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July 15, 2020

Top J-Beauty Products You Need Right Now

Which J-beauty products are surefire bets? To each their own favorites, but here are some categories where Japan may be one step ahead of the West.


As a beauty journalist, I get tons of PR samples, and really have absolutely no need to go beauty shopping. But as a die-hard beauty fan, I just can’t help myself—especially when it comes to Asian products. Over the years, I’ve noticed that certain steps in my routine often end up naturally being filled by a Japanese product. This eventually leads to the realization that in my opinion, there are some categories that Japan just does better than the West. They’re also a good place to start exploring J-beauty if you’re just getting your feet wet!


Brunette japanese girl with long straight hair. Studio shot
Japan has one of the oldest beauty rituals and traditions in the world (istock/repinanatoly)




This is a big one. By now, you probably know that protecting your skin from the sun consistently is the best way to keep it healthy. The first time I set out to make wearing sunscreen a daily habit, I reached for one of the formulas I’d usually turn to for a day at the beach. Wrong! The greasy finish, white cast, and heavy feeling on my skin quickly made me abandon my noble resolution… until years later, when I finally discovered the magic of Japanese sunscreens, which I actually look forward to topping off my skincare routine with. K-beauty has some great sunscreen options, too, so if you haven’t found THE formula that makes you want to apply it daily, keep looking: it’s out there!


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Current favourite sunscreen: KissMe Mommy! UV Aqua Milk SPF 50+ PA++++. I bought a single tube of it in Tokyo last April after seeing it in @sharmtoaster’s Stories, and I really, really regret not buying more! It’ll be first on my shopping list for my next trip to Japan. ⠀ Here’s why: ⠀ ☀️ Its milky texture is nice and light. 🐻 It leaves no white cast (SWIPE for application demo on my hand 👉🏼). ☀️ It’s waterproof! 🐻 It’s fragrance- and alcohol-free. ☀️ It Includes nice skincare ingredients like ceramides, collagen, HA, jojoba oil, and aloe vera extract. ⠀ This product is officially joining my list of all-time favourite sunscreens. Have you tried it? Which sunscreen do you keep going back to? Let me know below! 👇🏼 ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #byminoue #sunscreen #jbeauty

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Beautytap Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend these sunscreens.


Liquid Eyeliner


I’ve always been a fan of eyeliner in general. Kohl pencils, gel liners applied with a separate brush, felt-tip markers—you name it, I’ve used it. But almost a decade ago while on a trip to Japan, I discovered the liner that would change my eye makeup game forever, thanks to my travel buddy, who was on a mission to find it for a friend back home. It was (***drum roll***): the Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner. The brush-style liquid liner has actual bristles and a superfine tip, which makes creating the perfect flick a piece of cake. Plus, the formula stays put for hours!


It is the only makeup item I have repurchased over and over again, likely going through at least a dozen through the years. Sure, I’ll stray and try other Japanese liners once in a while, but I always choose one with a brush tip, which to me is the key to a great liquid liner. Until around a year or two ago, I had never found an eyeliner from a Western brand that a) had a brush-style tip and/or b) even came close to my Japanese liners in terms of precision and ease of use. Today, I can think of exactly two. For now, I’ll continue stocking up in Tokyo, where there is a wide array to choose from.


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In honour of having found a Super Black version of my favourite liquid eyeliner ever, I updated the blog post I had written about it and created this illustration. In my opinion, KOJI @dolly_wink Liquid Eyeliner is the eyeliner to rule all eyeliners. Very few other products have even come close. I just keep buying it over and over! SWIPE for a quick application video and photo 👉🏼, and check out my blog post! [link in bio] Have you tried this eyeliner? Which is your favourite? 👁 • • • • • #japanesecosmetics #skincareroutine #beautybloggers #madewithpaper #illustrated #beautyeditor #catdrawing #lovetodraw #illustragram #海外コスメ #abcommunity #rasianbeauty #catdrawings #beautyaddicts #skincareblogger #beautyillustration #コスメ #メイク #asianskincare #jbeauty #beautyillustration #bbloggersca #byminoue #makeupjunkie #beautyjunkie #kbeauty #beautylover @bbloggersca #illustrationartists #beautycommunity

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Toner (a.k.a. “lotion”)


Like many people before they enter the wonderful world of Asian skincare, I used to think “toner” and “astringent” were synonymous, and that they were used to perfect your cleansing step… as opposed to adding that crucial first shot of moisture to your skin right afterward. Fast-forward a few years, and you’ll find me patting in one, two, sometimes three layers of a lightweight moisturizing fluid into my skin. Hada Labo Gokujun Premium Hyaluronic Acid Lotion is a mainstay in my routine, but I also really enjoy milky toners like the Kikumasamune High Moist Skin Care Lotion (made from sake). Lotion is such an important step in Japanese skincare: no wonder J-beauty has some truly wonderful formulas on offer.


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I had been wanting to try the Hada Labo Gokujun Premium Hyaluronic Acid Lotion ever since Blondie and I finished our bottle of the original version (Gokujun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion Moist, which I’ve also illustrated in the past) a few months back. I picked it up in Tokyo, and it’s been wonderful to use during this long, cold winter. With five types of HA, it’s super moisturizing and my skin has been loooving it. I layer it over other toners (I use this one last), and I find it really helps plump my skin and seal in the moisture. I can see why so many people love it! Is Hada Labo Gokujun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion part of your routine? Comment 💙 if you use the Moist version, and 🧡 if you use the Premium one! And HAPPY FRIDAY! ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #byminoue #madewithpaper #hadalabo

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Beautytap Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend this black rice toner.


Hair Care


Raise your hand if you’ve tried Shiseido’s Tsubaki hair care line! My sisters and I swear by it to keep our hair smooth and shiny, and have for years. But for the longest time, I never stopped to wonder what “tsubaki” actually meant. Then, Shu Uemura launched its Art of Hair line in 2007, and I fell in love with the Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Oil and its ability to smooth out my frizzy locks before my eyes. (Applying oil to your hair may seem like a no-brainer now, but back then, the idea was almost shocking here in the West!)


The star ingredient of this magical product? Camellia oil, which in Japanese translates to 椿油 or tsubaki abura, a luxe antioxidant-rich elixir Japanese women have used for centuries to nourish their skin and hair. Suddenly, everything made sense. Hydrating mists, rich oils, moisturizing masks, serums, and of course, shampoos and conditioners abound—I’m still in the process of exploring them all, but I’m loving what I’ve used so far.


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Aaaaaah the long weekend is finally here! I’ve had such a busy week, and I don’t foresee things slowing down for the next little while. I’ve been wanting to post this for ages, but I guess better late than never! ⠀ These @shuuemura_artofhair Essence Absolue products are some of my all-time favourite hair products. The love story started with the Nourishing Hair Oil [PR sample] about 8 years ago: it was the first time I used a product that instantly got rid of frizz, right before my eyes. It’s infused with camellia oil, smells heavenly, and really nourishes the hair. It’s even supposed to help fight UV damage! ⠀ Then, I discovered the Oil-in-Cream, and that became my new favourite product. I like the cream texture, which tends not to be quite as heavy on my fine strands. I usually end up using the Oil-in-Cream on my wet hair right after washing it, and then use a tiny, tiny bit of the Nourishing Hair Oil to for touch ups once it’s dry, or to hydrate it over the following days. ⠀ And finally, a couple of months ago, I received the new Overnight Serum [PR sample]. Needless to say, I was stoked to try the newest addition to the line. And it didn’t disappoint! You apply it before bed, and it goes on so light that you don’t even need to wash your hands afterwards. Although it’s meant to be used overnight, I became so obsessed with the gel-cream texture and how shiny and frizz-free it left my hair that I started using it all the time… until my bottle exploded in my cosmetics bag on the way back from Rome. 😭 (I had taken this photo before the trip.) ⠀ Have you ever tried a product from the Essence Absolue line? I always make sure I have some in my hair arsenal! What are your HG hair products? ⠀ Have a great (long) weekend! 🤩 ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #byminoue #beautygram #beautyillustrator #beautyproducts #beautybloggers #illustrationart #beautyjunkie #illustrationoftheday #beautylover #illustratorsoninstagram #makeupbag #コスメ好きさんと繋がりたい #海外コスメ #beautyaddict #beautyobsessed #化粧品 #beautycommunity #bbloggersca #hairproducts #shuuemura #abbeatthealgorithm #camelliaoil #frizzfree #goodbyefrizz #hairoil #sephora #sephoracanada #shuuemurartofhair #igbeauty #beautyeditor @macintyrecom

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Beautytap Advisors (aestheticians, facialists, makeup artists, and beauty professionals) recommend this moringa hair oil and this camellia oil.


What was the first ever Japanese beauty product you tried? Is there a step in your routine for which you usually prefer Asian beauty products? Let me know in the comments!

Mariève has been writing about beauty online and in print for over 10 years. Half-Canadian and half-Japanese, she loves that being a freelance beauty writer gives her the opportunity to explore the cosmetics landscape from Montreal all the way to Tokyo. Also on her mind at any given moment: cats, music, figure skating, food, and her next trip to Japan. You can find her (and her beauty illustrations!) on Instagram at @by.minoue.




This article is awesome I love it! Asian,Korean and ,chinese culture all have such beautiful skin.

yes, yes, yes!! All of this is excellent information and I cannot express enough how much I love J-Beauty culture!

I love reading about all these products that I want to try so bad. I definitely have spent more time learning about K-beauty but I am excited to dive into J-beauty now too

My favorite eyeliner is the Kiss Me Heroine Make Smooth Liquid Eyeliner. I used to get it at my nearest Mitsuwa and they carry Dolly Wink and Hado Labo products as well. I'll have to try the Dolly Wink liquid eyeliners next time but the Heroine Make Smooth Liquid Eyeliner is definitely one of my holy grails. I had a not so great reaction to the Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion(affectionately called the Super Saiyan Goku Lotion by some), which was really sad because I love the price point for the large amount of product you get and the texture... Read more

I need to try some J-beauty! What a great introduction to some amazing product. I'll for sure be trying some of these!

I would love to try the liquid eyeliner and the toner. I think that would be a great game changer!

wonderful article! i need to get my hands on the Kikumasamune High Moist Skin Care Lotion, i am sucker for milky lotions.

I would love to try that liquid eyeliner! As a makeup artist I am always on the lookout for new products to test and fall in love with! Thank you for writing the article!


I would bathe in Tsubaki if I could, great info!


Thank you! And yes, let's do that next time we make it to Japan!

I couldn't agree more! I've tried a lot of hair oils and was loyal to Morrocanoil for years, but Tsubaki wooed me away when I fell down the K-beauty rabbit hole in 2015. I just wish we could purchase it here (I order from Japan).


I love that you can actually feel and see the results when using products with camellia oil in your hair. It's so satisfying! I also wish it was easier to find the Tsubaki line in North America.

Me, too. I usually order it directly, but nothing is shipping airmail from Japan right now (unless you want to pay $80 for FedEx or $20 for DHL). Ugh! I just ordered a Hada Labo Gokujun Premium HA and a refill of the Kose SoftyMo oil cleanser from an Amazon seller ('cuz I'm nearly out).

Tsubaki oil was my first J Beauty find and can't wait to continue to try more!