Wild Colors And Crazy Shades: Buying Unorthodox Hair & Makeup Products In Japan

Want To Add More Color To Your Style?

By Hilary Keyes
August 16, 2018
Cosmetics, Health & Beauty

Where to find electric lime nails, turquoise hair dye and other fun beauty products in Tokyo.

Japan is truly one of the most beauty-conscious countries in the world, illustrated in its limited edition collections available at every convenience store, emergency makeup kits sold at gas stations and the readily available instant moisturizing face packs.

However, we know that while beauty is often about utility here, sometimes girls just wanna have fun. If you suddenly get the urge to steer away from the standard, chances are you’ll find yourself in a dead tunnel. That’s right, when it comes to beauty products that aren’t “the norm” per se (unless you’re a cosplayer or have access to the underworld of Japanese cosmetics), Japan is not the easiest place to shop. So, if you’re like me, a person who’d occasionally enjoy purple hair, glittery nails and unicorn-colored eyebrows, use the following list and come shop a little wild with me.

Bright, brighter, brightest nails

Fans of Japanese nail art are sure to have their own preferred salons in mind, but if you have sensitive nails, allergies, or would rather do your own art, you may be hard pressed to find the kind of colors that you want at most drugstores or variety goods shops.

While beauty is often about utility here, sometimes girls just wanna have fun.

The exciting bookstore Village Vanguard may not sound like the kind of place you’d find nail polish, but most of their locations have a beauty section with some great finds in it. One of these finds is Ruby Kisses Cosmetics, a sub-brand of Kiss, an American nail polish and other cosmetics manufacturer. Ruby Kisses High Definition nail polish comes in 48 shades, all of which are exciting and long-lasting. The colors are vibrant with or without top coat, come off easily with remover, and are chip-resistant. They typically cost around ¥300 per bottle.

For the best in nail art brushes, stickers, gems or at home acrylics, head to Don Quijote — they have the widest selection and lowest prices around, and sometimes even have grab bags of OPI or Esse nail polishes (which run around ¥2,000 per bottle) for as little as ¥600.

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Ueba Eso is a nail polish brand from Kyoto that is highly recommendable to those with sensitive nails. Their polishes are a traditional, water-based nail polish formula that contains powdered scallop shell (the main ingredient of historical Japanese paint pigments), dry very quickly, and have no irritating odors.

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This brand mostly comes in traditional Japanese shades, but its colors have a vibrancy that can’t be beaten—and they go especially well with yukata and kimono wear. They cost about ¥1,300 per bottle, which is pricey, but well worth it when you take into account the overall quality of the colors and longevity of the polish itself.

Pop art-worthy eyeshadows and lipsticks

Drugstore brands tend to stick with neutral tones or the basic reds, purples, and corals, but if you’re looking for blue lipstick to match that vintage look, or maybe even dark grey to go with your new ‘do (like me), then you’ll have to think outside the box again. One place you should check out is SBY, located on the top floor of Shibuya’s iconic 109 shopping center. Here you’ll find eyelash extensions, color contacts, and of course, plenty of colorful cosmetics to choose from.

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However, if you’re looking for deeper pigments, a wider array of colors, or something a little more up-market, head to the MAC store in LaForet Harajuku, or the new NYX store across from that in Tokyo Plaza Omohara.

NYX also carries 19 shades of foundation, so whatever your skin color tone is, you’ll find the perfect fit for you there.

Mermaid or rainbow hair

I love to dye my hair wild colors. I’ve gone from baby pinks to deep burgundies, purples, indigoes, and even mint green and silver — all while living in Japan. The trends towards colorful hair vary, but acceptance of vibrantly colored hair is growing in most fashion circles in Japan.

Those with naturally light hair, or only interested in a hint of color that will disappear after a few washes, should try QuisQuis Devil’s Trick, a hair pack type of coloring that comes in highly pigmented shades, and washes out after three to five washes.

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Each package contains enough for one application on short hair (chin length), so you may need to buy several packs if you want to do your whole head or have longer hair. This is a really easy way to achieve gradation or just add a bit of color (or a few) in your hair. You can usually find this brand at stores like Loft, Tokyu Hands and Village Vanguard.

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If you’re a seasoned home color user, then there are some products that you’ll definitely want to use. Manic Panic is readily available in Japan, including their White Bomb hair bleach (check out Don Quijote for the best prices). 

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If you’d rather prefer a full treatment line, though, then Y.S. Park Professional products are ideal. YS Park is a brand founded in Tokyo in 1980, and has a full line of products to care for bleached/color-treated hair, including shampoos for platinum blondes, pH balancing treatments, and more.

There’s another brand of hair color that has given rise to the “mermaid,” “galaxy,” “gradation” and more funky colors that are currently circulating social media in a whirl: Ancels Color TreatmentTheir claim to fame is that their colors work on hair that is dark brown to bleached — with the colors, of course, being their brightest on bleached hair. You can mix their colors as you would paint to create your own unique shades, and you can also find multiple tutorials on their website, like the one below. 

This brand is also sold at Don Quijote, Village Vanguard, and in SBY at 109, as well as online, and costs about ¥2,800 per tub. 

Now, get out there and be your colorful self!