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What Are the Differences Between Japanese and Western Makeup?

When you visit Japan, you may notice that the makeup trends here are a little different to the West. This means that there are a range of products that are quite different to what you might find back home. This article will introduce some of the major differences between makeup styles in Japan and the West, plus some advice on where to shop for makeup when you’re in Japan.

Makeup Color Trends

Recent Western makeup trends like contouring, heavily-pigmented eyeshadows, and bold highlights aren’t quite as popular here. In Japan, mainstream makeup styles trend towards natural looks that focus on clear, bright skin and subtle uses of color.

One example of this difference is the kesshoku, or “complexion” trend in Japan. Rather than bold and bright colors popular with many people in the West, this trend uses makeup in blush-toned reds and oranges that look like your own skin has a healthy circulation and a rosy flush. Extreme examples can almost look like you’re a little tipsy, or maybe on the verge of tears!

Tan or Toumeikan?

A healthy tan is something many people in the West strive to achieve either naturally or with tanners and bronzers. While tanning the old fashioned way might have fallen out of favor, one look at Instagram will tell you that the sun-kissed look is still going strong in the West.

It couldn’t be more different in Japan! "Toumeikan" is a word used often in the Japanese cosmetic world, and means a sense of transparency or translucency to the skin. More simply, this means bright, flawless skin that seems to glow from the inside out. The key to this look is diligent skincare and UV protection, tone-correcting base makeup, and a good quality foundation to finish.

Pale skin has been a beauty ideal in Japan for centuries, and it seems this look isn’t going anywhere. This means that Western trends like contouring and bronzing simply haven’t caught on here. On the other hand, if you like the minimal-makeup trend, Japanese products are definitely worth looking into!

Skincare-Makeup Hybrids

Japan and the West are seeing some different trends in makeup formulation, too. In the West, highly-pigmented makeup is becoming more and more common, and influencers like the Kardashians have inspired many people to try out the more technical looks that can be achieved with these products.

In comparison, Japanese schools and workplaces can be a little stricter about what kind of makeup and accessories are allowed (if they’re allowed at all!). What’s more, Japan is a busy country. For this reason, time saving skincare-makeup hybrids are becoming more and more popular. These products are formulated with medicated ingredients to help with things like acne, dry skin, or allergies. They typically don’t have heavy formulations that can irritate the skin, and give a more natural-looking finish that won't get you in hot water at work.

Taking this trend further is skincare makeup that can even be worn to bed! There are more and more skincare products that brighten the skin and hide flaws, but don’t need to be washed off.

Where to Buy Makeup in Japan

You don’t have to look very hard to find unique and high-quality makeup in Japan. Whether you're looking for high-end brands or are more interested in cost-performance, you won’t be lacking for choice! Here are a few ideas for places to shop for makeup while you're in Japan.

Drug Stores

For staples, check out drugstores like Matsumoto Kiyoshi or Daikoku Drug. You’ll find a great range of affordable cosmetics from major companies like Shiseido, Kose, and Canmake there. Some bigger drugstores even have consultants on staff to help you choose.

Matsumoto Kiyoshi Ikebukuro Part 2 Store

1-22-8 Higashi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Department Stores

For luxury brands like Shu Uemura or SK-II, the shopping experience and customer service you’ll find at department store beauty counters can’t be beat. While the prices might be higher, it’s worth paying for a unique and quality product you know is going to look just right on you. Don’t forget to take advantage of duty free counters and seasonal sales to help keep costs down, too.

Department Stores

1-4-1 Nihonbashi, Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Variety Stores

Variety stores like Loft, Plaza, and Tokyu Hands carry a huge range of cosmetics and skincare products, and often you can find some smaller brands here too. Their prices are similar to drugstores, but they're often more inviting and spacious. These stores can also have exclusive packaging and varieties of popular products you can only find there.

Variety Stores

3F-6F, Ginza Velveiakan, 2-4-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

@cosme Stores

What about if you’re not sure what to buy? A good place to start are @cosme stores, which are located all over the country. These stores are run by @cosme, Japan’s most popular cosmetic ranking and review site. Products in @cosme stores are displayed based on their user rankings, meaning you can shop stress-free knowing the products are all well reviewed.

@cosme Stores

B2F, Lumine Est Shinjuku Store, 3-38-1, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

It can be fun to explore local trends and fashion while you travel! Japanese magazines are a great source for style inspiration, so why not pick some up and try out a new look while you're in Japan?

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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