The Inside Story of Japan's Beauty and Skincare - plus a Chance to WIN Some Top Brands!

I've been living in Japan for a little over 8 months. I spent most of August 2014 sweating 24/7 and I noticed that most Japanese women had perfect glowy skin, completely unaffected by the 30+ degree heat and humidity. The sensible side of me knows that the reason Japanese women look so amazing comes mostly down to science and genes, but the consumer in me wants to know what products they use to look like this. If I could reach just a fraction of that I would be delighted!
[caption id="attachment_297" align="alignleft" width="197"]
Japans top selling face wash which you can win through our Instagram competition! Details below.[/caption]
I held off buying anything until winter as I still had my UK products from home. One morning in December I woke up with skin that felt like a paper bag. I decided that it was time to adapt and search for some products to help me out.
I asked a few of my Japanese friends what brands they like, what products they use and also what their daily routine was. Contrary to what I had read, that Japanese women have at least 5-steps in their skincare routine, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was a lot more simple in the real world with 2-4 steps seemingly the norm and with some of them having a different routine between morning and night time. The top brand which kept reappearing was Perfect Whip (which you can win as part of our Instagram contest). I also found out that some types of products are named differently here than what I've seen in the West, for example lotions are more like toner, and serums are known as essence.

So off I went to search for something to rescue my paper bag skin. First things first, stepping into a drugstore in Japan can be pretty intimidating, there are products displayed wall to wall, it’s hard to know where to start. Also, there is almost no English, everything is as you would expect, mostly in Japanese, making it hard to read labels and ingredients. I would suggest doing a little research beforehand so you know what you’re looking for. Then if you have the time, while away an hour looking and testing everything like I did.
Japan is famed for its quality merchandise and drugstore products are no different, in fact, if a product isn’t deemed to be worthy it will be off the shelves fairly quickly. It’s a tough market and only the best survive. I was surprised to see more expensive products like SKII on display but I guess that’s a sign that the brand wouldn’t be seen in such close proximity to cheaper brands if they didn’t think they were good enough.
Before coming to Japan I was familiar with some of the top brands like Shiseido and Shu Uemura (famed worldwide, especially for their eyelash curlers ) and more recently was made aware of delightfully soft Suqqu brushes. But this was something else, I can’t even begin to start listing every brand available, it’s pretty overwhelming particularly as the store I was in wasn’t even that big! I still convert everything into British pounds so when I saw the prices of some of these products I was surprised at how reasonable they were.
Three of my stand out products so far are:

Pure Smile and LuLuLun - I never used face masks before coming to Japan and I've no idea why not. They've worked wonders on my dehydrated skin, and I always feel refreshed after using them. My only problem is that the options are endless, when will I stop testing them out? I do not know yet. There are so many brands and styles. They range in price from 90 yen - 500 yen.
Perfect Whip - you only need to use a small amount of this creamy cleanser. When you add water to it, it foams up so there’s plenty to use all over your face and neck twice a day. I’ve had mine since December and I’m still using the same one now.

Maquillage - French for ‘make up’ and a beauty brand from Shiseido. Their face veil powder is a wonderful spring pick me up. Normally if I buy a palette, the applicator that comes with it goes straight in the bin, but for a drugstore brand this one is pretty good, a soft brush on one end and a sponge to blend on the other, definitely one to keep! I had to buy the case and powder together this time, but afterwards I only need to buy the refill which is a great value.
Other Japanese brands I rate and really like are Astalift (made by camera brand Fujifilm), DHC (apparently it’s an ‘old ladies’ brand but I really love it, especially their cleansing oil), and Tsubaki shampoo and conditioner.
We always want what we can’t have, I’m never going to have skin as perfect as most Japanese women, I will still sweat profusely in the summer, but I can do something to help my paper bag skin in winter and thats good enough for me.
One of my Japanese girl friends has skin that looks like it's permanently in soft focus, natural and beautiful. Her secret? Water. She doesn’t use anything on her face except for water. No soap, no lotions, no potions ("How on earth does it stay so soft?" I wail at her!). Sometimes simple is best.
For your chance to win some handpicked Japanese drugstore products, follow us on Instagram