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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.