Must-haves : Japanese Skincare

As I mentioned in my previous visual diary episode, I wanted to do a round up of some awesome Japanese skincare I have fallen in love with. I go through phases with my skincare, moving from continent to continent. Currently, I am loving Japan’s simplistic approach, adorable packaging and affordable prices.

While I researched more on Japanese skincare, I found very few English sites that does reviews or provide information on Japanese products. It’s especially difficult as most products are entirely in Japanese, without translations.

 

Tip #1 : Find the item online, even on a Japanese site and cut and paste the ingredients to Google translate. It gives you a rough idea of what’s in the product, just in case you have any skin sensitivities. 

 

To cover every single Japanese product I love would take ages, so I will probably do a follow up on other things like haircare, makeup and so on. For now, I will pick out my favourites for each category that I think the Japanese excel in.

 

Here are my top picks.

 

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Sunscreens

Japanese sunscreens are where it’s at. Their formulations are always cutting edge, leaps and bounds ahead of others in the market. They are known for their light textures that never leave a white cast whilst providing the perfect base for makeup. My favourites are the Hada Labo Air Aqua UV Day Emulsion SPF 50 PA+++ (S$19.90) and Labo Labo Super-Moist UV-Cream 5H x 5C SPF 30 PA++ (S$21.90). Though they sound they same, they are actually from different companies. Both are drugstore Japanese skincare brands and very affordable. I love these two because they are light but can be used alone without a separate cream underneath. They are undetectable when applied on the skin and are alcohol free.

The Hada Labo one comes in two formulations, but my favourite is the fresh version that contains anti-aging ingredients such as vitamin C, resveratrol and hyaluronic acid. The Labo Labo version is a thicker cream texture, more like a traditional moisturiser that is formulated with 5 types of hyaluronic acid and collagen. Best sunscreens EVER!!

 

Lotions

The Japanese are masters at formulating facial lotions. In Western terms, these lotions would be classified under toners. You would soak them on a cotton pad and use them after cleansing to prep the skin for serums and moisturiser as well as giving it added benefits and balance the skin’s pH levels. Japanese lotions come in all shapes and forms but I recently discovered the economical ones that come in giant half a litre bottles. These lotions are unbelievably inexpensive and actually have a simple, yet effective ingredients list.

The one I recommend would be the Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewing Skin Care Lotion. The skincare line is based of a famous sake brewery in Japan and features sake as a skin care ingredient to help tone and brighten the skin. What’s mind-boggling is that this giant bottle costs S$14.90. An amazing budget buy that actually works. It comes in two versions. The Light version is great for hot weather as it is weightless and refreshing whilst the High Moist version has added ceramides to help provide extra moisture and is alcohol-free. Both are fantastic, though Singapore weather does better with the light version.

I can’t wait to try other giant bottles of Japanese lotions because they seriously make the best toners and are such money-savers.

 

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Creams

Japanese skincare is big on gels and gel-cream formulations because they tend to prefer light, fast absorbing skincare that are great for layering. However, I do love a good night cream that helps lock all the moisture in while I sleep. After much searching, I found one that I am completely smitten with. Presenting the Keana Nadeshiko Rice Cream (S$27) ! This rich cream in housed in an adorable little orb that’ll look just so cute on your vanity. Keana Nadeshiko brand is known for tackling issues with pores using primarily natural ingredients such as baking soda and rice bran oil. This particular cream is packed with fermented sake, rice bran oil, rice bran extract and saccharomyces ferment (aka pitera).

I was initially worried that this would be too rich for my oily, acne-prone skin but I was pleased to find that it’s just right. The cream is luxurious to spread on the skin but sinks in very well. I wake up to plump skin despite using acids and acne treatments on a daily basis. I cannot recommend it enough. I was so pleasantly surprised how much I fell for this product. My only complain would be that it’s a more pricey product and the jar is rather tiny with only 30 grams of product. The results are worth it though.

 

Masks

LOVE Japanese masks. I have written an ode to Japanese sheet masks, which you can read here for an extensive list of my favourites. The one I consistently repurchase again and again are the LuLuLun Masks (S$8.90). They are inexpensive and tackle different concerns depending on which colour you picked. The ones I love most is the brightening mask that comes in a silver packaging.

Another awesome thing is that these masks are so affordable. Even more so than the korean ones. Enough said.

 

Blotters

I know this is something you wouldn’t really think is a big deal. But for a girl with oily skin, oil blotters are LIFE SAVERS. I am never without it, ever. I have one packet with me at all times to help me absorb excess oil and keep my face looking fresh. The best kind are the paper ones, and the Japanese variety are just the best of the best. Japanese blotting papers are revolutionary because they absorb oil so well and do not disturb any makeup you have underneath. I find that the plastic film types tend to lift my foundation and leave my face looking patchy. So now, I will only use paper.

The Japanese oil paper blotter are very affordable. No matter the price, they all work the same. If ever you are at a Japanese store or in Japan, I say stock up!

 

Cotton Pads 

A necessity that no one cares for. Cotton pads are rather dull, really. So no one ever wants to talk about them. However, I am incredibly picky when it comes to my cotton pads. I hate cheap cotton balls or squares that shed lint all over my face. Some that are too thin to hold and deposit your skincare properly. That is not to say that you should splurge on “luxury cotton”.

Japanese cotton pads are on another level. They are so soft, never shed and are designed to be a delivery system for your skincare. And they are affordable to boot! While many rave on and on about the coveted Shiseido cotton pads, I very much prefer the Muji Unbleached Cotton variety. They are identical to the Shiseido ones in terms of thickness, softness and never shedding. Fortunately they are cheaper. But the ones I repurchase the most are Silcot brand. The Silcot Lintfree Cotton Pads (S$4) feel like pillows on your face, I tend to use that for hydrating toners. The Silcot Uru Uru Sponge pads (S$4) are my favourite for acid toners (or really expensive toners) because they help you use 50% less toner. Truly I can attest to that. It’s a sponge-like pad that gets really soaked with very little product, which really help stretch your skincare product for longer.

It is AMAZING. I can’t be without this now. Otherwise I feel like I’m wasting so much product.

 

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And there you have it! If you ever visit Japan and are overwhelmed with the plethora of beauty products, try these out or go for the categories I’ve highlighted.

It’s so amazing that you can get such great quality and results at drugstore prices. I can never justify buying a 50 dollar cream anymore, when the Japanese have such superior formulas for so much less.

Try them out and let me know!

Empties #2 : Japanese Faves

Recently, I am making a point to use up my current rotation of products before buying any new ones. And so far, I  have been doing really well.

Japanese products are where it’s at when you want something that is effective and affordable. I initially fell in love with their “no-nonsense” approach to skincare, and slowly found myself in the middle of a Japanese product invasion – right down to the toothpaste I use.

It all started with my desire to use more affordable skincare, after finishing up my SK-II facial treatment essence. I found that with daily use, though effective, high-end skincare products are just too burdensome for my measly pockets to warrant repurchasing again and again. I realised that there were many offerings in the Japanese drugstore category that perform amazingly! *cough* Hada Labo *cough*

After using a couple items up, I thought I would do a small round up of my thoughts from using these products from start to end.

 

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1. SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, S$99

Let’s begin with the item that kickstarted my Japanese product craze. I bought a trial pack of the coveted SK-II treatment essence after reading countless raves about this “miracle water“. Their patented ‘pitera‘ is made from fermented rice and is said to be the key ingredient in keeping your skin balanced and fight against aging. The trial pack came with an SK-II sheet mask and a 75ml bottle of their essence, which lasted me a long, long time (more than a year). I did see an improvement in my skin clarity and it does help balance my skin. My acne scars faded more quickly and overall, it was a great addition to my skincare routine. However, I found that there are now a lot of other essences, priced affordably, that feature their key ingredient ‘galactomyces saccharomyces ferment filtrate’, also known as ‘pitera’.

Therefore, currently I have switched out my SK-II for Missha’s First Treatment Essence and it has been working well. There were more visible results from the SK-II, but in terms of its anti-aging benefits, the Missha suffices.

 

2. Hada Labo Tamagohada Mild Peeling Lotion, $17.90

Speaking of essences and lotions, this Hada Labo one is absolute holy grail status for me. This is the 8th bottle I’ve gone through and needless to say I will continue to repurchase this amazing skincare item. For people with sensitive skin who want to exfoliate without irritation, this is your answer. I use this as a very mild exfoliating toner as it contains ‘gluconic acid’, a natural enzyme occurring in fruits and wine. On top on that it also has ‘tranexamic acid’ that helps to brighten the overall complexion (similar to ferulic acid).

As with all Hada Labo products, the pH is slightly acidic and perfect to protect your skin’s acid mantle, making this a suitable for all skin types. It doesn’t dry out the skin and can be used day and night, to prevent the build up of dead skin cells and clogging of pores. No nasty ingredients in this one. More importantly, it’s affordable and effective. I highly recommend.

 

3. Hada Labo Air Aqua UV Day Emulsion, SPF 50, PA+++, $19.90

While we are on the Hada Labo train, I finished up my holy grail sunscreen, also by the same brand. This is my second bottle that I’ve gone through and I already have a back up waiting. I can’t stress enough how much I love this SPF. It’s perfect for everyday, super lightweight and sits well under makeup. It comes in two formulations, one for oily/combination skin and the other for dry skin. I’ve tried both and both work well! The dry skin formulation is perfect for lazy girls that want to just slap on only one thing. It definitely can be used as both a moisturiser and SPF, thanks to the addition of skin-loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid, resveratrol and vitamin C.

I would repurchase this again and again. It’s alcohol free and fragrance free, perfect for sensitive and acne prone skin types that usually break out due to SPF. So affordable and beats a lot of high-end SPFs I’ve tried, even the coveted Shiseido/Kiehl’s ones.

 

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4. LuLuLun 7 Days Premium Face Masks, $10.90

I’ve always had an issue with sheet masks, particularly the Korean ones that are over saturated with essences. I find them too rich for my oily skin to use on a regular basis, even though I want my skin receive the extra nutrients. So I stopped using sheet masks for years, until I was gifted this one by my best friend. The LuLuLun masks are super popular in Japan, not just due to its adorable packaging, but also because of its ‘daily mask’ concept. These masks are formulated to be used daily and come in a pack of 7, folded into one zip-lock bag. My prayers were answered with this one.

It has no alcohol and parabens. Everything in the ingredients list is lush. More importantly, the masks are saturated just enough to hydrate the skin deeply, without over burdening the skin or clogging it. It’s because it is more serum based and is formulated to be used every day. Thus, it’s much lighter. I use this every other day and I am loving the results. My skin is so much more radiant and plump. I managed to find a seller in Singapore that carries it, so I’m already on to my next packet.

 

5. BCL Tsururi Ghassoul Oil Cleansing, $18.90

I call this my underdog pick. I found this one at Tokyu Hands (a magical place by the way) and read the ingredients at the back. I had just finished my previous favourite oil cleanser, the Muji Mild Oil Cleansing, and was itching to try something new. This particular one drew me in because it is olive oil based, just like the Muji one, but has the added benefits of Moroccan lava clay, charcoal powder, honey, oat extract and organ oil. It comes out a black oil and takes off makeup like a dream. It’s more purifying than other cleansing oils, without leaving the skin feeling stripped. The clay and honey also helped my acne prone skin tremendously with its anti-bacterial properties.

The only drawback is that is comes in a measly 145ml bottle! Lasts roughly 2 months. I switched it out because of that but after a week of using something else, I came back to this one. My skin just loves it too much.

 

6. Ora 2 Stain Clear Premium in Aromatic Mint, $8.90

BEST. TOOTHPASTE. EVER. I know you’re thinking, it’s just toothpaste. How amazing can it be, right?

Wrong.

This stuff has SAVED my coffee-and-tea-stained teeth. If I had not found the Ora 2 Stain Clear range, I probably would have the yellowest teeth, known to man. Pirate-like. I initially tried the range because it has cool flavours like ‘peach mint’ and ‘apple & rose mint’. But then I realised how amazing it is at keeping my teeth looking white. Granted, it does not replace whitening strips. However, it’s amazing for daily maintenance and keeping stains at bay. Plus, I get compliments on my teeth and trust me, that wouldn’t be the case if I didn’t use this one. I’ve tried other whitening brands, but always go back to this one.

 

7. KOJI Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner in Brown, $24.90

As much I love Japanese products, I tend to use their skin and body care more than their makeup. But if there’s one thing the Japanese got down, it’s their eyeliner formulations. The Dolly Wink eyeliners have a brush, calligraphy tip and the most adorable polka-dot packaging. It lasts forever, even on my oily eye lids and is saturated with pigment. I tend to use brown liquid liner more than black because it offers a softer look, plus it’s less likely to show uneven wing liner application.

I love this one, and would probably go back to it. Though I am not particularly loyal to this brand yet. I feel any Japanese or Korean eyeliner would do the trick.

 

 

And there you have it! My recent Japanese empties. Loads of them I’ve already repurchased. Most are affordable and so effective. I am just enamoured by Japanese products currently.

Who knows which country I will be obsessed with next time.

March Favourites

March came and went in a breeze. I almost didn’t realise that April had begun. It snuck in so quickly. Of course, I’m bringing a monthly round up of a few favourite things. I did some travelling in March so, I really got a good sense of what I consider an essential as I had to edit down the amount of stuff I packed. I’m far from a minimal packer, but I definitely strive to be. Don’t we all!

 

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1. Kindle  (SGD$ 250)

This is an absolute ESSENTIAL for me when I was travelling in Jakarta. I never went anywhere without it. With the crazy traffic in Jakarta, I spent long hours in the car trying to get from point A to point B. Though snoozing the whole way through is an option, I’m eternally grateful for my kindle because I managed to finish two books whilst I was there. Since I have the Paperwhite version, it has a lit screen, making it easy for me to read in the car even at night. It’s so light and compact, I can’t believe how I have lived without this.

 

2. Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask  (SGD$ 27)

Besides it’s adorable frosted pink packaging that just looks so pretty on my vanity, this lip mask is a saviour for my dry, chapped lips. I wear lots of matte lipsticks during the day. Furthermore, the dry Jakarta air and airplane ventilation has ravaged my lips. Turning them into cracked desert ground. This lip mask is designed to be slapped on before bed, and you wake up with moisturised lips.

Firstly, I love the glossy, thick texture. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea as some don’t like the slippery consistency. I love it! It’s emollient, coating my lips with berry scented goodness. It isn’t the MOST hydrating thing I’ve tried, but it’s a pleasure to put on every night and it makes my lips very plump.

 

3. Hada Labo Air Aqua UV Day Emulsion, SPF50/PA+++  (SGD$ 19.90)

This is my holy grail sunscreen, hands down. Super accessible at Watsons or Guardian. It’s a light, runny moisturiser with a high broad spectrum SPF and it protects me from the tropical Singapore sun. I had initially regretted this particular purchase as I had accidentally bought the “dry skin” formula, instead of the one for oily skin. But I find that I am using this everyday as an all-in-one type product due to its extra moisturising properties. It truly acts as a moisturiser, sunscreen and primer in one. Helps me get ready quicker in the morning, cutting down all the product layering I previously had to do. It leaves my skin soft and velvety, also makes my pores look less apparent.

 

4. Real Techniques Setting Brush  (SGD$ 18)

A brush sold by itself (thank god) in the signature Pixiwoo Pink. This can be found in our local drugstores at a reasonable price. While this brush is made for precise setting of areas of the face with powder, it is incredible at multitasking. Thanks to its small size, yet fluffy  bristles, it is perfect to buff out concealer under the eyes and all over the face for a flawless, airbrushed complexion. The Setting Brush is also great for placing and blending highlight on the cheekbones, for a diffused luminosity. Perfection!! I definitely need more than one.

 

5. Anastasia Brow Wiz in Dark Brown  (USD$ 21)

I’m back together with my OG brow pencil that I was once upon a time crazy about. This is still nowhere to be found in Singapore. I had to buy it off Beauty Bay and pray that it arrived to my house safely. Nowadays, I would recommend purchasing it from Beautylish. The hype for this micro brow pencil has finally died down and that was when I decided to pick it up again. I wanted to go through all the back ups I bought, due to the hype and I fell back in love with it. For people with sparse brows like me, this gives you the most natural looking full brows you can ever get. More so than the pomade, the definer and the brow powders, this brow wiz is the perfect consistency to imitate the look of hairs.

 

Special mention to Zayn’s new albumMind of Mine” has been on repeat all through March. To be honest, I had no real expectations, despite loving his single “Pillowtalk”. I was actually blown away by the Robin Thick-ese style with some solid R&B tunes. I also loved the Bollywood/Urdu influences that’s sprinkled in the album. Honestly, my jaw dropped when I heard him sing “Intermission:Flower”. So. Bloody. Good.

However, my favourite song in the whole album is hands down “Borderz”.

 

 

And that’s about it for last month. We are already full swing into April. Content on the site is likely to change in terms of its upload schedule as my job is starting to get a little hectic. But I will definitely be posting weekly, as per usual. Look for them especially on the weekend.

Ahoy, April! Let’s go!

Empties # 1

Today, let’s talk trash! I’m bringing a popular series from YouTube into the site called “Empties“. This is a common beauty series that most beauty gurus do where they literally keep all their beauty-related trash and show them to their audience, summing up their thoughts after finishing the product as well as whether they would repurchase them.

I don’t know about you but I get so satisfied when I finish up an item. Unless it’s limited edition or really hard to get a hold of, in which case I will be gutted. For the most part, it’s hard for me to use a single product consistently and finish it up completely before moving on to the next one. Simply because the options are endless and new things are always popping up every day! It’s difficult to stay loyal to a product. But when I am loyal to something and finish it up, you know the love is real.

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So here’s a quick round up of my beauty trash!

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1. Pixi Glow Tonic  (US$30.50)

One of the most highly raved about AHA toners out there. Ever since skincare expert, Caroline Hirons, mentioned these, it blew up! Everyone in the UK started using it and it became a super hyped product in Europe and the US. Unfortunately, as with many things that are amazing, we can’t get this brand in Singapore. I actually picked this up when I was in London late last year. But do not despair! Recently ASOS has expanded their beauty section and you can now order this with free international shipping through them. However, be wary when purchasing items online (especially from ASOS). 

That being said, I would repurchase this and take that risk in a heartbeat because this toner is EVERYTHING. The Pixi Glow Tonic is an acid toner. Hence, it is packed with 5% Glycolic Acid as well as Ginseng extracts to help chemically exfoliate the skin. The AHAs in this toner will get rid of your dead skin cells without tugging the skin to reveal youthful, clear skin and it definitely helps with any textural issues I had. It’s great for all skin types and gentle enough to use daily. It’s one of those cases where a product is truly worth the hype.

I’ve used other AHA toners such as the Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner, but this is by far superior in its formulation. Definitely more forgiving on the skin, without losing its effectiveness. I’m already on to my back up bottle. Cannot live without this one!

 

2. Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk (SGD $15.90)

Holy Grail dry shampoo!! I know that dry shampoo isn’t exactly the most exciting thing to talk about. And it isn’t as widely used here in Asia as it is in the states. If you aren’t using Dry Shampoo, try some! It will change your life I guarantee it. It’s perfect for second day hair or refreshing your style after a low intensity gym session. Contrary to popular belief, it is damaging to wash your hair daily as it strips it of the natural oils it need to grow and become stronger. It’s especially bad for people with colour-treated hair as washing your hair too much can strip its colour.

This is the best dry shampoo I’ve found. And trust me, I’ve tried a substantial amount. The formula is gentle yet effective and does not leave a major white cast on your roots (hello fellow brunettes). This Klorane one also does not leave the hair feeling dirty or overloaded with product, like the Batiste one does for me. It’s very airy and has a gentle inoffensive scent that doesn’t clash with your perfume. Furthermore, it adds subtle texture to your hair whilst absorbing unwanted grease. When I found that Klorane made a tinted version for brown haired girls, you can just imagine the elation. Pure joy!!

Needless to say, I will definitely be repurchasing this, forever and ever. It’s completely flawless.

 

3. La Roche Posay Serozinc Spray (£8.50)

I think it is apparent that I am a huge fan of French Pharmaceutical brands. I find most of their formulas very gentle and suitable for my sensitive acne prone skin. Speaking of which, I have finished up another bottle of my Serozinc spray toner from La Roche Posay. This is my third bottle and I have 2 more back ups, ready for me. Yes, it is THAT good.

Although the brand is sold here in Singapore, this particular toner is only sold in France. But due to its popular demand, recently certain UK sites have started carrying it and they do have international shipping. Why are people going ga-ga over this? This is basically a zinc sulphate solution, designed specifically for oily, acne prone skin but people of all skin types are able to use it. Zinc sulphate helps reduce inflammation and soothes skin irritation. On top of that, it balances the skin and also contains sodium chloride, a mild astringent to help purify. Just three ingredients in total, including the La Roche Posay signature thermal spring water.

This is GODSEND for days when I am having breakouts and my skin is red and angry. It prevents the spread of my breakouts, whilst treating it and reducing its redness. As with all gentle products, it isn’t a miracle worker that cures acne overnight. However, I love how balanced my skin feels every time I use this.

Love. Love. Love. 

 

4. Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Moisturising Eye Cream (SGD $21.90)

This is a standard eye cream that I enjoyed using. No fragrance, mineral oils plus a lightweight cream formula that sinks in quickly and does hydrate the skin under the eyes very well. Hada Labo features a super hyaluronic acid formula that contains 3 types of hyaluronic acid that really helps with oil-free hydration. Perfect day and night, works amazing under makeup. I’m not sure if I will go back to this, because this eye cream only targets hydration. I might graduate and take it to the next level by trying out a more anti-aging formula next.

 

5. Dr Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution (SGD $120)

Amazing entry level retinol product that really does help with hyper pigmentation and scarring. I used this religiously for months, every night. You can read more here, where I explain in detail what retinol does and how this really helped my skin. I will definitely repurchase this for the ferulic acid, because it made my skin bright and even toned. However, I have since then moved to a stronger retinol formula so I will not be repurchasing this immediately. But I highly recommend this for its lightweight and effective concoction of antioxidants, acids and retinol. Say hello to bright, even skin!

 

 

 

Most of my empties are skincare products as I tend to use those up much more quickly than any makeup product. These kinds of things really give you a good idea of the prolonged performance of a product and encourages me to be less wasteful, to truly get every penny’s worth. I’m pumped to keep doing this and use up even more of my things.

Shop my stash more and be less fickle when it comes to beauty products.