Affordable, cult beauty products are aplenty in Japan. And I wanted to try them all.
I feel that drugstore skincare and make-up is hit and miss in Australia where easily accessible products don’t always equate to great quality. In Japan however, popular cult products are readily available and surprisingly affordable. I can’t remember the exact prices for any of the products below, but they were all under $30!
Also, most of the brands are listed as cruelty-free (in Japan) which is great! See the list here.
Hada Labo Hydrating Lotion
This popular Hada Labo toner (toners are called lotions in Japan) is lightweight and has a watery texture. It absorbs quickly into the skin with a very slight sticky feel. Unlike other toners, you’re meant to apply the toner with your hands and pat until absorbed. I poured too much liquid into my palm the first time and made a mess. Don’t do that.
Most importantly, this toner has hyaluronic acid which is great for hydrating and plumping dry skin (like mine).
I’ve only used this toner a few times as I’m in the process of trying to use up older products but I can’t wait to properly use this in my daily skincare routine.
Balance Up II Lotion
My mum has been using Shiseido skincare products for as long as I can remember but I noticed that the range of Shiseido products in Australia are positioned more high-end than in Japan. There are surprisingly affordable Shiseido products in drugstores and I picked up this toner for around $20 (can’t recall exactly).
I’ve been using this toner in my skincare routine for a few months now and I’ve noticed that it removes more dirt and oil than my Lancome toner. It leaves my skin feeling refreshed and clean, without a thick or sticky residue. As an experiment, I stopped using this toner for about 2 weeks and my face was much oilier and even started to break out.
Overall, it’s a great product that works well, but there’s probably cheaper alternatives that work better.
Senka Perfect Whip
When I was researching popular Japanese skincare products, this cleanser was mentioned almost every time, not to mention it’s in practically every drugstore in Japan - you can’t miss it.
I don’t normally like foaming cleansers but Perfect Whip doesn’t dry out my skin to the extent of the others. Once you lather up a small amount in your hands, it becomes a silky smooth texture that actually feels amazing to use. The only thing I don’t like is the smell — it’s not unpleasant but it’s a soapy scent that’s too artificial for my liking and makes me feel a little nauseous (sounds dramatic I know but I have a pretty strong sense of smell).
It works great for my skin but there are plenty of reviews that say it’s not great for removing make-up so they prefer it as a second cleanser and that it also has high pH which can cause issues. I haven’t had any problems, but just something to keep in mind!
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
You probably can’t tell from the packaging but this Deep Cleansing Oil is a Japanese cult classic.
This olive-oil based make up remover and cleanser is tough enough to remove even waterproof mascara but washes away effortlessly with water without any residue.
I used it completely wrong the first time — it’s meant to be dispensed onto dry hands and massaged onto a dry face, not lazily in the shower (I need to stop doing this and start double cleansing).
I adore the minimal design, the olive oil smell and how well it works. I bought the small size to trial because I wasn’t keen on the thought of an oil-based cleanser but this is one product I’ll definitely be restocking.
I legitimately had no idea what this product was called or what it was made of before writing this but turns out it’s a fermented moisturiser by a label under popular Japanese brand Kosé.
I picked this one up because I loved the packaging, smell and texture of this cream. It’s a watery texture, like most Japanese lotions, but it feels rich and deeply moisturising. My skin feels soft and dewy after applying which is amazing in colder weather.
ISEHAN Kiss Me Heroine Make Long & Curl Mascara
While the name is hilariously long and confusing, this mascara is actually AMAZING and most definitely lives up to the hype. It’s now my holy grail.
My eyelashes, like my hair, are stubbornly straight. If I want any sort of curl at all, I have to use an eyelash curler. But as soon as I apply mascara, my lashes slowly lose their curl and return to their default straight state as the day goes on. Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara is great for volume and thickness but only marginally better at keeping my lashes curled.
This is the first mascara that really works for me. It holds the curl all day with no smudging at all. It’s a watery formula so no clumping either. Only downside is that it means it’s also difficult to remove. The cleansing oil (see #4) works with a bit of effort but this Clarins Make-up Remover works like an absolute charm.
Bioré UV AQUA Rich Sunscreen
I hate the distinctive smell and the oily, thick texture of sunscreen in Australia. Not to mention how expensive it is for a quality sunscreen with at least 50 SPF.
I love this sunscreen so much. There is nothing about this that feels like the usual sunscreen. The texture is lightweight and watery, just like a lotion, with a pleasant, yuzu-like scent. No greasy residue or coconut smell.
However, it does contain alcohol so some people have had bad reactions to it. I have dry skin but haven’t noticed any negative side effects. But I’m not sure how I feel about the long-term effects of applying alcohol onto my skin, so I sadly may need to search for an alcohol-free alternative…
Bioré UV BB Cream
Since I don’t like the feeling of foundation on my skin, BB cream is my go-to. I prefer BB cream with light, natural coverage just to even out skintone.
I was hoping it would have the same texture as their sunscreen but it has a matte finish and strangely only seems to come in one shade (which luckily suits my skin tone well).
I’ve been using La Roche-Posay’s BB cream for some months before Japan which has been working really well for me. I find Bioré’s formula thinner, easier to apply and slightly less greasy but apart from that they’re not too different and I happily interchange between the two.
Lululun Face Masks
Like most people, I used to buy face masks in single packets before I realised how wasteful it was. I searched for a bulk option and discovered Lululun’s packs of 7 which is much cheaper than individual masks as a bonus. In Japan, when I found these even bigger packs of 32 and 36 masks, I had to bring back home with me.
I love using face masks as part of my skincare routine. I use it once every 2 or 3 weeks, or when my skin feels like it needs a pick-me-up. After cleansing and toning, I leave a face mask on for around 10 minutes. I never used to rinse afterwards but I’m not a fan of the sticky feeling so I’ve started washing my face and moisturising afterwards.
For more details, here’s a detailed review by Cinddie.
Most of these products can be found in Asian skincare and beauty stores in Sydney (I go to W Cosmetics at Town Hall Station) or online, but I’m not sure about other Australian cities.
I’d love to know if you’ve tried any of these products and if so, if they worked for you!
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i love adventures of all sizes, capturing little moments, daily coffees and kind, wholesome human beings