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.

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Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask: Mini Review

This may be a bit of a reheat, as according to Innisfree it’s their #3 seller, but Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask is a winner-winner-chicken-dinner. Sorry to cut to the chase there, but that’s what you’re here for, right? Here’s why: Continue reading “Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask: Mini Review”

Placenta & CoQ10 Lotion: A Cheap Pick From the Japanese Drugstore

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.

My ginormous jug of placenta

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.

Or you can be super, er, thrifty and make your own sheet mask using bulk dry sheet masks from Daiso. But not these ones. These ones suck.

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 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.



Haba Squalane Oil: I bought it for my son’s eczema, and found a real winner for my skincare regimen, too

My youngest has eczema in a bad way, and it’s especially attacking his chubby little cheeks. We have tried a kitchen sink worth of remedies and nothing has reduced it, at all. His doctor always calls it “dry skin” (is something getting lost in translation here?) and recommends moisturizer. Gee, thanks. I got a good product recommend from the skincare community on Instagram though, which got me researching squalane oil, something I hadn’t tried prior. I read some good reviews on (Japanese department store skincare brand) Haba Squalane oil, so we schlepped down to San-A (not available at Aeon, FYI) to grab a bottle. We’d tried everything else so what did we have to lose?

Haba Squalane Oil
The kitchen sink … some of it, anyway.

I’ve been putting it directly on his skin for about three days now, give or take, about three times a day. We follow up with a “sealing” product, either cortisone ointment or Aquaphor depending on how it looks at the time. So far … no change.

BUT … being the vain and curious beauty junkie, I have also been experimenting with it on my own face. I have used beauty oils in the past and liked them, but my current rotation is lacking one.

What is Squalane oil?

Indie Lee, which sells a competing oil, touts squalane oil as ‘promoting skin elasticity, diminishes age spots and hyper pigmentation, and boosts cell regeneration and oxygenation. Improves texture and tone.’ It’s also non-comedogenic, so acne-prone peeps can use it too. In fact, it’s supposed to help inhibit excess oil production and be antibacterial. Whew. Sounds amazing, right?

The oil I purchased is made from shark liver; however, squalane oil is also naturally produced by your skin (and like all good things in your skin, this diminishes with age. Boo). Hada Japan sells a vegetable based Squalane oil as well, Squalane II, made from olive oil (the US site only sells the original). The Indie Lee product is also made from olives.

How did Haba Squalane oil feel on my skin?

Short answer: awesome. I’ve only tried a handful of oils on my face: coconut (not my favorite), argan (blech, sits on my skin and never sinks in or hydrates shit), Fresh Seaberry ($52/50 ml, consists of a variety of oils, and I liked it ok but not enough to repurchase), and Paula’s Choice Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster ($36/.67 oz, and another blend of oils, and yes yes yes, so much yes, this stuff is so amazing under the eye, everything is perfectly plumped and moisturized and, just yes).

Haba Squalane oil is my new favorite. It sinks in quickly, is moisturizing without being heavy, and my skin hasn’t freaked out anywhere. I haven’t used it long enough yet for long term results, but as a beauty oil, I think it’s up there as one of the best.

Japanese squalane oil shark liver derived
Haba Squalane Oil, 30 ml

Price (in Japan):

15ml 1500 yen

30 ml (1 oz) 2700 yen ($24-25 USD)

60 ml 5000 yen

… and the big boy, 90 ml 9200 yen

This oil is 100% squalane oil. The vegetable-based version is the same price.


Haba is of course not the only company in this 100% squalane oil market:

Indie Lee: olive oil based, 1 oz for $32 USD.

Peter Thomas Roth: sugar cane based, 1 oz currently on sale for $28.50 USD.

Deciem’s The Ordinary: plant based (specific plant(s) not specified), 30 ml for $12.90.

Haba Squalane Oil Conclusion

Is Haba Squalane oil a magic bullet ingredient for eczema? It hasn’t been an overnight cure, not for us. Eczema is a tricky fish though, and it could work for others.

Is it a cosmetically elegant facial oil? For sure, yes. All of the yes. Will I be buying it again? Most likely, and probably I’ll go for the larger size next time. Haba’s Japanese website says it’s also good for hair and safe for babies and children so if it’s in your budget, it’s a nice thing to have around for sure.

**This post may contain affiliate codes (the ones below), which don’t cost you anything extra, but could benefit yours truly.**

My (Perhaps Completely Ridiculous) Joy Over Finding Crazy-Low Priced Kose Eye Masks at My Local Grocery Store (From My Most Favorite Sheet Mask Brand, No Less!)

I was at my local grocery store, a newish Kanehide (these are the green grocery stores with the two-bird logo, if you are just arriving to Japan) to pick up a couple things when what did my eyes see but BULK packs of Kose eye masks. Like, 32 serves (64 masks) per packet bulk. For less than 800 yen ($7 USD give or take). OMG. I tried to resist, I really did. But my cheapness had always bested my vanity over eye crinkles in the past on eye masks (why TF are they so damn expensive? They’re tiny!). Today was going to be different.

kose eye mask
OMG, why am I so excited?!

*please note there are affiliate links in this post*

My love for Kose sheet masks runs deep. I first tried them from a local pharmacy when I spotted the Cosme rating on the package (they’ve been ranked #1 in Japan for ten years according to the company), and the rating, price, and promise of hyaluronic acid goodness was too much to resist. They really are terrific, particularly for the price.

kose eye mask
Look at that glossy package … how could I leave it behind?!

So the Kose eye masks. It’s a bulk packet once you open the box, with a resealable sticker on top similar to makeup removing wipe packages. Inside, the set of eye masks come kind of folded together in sets of two. I’ll admit I was a bit of a butterfinger trying to get them peeled apart. They are a “skin” color (as much as bandaids are skin colored) and are very thin and pretty undetectable on the face.

kose eye mask
The resealable packet

The Fit

The fit for my particular eye shape was really excellent. The Kose eye mask fit right up alongside the bottom of my eyes with no gaps, and extended fully into my eye bag region as well as the crows feet part of the face.

The masks dried remarkably fast. I’ve never had a sheet mask dry anywhere close to that quick; I’d guesstimate about ten minutes and I took them off.


The masks have retinol and other skin-friendly ingredients that take time to see long-term benefits. I can’t attest to the long term as I have used these for a whopping one day, but I will say that the short term, temporary effect is terrific. My fine lines right under the eye that have been in residence since I was 14 were almost completely softened.

If nothing else, these would be great before an event or other big thing. I’m hoping that long term, these will reap a longer-lasting result. I’ll report back later on whether my hopes and dreams have come true (or have been brutally crushed).

Active Ingredients

The Kose website states these contain a retinol derivative (stabilizer) — my assumption, particularly with their intended use next to the eye, is that it’s a retinoid (vs retinol), which would reduce the negative side effects that can come with retinol use (peeling, dryness, redness, etc.). I apologize, but my Japanese is nowhere near the level needed to be able to decipher further. If I find more, I will be sure to update.

The Kose eye masks also utilize CoQ10, collagen (five times the amount! Five times what, I have no idea), elastine, hyaluronic acid, NMF and glycerine.

Final Thoughts on Kose Eye Masks

Would I recommend? Hell yeah I would. You can’t beat the price of these Kose eye masks, and the short term effect alone is worth more than the sell price. If they deliver long term effects (with the ingredient deck, they should), they are a must-buy. So … we will see, but for now, I have zero regrets on this purchase.