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!

Sheet Mask Smackdown!

Sheet masks have never been my thing.

I have and will always be a clay mask kind of girl. Thanks to my oily, acne prone skin, I found lots of sheet masks overbearing on my skin. Particularly Taiwanese & Korean ones that are absolutely DRIPPING in essence. So much that there is usually a pool of excess essence left in the packet, which is a good thing that people tend to look for. However, for me, it’s just too much.

Most masks are so saturated that it feels as if they are slipping and sliding off my face. The essence is so thick that it feels as if it isn’t penetrating my skin. Thus, I hated “patting” in the goo after I have removed the mask from my face. Often times, I end up breaking out.

As I grew older though, my skin has definitely changed. It’s now more combination oily. Plus, after using retinol, my skin does get dry and I have to be more diligent about hydration.

 

With new formulations and new brands, I decided to give sheet masks another shot.

 

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LuLuLun Masks, US$3.90-$19

This is my first introduction into Japanese sheet masks. My best friend, Diyanah, brought back a pack for me from Japan. Their masking concept is slightly different because there are 7 sheets in a pack and it is meant for DAILY use. Though it sounds excessive, these masks are perfectly formulated for that. They are thin cotton masks that are saturated in a cocktail of skin-loving ingredients. The keyword here is “saturated” but not soaking, sopping wet. It’s perfect for oily skinned girls like me who can’t stand rich textures. The LuLuLun masks are hydrating and emollient, but not occlusive.

I’ve tried a bunch, my favourite being the brightening one that comes in a silver packet. The moisturizing range is bit heavy for me, so I do find that I have to rinse my face after use, to get rid of any residue. They are alcohol free, which is very important for me and have a short but effective ingredients list. If you are confused as to what is in the different ranges and colours, I found a blog that explains the different types you can get here.

Best of all, they are so inexpensive at less than 10 bucks a pack.

 

Leaders Insolution & Mediu Masks, S$3-$9.90

The hype on these masks are real. The Leaders masks are well-loved globally. They are pretty pricey, but boast immediate results. I have tried two types and I have to say that I really do like both (insolution & media amino masks). It brightens and any acne I have going on is visibly less red and irritated. The cotton used in these masks is thicker and more plush than the LuLuLun ones. They cling to the skin better and have a better, more luxurious fit on my face.

As expected, I had to wash off the residue after taking off the mask because korean mask formulas are just too moisturizing for my skin. But the results are still noticeable. This would be a special occasion mask for me. Perhaps if my skin is experiencing a bad breakout or is generally looking a little rough, I would splurge on a sheet as a treat.

 

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Naruko Snail Essence Hydra Repair Masks, S$29.90

This Taiwanese drugstore skincare brand always impresses me with their ingredients list. It is packed with botanical extracts and effective ingredients, whilst omitting alcohol, parabens and other nasties. I’ve heard great things about their snail essence mask and I was not disappointed.

First thing you will notice is how incredibly slimy the mask is. Absolutely dripping with snail goo, which isn’t the most appealing thing to slap on your face. But once you get over that, the mask itself is thick and stays wet for a very long time. There is a rather strong fragrance – a notable downside for me. It’s very cooling and this treatment can be left on longer than all the masks I’ve tried.

The essence does drip around a bit so be warned, it can get messy. The result is worth the slimy hassle because I was left with clarified and calm skin. It really helped with my hyper pigmentation and acne scars. It’s another special occasion type mask but it’s great stuff!

 

Japan Gals Pure 5 Essence Masks, S$24.90

This is, I daresay, my HOLY GRAIL sheet mask. I found this Japanese sheet mask on a whim at John Little. It has a similar concept to the LuLuLun masks in the sense that they are meant for daily use and come in large packs of 7 to 30. Personally, I have never heard of this brand, but what peaked my interest was the simplicity of the ingredients list. It’s very simple, without any alcohol or parabens, featuring 5 main ingredients that make up majority of the formulation. Due to the lack of parabens, the masks have to be used up within 2 months of opening. That pushes me to use them daily and oh my god.

My skin has never been better. The masks come in a giant resealable bag, with plastic tweezers to take a sheet out, making it more sanitary. The cotton masks themselves are of a thicker, more plush cotton than the LuLuLun and they have a larger surface area as well. This is one of the very few masks that completely absorbs into my skin, leaving zero residue. I can put on moisturizer and makeup as soon as I am done masking, without feeling sticky or slimy. With regular use, my skin tone is SO much clearer and even toned. So even that I have been going out without a shred of foundation or concealer. It’s liberating.

I highly recommend this mask for anyone with oily or dull skin. They offer a wide range addressing different skin concerns. It’s relatively inexpensive considering there are 30 sheets in the pack. But keep in mind that these are meant for daily use.

 

For what it’s worth, unwinding everyday for 10 mins with a little pamper routine like this can do more good for you than your skin. Treat yourself!

 

 

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.