This year’s Met Gala theme — Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons — got us thinking: There’s such great Japanese-made stuff worth knowing about (much of it that we’ve even written about before), so why not take the occasion to go really big on Japan? From the meticulously crafted to the intuitively designed to the wonderfully weird, welcome to Made in Japan Week on the Strategist.
Through some Amazon sleuthing a few years ago, I stumbled onto something seemingly too good to be true — a Japanese face peel called Cure Natural Aqua Gel, which is the No. 1 exfoliator in Japan (apparently 1 sells every 12 seconds). I had to buy a bottle. Here’s how it works: On your dry, post-cleansed face, slather two or three pumps of this jelly over your forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, down the neck, or wherever, and let it sit for five seconds. There will be no stinging sensation, no alarming smells. In an instant, the gel will react with your skin as it begins to dry a bit, at which point, you’ll use your fingers to gently massage the product in a circular motion around your face.
This is the wild part. The gel will start to shed almost immediately, much like the way pencil erasers leave those squiggly rubbings behind (it’s similar to a foot peel in that way). As one Amazon reviewer wrote, “You literally see your dead skin come off. Pretty gross, but satisfying!” That’s not exactly true (the ingredients in the peel are mostly conditioners, some of which turn into solid clumps once lathered), but it’s partly true, and definitely satisfying. Keep wiping in circular motions on your face until you feel close to clean, then rinse the speckled grossness away with warm water and pat your newly smooth, squeaky-clean face dry.
Ever since using it, my skin has felt softer, fresher, and even more youthful — never dried out or tight. I personally like to end the exfoliating ceremony with a quick pat of whatever serum I have (this, incidentally, is RuPaul’s favorite), for good measure. My friends have started referring to me as “Babyface.” I use it twice a week, which is just enough for a single bottle to last about a year.
“It’s often the only moisturizer makeup artists carry backstage because it won’t irritate models’ skin, no matter the weather conditions outside or the number of times they’ve had their makeup done and removed that day.” — Kathleen Hou. Read more about this moisturizer here.
“I am someone who’s had serious skin problems in the past. I’m an acne survivor. My skin is hypersensitive and I’m afraid of new products. But when I tried the oat wash for the first time, something amazing happened: My skin wasn’t ruddy when I left the shower. It was cool and calm.” — Chloe Caldwell. Read more about this facial polish here.
“Korean model Soo Joo Park told me this gentle cleanser is one of her favorite products, and I now share the sentiment. I love the texture, which is like a melting sherbet that transforms into a balm without feeling sticky.” — Kathleen Hou. Read more about this cleanser here.
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