While there are plenty of wonders to be found in the aisles of your local CVS, things get markedly more interesting when you start exploring the drugstore offerings available in other countries. Japanese drugstores, for instance, are a treasure trove of tiny facial razors, hydrating lip masks, and bath salts. Luckily, you don’t need to hop on a plane to Kyoto to enjoy the benefits of Japanese skin-care and makeup, as these days many of the country’s best drugstore products are available on Amazon. Read on for 22 Strategist-approved Japanese drugstore finds, including the cult-favorite Baby Foot, binchotan-infused washcloths, and the country’s top-selling exfoliator.
Kathleen Hou, the beauty director at the Cut, wrote an ode to these tiny razors back in 2016, calling them the easiest way to “remove peach fuzz, errant chin hairs, or a mustache,” because they have “enough of an edge to remove peach fuzz, yet are not so sharp that they’ll nick you.” You can get three of them — in various shades of pink — for around seven bucks, which is way less than you’d spend at even the most disreputable waxing place.
Strategist writer Liza Corsillo found out about this facial mister from her sister-in-law, who is also a makeup artist and uses the gadget to refresh and rehydrate her clients’ skin after applying a full face. Corsillo likens it to a “tiny, portable waterfall” and says it’s a perfect workday pick-me-up come 4 p.m.
Pure Smile Choosy’s Lip Gel Mask saved Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson’s dry, cracked lips after a 14-hour flight from New York to Tokyo. The masks are chock-full of “all-star moisturizers,” including vitamin E, collagen, and hyaluronic acid, and this five-pack comes with Adelson’s favorite (peach), as well as the brand’s milk, honey, herb, and fruit flavors.
New York Magazine’s literary critic Molly Young wrote about this “podiatric miracle” way back in 2016. If you are not yet aware of its power, we’ll let Young explain the peel’s appeal: “It’s a product that will make you believe in beauty products again. Because everybody who does Baby Foot undergoes the same cycle of disbelief, repulsion, fascination, and conversion. It never fails to do what it promises to do. There’s a whole Reddit thread to back me up.”
“With a creamy formula that doesn’t melt or slide off your face in humidity or hot office temperatures, this is a great, easy staple,” writes Hou, who put together a guide to the best Japanese drugstore products for the Cut. “All of the colors are wearable (even the bright pink) and inexpensive enough that you can collect them all.”
After a few visits to her Japanese hair salon, former Strategist writer Lori Keong noticed that her “damaged, peroxide-nuked hair” started to look flawless and smooth. Her hairdresser’s secret, she discovered, came from “a jar resembling an oversize macaron.” Inside was Deesse’s finishing cream — which contains shea butter, sunflower oil, and hyaluronic acid — which leaves hair shinier and more hydrated.
Writer Jinnie Lee told us about Cure Natural Aqua Gel, the number-one exfoliator in Japan. “Ever since using it, my skin has felt softer, fresher, and even more youthful — never dried out or tight,” she writes, adding that her friends have started referring to her as “Babyface” since she started using it twice a week.
After writer Risa Needleman heard “that all the girls (and some of the boys) in Tokyo think American mascara doesn’t even count as black,” she sent her Tokyo-bound friend on a mission to return with this mascara. And once she got her hands on a tube, she agreed. Our beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton also picked it up while in Japan, and has this to add: “This stuff does not budge. Seriously — it stays on all day without flaking down your face.”
Former Strategist editor Jason Chen found this nail clipper while in the Narita airport with 1,700 yen (about $16) burning a hole in his pocket. He “was floored” by “the smoothness of the movement, how ergonomic its handle feels,” and the way the blades “glide through even the gnarliest toenails.” While it is expensive for a nail clipper, Chen says that the cost of “two Chipotle burrito bowls (without guacamole) is a small price to pay for the most precise at-home manicure you’ll ever experience.”
To ensure his “scleras are healthy and white,” writer Or Gotham will use these “cooling, astringent” Japanese eye drops before work, important meetings, selfies, and first dates. Gotham adds that they not only brighten his eyes, but give “the complexion an overall brightening effect,” too.
A light, super-hydrating cream that master aesthetician Joomee Song recommended in our roundup of the best drugstore eye creams. Hada Labo is unique for its use of super hyaluronic acid, which, according to Song, contains twice the moisture retention capacity of regular hyaluronic acid.