I have been to Japan a couple of times and one of my favourite things to do there is browsing around their drugstores. For me the experience is comparable to visiting a national landmark!
I can easily spend an hour in there (or more, truth be told) and if I have the opportunity I will visit different drugstores several times during the trip. I always end up bringing back home a big haul of skincare and makeup, not only for me, but also for my friends as souvenirs. I wonder if they’d prefer to receive a fridge magnet instead…
They might seem a bit intimidating at first approach but believe me once you are in there it’s a lot of fun! They usually have testers for makeup and most of their skincare will have some writing in english that indicates what it is and some of the ingredients. Good enough to know if you are buying a cleanser, a toner or a moisturiser.
I am planning a third trip to Japan this summer and I’m already writing down my wishlist. That’s how much I love Japanese drugstores. They have great quality products, a reasonable price point, and they have so much variety for different skin concerns and age. They also have luxe sample size kits so you can try a product before committing to buy the full size (they also make great gifts). I have sensitive skin and everything I’ve randomly tried has worked a charm. I’ve never had a bad reaction and you can see a good difference on the skin right away.
The costumer service I’ve encountered in there is great. Sales associates will usually offer help but you can also navigate the store by yourself and let them know if you need anything. They usually don’t speak english but always try to help in the best way they possibly can.
How do I find stuff? Things might seem messy at first approach but they are not (just a lot of new information to process). Everything is very well arranged and presented in a thoughtful manner. What I’ve seen is, products are usually arranged by brand, then range, and then for every range you will have cleansers, toners, essences, lotions, serums, emulsions and moisturisers (mots of the time they have testers so you will be able to try the consistency).
Budget? Prices vary according to brand and range. There is something for everybody and usually products for younger skin are cheaper. Some products are affordable (around 1000-3000 yen or 8-25 dollars), others more expensive (around 10000 yen or 85 dollars). Just navigate the different shelves and focus on the products which price range you feel comfortable with. Chances are those products are amazing anyway. Don’t forget to bring your passport because you can deduct taxes right there in the drugstore if you buy for a certain amount.
Recommendations / What should I buy? Personally, the items I always buy are…
- Cotton (aka best cotton ever!). Think Clé de Peau or MUJI cotton for a fraction of the price. I stock up.
- Brushes, tools. Last time I was in Japan I got a set of 2 Shiseido eye brushes for less than 10 dollars. Brushes are a must hunt and you might also want to consider eyelash curlers and false lashes.
- Blotting paper. Cheap, amazing. If you have oily skin you need to stock up.
- Cleansers. My favourite one is a Shiseido gel cleanser called ‘Elixir Superior’ that comes in a golden plastic tube. I will try some more new ones this summer and keep you posted.
- Lotions and Emulsions. Love them all! I get acid exfoliating ones, clarifying and moisturising ones. This is what is left of my stock at the moment.
- Lip balm and Lipsticks. My favourite lip balm from the drugstore is DHC’s Lip Cream. For lipsticks, they have so many different choices, you will have a blast swatching them and their formulas are usually more sheer and hydrating (think Chanel’s Rouge Coco Shine for a fraction of the price, more fun colours and packaging).
- SPF. The Japanese are Kings of SPF. They have so many different choices, all amazing and affordable. At the moment I switch between a creamy illuminating one and a hydrating one that is fresh, watery and almost invisible on the skin, both SPF 50+ and great under makeup. Love them! I think I have enough left until I stock up again…
So there you have it! I will update you on this topic this summer during my upcoming trip to Japan. I will try to take more pharmacy pictures and try on some new products. Keep an eye on this space!
Do you have any Japanese Drugstore favourites that I should hunt down?
Happy weekend everybody!