Before K-beauty took the world by storm, Japanese beauty (a.k.a. J-beauty) reigned supreme, quickly gaining global popularity amongst those in the know like makeup artists, runway models, and beauty editors for its emphasis on innovative ingredients and cutting-edge technology.
Unlike K-beauty (which often has a minimum of 10 steps in the skincare routine), J-beauty brands focus on simple yet effective products and value the importance of using natural ingredients such as rice bran, cherry blossom, camellia flower oil, and yuzu to help you achieve healthy and glowing skin.
While you may know powerhouses like SK-II, Shiseido, Clé de Peau Beauté, and Shu Uemura, there are plenty of other J-beauty brands that are cult-favourites in Japan that you may be less acquainted with.
Ahead, Daily Vanity has sussed out 17 under-the-radar Japanese beauty brands that you should stockpile in your vanity trove.
Albion’s unique approach to skincare is “milk first”, which puts forth its Milk Lotion in place of toner after facial cleansing to restore skin moisture in the outermost layer, which sheds its natural oils in the cleansing process.
Albion’s most iconic product, though, is the Skin Conditioner, an essence so well-loved by Japanese women that they’ve even given the long-selling product an endearing nickname, “SkiCon”.
The formula has earned itself a legion of loyal fans thanks to its ability to condition dull skin and support skin’s healing process for healthier skin that’s less prone to breakouts and irritation.
Albion Skin Conditioner retails for S$60.50 (110ml), S$93.50 (165ml), and S$159.50 (330ml) at Osakakuma’s official e-store on Shopee.
Astalift takes the term “photogenic” seriously and that’s because it is founded by Fujifilm, the photography and imaging company.
And as one would expect, the brand delivers groundbreaking skincare formulas by incorporating its photographic nano and collagen film technologies.
Its In-Focus Cellactive Serum, for instance, is an age-defying serum that combines the brand’s trademark Nano Astaxanthin CP+ and boswellia serrata to protect and rejuvenate stem cells for younger-looking skin.
Canmake Tokyo is one of the most famous affordable cosmetic brands in Japan that produces high-quality makeup products loved by makeup enthusiasts as well as professional makeup artists.
The Canmake Mermaid Skin Gel UV is one of the best-rated makeup primers that contains UV protection.
It’s a non-tinted makeup base that can be used on its own as a sunscreen or under your makeup to protect your skin against the sun’s UV rays while moisturising your skin.
Cezanne is a Japanese brand that has been around since 1964, serving up high-quality yet affordable cosmetics in almost every major drugstore in Japan.
One of its top products is the Lasting Lip Colour, a beautifully creamy and pigmented lipstick that effortlessly glides onto your lips and barely budges once it has settled.
Covermark is a Japanese brand known for its high coverage foundation and top-notch skincare that was established in 1928.
Its range of products, which includes the Essence Foundation, is formulated to help modern women subtly conceal imperfection to achieve flawless-looking skin that builds self-esteem.
If you’re partial to the no-makeup makeup look, definitely give the Essence Foundation a try.
Covermark Essence Foundation retails for S$54.99 at Osakakuma’s official e-store on Shopee.
Backed by 50 years of sensitive skin research in the Shiseido Laboratories, D Program is the number one Japanese sensitive skincare brand that has developed every product with a hypoallergenic formulation suitable for sensitive skin.
For sensitive skin that’s also acne-prone, get hold of the Acne Care Lotion to promote moisture retention while repairing and building skin’s barrier functions to give you smoother, bouncier skin.
Dr. Ci:Labo is a Japanese derma beauty brand founded by renowned dermatologist Dr. Yoshinori Shirono in 1999.
It offers a range of science-based products that are developed with cutting-edge skincare technology to help people of all ages with their skin concerns.
One must-try is the best-selling Aqua-Collagen Gel Super Moisture EX. The multitasker is known for its ultra-hydrating jelly-like formula that you can use as a moisturiser, sleeping mask, and makeup base.
It also comes in three other variants to target different skin concerns.
Dr. Ci:Labo Aqua-Collagen Gel Super Moisture EX retails for approx. S$51.78 (JP¥4,361) on Kokoro Japan.
A sister arm of AYA Inc. in Japan, Fairy Drops carries a whole range of mascaras that comes with a specially designed applicator for easier application.
Designed to coat every lash thoroughly, it promises to add extra volume and is tear-proof.
Try the Hyper Quattro Mascara II, a lengthening formula that is enriched with a whopping 15 kinds of beauty essences to nourish your lashes while keeping them curled throughout the day.
Fairy Drops Hyper Quattro Mascara II retails for S$26 on Lazada.
House of Rose
House of Rose is a brand that advocates natural formulas for the skin and body.
Its body scrub, Oh! Baby Body Exfoliating Scrub, is loved by many Japanese women as it does the job well with a gentle formula that doesn’t disrupt the skin’s delicate balance.
Most importantly, it doesn’t contain artificial pigments and mineral oil, making it suitable for normal to sensitive skin.
House of Rose Oh! Baby Body Exfoliating Scrub retails from S$39.90 at Osakakuma’s official e-store on Shopee.
Kenzoki is the beauty arm of – you’ve guessed it – Kenzo, the fashion label. The skincare collection uses Asian plants in its formulas, and each of its product lines is created around a specific ingredient such as white lotus, rice, and ginger flower.
What we also like about Kenzoki’s formulas is that they’re deeply sensorial with rich textures and fragrances.
New to the brand is its Nourishing Flow range, which consists of body cream, balm for the hands and nails, as well as lips.
As its name suggests, this range smooths, softens, and nourishes the skin by revitalising the lipid flow within the epidermis and reinforcing the integrity of the skin’s barrier function.
We have our eyes on the Nourishing Flow Sensual Body Cream that promise to wrap the skin in a perfumed veil of softness.
Kenzoki Nourishing Flow Sensual Body Cream retails for S$78 on Sephora.sg.
Koh Gen Do
Koh Gen Do is one of the go-to makeup brands for those in the know around the world – for good reason.
Its pioneering Japanese skincare technology and use of plant-based ingredients have helped nurture and repair skin, and its line of makeup products is often highly raved about for providing a radiant and dewy complexion.
Many beauty editors and makeup artists count the Aqua Foundation as their holy grail as the featherlight liquid foundation is said to give your skin the same youthful glow you experience right after a facial.
Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation retails for S$53.99 at Osakakuma’s official e-store on Shopee.
Lits is a popular dermatologist-approved skincare brand in Japan and now, it’s available in Singapore!
Do check out the White Dot Zero Cream, which is the top product in the brand’s brightening range.
Packaged in a syringe-like format, this spot treatment is powered by a unique plant stem cell ingredient that boasts skin lightening effects on dark circles and stubborn dark spots, and also contains tranexamic acid (TXA) and arbutin to keep the skin’s melanin production under control.
With regular use, it’s said to help prevent age spots and freckles so you can have brighter, fairer skin for longer.
Lits White Dot Zero Cream retails for S$49.90 at selected Guardian stores as well as Don Don Donki and Welcia-BHG.
Another Japanese beauty brand that’s popular amongst beauty insiders is this beauty tool brand.
ReFa has an array of highly coveted skincare tools for the face and body that promises to work wonders on your skin.
Its beauty rollers, for instance, are waterproof and equipped with a discreet solar panel that captures sunlight or artificial light to generate a soothing microcurrent that helps increase cellular activity and tighten your facial muscles for a natural lift.
We like the ReFa S CARAT RAY, which is a petite version that’s specifically designed to help visibly tighten and rejuvenate the skin around the eyes and mouth that tends to slacken with age.
Horse oil may sound highly unorthodox but it has long been a local secret in Japan and was even one of the bestselling items on Cosme, one of the most trusted beauty authorities in Japan, for years.
You’ll see various brands with their own version of horse oil-based skincare, but Sonbahyu has a pure Horse Oil that can be used on the face, body, and even hair – it can even be used as a massage oil for babies too!
Sonbahyu Horse Oil (Scent-Free) retails for S$30 on Lazada.
Focusing on holistic skincare, Three incorporates natural ingredients into the products to aid the body in returning to its original state more efficiently. We simply love the packaging – it’s minimal, sleek, and portable, making it an easy carry-on wherever you go.
Its hero product is the Cleansing Oil, but those with normal to combination skin can go for the award-winning Balancing Cleansing Oil that melts comfortably onto the skin to lift away any dirt and makeup, leaving the skin supple and velvety after rinsing.
Three Balancing Cleansing Oil retails for S$68 on Sephora.sg.
Transino is loved for its focus on fighting skin spots, including melasma, acne, and freckles with medical-grade skincare formulas.
For brighter, firmer skin, consider trying the Whitening Repair Cream which uses TXA to turn around skin dullness and sallowness.
Transino Whitening Repair Cream retails for approx. S$67.26 (JP¥5,664) on Kokoro Japan.
For a Japanese beauty brand that promises next-level hair, look no further than Y.S. Park which has a huge assortment of hairbrushes that are sought after by professional hairstylists.
If you have curly tresses, do get your hands on the Curl Shine Styler that uses a combination of boar bristles and nylon pins to brush through hair more easily to create a loose cascading curl.
Y.S. Park Curl Shine Styler (56mm) retails for S$85 online.