredient deck is methylparaben.

Here is a link to Erborian Yuza Double Lotion’s ingredient deck. It uses oils to hydrate the skin and the yuza extract (plus a couple others) to brighten. No parabens, but fragrance is listed for avoiders of those.

My personal thoughts on the lotions

The Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium runs around $10 USD and is readily available in Japan (like, grocery store, drug store, pretty much everywhere with a roof and a cash register will carry it). It is lightweight and doesn’t make me feel greasy. I don’t personally get the “WOW” cult classic status of it, but I think it will be a very useful product in my skincare arsenal, especially when summer rolls around.

The Erborian Yuza Double Lotion costs $36 from Sephora. It’s definitely not as readily available here in Japan. I really love this product. It plumps my skin and makes it feel very moisturized, but also doesn’t make it greasy-feeling or looking. I enjoy the scent quite a bit. If I still lived in Alaska, this would be in heavy rotation year-round for me.

Final thoughts; I like both products, and they both moisturize, but in very different ways. And they are both called lotion. So let that be a lesson learned. In skincare, particularly in Asian skincare with the seventeen billion steps and products, don’t let the product’s label be your guide.

Note: The following may be affiliate links, which don’t cost you anything but can send money my way.