Shopping for beauty Tokyo is like nothing else and absolutely warrants a standalone entry on your itinerary. Get lost in the stacks-upon-stacks of skincare, haircare and makeup at drugstores like Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Sundrug and Ainz and Tulpe, gawp at the beauty-only floors at general retail spots like Don Quijote, Loft and Tokyu Hands, peruse the revolving edits at @cosme and Isetan Mirror, and spend a leisurely afternoon browsing iconic department stores Takashimaya and Ginza Mitsukoshi.
But what to buy? Japanese beauty has become incredibly accessible, even from afar. This means many department store classics – SK-II skincare, Shiseido makeup, ReFa face massagers and even cult drugstore favourites like Hada Labo, DHC, Dejavu, K-Palette and Baby Foot – can be purchased in almost any major city in Asia Pacific. So when you’re on the beauty prowl in Tokyo, we find it best to focus on brands and products with limited distribution elsewhere.
With that in mind, here are our picks of the best and most elusive Tokyo beauty buys.
Free of preservatives, additives, artificial fragrance or colouring, this makeup remover from 7-Eleven (of all places!) includes argan and rosehip oil along with fermented plant ingredients for a truly gentle, nourishing clean.
This retexturising, smoothing serum was the first product allowed to include “anti-wrinkle” in its labelling, a major feat in Japan where skincare claims are exceptionally stringent. Unlike potentially irritating retinol-based anti-aging serums, it can be used on the most sensitive skins.
Daily masking made easy! This pack of 32 refreshing masks are perfect for first thing in the AM, but Saborino makes calming variants meant for lulling you into a good night’s sleep, too.
Local demand for efficient, effective daily sun protection means Japan is the best place on earth to buy sunscreens. Kanebo Allie’s newly reformulated offering applies easily and dries down to an invisible film, working great under makeup.
This knockout repairing salve revives the most damaged double-processed hair. Just one use results in glossy, smooth and more resilient locks.
Look for Napla’s conditioning, shine-enhancing botanical oil at salons in Tokyo, where it’s been all the rage. The fragrant organic blend can also be used as a bath and body oil.
Cheap and cheerful liquid eyeliners in non-traditional shades like kelly green, pink, and orange, perfect for your switching up your cat eye!
This celebrity makeup artist brand boasts saturated pigments and an extensive colour selection, most famously across its 99 eyeshadow shades across silky, matte, pearl and metallic finishes.
A high-tech hybrid lip treatment-gloss with lactic acid to prevent hyperpigmentation and SPF20 PA++ to shield from UV rays.
Believably natural shades and the fine brush tip on these brow markers will have you sketching on brow hairs like a pro.
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An underrated waterproof mascara with a curvy wand for reaching corners and coating short lower lashes.
Good for all skin types, this silky hyaluronic acid and royal jelly extract-infused formula takes away excess shine without drying out the skin.
Hiroshima’s Kumano city is home to generations of brush makers who supply the country’s best calligraphy brushes, as well as its famed cosmetic counterparts to luxury makeup brands throughout the world. Apart from their own branded items, this specialty shop carries handcrafted natural hair brushes by six manufacturers, including Chikuhodo and Koyudo.
Words by Grace Wong.