Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Well, I wanna die."

Let's talk about the horror of navigating beauty products & other personal essentials in Japan when you don't read Japanese and don't speak all that much either. I'll go first!


You might be able to guess the story behind this horrible image. I ran out of my products from home when I was broke, which left me struggling to figure out which Japanese drugstore brands would do the least damage to my touchy, acne-prone, combination-type skin. I tried talking to clerks, but everything they recommended for any kind of special-needs skin was like twice the cost and I didn't trust them! Without a good girl friend in Yamagata to come shopping with me, I resorted to buying brands I recognized from the States: Nivea body lotion, Biore moisturizer, and Clearasil face wash. I was like, how bad can it be?

DUH, FUCKING HORRIBLE. The condition of my skin has just plummeted. Every day I'm more blotchy and dry and broken out and I'm starting to panic. MY CUTENESS NOOO! I seriously don't know how I thought I could get away with this. Only two things have ever worked on my skin: Clinique's 3-step system, and the Proactiv system paired with a good hypoallergenic moisturizer. I can get all that stuff here, but I was really determined to switch to Japanese brands for cost/simplicity. I knew that with my touchy skin this would have to involve a painful transition period, but this is unbearable. If I can't figure out some good Japanese products soon, I'm just going to shell out for imports.

Suggestions? HELP ME PLEASE.

And please share any stories or tips you have related to figuring out beauty/hygeine/health essentials in Japan. I wish there was a comprehensive guide online for all the expat girls kicking it over here...


sarah said...

hmm... i had the same problem with japanese shampoo... made my hair go crazy.

as for face care, dove? my friend with similar sounding skin swears by the stuff. or else, maybe body shop products?

i feel your pain... japanese toiletries make me sad inside!

Julie said...

My best friend Thuy has the same skin and the same exact problems as you do. When she lived in Tokyo, she had flaky skin but also some red spots. It was awful.

I once used heavy night moisture cream to "wash" my face. Woke up in the morning with such gross skin. Haha.

The best moisturizer I have found in Japan is Marks&Web face cream. That company also makes hair products and it's all really good for mine.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is amazing for my face. It doesn't dry your skin out, but it makes your face feel really clean and fresh. You have to wipe it off with a cloth, though. Don't just splash it off.

Good luck!!

Beth said...


really? i actually love plain old tsubaki. my hair has been doing great since i got here.

i don't think i could bring myself to try dove now, i need something with a really convincing reputation that can battle my myriad of skin problems.

it sucks to be a pale spotty girl in japan, man. there are some really amazing looking products here, just not in my price range.

Beth said...

Julie, thank you for the suggestion! I went and bought some DHC Cleansing Oil today, I didn't find the moisturizer though. I'm mad because I didn't realize that the whole DHC system is one of the sample kits you can get at 7-11 and I went there right afterwards and was like, noooo! I love tiny things!

Anyway I am happy to have something to try. If my face turns off of the Hwy. to Pizzaville I will have you to thank.

Alice said...

hi there, i started reading your blog a while back and i really love it!

i cant read japanese and i have been in japan for about 10 month now and i have the same problem. i have skin that needs so much care.

whats been working for me is the shiseido's aqualabel for acne skin (it says "nikibi" in katakana and i can read that). i wash my face with whatever, use the lotion and then the emulsion. during summer just the lotion. together they are like 2400 yens. for good face wash i recommend the soap for oily skin at lush.

i really wish i could read more things about the products here though. seems like they have so many good things but i can never figure it out.

good luck!

Beth said...


Thanks for your nice comment! You've got some fab photos on your blog, they made me want to go back to Thailand.

I was looking at the Shiseido aqua label stuff today and thought about trying some out. I'm glad to hear it's working out for you -- maybe I will grab some and see how it goes.

There really needs to be a forum or group blog where people can post their experiences with different products here, with photos and reviews. I am kind of shocked that there isn't one, am I just missing it? Maybe I'll try to get internet-smart and start something. Douuuubtful!

My first problem here was realizing that the most popular laundry soap, アタック, made my skin break out. Like seriously my skin is ridiculous. Fortunately I didn't have too hard a time finding a sensitive-skin detergent. It's by Lion & comes in a slim blue bottle labeled ケアベール (Care Veil), in case anyone's interested.

The Biore lotion I'm using is from hell. I finally decided to read the ingredients, and it's chock-full of ethanol! Fabulous.

jerylynism said...

i wish i could help you with product advice...

A few years ago, my skin went BONKERS and it got so bad that one night i was like, "fuck it! i'm not going to wash my face tonight! WHAT'S THE POINT!?"
Low and behold the next day my skin had improved. :\
From then on I only wash my face once a day in the morning and just water and toner at night. It's helped a lot!

PS - BIORE ALWAYS BLOWS! I hate that shit! If you can find Palmer's coco butter in the stick form that is seriously like, a fucking miracle for blemishes and dry spots, NO JOKE! I'm sad that Nivea isn't working for you. Nivea toner has worked really well for me in the past and is totally Pat Bateman approved as it has no alcohol. and I know here in the states it's SUPER affordable, like 5 bones. I can't find it anymore though.


Anonymous said...

Oh, sorry, I'm a huge bitch, but I thought your post was hilarious.

I still hope everyone's recommendations work out for you, though.

My skin is ridiculously touchy, too - even in NA I have issues. I really do feel your pain... I just kind of think it's a little funny, y'know? Seriously: "MY CUTENESS NOOO!" - Funniest feckin' thing of the day.

Never stop writing!

Beth said...


I seriously didn't know it could be so bad. It just sucked everything good out of my skin.

I have done the not-washing thing before and it worked out for awhile but then didn't anymore. I do generally use a stronger cleanser at night and a mild one in the morning, though.

I ended up getting the $10 DHC 4-step olive essentials mini-set at 7-11 and I swear to god one day later my skin has improved 50%. I'm in love. I hope it keeps working out. Except then I'll be addicted and have to shell out for the whole set in regular size at like $100. But oh well it would last forever.

Beth said...


Hahaha, I would hate for my bitching to be not entertaining at all, so thank you for laughing at me. I like your blog too, by the way, but I haven't commented because once I was about to and I was like "what's all these fields I have to fill in ehhhhhh" and gave up. Sorry!

All About Travel said...

Hi Beth - I wasn't sure if you were still having trouble with your skincare but having lived in Tokyo 10 years ago, and without the same internet access for help-I feel your pain.

So check out this website, for Japanese products but translated descriptions. This way you can take a close look at the image since it is what you will see in the stores.

Good luck! Sharon

Kimberly said...

Hey there I found your blog thru Julie's blog because it looks like I'll be teaching english in yokohama from sept (I'm from Sydney) so just trying to do some research. I used to work for a skincare company (a couple of years ago so no vested interest!) and seriously this range is the BEST for skin that breaks out. It has glycolic acid in it which I know sounds a little scary but it helps unclog pores and gives you a nice glowy look (which is what we all want huh!). It is a bit of an investment but they will last you for ages (prob 6 mths plus). It's pretty serious skincare though, much more hardcore than chemisty stuff and you need to be pretty diligent with your sunscreen. It's also really good for pigmentation and anti-ageing (can never start too soon!). Forget the frilly perfumed stuff! I found it on strawberrynet which should be a little bit cheaper than in stores and free delivery.
Good luck! (If you have any questions about specific products am very happy to try answer them!). xx