Things Are Easy When You’re Big In Japan

The skincare I made sure I had room in my luggage for

One of my all time favourite things to do when travelling is check out all the local pharmacies and drug stores (I love supermarkets too, but thats a story for a different day). Whether it’s the legendary Citypharma in Paris or the CVS Drugs up the street from my parent’s house in San Francisco. I could spend hours checking out the different makeup brands, local skincare heroes, or new products from familiar brands. I knew before I left for Japan that I would be spending a considerable amount of time investigating the skincare I could get there, and let me tell you: I was not disappointed.

My favourite store in Tokyo was not some super popular fashion destination or even the 12 storey stationery mecca, Itoya. It was the humble drug store Matsumoto Kiyoshi. I would have happily gone in every one we passed, which would have made getting around hard because there were 3 between our Airbnb and the station we used daily.

Even for a well travelled drug store aficionado and skincare obsessive like myself I was completely in awe of the selection and quantity Japan had to offer. The shops there are also more densely packed than I’m used to. The shelves are higher and closer together. There is product stacked tall, hanging down at the ends of aisles and kept in baskets on the floor. It’s Ariel’s cave of wonders, minus the creepy Prince Eric statue.

But with skincare.

Needless to say, I was in Heaven.

I had done my research before leaving and knew a few products I wanted to pick up before I got there, and had recommendations from other skincare nuts who had been to Japan before and had first hand experience. Of course, I would also see things that struck my interest and do some on the fly research to see if it was something I truly wanted/needed. I did have to be selective, I wouldn’t have enough time in my life to try and use everything that I was interested in, let alone room in my suitcase! (And I had already planned on having an overflow bag so I could check the vast amount of liquids I was planning on bringing home.)

I’ve broken down my haul into categories so you can see all things that I squeezed in my suitcase!

The Essence

I never want to be without this.

The Goko Jyun Hydrating Lotion from Hada Labo is on pretty much everyone’s “what to buy in Japan list,” and I knew it was something I wanted to pick up right away. I love a light hydrating layer, and wanted to get this early in the trip so I would have time to stock up if it lived up to the hype. I’m pretty sure that I picked it up from 7/11 on my first night and never looked back. I swear to you that my skin has never looked better since I started using it. It was very humid while we were there, and this provided enough hydration that I didn’t need to use a cream moisturiser afterwords. Since coming home I’ve used it as a traditional essence step, patting it on after cleansing and toning, but following up with a light cream and it’s still great. It has definitely boosted my glow, and you can bet your ass I picked up the biggest bottle I could find to have for backup.

The Sunblock

Factor 50 life!

This Bioré UV Aqua Rich Sunscreen is another staple from just about everyone’s Japanese skincare must buy lists. While Bioré is a brand available pretty much everywhere, this stuff isn’t sold out side of Asia and possibly suspect with an inflated price on Amazon. The Watery Essence (on the right) is what gets the most hype online, but of course I had to try both. For research. I am very thorough. And they are very similar. Both are very light weight, feel like nothing once they are rubbed in and wear lovely under makeup. The only real difference I’ve noticed is that the Watery Gel (on the left) leaves a slight white cast where as the the gel has none. I’m quite fair, so a little white cast doesn’t bother me, and it disappears quickly. As a sunscreen-every-damn-day-evangelist I am super happy to find some that wears so well and is so affordable. I was planning on stocking up on more Supergoop on my next trip back to CA but got an extra bottle of this and saved myself $25!

The Cleansers

Blue is clearly the cleanest colour.

I realise coming home with three face washes might seem excessive, but none of these are your average daily face wash. Perfect Whip comes closest to a daily cleanser, it’s meant to be whipped and foamed up in your hands with water. The ad shows a woman washing her face with what looks like a baseball sized amount of shaving foam, but I’ve not been able to get such a rich lather going when I’ve used it. I haven’t used foaming cleanser in a while, so its a new texture for me to be washing my face with, but it does leave my skin feeling super clean and supple. Because of the time it takes “whipping” it up, I don’t use it daily, and wouldn’t use it to remove make up, but it’s great on mornings when I feel extra grimy, or have worked out and need to get a good clean feeling.
Natural Aqua Gel is actually an exfoliating product meant to be used once or twice a week. You apply a thin layer to your dry face and wait a minute or two and then start rubbing the product off. As you rub these little balls of what claim to be dead skin start forming that you then rinse away for fresh glowing skin. I’m not convinced it’s not just the product itself balling up as you rub, but it is SUPER satisfying to use. If you ever covered your hand in glue and peeled it off once dry, this is the skincare version of that.
Suisai Beauty Clear Powder is almost a combo of the other 2 cleansers I got. It is individually packaged powder cleanser that foams up when mixed with water. Again it’s an exfoliating product that should be used a few times a week. I got this because I love a powder exfoliator/cleanser and these seemed like a great option to travel with. I was even happier when I realised how little you need to get a really good cleanse. I’ll be able to get three uses out of each little pod, which means one tiny pod will do for most trips! It might not seem like much, but when travelling I’ll take the space and weight wherever I can get it! All three cleansers seemed quite gentle, but were tough on my somewhat oily skin.

The Masks

“Give a woman a face mask and she may or may not tell you the truth” Oscar Wilde (paraphrased by me)

Sheet masks are huge in Japan. Many brands sell them in packets of 7 or 30 with the intention of being used daily! Considering how busy Japan was, the work ethic that they have and how late everyone seemed to be out, I don’t know how they find the time. But if they are sheet masking daily more power to them! LuLuLun is THE Japanese mask brand, you can even get special touristy designed ones at the airport! I haven’t busted into mine yet, and when I do it probably won’t be for daily use. But no Japan haul would be complete without the iconic sleeping face packaging, so I’ve got mine lined up and ready to go!
I have tried the Sana Cosmetic Royal Jelly face masks though and I’m glad I did! I liked it so much I got a second box. Sana is a brand that was recommended to me by a friend and fellow beauty blogger, and I’m so glad she did since I would have overlooked them otherwise. These masks are great, super hydrating and generally left me feeling rested and healthy looking, hard to achieve on an action packed holiday. This is a brand I’ll definitely be doing some more research on so I know what to get more of next time!
Don’t worry, you’re not being haunted! That creepy, disembodied and soulless face is just a silicone face mask shield, and is probably the best thing I bought on the trip. You put it on over a sheet mask, and it keeps everything from sliding around and makes sure the essence in the mask doesn’t evaporate before you’re done. If glowing skin isn’t worth terrifying the people you love/live with, you’re probably reading the wrong blog!

The Makeup

Look at me! Branching out from red lips!

So I didn’t go to Japan expecting to come back with a big makeup haul. Clé de Peau is still a little out of reach for me, and it seems like makeup is available world wide in a way some skincare isn’t. However when I got to Tokyo and saw the array of eyeliners and mascara, I knew I wouldn’t come home empty handed. I knew from my research that some of the cult Japanese eye products many people swear by were not for me. Many are waterproof and notoriously hard to take off, which is not what I’m looking for. But the bright colours of the Eye Opening Liners by Uzu totally drew me in. I got bright blue and pink. For some reason the blue seems to stay put better than the pink. But neither colour has ever transferred to my eyelid or smudged down my face, and they both come off with my regular cleanser. I regret not picking up the basic black. I loved the look of the My Lash Mascara wand when I saw it! It’s the thinnest mascara wand I’ve seen which is what I’m always looking for. I did a little a little research and found out it isn’t waterproof, so I figured it was worth trying out! For me it’s perfect, very similar to Glossier’s Lash Slick, but My Lash has a better brush. However if you’re looking for huge chunky volume like you’d get from They’re Real or Better Than Sex, it’s probably not for you.

Yes, my suitcase was very heavy on the way home, and I had to transfer clothing into a smaller extra carry on to get it all in (remember I planned on this the whole time, so it’s still smart packing!).

No, I couldn’t carry my own suitcase up the five floors of stairs to our apartment. In my defence however, that was because I had the flu at the time, and could have done it if I’d been well.

Yes, it was totally worth it, and I’m already planning a trip back to skincare heaven to get more next year!

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