Letters From Japan: “We Have 3 Beauty Problems And We Need Help!”

Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered

Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to editorial@gplusmedia.com with the subject "Ask Hilary."

Between relationship advice and other issues, I often receive emails with questions on beauty care products and how to fix yourself up for summer, so this month, I would like to address this topic. Below are three questions that recently came in my mailbox. 

1. Skincare and acne 

Hi Hilary!

I just moved to Japan from April and I need some beauty advice. I brought my own cosmetics from home (I miss Sephora so much!) but I’m having trouble finding a good face wash. I break out easily, especially around that time of the month. What do you suggest? — Red Spots

Dear Red Spots,

You have plenty of options to choose from. In most pharmacies, you can find nikibi kea (ニキビケア acne care) products alongside their regular face washes. Some stores even carry Clearasil spot treatment, but for a face wash, there are a few different options.

Skinlife Medicated Acne Care has been around since 1963 and my friend’s mother first recommended it for the same problem. I’ve used it ever since.


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They have two types of foaming facial cleansers, one in a pump bottle and one in a tube (that you have to foam up with a sponge), and both cost less than ¥800. They also have a lotion to go with their cleansers too. You can use this one every day if you’re having skin troubles, but it can sometimes be drying if you don’t moisturize carefully.

If you want something that you can use once or twice a week alongside a non-acne based beauty routine, then you should try Tsururi Ghassoul Paste, which is a deep pore cleanser made with ghassoul clay and sea salt — it’s basically a foaming scrub wash that really gets the gross-out of your skin.

It’s a little more pricey than Skinlife, around ¥900 per tube, but as you don’t need to use it as often, it’s pretty cost effective.

2. Hair care 

My hair looks like crap. It gets so flat in the summer and always looks greasy. I used to order this stuff from back home to help it, but it’s too troublesome now. Any Japanese products that will take care of this? – I Hate Summer

Dear, I Hate Summer,

If you want to add volume to your hair to combat the humidity, you will probably need to completely change your hair care routine for the summer months. Try choosing a shampoo and conditioner set that adds volume, like Tsubaki Volume Touch or Essential Funwari TsuruTsuya. Sometimes you can get both bottles in sets for around ¥1,000, so you should check your nearest drug store or Don Quijote for any deals.

Or you could consider trying a mousse or spray that adds volume, like ProStyle Funwari Volume Up hair mousse, or Liese Volume SprayPrices vary on these, since they can come in different sizes, but since summer is fast approaching, they might be on sale soon.

3. Cracked lips 

Hello. I noticed that both matte lipsticks and glosses are in right now in Japan, but my lips are in such horrible shape. I put balm on them all the time, but they always look cracked and dry. Anything you recommend? – Not Kissable

Dear Not Kissable,

A good lip scrub can do wonders. There are plenty of recipes online for DIY sugar scrubs, or you can pick up a 1 Day Tattoo brand lip scrub stick (comes in peach or lemon flavor) for about ¥1,000 yen, or one of Lush’s lip scrubs, which are about ¥1,200 per pot.

Lush also has their own line of lip balms which are a good match with their scrubs if you feel like splurging a little. If not, Nivea Deep Moist lip balm is about ¥600. Personally, I use Vaseline Lip Therapy which come in either metal tins or mini versions of the blue-capped Vaseline bottles, and cost from ¥450-700.

If you feel like your lips need some extra care though, you could always try doing a lip pack. Just like there are face masks and packs available in a multitude of flavors, Choosy makes a moist lip pack that you apply over your lips and let soak in for a few minutes (or until dry).


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They come in flavors like chocolate, mint, orange, cherry, etc, and only cost about ¥200 per pack, so they’re great when you need a little lip-pick-me-up. You can also put them on while using another face mask, which is a lot of fun when you want to do a home spa day.

Hope you’ll all feel better soon!

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