I am a very fair person–a ginger, the fairest of them all (ha!) … as in, if I spend more than about a half hour outdoors, even with sunblock, my skin can start feeling about a half size too small. While this is unfortunate in and of itself, I enjoy being outdoors as much as the next person, and I also enjoy outdoor sports. Specifically, endurance sports and water sports–which are pretty much the antichrist for ginger nuts like me. Being a person that is also quite vain and likes not looking like grandpa’s busted old leather suitcase, I have learned a lot over the years on sports skincare: how to balance, as best as possible anyway, having an active life outdoors with not looking like Magda.
Outside of Japan, particularly in the paleo and clean eating crowds, people have started going crazy over collagen. Moving beyond the uber-hipster bone broth, people are getting serious about their collagen supplementation, stirring collagen powder into their coffee, smoothies, and pretty much anything edible. Japan though, being the ultimate hipster, supplemented with collagen long before it was cool to supplement with collagen. Women here have known for years the kindness that collagen can show your skin, and a zillion and one forms of it are available pretty much everywhere.
Ahhhhh, acne. My faithful companion through adulthood, we met sometime early on in college. I had been blissfully free of acne throughout junior high and high school, but thanks to hormones, stress, and just plain adulting, my face has been somewhat of a war zone since then. My mom has always been in the “you need to pop that thing” camp (vs. the “never touch your acne, it will scar” camp across the lake), to the point she would about chase a person down to pop their pimple herself. So, rather than being chased down, I began to do the dirty work myself. Which yes, always led to a long-lasting red spot on my face that no amount of vitamin C or glycolic acid ever seemed to tone down. Now though, enter the pimple patch. What’s a pimple patch, you say? Well, on its surface it’s just a hydrocolloid bandaid that’s been manufactured in pimple size. But for anybody with an angry red volcano brewing on their face, the pimple patch is about the most amazing advancement in treating active acne, ever.
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.