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A Guide to Beauty and Skin Care Shopping in Japan

I just came from a short trip to 2-7° Osaka and before all the ruckus – including daily responsibilities, occasional (almost) quarter-life crises, and mild anxiety attacks – I’m dedicating a few entries to Japan, beginning with a guide to beauty and skin care shopping!

Japanese drugstores are everywhere, and they’re overwhelming – to say the least. They’re bright, colorful, and carry thousands of beauty and skin care products from both local and international brands. You may get lost in the array of cutesy packaging – Sailor Moon liquid eyeliners and Hello Kitty sheet masks, anyone? Catered to the Japanese, packaging includes indecipherable language for the ordinary English-speaking fellow. How can you wisely spend your hard-earned money on your next trip? Let me help you with that!

First, where can you buy skin care and make-up? Fortunately, you can easily spot a drugstore. They’re outside your Airbnb, inside the subway, jumbled within shopping districts, and even the airport. Drugstore chain, Matsumoto Kiyoshi, can be found outside, and you’ll see it immediately by its mustard yellow and royal blue logo. They carry international drugstore brands (Maybelline New York, L’Oréal Paris, Rimmel London, etc.) plus local brands (Canmake, Shiseido, Excel, etc.). @Cosme, on the other hand, is a special beauty store that I found in Tsutaya located in Namba (near the crowded Dōtonbori area – beside Forever 21). There are locations both in Tokyo and Osaka. From an online platform – rating and reviewing the best in Japanese beauty – to a physical store, they carry a mix of Japanese drugstore and high-end. If you feel like splurging and you’re on the look-out for international high-end brands (Dior, Chanel, bareMinerals, etc.), Takashimaya is a good place to be.

How to make the best out of your shopping? Here are some tips!

  • Buy in tax-free shops.

Spot the cherry blossom logo! Overseas visitors staying in Japan for less than 6 months can have their taxes returned – the higher the purchase, the greater the discount! Bring along your passport with you. My biggest mistake was buying a single item in different stores thus not qualifying for tax-free shopping. I could have saved so much money!

More on Japan’s tax-exempt shopping here.

  • Research!

Peruse Japanese beauty blogs and websites like Tokyo Beauty Book, Savvy Tokyo, The Beauty Maniac in TokyoRatzilla, and Cosme plus watch YouTube vlogs from Kim Dao. Be on the lookout for best-sellers which have #1 on the packaging.

  • Keep photos of your to-buy list.

I hardly met people who knew how to speak English. If you’re looking for specific products, it may be difficult to converse with the salesladies, no matter how willing they are to help. Hand gestures are not enough! Keep photos of items you want to buy, and if you can’t find it on your own, just show your phone.

  • Buy items available in Manila but are cheaper in Japan. 

Stock up on Bioré’s UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence, Shiseido’s Perfect Whip Foam, and Canmake’s Shading Powder, which are significantly cheaper abroad. If you’re also packaging-conscious, you can buy your favorites with a Japan-exclusive packaging. I went loca upon seeing my favorite Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara in a pink metallic packaging that I had to get it (although it was twice the price, oops). Brands that are also available in Manila carry Japan-exclusive items so check that out! L’Oreal’s Lucent Magique Cushion and Cushion Glow Blushes are divine!

Hope this helped, and I can’t wait to show you my Japanese beauty and skin care haul next!


Best of 2016: Beauty

My glorious education with everything beauty has grown the past few years but 2016 is something else; proof is the staggering collection of acrylic organizers overflowing with products on my top shelf. I’ve been producing more beauty and skin care content, and there is an unbelievable warmth in my heart! I’ve only been confident writing about something as foreign as beauty recently. I’ve tried many other topics in the past – fashion, food, and even technology – but I’ve never felt emotionally attached to any of them. It’s even more encouraging when people send me mail telling me how my reviews help them choose products!

From the riveting world of cushion compacts to liquid lipsticks and make-up sprays, I’ve tried much. I’ve searched far and wide – from our neighborhood Watsons to online beauty retailers and sketchy kiosks – for the best make-up from both the local and international scene (mostly drugstore!). I have nothing but high praises for these knockout products from these cosmetic powerhouses. Here are my personal picks for beauty’s finest in 2016!

Face

Foundation

L’Oréal True Match Liquid Foundation in Nude Beige (Watsons, P600)

I started the year falling in love with Bourjois Paris’s Radiance Reveal Healthy Mix Foundation – easily the most full coverage drugstore foundation I’ve tried. I emptied it a few months after, and I ended up getting a discounted (score!) L’Oréal True Match Liquid Foundation. It easily covers pigmentation and acne scars that I tend to forego concealer most days. Compared to other brands, this has a wider range of colors (18 shades) which adds to its appeal! It applies beautifully with a beauty blender or any fluffy foundation brush. Of course, it’s important to start off with a good toner-moisturizer combo that will transform how foundation glides on skin – trust me.

Maybelline Dream Velvet Matte Foundation in Natural Beige (Watsons, P499)

For a more affordable option from the drugstore, the Maybelline Dream Velvet Matte Foundation is a recent discovery. I initially had a difficult time liking this because I used it with a foundation brush. I learned that the formula works best with a damp beauty blender; it makes a tremendous difference! It’s available in 5 shades and wears great throughout the day. It feels so comfortable that I’d recommend it to anybody who prefers to be foundation-free but may need some coverage.

For both foundation choices, I don’t actually have the perfect shade match so I mix both with the L.A. Girl Pro Conceal in Fawn, a steal from the Dollar Store at P169.

Concealer

Catrice Camouflage Cream in Light Beige (Watsons, P329)

I overlooked the power of a good concealer for years but my hormonal breakouts have led me to the Catrice Camouflage Cream. It’s creamy, buildable, and covers blemishes with one swipe. This is magic in a pot!

Face Powder

Nichido Final Powder in So Natural (Watsons, P150)

Setting my face with loose powder after my foundation routine mattifies my face and helps prolong its staying power. I wear the Nichido Final Powder every single day, I kid you not. It makes my pores less visible – sans primer – and leaves my skin feeling velvet smooth. This is available in other shades but the color, So Natural, is translucent on me. The only thing I don’t like about it is the strong fragrance but I overlook it because of all its A+ streaks. It’s unbelievably cheap and can last anyone several months, or a year!

For those with oily skin, Korean skin care brand, Innisfree, nailed it with the No-Sebum Mineral Powder (P260). I’ve recommended it to friends, and they love it as much as I do! It keeps my face dry the entire day without sacrificing moisture. I’d say this is better at doing the job than the Nichido Final Powder. For those who find a loose powder really messy, it’s also available in compact form (P480).

Bronzer 

*Sleek MakeUp Blush in Suede (Zalora, P425)

2016 is the year I learned about the magic of contouring. It slims down features – defines the cheekbones, nose, and jawline – presenting a more chiseled face. PSA: Any matte powder a shade darker than your skin tone can act as a bronzer.

I picked up Sleek MakeUp’s Blush in Suede as recommended by a favorite YouTuber. Swatches don’t do it justice because it hardly shows up until applied on the face. It looks natural for both the Filipina morena and mestiza. This is best for those who just want that extra warmth and don’t really plan to contour. I emptied this after a few months of constant wear!

Blush

Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso (Your Make-up Store, P450)

I often skip blush because I’m content with a bronzer but for a wash of color, Luminoso is my go-to. It’s every YouTuber’s holy grail blush – mine, too! This peach baked blush transforms cheeks giving it a subtle sheen that won’t accentuate pores or scars. It makes me look naturally radiant, and I can’t imagine loving any other blush as much as I love this!

Highlighter

Benefit Watt’s Up! (Benefit, P1,700)

Highlighter can immediately change an entire look! Discovering its magic has changed my routine immensely. Benefit’s Watt’s Up! is, without a doubt, the best I’ve tried. This cream to powder highlighter provides a stunning, luminous glow – that’s even better with a tan. Others draw attention to texture on skin but I find this doesn’t. This is especially perfect for morena skin. I try so much product and end up coming back to this! PSA: Kim Kardashian swears by this!

Essence Soo Glow! Highlighter in Bright Up Your Life (Watsons, P169)

Catrice’s sister company, Essence, is such a good (European) drugstore brand which is overlooked by many. Their products are at par with more well-known brands like Maybelline and Revlon; they’re even more affordable!

The Soo Glow! Highlighter is my favorite product from the brand! It has an iredescent finish which is suitable for fair skin; it can appear streaky on darker complexion. I diffuse the product with a beauty blender, and it stays all day!

Eyes

Brow Gel 

Holika Holika Wonder Drawing Browcara in 01 and 03 (Beauty MNL, P355)

I’m not big on kilay products given how naturally bushy mine are; excuse the lack of recommendations! Holika Holika’s Wonder Drawing Browcara is the only product I put on my brows: 01 for my brown hair and 03, now that I have red hair. It’s smudge-free and looks so natural.

Eyeshadow 

Stila Eyes Are The Window Shadow Palette in Mind (Sephora)

Gone are the days when I’m content with a simple curler-and-mascara eye make-up routine. After months of learning how to apply eyeshadow, I rue the day I find myself with a naked eye! If you’re a beauty rookie, like me, Stila’s Eyes Are The Window Shadow Palette or really, any all-matte palette, will change your life! Starting with matte rather than shimmer shades will train you to blend and mix colors for both a daytime and night look.

Mind contains a mixture of beautiful, versatile hues that you can use by itself or combine. I wear the lower two rows the most plus the white on top to highlight my brow bone. I recommend using this for travel since it’s small. This is also a multi-purpose product, which you can use for a nose contour and a brow powder (darkest brown).

Zoeva Rose Golden Eyeshadow Palette (Sephora PH, P1,106)

A simple swatch on the hand, and you’ll fall deep in love with any Zoeva Eyeshadow Palette. Rose Golden happens to be my favorite. The array of rose gold and champagne colors are divine. Just A Rose is definitely the most unique shadow I own. It’s buttery, has zero fallout, and stays on all day. This is also friendly for beginners since you can just apply the product using a finger on your entire lid, and voilà, you’re done!

Mascara

*Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara (Watsons, P429)

The Lash Sensational Mascara from Maybelline is hands down, the best I’ve tried! It gives great definition without leaving any clumps. The mascara wand is designed to separate and volumize lashes. Of course, the pink metallic tube also looks so pretty in my kit!

*Fashion21 Double Up Mascara (Watsons, P225)

I can’t stop raving about Fashion21’s Double Up Mascara! If you want elongated, natural-looking lashes without breaking the bank, pick this up on your next Watsons run. I’ve emptied 2 tubes in 2016 and will probably empty more this year!

Lips

Lipstick

Happy Skin Shut Up & Kiss Me Moisturizing Matte Lippie in The Morning After (Happy Skin, P649)

I’ve religiously worn vampy shades in the past but I took a much needed break from my bold(er) choices. 2016 was personally the year of pink lipsticks!

Happy Skin’s Moisturizing Matte Lippies have the best lipstick formula for me; the formulation is so dreamy! It’s richly pigmented and super hydrating. There’s nothing quite like it! The Morning After is a cool-toned mauvy pink that is so low-maintenance, it goes well with so many looks. I can’t wait to try more products from the brand!

MAC Lipstick in Faux (MAC, P1,050)

From a random trip to the MAC counter with my Mama, I got Faux after hearing much rave about it. It took me weeks to try it because I felt no emotional attachment to it – but boy, was I wrong! I committed myself to the shade instantly. This flattering muted mauve-pink looks gorgeous with an all pink make-up look. As with other light shades, this makes lips look extra plump!

Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipstick in Clay Crush, Nude Nuance, and Touch of Spice (Watsons, P299)

I’m trading my ultra matte lipsticks for the Maybelline Creamy Matte Lipsticks! This line is the best launch of the year for so many Filipinas. It moisturizes lips, and the color payoff is terrific. Its staying power is unbelievable – it can last me a day! Wait for the occasional sales, and you might just get this for P100 less!

Full review here.

Liquid Lipstick

Happy Skin Glam Squad Liquid Matte Lipstick by Mickey See (Beauty Bar, P699)

I’ve tried a number of affordable liquid lipsticks but this definitely wins in formulation. This limited edition collaboration between Happy Skin and make-up artist, Mickey See, is everything I hoped for in a long-lasting liquid lipstick. It doesn’t make my lips feel like sandpaper and survives even the messiest of meals. The shade is also reminiscent of ColourPop’s Lumière – another favorite. Crossing my fingers I can still get the other colors from the Glam Squad line (Juan Sarte, Denise Go-Ochoa, and Jigs Mayuga)!

The Balm Meet Matt(e) Hughes Long-Lasting Liquid Lipstick in Loyal (Beauty Bar, P795)

Finding the perfect red lipstick is an initiation to womanhood. I never thought I’d love another like MAC’s Ruby Woo until I discovered The Balm’s Long-Lasting Liquid Lipstick in Loyal. Gliding it on will make you feel like you can conquer anything. Other formulas make my lips scream from dehydration but not this one – it’s so lightweight. It also lasts all day!

Full review here.

Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet in Happy Nude Year (Watsons KK)

I wore Bourjois’s Rouge Edition Velvet in Happy Nude Year and So Hap’pink all summer because of the vibrant hues. It wasn’t exactly love at first swipe given the unique mousse formula but my affections grew overtime.

What were your Best of 2016 products? I’d love to know! Comment below. 💕

Read: Best of 2016: Skin Care

*Emptied in 2016


Review: The Balm Meet Matt(e) Hughes Long-Lasting Liquid Lipsticks

(The Balm Meet Matt(e) Hughes Long-Lasting Liquid Lipsticks in Charming, Sincere, Committed, Doting, Dedicated, and Loyal from Beauty Bar, P1,195)

Do you ever feel guilty for owning too many lipsticks? Well, a tiny part of me can be when I see my growing collection. I know I’ll never get around to emptying them so I justify every purchase with a blog review. Thus, a set of travel-sized liquid lipsticks from The Balm seemed to be a…valid buy. You get 6 beautiful, wearable shades, and there’s only 1.2ml of product to consume! If you fall in love with a particular shade, you can purchase the regular size for P795 a piece.

From my experience, drugstore liquid lipsticks (e.g. Sleek MakeUP’s Matte Me and Makeup Revolution’s Lip Lacquers) have questionable formulas. The simple act of drinking water removes it. It’s rare to find affordable ones that last a good amount of time and are non-drying. The Balm’s Meet Matt(e) Hughes liquid lipsticks are terrific!

The colors are so universally flattering, especially the warm red (Loyal) – a possible dupe for the beloved MAC Russian Red. This lasts forever on my lips! The bold fuchsia (Dedicated) is such a unique shade that looks stunning on dark skin. The mauves (Sincere, Committed, and Charming) honestly look pretty identical to one another but actually differ in saturation; they’re great for everyday wear. Committed is my favorite among the 3! The warm coral (Doting) stands out in a sea of pinks.

The product comes out in a velvety texture but dries down to a matte finish. It goes on opaque in a single swipe. It’s transfer-proof, which is Heaven-sent for people who don’t like touching up – a staple for events! I need a good micellar water to actually remove it at the end of the day. I find that the deeper shades last a longer amount of time (5 hours or so). The formula is so lightweight, and it doesn’t dry my lips. It even leaves a cooling sensation! Also, it’s really easy to mess up (big time) when applying liquid lipsticks because precision is everything but not with this particular doe foot applicator.

Anyway, hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones! In case you missed it, I already posted my Best of 2016: Skin Care and plan on publishing my Beauty and Literature entries on January!


Review: Morphe 35O Eyeshadow Palette

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(Morphe 35O Eyeshadow Palette from Stuff in Style, P2,020)

Putting on eyeshadow frustrated me for the longest time. It took me years – and countless of YouTube videos – to learn how to apply eye make-up. It took so much prodding to get out of my basic eyelash curler-and-mascara routine. But, here we are now – a stack of palettes later – madly in love with shadows. I actually feel naked without any on. And, I hope the same for you.

Finding a good, fluffy eyeshadow brush is essential. I either use the F&S Large Eyeshadow Brush (P150) I purchased months ago in the drugstore or the Wet n Wild Crease Brush (P180) I hauled along with the palette – plus other brushes from the same collection. Both work perfectly with matte and shimmer eyeshadows.

The Morphe 35O Eyeshadow Palette is a dream. You can be a beauty rookie, like myself, a professional make-up artist, or a YouTube beauty guru and need this in your collection. It has an amazing range of warm-toned colors with both matte and shimmer shades. You can create a myriad of eye looks for both daytime and nighttime! Some shades are chunkier while others deliver just a subtle radiance. There’s a shade for every occasion, every feeling! The lighter, white shades also double as highlighters, and they are blowing my mind.

The shadows are incredibly buttery yet doesn’t crease – unlike cheaper shadows – even without the use of an eyeshadow primer. They’re easy to apply and blend seamlessly. I find that this works best with MAC Fix Plus to add even more pigmentation. Best of all, it stays on all day!

A downside is the size. It’s so big that it can be overwhelming – especially for beginners. It’s not travel-friendly at all! Some colors also look very similar. But, yes, I do love, love, love it! It’s also unbelievably cheap considering how much you’re getting and how superior the quality is. What a bargain! I do plan on getting another palette and with cool-toned colors this time, for sure.

 


Affordable Beauty: Dollar Store (L.A. Girl and L.A. Colors)

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(L.A. Girl Luxury Crème Lipsticks in [1] Kiss & Tell, [2] Tell Me Lies, [3] Fling, [4] Rendezvous, and [5] Endless Kisses) 

When I was an art student in university, my knowledge on anything related to beauty was very limited. I had few resources, and whatever money I earned from my freelance work, I’d spend it on clothing as a (clueless but utterly devoted) fashion magazine intern. I’d rely on the generosity of my mother – a moisturizer only type of gal – and Titas who brought home branded palettes as pasalubongs, which, of course, I didn’t know how to use. Man, if anybody just told me I could’ve gotten make-up this cheap (and so good!), I would’ve started beauty blogging earlier.

As much as I thoroughly enjoy the likes of Daiso and Japan Home Centre for cheap thrills (I probably don’t need but still purchase), I haven’t gone to the Dollar Store in years. There aren’t much branches around the metro, and I had doubts on product safety and authenticity. I mean, how can make-up cost so inexpensive? Then, upon further research on YouTube – the endless black hole of everything beauty and babies – I learned that there are actually good products in store. It costs the way it does because of the tacky packaging (which isn’t particularly appealing but I’ll live) and the amount the brands spend on advertising. They also get the products directly from the manufacturer. I also asked around, and they restock products every month so rest assured, these aren’t old or expired. You best believe I was on the hunt for some gems, and I wasn’t disappointed!

L.A. Colors Mineral Pressed Powder in Toffee (P149)

Aside from every Filipina tween’s Johnson & Johnson’s Pure Essentials Pressed Powder history, the L.A. Colors Mineral Pressed Powder was the first I owned. It’s cheap, and it does the job of mattifying the face. However, I recommend the Nichido Loose Powder (P150) since it does a better job but almost costs the same. It’s just really obnoxiously fragrant.

For this particular color, I use Toffee as a bronzer – as with any matte powder a couple shades darker than my skin. This gives my face a beautiful, sun-kissed look. It’s heavily pigmented so I just need very little product. There are also more colors from the range available, which you can’t find elsewhere.

L.A. Girl Pro Conceal in Fawn (P169)

I got my very first Pro Conceal in Pure Beige at the beginning of the year – because everyone talked about it. This is definitely cheaper at the Dollar Store (P169) than in Watsons (P299). I also appreciate how they carry a wider range of colors since they only have 1-2 shades in the mall. I’m not in love with it as a concealer since it doesn’t conceal my acne on bad days but I do enjoy it to highlight darkness on my soul, I mean, my face. I do find that Fawn is especially good as a cream contour. Just use a beauty blender, and you’re good to go!

L.A. Girl Luxury Crème Lipsticks in Kiss & Tell, Tell Me Lies, Fling, Rendezvous, and Endless Kisses (P99)

For my favorite discovery from the bunch, the Crème Lipsticks are unbelievably good. They’re reminiscent of the Wet n Wild MegaLast Lip Color (P299), which are a bit more stiff, waxy, and drying on the lips. These are definitely lightweight but creamier. For P99 each, these are a bargain! Pigmentation is great especially for the darker shades; it can even leave a stain. Lighter shades like Tell Me Lies and Fling can look sheer but it still covers my lips, which are naturally dark. Nonetheless, a con is that the product may move around, the more product you apply.

These are gorgeous everyday colors. The range carries tons of shades from nudes, pinks, reds, oranges to plums. I appreciate how there are actual testers in the store! The wear time is around 2-5 hours (with meals and drinks included). It also smells super sweet. I make sure to carry it with me throughout the day for touch-ups.

Beauty Treats Perfect Powder Blush in Pink Flush (P99)

I’m a big fan of pink blushes so I knew I had to get the blush quad from Beauty Treats (not L.A. Girl nor L.A. Colors but affiliated with the company). I find this incredibly pigmented. The two lightest shades on the left seem to be the most wearable of the four. They’re all matte which I adore since some shimmery shades highlight my blemishes.

If you’re on a budget or just on the look out for some really great, inexpensive gems, the Dollar Store is definitely the place to be!

The Dollar Store can be found in Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall, Shoppesville Greenhills, Market! Market!, and Alabang Town Center.