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Queueing up for Japanese Cult Beauty Products: a Hundred Japanese Women Can’t be Wrong

Queueing up for Japanese Cult Beauty Products: a Hundred Japanese Women Can’t be Wrong

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When I saw this huge line of local Japanese women lining up in front of a department store, what did I do?

lining up for Japanese beauty products

Japanese women are known for their radiant beauty and youthful complexions– and cult-like obsession with beauty products.

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.

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.

“Uh, sumimasen?”

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).

Japanese cult beauty products only in Japan moisturizer bb cream

A few of the Japanese beauty products from my shopping haul– I also gave away several more items, not pictured here, as gifts.

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!

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Saturday 27th of September 2014

Sounds amazing! I hope to visit Japan one day and indulge in products I won't be able to get otherwise (though I'm sure I'd regret it once I'm back home and run out of product). I love quite a few of the brands you listed as the cult favorites. Shu Uemura, luckily, still sells their lash curlers online and they're simply amazing! I love the DHC Cleansing oil and Fairy Drops mascara. I think a lot of those are available in San Francisco. I can never seem to get enough.


Saturday 26th of April 2014

Queues in Japan are pretty common and lots of people will hop in line "because it must be good". It might not be a trend you're interested in, like Krispy Kreme donuts, the newer fad pancake cafes, or releases of video games. You name it, there was probably a queue at some point. There's even timed sales of popular bakery breads that have, you guessed it, roped off queues.

LOFT in Yurakucho has a nice selection of less expensive beauty products and fake lashes. I think they usually have #1, 2, 3 labelled on some popular items indicating sales rank.

If you're looking for current "It Products", RanKing RanQueen in Shibuya and might be of interest.

The K Palette 1 day tattoo liquid eyeliner pen is very popular and pretty good. Heroine Make also has a similar one. DUP makes a popular eyelash glue. I also like buying the single size bath salts and using them in the deep hotel bath tubs.

Hydroquinone was banned in Japan. I do look to Japan for lightning creams and sunblock, though, as they're pretty effective for me. I'm not sure what they use for body lotion as I usually can't find Japanese brands though body wash is abundant.

Kristin Francis

Tuesday 29th of April 2014

Thanks so much for taking the time to offer your tips! I may work some of these into the post!

diana @ veggienextdoor

Saturday 26th of April 2014

What a fun experience! I love that your shopping was a lot like receiving a mystery grab-bag :-)

Kristin Francis

Saturday 26th of April 2014

I loved all the variety! I had some face masks I was dying to try too, but I accidentally gave them all away to one person, then felt too dumb to ask for them back!


Saturday 26th of April 2014

Kristin I love the orderly Japanese women you describe. Not what we would see in North America that's for sure! Good for you to get the point across with your pantomime. I smiled at the vision of the giggling women with you doing your imaginary face wash.

Kristin Francis

Saturday 26th of April 2014

It really was such a fun experience! I hope they took home some good stories about the ridiculous foreigner freaking out over their products, lol!

Tripping Blonde

Saturday 26th of April 2014

i love that BB Cream, and the lightening cream works well, too. I'm still trying to translate some of the jars I brought home with me from Japan.

Kristin Francis

Saturday 26th of April 2014

I'll email you the translations-- I posted a photo in an Asian beauty forum and a really helpful poster gave me translations! I was shocked to learn that the whitening cream does not contain hydroquinone, it was more natural ingredients.