The Complete Japanese Beauty Shopping Guide

The Complete Japanese Beauty Shopping Guide

07.19.2016    |    
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My recent trip to Japan that I took back in May seems lightyears away by now, but all the treasures that I brought home with me serve as a constant reminder of my incredible trip. While I tent to limit my shopping on such trips in favors of cultural and culinary experiences (which you can read all about here), I did do my fair share of shopping and beauty discovery. Part of being in Japan is exploring and seeking out those hidden gems where you might find something that will always remind you of your trip. For all of you to plan to travel to Japan in the future, use this guide to help you navigate your way.

TOKYO While in Tokyo, I had the most luck shopping for beauty at the two stores below, and it was where I uncovered a few life-changing products.

1. Matsumoto Kiyoshi – This is a drugstore chain that you will find all of Toyko and even Kyoto. There you’ll find…

  • The Best Exfoliator on the Market: Cure Natural Aqua Gel – This is the best exfoliator and it’s a staple in every Japanese woman’s medicine cabinet. Fortunately, we can buy it here in the US from Amazon, or even Urban Outfitters!
  • Cheap, Yet Totally Effective Japanese Facemasks that you Can Bring home for Your Friends: Lululun Face Masks – They are so cheap, and come with major benefits (think SK-II but way more affordable). If you can find them, STOCK UP.
  • SK-II: Yes, you can actually buy the famed Facial Treatment Mask, Facial Essence and a host of serums and creams at a discount price. I actually love the brand so much that I traveled to the P&G headquarters in Kobe, Japan to meet with their head scientist to learn all about Sk-II’s life-changing products. More on this to come.

2. The Beauty Library – The place to shop for organic and all natural. There you’ll find…

  • The SPF for Girls Who Hate Sunscreen: Hana Organic Wearlure UV – This SPF 30 (pictured above, middle) is oh-so-slightly tinted, so it gives you that BB cream-like effect, yet doesn’t feel heavy. I wish I bought 10 of these.
  • The Chicest SPF on this Planet: Franes Sunscreen Agecream – Can we talk about the packaging here (pictured below, right)? I have no idea what this website says or means, but this is one of the best (and most beautiful) sunscreens I’ve tried all year.
  • Hair and Nail Oils that Secretly Double as Perfume: Uka Hair Oil – You girls have heard of Uka nails oils right (pictured above, left)? Well this Tokyo based brand sells much more in Japan than we’ve got over here. This lovely oil smells heavenly and makes your hair softer than ever before.

KYOTO My shopping in Kyoto was less about specific stores and more about specific products. I focused on finding products featuring uniquely Japanese ingredients or techniques.

The Secret of Sake

Have you heard about the research that explains why all the old, wrinkly men who work in Sake breweries have the most beautiful, youthful hands? It’s all about fermentation. Sake is a type of rice wine that, through fermentation, produces kojic acid, which lightens and brightens skin. In Japan, you can buy sake-infused beauty products right next to a bottle of your favorite sake. You can buy inexpensive toners that are so pure that you can even drink them (I suggest saving these for toning your body or pouring into the bath), more concentrated toner for brighter skin and even hand and face creams.

Blotting Papers

It’s no secret that the Japanese are known for their blotting paper, and Yojiya is the mecca for all things oil removal. Stock up on these papers ASAP. They make the best gifts too.


Geishas have long relied on gold to give their skin an incandescent glow. Gold leaf has been used for centuries in Eastern diets, beauty and medicine. There are a number of specialty shops in Japan where you can buy gold in many different ways, like lotions, cleansers and toners. There are 24kt gold sheet masks, gold-infused salt, bath salts with real gold inside and even various sized jars filled with edible gold flakes to use as garnish on top of food. Gold even shows up in sweet treats – 24-kt gold solf-serve frozen yogurt, anyone? My favorite gold products were the tiny paper-thin rectangular sheets to use as the final step of your skincare routine. They blend into the face to make your complexion really glow. Look for brands like Hakuza, Hakuichi and Kinka.


Yes, this miracle elixir falls under the beauty category. It has been consumed for ages in the Far East, and is now considered to be one of the most powerful super foods on the market today. Matcha Green Tea is the highest quality powdered green tea available. You must stop by Ippodo in Kyoto for the finest matcha of all. Expect benefits like antioxidant boost, calm temperament, better memory, calorie burning and detoxification. You also must try the matcha soft-serve I am now addicted too. My favorite little ice cream shop is Puppy in Kyoto.

Makeup Brushes

Hakuhodo sells everything from Calligraphy and Kabuki Brushes to Japanese paining brushes and even antiques made of porcelain, hand painted or bedazzled with gold.

*NON-BEAUTY BONUS* This post would not be complete if I didn’t mention a few of the other non-beauty souvenirs I picked up while shopping in the country. They’re just too good to leave out!

Culinary Tour of Japan and Salt-Preserved Cherry Blossoms

Hit up the Nishiki Food Market in Kyoto or the Farmer’s Market at UNU in Tokyo. They have almost every kind of food and many offer samples. In Kyoto, there are even restaurants tucked behind some of the food stalls, and every meal I had there was incredible. While you’re there, make sure to buy the salt-preserved cherry blossoms and bring them home. You can bring them back to life by simply putting them in a glass of water. There perfect as cake garnishes!

Engraved Knives

There’s an amazing knife store at the Nishiki Food Market in Kyoto run by a family that once made samurai swords. The knives are pricey, but talking to the family and seeing their wares gives you a little glimpse into Japanese history. You can also get the knife engraved in Japanese characters. I got “Annie” engraved on a very special vegetable knife in Japanese letters.


Miyawaki Baisenan has provided handcrafted fans for celebrities, geishas, sumo wrestlers and the Imperial family for generations. The craftsmanship is unreal. You can spend hours there. I certainly did!

Planning a trip to Japan or always dreamed about visiting the country? Let me know in the comments and I can give you extra tips!

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  • Kiwibee

    Hi, do you have the website for the Franes Sunscreen Agecream?

    • anabel_atkinson

      No, unfortunately I couldn’t find the website! Sometimes it’s hard to track down these products online.

      • Kiwibee

        No problem – yeah Japan is a bit difficult. Even when I search in Japanese I can’t find some products ?

        • anabel_atkinson

          I know, it’s so unfortunate! But if you’re ever in Japan definitely look out for these products!

  • Beth

    I bought the 24:45 back when you first posted about it. It is one of my favorite products and has improved my cuticles so much…and it smells amazing.
    Have a great trip!

  • Would love to try Japanese beauty products! The look very cute. 🙂 Isabella x

    • anabel_atkinson

      You NEED to try some of these products! They are cute and work so well.

  • Sneha Sen

    Love the packaging. Shiseido is the only Japanese skincare brand I have used.

    Sneha xo

    • anabel_atkinson

      The packaging is always so fun, right?! So cute and inventive.

  • Japan is a place I definitely want to visit in time, when I can afford it! And when I go, this post will be a great guide to follow!

    • anabel_atkinson

      Japan is AMAZING, you need to add it to your bucket list. Let me know if you ever plan on going and I can give you tips!

  • These are the cutest selections! 🙂 I’d love to try some of these. Thank you for the guide.

    Alice | Whiskey Jars Blog

    • anabel_atkinson

      They’re so cute, right?! I love how Japanese products are so fun AND effective!

  • Emily R.

    I’m planning a trip to Japan for Spring ’17. Prob only going to Toyko and Kyoto this time around since we’ll only be in the country for about a week. Any tips would be much appreciated!

  • I’m about to go to Japan in less than a month! Question: Do you speak Japanese or were you able to get around without it. I’m trying to pick up some phrases but it’s slow going!

    • anabel_atkinson

      That’s so exciting! You’re going to love it. I do not speak Japanese, but it wasn’t hard to get around. I suggest planning ahead, like knowing exactly where you’re going everyday, choosing restaurants and planning activities so you won’t be lost/confused.

  • Indigo and Mouse

    I’m so happy to see this post! Some great products in here

    • anabel_atkinson

      Thank you for reading! Yeah, the products from Japan are too good!

  • Sus Scrofa

    I love the sunscreens by Bioré. Muji has dry sheets for sheet masks, which you can soak with any serum you like. Also great: Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion, Kose Medicated Sekkisei Lotion. Yojiya has a very good serum against hyperpigmentation. And don’t forget to take a look at DHC, for example the cleansing oil.
    Also consider Shu Uemura’s famous lash curler (fabulous quality, and it’s curved not only in one dimension, but in two dimensions, so it grabs even the small lashes at the corners of the eyes) and they have fantastic eye liners and eyeshadow sticks (unfortunately, they have to be sharpened with a regular sharpener, but I think they are excellent and never smudge or crease). I love the cushion compacts by the Korean brand Iope, with SPF 50, available in different degrees of coverage. And Koh Gen Do has wonderful foundations.

    • anabel_atkinson

      Wow, thank you so much for all the recommendations! You must be passionate about Japanese Beauty. Shu Uemura does have some amazing products!
      I do love cushion compacts as well! I haven’t tried Iope, but I will definitely try it now. Cushion compacts are so great and I’m excited that they’re becoming more and more popular and available! Thank you so much for reading and for this response!

      • Sus Scrofa

        By the way, I forgot to mention Japanese mascara and fake lashes. Many Asian women have very short, straight lashes, so it’s an interesting market for lash products.
        Also, try Tsubaki shampoo and conditioner (Shiseido) which contains camellia oil to nourish hair and give incredible shine. Or buy Camellia oil which can be used for skin and hair.

        • anabel_atkinson

          Thank you so much for the tips! I love a good mascara and love using oils for soft skin and shiny hair! You are so knowledgeable about these products!

  • Rebecca

    Im going to Tokyo and Kyoto. Would love some tips on where to eat. Anything that was memorable? Also, I can’t seem to find puppy ice cream anywhere. Do you have the address?

  • Aurelie Mandarine