Japanese Beauty + Skincare Products

You go to Japan looking for beauty products, and you’re guaranteed to leave sheetfaced. They’re all about the treatment masks. Brightening, firming, plumping. Placenta, snake venom, bee venom. Snail essence. You’ve got a problem, they’ve got something nasty to put on it.

Phil tells me that I spent $700 USD on cosmetics and skincare while in Japan. There’s no way. I was hitting up the pharmacies—okay, so the pharmacies in Japan can be a full five floors—not heading to Hokuhodo and Suqqu counters. “And you’re the one who told me to go to the Shishedo store!” He did.

Japanese Skincare

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil Image Map

Okay, so onto Asian beauty, specifically skincare. Now to read and explain this entire lineup takes time, but in practice, all these steps are quick.

Asian Skincare Morning Routine:

  1. Foam Cleanse
  2. pH-Adjusting Toner: AHA/BHA Toner
  3. Serum: 20% Vitamin C (cheap, best-seller, the one I’ll order once I’m through with…) my expensive Obaji 20% . I also recommend the Skinceutical brand CE Ferulic (which I’ve featured in earlier posts, because they’ve patented their C delivery method, which is why it’s more costly)
  4. Essence: SK-II Facial Treatment Essence or for a less expensive alternative: Missha Time Revolution First Essence Also, may I just say that every time I pass a Sephora, I douse myself in the stuff.
  5. Hydrating Toner: Naturie Skin Conditioner
  6. Essence: LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence Helps with inflammation and angry ass skin. I put this on anything I’ve picked, or anything that tretinoin has pissed off. Notice I don’t apply each step EVERYWHERE. I selectively apply certain products where they’re needed only.
  7. Sheet Mask: Get sheetfaced with Lululun; it’s THE BEST . I can’t even say how much of a plumping happy difference this makes. Skin looks alive and bright, healthy and plump. My mother, almost age 70, agrees.
  8. Moisturize: Hada Labo Goku-jun Hyaluronic Milky Lotion (pink). A little goes a long way. A dime-size amount is all you need, and the key is to warm in your palms then press into the skin. Don’t forget your chest, neck, and tops of your hands!
  9. Snail It: Seal all that moisture in with Snail! They sell this at Target for $38, or you can buy the exact same one for under $14! This stuff is amazing. Here’s what it reports to do:
    • 92 percent snail mucus extract, it provides outstanding skin regeneration and recovery, solves multiple skin concerns and trouble all-in-one
    • Anti-aging, fine wrinkle, blemish, acne scar, and pore care that creates elastic, bouncy, bright, and healthy skin
    • Contains snail mucus filtrate, adenosine, peptides, and vitamin 5 certified for anti-aging effect
    • Free from fragrance, artificial color, and parabens, ideal for sensitive skin types-step 1 in the snail repair line
  10. Sunscreen: This Biore Aqua UV feels like water. It’s amazing and refreshing, and I can’t believe it’s sunscreen. I love this. If they ever discontinue I will be so les mis.

Asian Skincare PM Routine:

  1. First Cleanse or Oil Cleanse: An oil based cleanser that breaks through sunscreen and waterproof mascara, melts away the makeup. Again and again, DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is the recommendation I’ve seen most. I use this oil with the Clarisonic and the Luxe Cashmere Brush Head.
  2. Second Cleanse or Foam Cleanse: pH. It’s all about the pH of your face. Just trust me on this because it takes too long to explain. Healthy skin is acidic, and cleansers with a low acidic pH ward off acne and promote healthy skin. How in the hell do you know the pH of a cleanser? You google that shit. CereVe makes a good gentle low pH foaming cleanser. The idea with all cleansers used by the Japanese is that they require no muscle. No pushing or squeezing. Everything is gentle, no tight squeaky-clean after skin. But, oh, the rose cleansing stick. Have mercy. It has bits of rose petal in it. I’m ordering it on Amazon now.
  3. Low pH Toner: Mizon AHA/BHA Daily Clean Toner is used to get your face to the correct pH, before applying your expensive serums and essences. It makes everything else more effective.
  4. AHA and/or BHA Serum: Chemical exfoliants. AHA handles whiteheads and BHA penetrates oil, digging deep and lifting up the sebum in your nose, chin, cheek pores. I use the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. I don’t have blackheads but I do see sebum on my nose in a magnifying mirror. Not when I use this, which does make my nose peel. That’s where the Clairsonic comes in. I use the Clarisonic with the Oil Cleanse phase.
  5. Hydrating Toner: see above
  6. Meds or Actives: 0.04% Tretinoin 1% Clindamycin
  7. Sheet Mask: see above
  8. Serum: see above
  9. Cream: see above
  10. Sleeping Pack: Laneige Water Sleeping Pack
  11. Spot Treatments: blemish patches (who knew?)
  12. Physical Exfoliation (vs. Chemical Exfoliation) a few times a week, before AM routine: One bottle of CURE sells every 12 seconds in Japan. It’s over 90% hydrogen-rich water and also contains aloe and anti-oxidant gingko biloba leaf extract. What it feels like: little balls that feel like dead skin but aren’t dead skin roll around on your face collecting dead skin, much the way gum can collect stray pieces of gum.


Japanese Skincare vs. Korean SkincareDoes this shit really work? Look at this woman’s face. It glows. Chizu Saeki is all about massage and the facial mask, specifically, she takes cotton clouds that peel into individual thin squares, which she saturates in water and lotion, then lets them rest on her face for 3 minutes. She a veteran in getting completely sheetfaced.


Okay, this post is getting too long. So I will feature another post with beauty, like mascara with built in lash serum, and the best, most natural, affordable, waterproof eyebrow pencil, etc. But since I already included in photo above, here’s my new go-to foundation and concealer:

Ko Gen Doh (002) Aqua Foundation (SPF 30)

Clea d’ Peau Stick Concealer (used with a brush, applied with a light touch)

I did indulge in one item: my perfume. They no longer sell it in the U.S., which drove me to web searches that lasted longer than a single day. What kills me is, at the time that I’d bought it at Barney’s New York, it wasn’t a big deal. Just something I’d picked up casually, no doubt as a pick-me-up purchase. And now, years and children later, I still long for that taste of summer in a bottle, the one I associate with walking on a city street, just as the day draws to an end, shopping bags in hand, sunkissed in summer whites. Roseberry is floral without being obviously floral; it’s the kind of floral that smells like the cool smooth petals on your nose as you inhale the center of a cabbage rose.

My favorite beauty pharmacy in Tokyo is in Harajuku. When I tell you that most of my trip was spent foraging pharmacies, I’d be exaggerating. I mean, come on. The majority? No, but I hit up at least 14 pharmacy chains. So, in case you’ve googled this post in search of beauty products to buy while in Japan, at the best prices with the most variety, you’d want to know that it’s here:

Ainz-Tulpe Harajuku Quest
Address: 1-13-14, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001

This post took me forever to write and to remember and to explain and to link to the products with the best prices, so these links are affiliate links. Thanks lovers! I paid for everything myself, and I’m only posting the stuff that’s worth it!



  1. Do you use each of the items everyday in the morning/night routine? also – the items that say “see above” for the night routine – wasn’t sure which those were referring to? Also didn’t understand how or why you put the sheet masks on after you’ve already put all the products on? Is this in order of how you use it? Btw – I bought all of the items lol.

  2. I swear by the sheet masks. There is a Japanese discount chain called Miniso, that has boxes of sheet masks for about $1.50 to $3 for 4 masks. They range from rose based to snail, but my fave for my sensitive skin is the calming oat mask. I’m in Beijing, and Miniso has outlets here. I’ll be on the lookout for some of the products you listed and give the whole routine a try.

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