When I went to Japan a few months ago, I asked one of my good friends C if she’d like me to bring anything back. She’s the kind of girl who rarely asks asks for anything, so I was surprised when a few days later she had emailed me a massive list. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “But I’m obsessed with Japanese makeup and skincare. It’s so hard to get certain brands here in the U.S.”
Thus before we left, I promised to C that I’d dutifully visit Matsumoto Kiyoshi (a massive chain in Japan, kind of like Ulta) to pick up her requested items. I was curious about what would have driven this very normal girl born and raised in Minnesota to go so crazy about Japanese makeup – after some light Googling, came across a bunch of Japanese cosmetics fan sites. I also discovered a fantastic New York Times article here, describing the craze for Japanese cosmetics in the West. The article was fascinating, with quotes from women who described Japanese makeup as being a) better quality (even at the drugstore level) than what Western brands had to offer, b) produced within a much more competitive market than the West and thus held to a higher standard of excellence, and c) very waterproof due to the humid temperatures in Asia.
Of course after all of that research, I had to pick up some products for myself as well while in Japan. I’ve had a few months to test them all out and see if they were worth of their exhaulted status, and here are my thoughts.
I had tried liquid liner before, but it never worked on me until I tried Japanese brands. They are indeed very waterproof but wash off very easily with soap and water. The brushes on them are also very small and fine – easy to draw natural lines. Dolly Wink is available at several stores in the U.S as well as here. I loved these little cotton swabs because they were so small and incredibly precise for great attention to detail.
I also bought Cure gel based on the recommendation of friends – it’s become one of my favorite products in my skincare routine! Very gentle exfoliator and it really works. I already bought a refill on Amazon here for what I think is a good price, especially when you take into account how annoying it was to bring this big bottle back from Japan. I actually have no idea what the pink foam things next to the Aqua gel is- but I’ll probably try it out on a homebody day in case the results are disastrous!
Finally I wanted to share with you all the only makeup item I had ever used from Japan prior to this trip – Yojiya oil blotting papers. Yojiya is based in Kyoto and all around the city you can find their shops. They are most famous for their blotting papers and for good reason – I have never found better blotting papers than those made in Japan (Tatcha’s, another favorite, are made in Japan as well).
After trying a multitude of products over the last few months, my verdict on Japanese makeup was uniformly positive. I loved the products I tried out (especially the liquid eyeliners) and found that there was a great amount of attention to detail in packaging and applicators. I also just felt that the products were gentler to my skin, without unnecessary additives. That being said, I didn’t think there was anything outrageously better than the Western brands I’ve tried (again, except for the eyeliners).
I’m curious now – have you all tried Japanese (or Asian) makeup? Do you love it, and what are your recommendations? Do you prefer them over Western brands?