Budgetarian: 5 Inexpensive Japanese Beauty Products You Need Now

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A lot of people tend to think of Japanese beauty products as high-end, and it’s understandable. After all, the country does have SK-II as one of its biggest flag-bearers overseas. Add to this the fact that Japanese brands like Shiseido and Kose Sekkisei tend to be pricey outside of the country, and a misconception is born.

In reality, some of Japan’s most iconic cult beauty buys are actually quite inexpensive. Should you ever get to visit Japan, make sure to head straight to the drugstore and grab these affordable babies.

Sheet mask

The sheet mask is a fun and easy way to improve your skin care routine. Just pop a sheet over your face, chill for fifteen to twenty minutes, take it off and you’ve got brighter, plumper, more hydrated skin. Arguably the best thing about sheet masks, though, is that you can play with different variants; you can choose a mask by fragrance or by function. You can pick an aloe mask if your skin is irritated, or a pearl mask if you want to brighten your skin.

Fan at the 2013 Oscars. (Source)

Flawless Fan Bingbing goes through 600 sheet masks a year. (Source)

Japan is so obsessed with sheet masks that you can buy them at practically every corner — even convenience stores. Hard core sheet mask addicts can buy them in bulk for daily use. Be like Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing and use sheet masks twice a day, even.

Some Japanese brands like Lululun sell “every day masks”: you get 42 serum-soaked sheet masks in one handy pack/container, so you can use them daily after cleansing. Pro-tip: when buying sheet masks, find the ones that have ingredients like ceramide, coenzyme Q10, or hyaluronic acid for skin boosting powers.)


Brands like Dollywink, FairyDrops, and Kiss Me Heroine are already well-known globally, so if you do get a chance to see some in a Japanese drugstore, grab them immediately!

The many different wands of Fairy Drops. (Source)

The many different wands of Fairy Drops. (Source)

Japanese mascaras are beloved because the formulas tend to be really good at lengthening and volumizing — two things that Asians with straight and fine lashes need stat. More importantly, these mascaras are pretty darn long-lasting. Really. Two coats and you’re set — the mascara you just applied won’t budge until you bring out the oil cleansers.

Speaking of oil cleansers, you also need…

Cleansing oil

You might be most familiar with cleansing oils from the myriad Korean skin care brands that abound, but rest assured that Japan makes some of the best ever made on God’s green earth. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is a good old favorite, with the olive oil base working double time to cleanse and nourish the skin.

The famous Shu Uemura cleansing oils. (Source)

The famous Shu Uemura cleansing oils; DHC is a good alternative. (Source)

It emulsifies easily and turns into a milky liquid that you can easily rinse off. Skin isn’t dry or tight and all (meaning all) your makeup is gone in a flash. This makes it an excellent choice for your double-cleansing routine, and can even be used for the famous OCM or Oil Cleansing Method.


The Japanese are fanatical when it comes to sun protection — easily understandable when you realize the premium they put on fair skin. Where a lot of Western brand sunscreens tend to get goopy, sticky, or smelly, the Japanese have managed to create some of the most cosmetically elegant sun protection products in the market.

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50 PA+++. (Source)

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50 PA+++. (Source)

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence (SPF 50, PA+++) is a great example. It absorbs easily; has a light, citrusy scent; and doesn’t leave a white cast. It doesn’t make the face oily, either. The downside is that most of these Japanese sunscreens contain alcohol — a controversial ingredient. Though many chemists agree that alcohol in skin care is safe to use as long as the product is well-formulated, this is a matter where your mileage may vary.


At this point, you’re probably wondering: moisturizer? But listen (or read, I guess): as in the case of sunscreens, Japan makes some of the most interesting moisturizers, and it’s not just because of the unique ingredients.

Japanese moisturizers — specifically, emulsions — are light and easily absorbed. They help nourish and hydrate the skin without getting too heavy or oily. The Kose Sekkisei Emulsion isn’t a drugstore product, but it’s definitely one of the most famous emulsions from the country. It’s lightweight, easily absorbed, and helps even out skin tone while ensuring hydration.

Japanese brand Hada Labo made "slapping" a globally known skin care technique. (Source)

Hada Labo Gokujyun Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion. (Source)

Another option is the famous Hada Labo Gokujyun Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion. Okay, technically this isn’t a moisturizer. It’s a lotion (a.k.a. boosting toner) that you use right after cleansing to help hydrate the skin and lock in moisture. However, you can easily use this as a light moisturizer if you’re living in a tropical country and all you need is a bit of hydration.

So… fancy a trip to Japan any time soon?

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