Once upon a time, I was a gyaru, in what seems like a lifetime ago. Being a gyaru was an extremely labor intensive and expensive look. Luckily for me, I got to wear the latest fashions at steep steep discounts, but when it came to makeup, I was on my own. And now that I have “matured,” so have my tastes in makeup. Here’s a rundown on where to go to buy cosmetics, and tips for finding the right makeup in Japan for you.
If you’re in a major city like Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya, Yokohama, you will no doubt find a Takashimaya, Seibu, Sogo, Daimaru, Matsuzakaya, or Isetan. Department stores carry big name brands like Clinique, Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown, MAC, Shu Uemura, and so on.
Be prepared to pay a premium on your coveted western brands. In my case, I use MAC and still can’t get over the fact that Lipglass costs nearly 3,000 yen while Studio Fix costs around 5,000 yen. That’s near twice the US price! My only consolation is that I can earn T Points at Isetan or bonus credit card points and ANA miles at Daimaru/Takashimaya.
If you miss Maybelline and L’oreal or want to try Japanese makeup brands and don’t know where to start, just hit up a drug store like Matsu Kiyoshi and Don Quijote.
You’ll find local brands like Chifure, Cezanne (low priced); Fasio, Majorica KATE (mid-price); Coffret D’or and Integrate (high, Integrate even had an ad campaign with Hollywood star Angelina Jolie when they first hit the market).
For what it’s worth, KATE is my go-to substitute when I can’t get to a department store to buy MAC. Their Ochre G is just about my color.
100 Yen Shops
100 yen shops or hyakkin (百均) as they are casually called in Japanese, are the holy grail or makeup shopping. There are 3 major chains of 100 yen shops: Seria, Daiso, and Can-do. Whether you’re saving yen or need a substitute mascara until you get your hands on your fave product, 100 yen shops have everything that you need.
The walk of shame doesn’t exist in Japan. Why? Not because Japanese girls are “good girls” but because there’s simply no excuse when you’ve got convenience stores all over Japan that are open 24 hours a day.
Convenience stores are where you go when you need eyeshadow at 3 a.m., or makeup remover, nail polish, sheet masks, and spare panties.
You might be wondering why I’m telling you to go a bookstore (本屋さん honya san) in a makeup article, but here’s why: Fashion magazines in Japan are super genius when it comes to furoku (付録), free swag.
The best part about the free makeup samples is that there’s a special inspector section in the magazine dedicated to looks you can recreate with the sample cosmetics.
Magazine samples are a great way to try out seasonal trends without breaking the bank.
Tips On Finding The Right Makeup For You In Japan
Bring your Own Foundation At First
Being in Asia, certain foundation colors will be hard to come by, that’s just how it is. Those of you with fairer and darken skin should bring their current foundation until you can find something comparable.
Color Match With Different Brands
Say you have a favorite brand, but it’s not sold in Japan or they don’t have your color in stock. What should you do? Go to a site like Temptalia that will suggest you different brands based on your current brand and shade.
With the exception of 100 yen shops, you will be able to test nearly every cosmetic product on sale. Being able to test everything reduces the risk of disappointment or buyer’s remorse.
When all else fails, get it shipped to you in Japan. Sephora just started shipping to Japan (albeit with restrictions on some products) so you can always shop there. In my case, Colourpop is now my to go US brand. I bought a few things back in December and I don’t regret my choices. They offer free shipping on international orders over $50. While that may seem like a lot, consider how far 50$ will take you at Sephora. Here’s what I got on my first order — the Golden State of Mind palette was a freebie!
Want to know more about Japanese cosmetics? Drop me a line in the comments about what kind of content you want to see next!
Where To Buy Makeup In Japan – Tips From A Former Gyaru