When I saw this huge line of local Japanese women lining up in front of a department store, what did I do?
Joined them of course! I quickly learned the ladies were lined up to get first dibs on the launch of a new, limited edition skin care and makeup product line from a revered Japanese dermatologist.
Quick Content Guide
Lining up to Shop– Japan versus New York
Japanese women, trained from a young age to slather on rich moisturizers and beauty potions, demand quality from their products. So when Japanese women queue up for beauty products, I knew they had to be worth the wait.
As a New Yorker, I’m no stranger to waiting in line for special shopping deals– New York is known for its sample sales, where New Yorkers shove and push for the chance to buy designer duds at discount prices. So I wasn’t sure what to expect as I waited in line with the Japanese women– when I reached the top of the line, would there be a mad stampede, with desperate women (and eBay resellers) snatching everything in sight?
Fortunately, there was no mayhem waiting for us at the top of the line— instead, the women calmly headed to the bins of Japanese beauty products, and instead of grabbing everything in sight (in NYC sales, women often grab and hoard first, then discard unwanted items later), the women appeared to make their product selections carefully.
How to Translate Japanese labels when you don’t speak Japanese
I picked up a shopping basket and searched through the bins of similar looking tubes, jars and bottles, all of course only identified by Japanese characters, and realized that I had no idea what I was buying. My Japanese was limited to a few select phrases, none of which included moisturizer, eye cream and face wash. But I did have a secret weapon up my sleeve– for some reason I still haven’t figured out, uttering “sumimasen,” the Japanese equivalent of “excuse me/I’m sorry” never failed to surprise and amuse locals, who would often burst into giggles on hearing this phrase come out of my gaijin mouth.
I caught the eye of a small group of friendly looking older Japanese ladies.
The inevitable peals of laughter followed– I had their attention now. I made my best attempt at pantomiming face washing, hoping I was speaking a universal language as I made small circles with my hands. The women helpfully handed me a larger bottle that turned out to be facial wash (success!), and also pointed out other favorites.
I gladly followed their recommendations, a few of which were not very pantomime-friendly (including the small blue tubs all the Japanese women were loading up on).
I brought my loot home, and with a little translation help from the interwebs learned I’d brought home tubes of Hashikata keshouhin face wash, eye cream, moisturizer, face masks and BB cream. The popular little blue jars turned out to be lightening cream. All the products were fantastic and I was sorry I hadn’t brought home more.
Japanese Cult Beauty Products: What to Buy
While my Japanese beauty product finds were part of a limited-edition collection that may not be available when you visit Japan, I did research the latest cult-status Japan beauty products that are on every glam girl’s shopping list. Look out for these Japanese beauty goodies on your next trip:
- Dollywink false lashes and brow pencils
- Kracie Hadabisei Collagen Facial Masks
- Canmake lipsticks (especially creamy touch rouges)
- oil blotting sheets, or aburatorigami あぶらとり紙
- Kiss Me Heroine Long & Curl Mascara
- Lavshuca Cream Blush(jelly texture)
- Fairydrops mascara
- Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler (these are on every beauty editor’s list and used to be available in the US but no more)
- DHC cleansing oil
- Shiseido Perfect Whip cleanser
Update: I found some of the Japanese Dollywink beauty products sold at a large Japanese grocery store in Edgewater, New Jersey– here are some snaps:
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Do you love Japanese beauty products? What are your favorites? Share in the comments below!