Blog Archive

Japan Cosmetics and Skincare Haul (and Other Funny Things)

A few weeks ago, I went to Hokkaido in Japan. I really enjoyed it, and I did all sorts of really awesome things - I went to a hot spring (you aren't allowed to wear clothes in there, so it takes some getting used to!), visited both the Ishiya Chocolate and the Asahi Beer factories (those were highlights for me, because in my day job I get to visit factories too), and just generally enjoyed the sights and sounds of gorged myself on the awesome Japanese food, especially the seafood and the dairy products. It was such an amazingly beautiful place with so much to do.

But of course you're not interested in that, right? So I'll show you what I hauled while I was in Japan. Now we're interested! :P

Firstly, I'm going to have to disappoint you by saying that my haul was rather small. In part, this was due to the fact that once the exchange rate was accounted for, prices were actually the same, although we were in Japan. Unlike US-based and Europe-based brands, which like to mark up their retail prices by at least 30% once they export out of their home market, Japanese cosmetic brands don't seem to have the same mindset. So yes, unfair as it may seem, while a NARS blush is nearly USD$50 in Japan and only USD$25 in America, the girl in Indiana pays the same for a Shu Uemura eyeshadow as the girl in Tokyo, unless you happen to buy from some unscrupulous third-party reseller who jacks up the retail price. So yes, that did dent my haul, but on the bright side, I can buy all the Japanese cosmetics I want back home knowing we're more or less paying the same prices worldwide.

So, that rant aside, let's start with the fun stuff of what I got: Shiseido Integrate nail polishes! For the unfamiliar, Integrate is one of Shiseido's subsidiary brands, calibrated for the drugstore market, along with a line of other brands, including Majolica Majorca, ZA Cosmetics, Maquillage, and Ettusais. Most of the colours were rather ho-hum, playing into the casual nail polish user's preference for sheer pinks and reds, but there were a couple of more interesting colours I spied. I got RD701, a dusky, dusty, greyed-purple with a pink flash, and GD841, an antique gold-green shade with a pink flash.

Don't they look gorgeous? I can't wait to use them!

I also got a Canmake Nail Glitter 02, one of their ranges of nail polish. Basically consisting of four colours, each colour is a different coloured glitter (pink, teal, silver, gold) in a clear base. I got the gold, as it looked more interesting.

canmake nail glitter

And, this is the part of my haul I'm most excited about. I GOT A TAUPE EYESHADOW! Woohoo! Now for a taupe lover like myself, I compulsively collect and hoard taupe eyeshadow, so I was glad to lay my hands on this little baby. Go ahead, feast your eyes. You know you want to.

coffret dor eyeshadow

Okay, so it looks a little blah in the pan, and the photo isn't great because the plastic wrapping is still covering the entire case, but that's Coffret D'or, dude! Coffret D'or is one of the better makeup brands in Japan, with shades that are actually very smooth-textured and nicely pigmented. I don't know about you, but a lot of Asian-brand eyeshadows tend to be over-glittery, gritty, and have downright wimpy pigmentation (and I'm looking at almost all of them - most Canmake, some Majolica Majorca, some KATE, and the list goes on). So when I swatched this eyeshadow, I just HAD to have it.

It's Coffret D'or's Eye Color in GY-37. Taupe perfection, taupe goodness. A perfect light-to-midtone greyed-purpled-brown with some sparkles, but not too much. This is like my baby right now. I just love it so much, I can't bear to use it.

Other than makep, I got some skincare items. I got my DHC Cleansing Oil, which I find so much better than the Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil, as it lathers more easily and rinses off so much cleaner, whereas the Shu Uemura version leaves a residue that makes me perpetually paranoid that the mineral oil in its formulation will break my skin out. Oh yeah, and did I also mention that the DHC Cleansing Oil also has no mineral oil? Perfect for people who are sensitive to mineral oil, like me.

dhc cleansing oil

Of course, the drawback is that the DHC Cleansing Oil looks rather gross in it's packaging. It looks like the olive oil I used to use for cooking when I was living in the West (olive oil is cheaper there than in Asia, believe it or not), and that's because it is primarily made of olive oil. Olive oil, and a bunch of emulsifiers, so it rinses off better than pure olive oil. I rather like this. I need to review it sometime.

Lastly, I got some DHC Pimple/Acne Spot Therapy Cream. Now, I have something I want to say to DHC about the packaging of the product: Why is it that the consumers in Japan get the cutesy packaging, while the rest of us get a boring baby blue box? No fair!

dhc pimple products

The box above is what I bought in Singapore - which is a rather medical, serious and stuffy-looking blue box. The box below, the kawaii one with spots and a drawing of the product working on the pimple, is what you can get in Japan. The product inside is the same though.

The discrimination even extends to the tubes themselves. Why does the Japanese version look so much cuter? Both contain 15ml of product, however, so you get the same product in the same amount, but...I want mine to look cute too!

dhc pimple products 2

Anyway, I'm guessing the change in packaging is probably to cater to the market, since it costs the company money to have more than one design for the packaging and boxes and so on. The marketing honchos must have figured out that while cute and kawaii things sell within Japan, for a pimple cream that will be sold outside of Japan, it would probably be better for it to look more professional and medicinal, and more like something the doctor would prescribe. I guess it's working - this product seems to be selling well.

And of course, what kind of tourist would I be if I didn't marvel at the funny Engrish there? To be fair, I do think that since the last time I visited Japan 8 years ago, the English competency has definitely improved. But I still see Engrish gems all over the place. Here's a makeup-related one for you:

funny shiseido skincare ad

I'm sorry, but this ad is just hilarious. It's for a foundation product released by Maquillage, one of Shiseido's subsidiaries, that promises clean, smooth skin. So I guess that automatically allows you to proclaim, "I'M VIRGIN!" Woohoo! Somehow, I can't imagine this selling in the West. Ever. In the rest of Asia, probably (provided it's better translated than "I'm virgin" - I believe the actual message they wanted to convey was virgin-clear skin, or virgin-clean skin, etc). But not in the West. That would seem positively medieval.

Anyway, another thing I found funny were the instructions showing you how to use squat toilet. That's right - toilets which are a glorified and beautified hole in the ground, and you basically squat over them to use them. I don't believe these exist in the West (come to think of it, in my 4 years living abroad in the US and UK I've only ever seen sitting toilets), but they're commonplace in Asia. So I found it funny that the Japanese people have helpfully provided instructions on how to use the toilets for uninitiated, clueless Westerners, complete with diagrams! I never saw any such diagrams when I visited other parts of Asia - I guess they expect you to figure out how to use it yourself, or else handle your bladder well.

Here's a typical diagram you might find. I think they claim too much credit in calling these "Japanese style toilets", since they're found all over Asia, certainly not just Japan. I'd call them "Asian style toilets", but hey, I don't write instructions for toilet usage:

funny toilet sign

And this, hands-down, has got to be the BEST "how-to-use-our-toilets-for-clueless-tourists" manual ever. It's got painfully detailed step-by-step diagrams, and classic Engrish lines such as "Do it" and "If you lose your balance, you are gonna fall down on shit". ROFL! They even have instructions in Mandarin, although I don't know why they need those - the rest of Asia is familiar with these toilets.

funny toilet sign 2

So now that I've wowed you with the awesome makeup I bought, laughed with you at the funny Engrish, and grossed you out with toilet signs, I hope you've enjoyed this post. While I know I can sound mean laughing at stupid things like Engrish and toilets, let me assure you that I have nothing but utmost love for Japan and its people. I'll be posting as I use some of the items, but until then, I am glad that my visit to Hokkaido has left me with beautiful memories, and gorgeous makeup and skicnare items.