Things to Buy in Japan #2: Drugstore Lipsticks

I love lipstick. If 2011 was my year of the cheek (I look back fondly on my 2010 self, naively thinking that, surely once you have a nude, a pink, and a plum blush, your blush collection is complete), then 2012 is most definitely my year of the lips. In my treasured lip collection, nestled amongst the Guerlain and the Suqqu, are the Japanese drugstore lipsticks – each with a formula that rivals the high-end ones I’ve come to love. (That was a well-punctuated sentence.)

If you’re in Japan, you should definitely check out their drugstore lipstick offerings – in many many cases they’re much better than their high end counterparts.

Drugstore Lipsticks!

Typical* Japanese drugstore lipsticks:

  • Have a kind of balmy formula
  • Are moisturising
  • Have a finish that is at least a sheen, sometimes a high glittery gloss (matte lipsticks obviously exist, but they don’t seem to be as prevalent)
  • Apply as a sheer tint, but can be built up with ease

I usually associate Japanese drugstore lipsticks with ease of use: they’re very flattering and moisturising, they can be layered, and they fade evenly – so no frantic mirror-checking needed.


Limited Colour Range

While the formulas (formulae?) of Japanese lipsticks are often wonderful, I find the colour ranges can be quite limited. While I tend to favour darker, rosy lipsticks, most lines of drugstore lipsticks in Japan are filled with pale pinks, nudes, and pale peaches. Luckily, usually in each range there’s a token red (perhaps two), and maybe a rose or two.


Quite a few drugstore lipstick ranges are pretty big on glitter, and in many cases the glitter is pretty subtle and doesn’t feel gritty. However sometimes you’ll find what is, essentially, a big ol’ stick of glitter with some tint to it. So beware the glitterstick, my son.

My Picks


Lavshuca is my favourite drugstore brand for lipsticks. I’ve already written about the Lavshuca Dramatic Memory Rouge formula here, and Kate of Drivel About Frivol has fantastic swatches of all the colours available in the range. The Dramatic Memory Rouge formula is a great all-rounder: moisturising but not too balmy, shiny without being gooey, and you can build it up from sheer to full-coverage.

For a more lip butter-esque formula from Lavshuca, you could try the Moisture Melting Bar lipstick. It’s a very creamy formula that, in spite of containing a little bit of glitter, glides on smoothly.Jelly Lips N (Colour) Lasting power is not as good as the Dramatic Memory Rouge, about two hours. More lovely swatches over at Drivel About Frivol.

I haven’t tried the other lipstick ranges from Lavshuca myself but I’ve read good things about the Star Glow Rouge and my friend bought one of the super cute Jelly Lips (Colour) lipsticks and, although it’s a bit glittery, still loves it to this day. I’m toying with the idea of buying something from the Jelly Lips range myself, because they’re just so miniature and cute.


Kate is such a solid and reliable drugstore brand, it’s no wonder that they produce some lovely lipsticks. I’m a big fan of their Rouge High Glam formula, it’s a creamy formula that’s easy to wear and hides any imperfections. It’s a little different from the Lavshuca types because it’s thicker, more creamy than balmy. It actually reminds me a little of the Suqqu formula in the way it glides onto the lips.

Here’s Kate Rouge High Glam in PK-17:


Unlike Lavshuca and Kate, I never fully fell in love with the Media brand – in all honesty I think my brain was just influenced by the packaging: Media packaging is very classic and grown-up, and I think I’m still in my ‘oooh shiny!’ unicorn poots phase.

However, I do own a Media lipstick that I really love. The Creamy Lasting Lip lipstick is not like the balmy kind that I usually favour, it’s more classic and grown-up. It’s moisturising, durable, and it has a satin finish. I want to say it’s the perfect lipstick for job interviews but I imagine that that’d relegate it to the ‘boring!’ category in people’s heads. Basically it’s a lipstick you can count on, and it has more of a ‘classic’ finish than the ones mentioned above.

Buying Help

Most Japanese brands tend to use a shade naming system that’s pretty self-explanatory. They use two letters to indicate the colour family of the shade:

  • RS (Rose)
  • RD (Red)
  • PK (Pink)
  • OR (Orange)
  • BE (Beige)
  • and the less common WN (Wine), BR (Brown)

Then they follow that with a number which (as far as I know) doesn’t mean that much and is just an identifier. This system is pretty cool because it gives an idea of the shade without you having to endlessly swatch. Sometimes it’s a little bit iffy, i.e. some things I’d class as RS are in the PK category, but it’s a good starting point.

I’ve placed links to the Lavshuca swatches above and here are some swatches of the drugstore lipsticks I own: (I made sure my arm was extra goosebumpy, just for you guys! You’re welcome.)

Lavshuca Dramatic Memory Rouge RS-1, RD-2, Kate Rouge High Glam PK-17, Media Creamy Lasting Lip PK-20, Lavshuca Moisture Melting Bar PK-5, RD-4, RD-3

Japanese brand websites (also linked above) also often have lip swatches of each shade. They’re not infallible, but they’re good to give you an idea of what kind of shade you’re buying.

Buying Online

To buy these lipsticks from outside Japan, you may want to try Adam Beauty. I haven’t diligently price checked, but Adam Beauty is my go-to for Japanese cosmetics now that I’m in the UK. Here’s the Lavshuca shopping page, and the Kate shopping page, but sadly I can’t find a shopping page for the Media Creamy Lasting Lip.

8 Word Conclusion

Drugstore lipsticks are flattering, moisturising, balmy. Sometimes glittery.

*I should add a huge (slightly obvious) disclaimer to this whole post: The observations in this post are all informed by my personal experience of living in Japan. Are there exceptions to the generalisations in this post? Of course, these are just patterns I noticed. Are all Japanese drugstore lipsticks automatically amazing because they’re Japanese? Uh, no – there are hits and misses just like everywhere else.

Things to Buy in Japan #1: Bath Salts–a.k.a. An Ode to Kikiyu

I’ve started a new series! It is called, cryptically, ‘Things to Buy in Japan’. It is about things that you should buy in Japan. Not so cryptic. Anyway of course it will be by no means a full list, but it might be a useful guide for those going to Japan for the first time and who are, understandably, overwhelmed by all the lovely things to buy.

I freaking love baths. They are basically like being in bed, but the bed is filled with warm water and there’s no pillow and it’s really difficult to pick up soap in it.

Apart from that, pretty much exactly the same. Usually I’m pretty content to just sit in a bath and day dream for an hour, but my bathroom in Japan was a really horrible beige caramel colour (and it was super tiny but still made room for a cute little half bath) so I would close my eyes and listen to audiobooks. I finished Gone with the Wind in 5 weeks.

Anyway, that bit was there to bring to me to my main point (but I think I got lost on the way):

I like Bath Salts.


Bath Salts are big in Japan.

(popularity-wise…not size)

Most of the drugstores I went to devoted at least half an aisle to various brands of bath salts, with German brands like Kneipp featuring pretty prominently along with a lot of home-grown Japanese brands. There are a number of bath salt varieties available in Japan, and on your travels you’ll mostly likely find bath salts:

  • Bloodtype Bath - doesn't sound creepy at allfor your blood-type
  • that make you slimmer
  • that smell like your favourite cocktail
  • that turn your bath bright pink and basically make it amazing.
  • to help clear your pores
  • to make you sweat
  • to whiten your skin
  • to ease muscle pain
  • to (the most outlandish) hydrate your skin

Most Bath Salts in Japan come in little sachets (enough for one bath) that cost from 100 yen (about $1.20/£0.80) to 300 yen. This means they make great little souvenirs as they’re not very expensive and they don’t take up much space. It also means – if you’re not the souvenir type – you can try out a whole bunch of them yourself without taking a huge financial hit.

My Pick

The bath salts I love the most are these:


Kikiyu Clay Bath Salts for Dry skin and Eczema.

Kikiyu Big and SmallThese bath salts come in single-use sachets and big boxes, and I know that I’m going to buy as many of those boxes as I can when I next go to Japan. This variety of Kikiyu Bath Salts (there are many – this type is always in a pinky box/sachet) is really my absolute favourite – it soothes irritated skin, it moisturises it, it softens it and it smells lovely. It’s not one of the exciting, novel ones but if you’re after something that really pampers you without the fear of it irritating your skin, I’d strongly recommend you get it. (and buy some for me while you’re at it!)

How to Buy

Kneipp Bath SaltsEvery drug store I went to in Japan stocked bath salts, and you can also find a few in convenience stores sometimes. They’re not necessarily always with other bath-related goods so be sure to look around, tell-tale signs are obviously small packets of stuff and you’ll most likely see quite a bit of Kneipp products like the one on the right as well.

Check out these two amazing posts (the first one actually introduced me to the Kikiyu salts I mentioned above) that have more reviews and pictures of bath salts, so you have more of an idea what to look for.

My Great Japanese Bath Experiment (Beauty Box)

Bathing, Japanese Bath Salts and ASOS Sales Picks! (Bang Bang She Shoots)

PoresSome vocab you may see:

  • Pores – 毛穴 (ke-ana)
  • White – 白 (shi-ro)
  • Sweat – 汗 (a-se)
  • Moisture (as in moisturising) – うるおい (uru-oi)

Here is the link to their top ranking bath salts, it’s in Japanese but the images give you an idea of what popular bath salts look like.

Also, there is a plug-in available for firefox (and I’m sure chrome etc. users could find an equivalent plug-in with a quick search) called rikai chan, which, when activated, will basically give you the definitions of any Japanese word on a page, so even if you can’t read Japanese you can hover over the text and get a general gist of the important points.

images for this post from here, here, here, here, and here 

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Lavshuca Dramatic Memory Rouge Lipstick – RD-2

Lavshuca is a mid-priced, widely-available Japanese drugstore brand.
These Lipsticks retail for 1575 yen (£13.01/$20.20).


This lipstick has been my go-to this winter. It’s a sheer easy-to-wear red that I’m sure could be a MLBB (My Lips But Better) shade for some.

The Formula


I love Lavshuca lipsticks, and the Dramatic Memory Rouge is my favourite formula of them all. It is:

  • not sticky
  • medium-long lasting(2ish hours of fresh colour, then 2 hours of stain before it fades)
  • versatile: it’s quite pigmented on first swipe and it applies like a colour tint on the lips. From then on you can just keep on layering it until you get the right coverage – it doesn’t get gunky or sloppy with more layers.
  • flattering: none of this settling into lines business, and it doesn’t highlight dry skin areas either.
  • easy to apply: I only realised the importance of this factor (or that it even was a factor) when I tried a bad lipstick formula. This lipstick covers smoothly, and doesn’t cling to random areas.

IMG_6026When you apply it, there’s a satisfying amount of tug that reminds you that, while it may be a glossy lipstick that feels like a balm when it’s on, it’s going to last while.

Here’s a handy graph that shows the Lavshuca lipstick collection arranged by finish and pigmentation. The horizontal axis has ‘Matte’ on the far left, and ‘Shine’ on the far right. The vertical axis has ‘Pigmented’ at the top and ‘Sheer’ at the bottom. The Dramatic Memory Rouge is up at the top to the right.



(apologies for the goosebumps, I was holding my arm up to the window to get the best light!)



(With Lipstick Queen Medieval on the right)

This is my lip shade of the season (until I find a berry that doesn’t pull plum); I’ve been wearing it with a berry blusher. (Click on the pics for big)


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Kate Lasting Gel Eyeliners in BK-2 and BU-1

Kate is a reasonably priced, widely-available Japanese drugstore brand.
These eyeliners retail for 1155 yen (£9.32/$14.98).

Kate Lasting Gel Eyeliners are a solid favourite among beauty enthusiasts, outperforming most high-end liners in terms of lasting power, manageability, and pigmentation.

Lasting Power

I graduated to these liners after using MAC fluidlines for a couple of years. I would say the biggest difference between the two is lasting power. After a wipe test MAC dipdown was reduced to a questionable stain on my arm while the Kate was hardly affected. In the shower, the rest of the MAC came off with a bit of water and pressure. The Kate withstood water and shower gel, and only started to fade with make-up remover and painful rubbing. I eventually gave up trying to remove all of it: my arm was sore and the hot water was running out, so I left the remainder of the Kate (by now a stain) on my wrist for the next couple of days.

Kate gel eyeliners are without a doubt the most long-lasting eyeliners I have ever tried.

Ease of Use

Now this is where my opinion seems to deviate from the general consensus.

I find that I have to expend a little more effort on applying Kate gel eyeliner than I do on, say, Bobbi Brown’s gel eyeliner.  Not a lot more, mind you.

I think that the unparalleled lasting power of Kate eyeliners results in some ‘slip’ being lost. I find that the liners don’t glide very smoothly along my eyelid. However, this problem is very minor, it results in maybe one minute of extra attention being spent on eyeliner than usual, and this is a small price to pay for such a long-lasting line. Of course if you don’t need extra staying power for your eyeliner, then this disadvantage may have more weight in your buying decision.


The Lasting Gel Eyeliners come in a variety of natural shades. Even the blue, which looks very vibrant when built up in the swatch below, can easily pass as a natural liner shade when applied properly. I appreciate that Kate offers different nuances of shades instead of confining its consumers to one catch-all black or brown.


It seems Kate Lasting Gel Eyeliners are not all created equal. I love the pigmentation of BK-2: it applies opaquely on to the eyelid in one stroke. BU-1, however, is a different story. I find myself having to smother my brush in the liner until a visible chunk of the product is stuck to my brush in order to get an opaque line. Just dipping the brush in and applying gives me a sheer and uneven line. Of course this line can be built up to desired opacity. I still like BU-1, but it’s a shame that it doesn’t live up to the well-earned reputation of its siblings. (Having swatched it with my finger though, it looks like it would make a fantastic eyeshadow base).

The Bottom Line

I won’t hesitate to say that Kate eyeliners are the best you’ll find for lasting power, and for the price they’re the best for overall performance. However, if you find you don’t have serious issues with eyeliner lasting-power, you may want to look for a liner with more manageability.

Review: Canmake Nudy Glow Rouge Lipgloss

I want to start with a disclaimer that I am not a lipgloss expert. When I review other products on this blog, I am usually pretty au fait with the strengths and pitfalls of the product type and similar products on the market. With lipgloss I am most definitely an amateur, so take this review as that of a lipgloss rookie.

A while ago I bought two Nudy Glow Rouge lipglosses in shades 01 (Rose Macaroon) and 02 (Strawberry Whip). As I’ve said before, I am not a lipgloss person: usually I find them sticky and a little too high maintenance for daily wear. I bought the Canmake Nudy Glow Rouge glosses because when I swatched them they actually seemed very creamy and hardly sticky at all.


The Nudy Glow Rouge glosses come in a pretty standard bottle, much like the MAC dazzleglass packaging. This is good because you don’t have to squeeze for ages to get the gloss out but it does mean that the top can end up being kind of goopy. The gloss is applied with a brush applicator. The bristles of one of these applicators are already starting to splay out so that’s irritating, but I’m not sure if there’s a way to prevent that…?

Product Open


The glosses have no detectable scent. I say this with some trepidation because sometimes my brain fools me into thinking a scent is natural/coming from somewhere else, but I think in this case I’m right.

These lipglosses – while they are ‘nudy’ – are not sheer. In fact they are very pigmented and when I use them I just apply a little bit in the middle of my lips and then blend out with my finger. If you used the applicator all the way round your lips would end up with a thick, shiny-plastic finish.

As for how they look on lips, I’m still undecided on whether I like it or not. Some days they look great: shiny but not in-your-face-oh-my-god-I’m-wearing-pvc-pants-covered-in-glitter shiny. Other days I feel they highlight every single thing wrong with my lips. Despite exfoliating my lips before hand, it still seems luck of the draw as to how they’ll behave. They seem to highlight imperfections in my lips that I didn’t even know were there. This happens more often with the paler shade (Strawberry Whip) than Rose Macaroon.

Here are close-ups of both glosses. As you can see with Strawberry Whip, it makes my lips look kind of bad, and they’re actually fine to begin with.

Strawberry Whip

Strawberry Whip

Rose Macaroon

Rose Macaroon


In general: the lasting power is really good if you’re not doing anything mouthy (don’t be crude). I wore Rose Macaroon for a while without drinking or eating and 4 hours after applying my lips looked the same: shiny and tinted. After this I had to eat. But I think the effect would have lasted longer, and even when this lipgloss starts rubbing off/fading it still gives a pleasant sheen for a long while.

After food: these glosses stand up to food surprisingly well. After a meal a lot of the gloss had been rubbed off but I could still feel it on my lips and a tint (with a slight sheen) still remained.

After drink: they didn’t fare so well against liquids. I could still feel the creamy texture on my lips but hardly any visible trace remained.

Some people have said the glosses tend to settle into the tiny vertical lines on your lips. I have noticed this once and haven’t noticed it since. It seems these lipglosses are unreliable in terms of daily performance: one day there’s no trouble at all but the next the lipgloss is all stringy when you put it on.

Here are full-face pictures of both glosses because I find posting disembodied mouths a little creepy, and also unhelpful in the whole context of how the gloss looks.

Strawberry Whip

Strawberry Whip

Rose Macaroon

Rose Macaroon

I like Rose Macaroon much more than Strawberry Whip because I am not too enamoured with skin-like gloss colours. I’d guess colours like Rose Macaroon, Brownie Chocolate and Sugar Milk Tea  would make nice MLBB colours, and the others (Peach Milk, Honey Latte and Strawberry Whip) would be better if you’re looking for a pale lip.

I’m not sure I would buy any more of these, but not because there’s anything wrong with them per se, just because they haven’t managed to convert me over to wearing lipglosses daily. In general though, I think they are quite nice as lipglosses go: they have good lasting power and they’re not sticky. The colour range is pretty limited, but wearable.

So: Lasting power is good and when the gloss does wear off it does so without leaving any marks or lines. On rare occasions the lipgloss settles into lines so 16/20 in all.

Application can be tricky depending on how the lipgloss is feeling that day, so that’s about a 10/20.

While the glosses don’t hydrate, they also don’t dry out my lips, but like I said before: if you have any lip issues to begin with (dry-ness, flakiness etc) these glosses should probably be avoided.

So altogether that averages to 13/20.

I’d say that’s a fair score, but I am a little biased against glosses I think. It seems I’ll have to stick with my illamasqua sheer lipglosses as they are more like a gloss/balm hybrid.