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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Magazine not-so Monday!

As a treat to myself (I’m that cool), I bought the January issue of Voce – a Japanese beauty magazine. The January issue features the ‘Best of 2011’, so while pretty make-up looks were quite scarce, there was a lot of juicy information.

Click for big versions

Drugstore Skincare ranking

So this the best of ‘プチプラ’ or puchipura.

puchi means ‘petit’ and pura is ‘price’ so basically this is the best of ‘cheap’ skincare (‘cheap’ used quite loosely here, as a lot of it is still kind of expensive to me).

The important parts of this page have useful English headers, and the products’ have English on their packaging as well. If you don’t know what something is, ask me in the comments.

Best DS Make-up

Here’s the best puchipura make up, which personally I find more exciting than skincare.

Most of these also have their names in English, but:

Other pages

I am British and I will be wearing this from now on, I love it

I think the make-up here is super cute, I like the focus on the the lower lash line.

The one accessory I need to complete my coolness

They heat up and massage your feet!

I’ll try to do the non-puchipura ranking pages next week!

Japanese Sunscreens Comparison

My quest for a sunscreen in Japan resembles the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Except instead of Goldilocks it’s me, there are no bears, and the porridge/chairs/beds are all sunscreens. It’s an astute comparison, if I do say so myself. And I do.

So this is a comparison of

  • Biore UV Perfect Face Milk (SPF50+, PA+++)
  • Biore UV Aqua Rich (SPF 50+, PA+++)
  • Sun Bears Super (SPF50+, PA+++)

There’s also a brief mention of

  • Allie Precious Barrier Protector (SPF50+, PA+++)
  • Solanoveil Moist Face Milk (SPF50+, PA+++)


So Japan is renowned for its sunscreens: the need to withstand a hot and humid climate while providing unparalleled protection against tanning has lead to many non-greasy, cosmetically elegant, and high factor sunscreens. With this in mind one of the first things I bought in Japan was sunscreen.

What I hadn’t considered was how Japanese companies had managed to come up with such mattifying sunscreens, but I soon found out when applying my first Japanese sunscreen (Biore UV Perfect Face Milk): Alcohol. Lots of it.

Sure enough, while checking out the sunscreen aisle that day, I realised about 95% of the sunscreens on sale had alcohol in the first quarter of their ingredients. The Shiseido Anessa Line, Biore, Sofina Lucent, Mentholatum, all of them are heavily alcohol-based.

Biore UV Perfect Face Milk

Biore Perfect Face Milk

As I mentioned above, alcohol is a main ingredient in this sunscreen. It is second on the ingredients list and the alcohol smell is pretty overpowering. For my skin, this was too much: my face stung after application and went red. I still used it for a couple of days because I couldn’t find anything else, but I tried to change as soon as possible.

All this alcohol meant that this sunscreen was very matte, and it stopped my face from getting shiny throughout the day (and at the time it was boiling hot). So as a make-up base it worked really well in keeping all my make-up on during the day. Often my skin would feel like it was shiny (from sweat etc.) but when I looked in a mirror it would look completely matte. Perhaps my skin isn’t oily enough, but I thought the finish of this was too matte when it came to make-up application. I found the sunscreen highlighted problem areas like dry skin or large pores.

So because of this I’d give it 15/20 as a make-up base: good for durability, not so good for application.

I would recommend this to:

  • oily skinned people
  • people with normal skin and a very nourishing moisturiser

If you have dry or sensitive skin, you may want to reconsider.

Biore UV Aqua Rich

Biore Aqua Rich

Can you guess why I got this one? The words Aqua Rich to me meant moisturising (or at least not as hideously drying as the Perfect Face Milk). This sunscreen has alcohol in it but it is a little further down on the ingredients list. Also this sunscreen is a cream type, a formula which I like far more than the milky formulae predominant in Japan. In general I find cream formulae far less messy, and it’s easier to see that you’re applying the right amount.

This one was a little better in terms of hydration but the label Aqua Rich was still a bit misleading. My skin still got a little drier but not as drastically as it had with the Perfect Face Milk.

I also preferred the UV Aqua Rich as a make-up base: it worked nicely as a primer to help make-up application, smoothing trouble areas; it also helped make-up last the day. In the latter area though it was nowhere near as effective as the Perfect Face Milk, by the end of the day I had a fair bit of shine – more than I would like.

I’m still giving it 17/20 as a make-up base because I’d rather have make-up look good when I apply and get slightly worse during the day, than have it look bad on application and look the same all day.

I would recommend this to:

  • Oily-skinned people with a mattifying primer, and normal skinned people
  • Those who prefer a cream formula

Because of the alcohol I’d still advise against sensitive-skinned people using it, but it is much less potent than the UV Face Milk. Dry skinned people could probably use this but I moved away from it because it did ever so slightly exacerbate my dryness issues.

Sun Bears Super

Sun Bears

This sunscreen has no alcohol in it. It is also much cheaper than the others I have tried (about 400 yen max, while all the others are 800+). It is a milk-type formula which isn’t ideal but I’ve given up on finding a good cream formula sunscreen in Japan.

As a make-up base this sunscreen is mediocre. It is really good for applying make-up: smoothing out problem areas and acting as a primer. When it comes to lasting power though, this sunscreen performs badly under warm conditions. By warm conditions I mean anything from peak summer weather to running for the bus; foundation just doesn’t look good after a while when wearing this sunscreen. If you use a foundation like Estee Lauder Double Wear you will be fine though, as not even this sunscreen can dislodge that foundation. With products like tinted moisturisers, sheer foundations (like Bobbi Brown Skin) or – in my case – colour correcting primers this sunscreen is fine, but any heavier foundations will not look so good after a while over this sunscreen. So 13/20 as a make-up primer: it makes make-up go on nicely, but it doesn’t help with staying power.

This sunscreen is not drying. Meh it’s not really hydrating either but finally I’ve found a balance for my skin!

I would recommend this to:

  • Normal and dry-skinned people.
  • Those who don’t wear heavy foundation.
  • Those with sensitive skin

If you have oily skin and wear make-up, you may want to steer clear of this sunscreen.

Allie Precious Barrier Protector and Solanoveil Moist Face Milk

Allie Solanoveil Face Milk

Allie Precious Barrier is in cream form and alcohol-free but I didn’t like it. It was shinier than any of those reviewed above, and it didn’t even help with make-up application (usually I find creamier/shinier sunscreens work better with make-up application because they are more smoothing). It made my make-up look worse and didn’t exactly contribute to lasting power either. As I remember it was the most expensive of the lot.

Solanoveil Moist Face Milk is also alcohol-free but there is something else in there that made my skin die a thousand deaths. I had to wash it off straight away because of the unrelenting burning sensation after application. Testing it on my hand, it seems much greasier than the other sunscreens I’ve tried but it dries quite quickly. It does leave a bit of a sheen but it’s hardly visible.

All the sunscreens (with the exception of the Solanoveil which I couldn’t test for long enough) provided effective protection, I did not freckle or burn despite the high UV index at the time.

Strange how the sunscreen with the lowest score as a make-up base is the one I’ve been using every day for the last two months. While the others may be better in terms of cosmetic elegance, they all affect my skin too much. I may have to stray from the Sun Bears in the warmer months or if I start having to wear a lot of foundation again though.

Japanese sunscreens in order of preference so far:

  • Sun Bears Super (can be bought here)
  • Biore UV Aqua Rich (buy it here)
  • Allie Precious Barrier Protector (buy it here)
  • Biore UV Perfect Face Milk (it is listed here as ‘oil control UV face milk’)
  • Solanoveil Moist Face Milk (I couldn’t find this on regular websites, I’ve heard you can get it on ebay though)


Active Ingredients

If you don’t know much about sunscreens you might want to read here to understand this part.

None of these sunscreens contain avobenzone which means that basically they are stable, this means you can apply foundations with sunscreens in them, primers with sunscreens in them, and mineral make-up without worrying about compromising your protection. That is of course, if those things are also avobenzone free (usually they are). It seems in Japan most sunscreens seem to be formulated with stable ingredients which is great because then all the make-up bases and foundations with sunscreen ingredients in them (and there are many in Japan) are all ok to use.

Biore UV Perfect Face Milk

Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate, Titanium Dioxide.

Full ingredients

Biore UV Aqua Rich

Octinoxate, Titanium Dioxide, ethylhexyl dimethoxybenzylidene dioxoimidazolidine propionate (this is a filter only used in Japan)

 Full ingredients

Sun Bears Super

Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate, Titanium Dioxide.

Full ingredients

Allie Precious Barrier Protector

Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate

Full ingredients

Solanoveil Moist Face Milk

Octinoxate, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide.

Full Ingredients





Review: Kracie Hadabisei Super Moisture Mask

You have no idea how excited I was to try my first Japanese mask. Very. I wasn’t just excited by the idea that Japanese face masks can double up as a halloween costume in a pinch, but also the luxury and indulgence I associate with both face masks and Japanese skin care.

I had major issues choosing which one though: my Japanese is mediocre at best and despite learning new skin care vocab every day it still seems like it’s never enough! I asked a sales assistant for a gentle mask for dehydrated skin that was blemish-prone. She recommended this one as it’s very gentle and moisturising.



  • Cleanse like you usually would
  • Get the mask and first align the eye holes with your eyes. Then press the rest of the mask into place.
  • Leave the mask on for 5-15 minutes
  • When you take it off, massage any remaining essence into your skin

In Action

The mask is your typical face-cloth-with-eye-nose-and-mouth-hole-cut-out shebang, and I kind of had to customize it to fit my face.

My freakishly tiny forehead was too small to accommodate all of the forehead material, but luckily my long nose was hardly covered by its allocated amount. So I cut some bits off the forehead and pasted them onto my nose area. Ghetto style. It was fun though, made me feel like a kid again: making a pinata by pasting soggy papier-mache newspaper onto them. But this time. My face was the pinata. And instead of being beaten it was going to be soothed and hydrated. Hopefully.

My face.

So I left the mask on for a while, I think a little bit longer than I was meant to but my skin didn’t notice. In fact I think I could have left it on the whole night and it would have been ok. It was really gentle and there was no stinging or irritation.

When you take the mask off you leave all the goo from the mask on your face so it soaks in some more. I like that because each mask is soaked in 25ml of the formula and I want to get as much of that as possible on my face, so if I had to wash it off it would have been wasteful.


After the mask had come off and the leftovers had soaked in, my skin felt really really soft. I also got a result I didn’t expect: my skin looked clearer somehow. No, the mask didn’t clear up blemishes, but the tiny bits of redness I hardly notice usually were totally gone and it made a huge difference. My skin looked…clarified and really healthy.

I was really pleased with the mask but the result seems very short-term. I’ve used it twice this week and while I had great-looking skin for about 12 hours, it went back to being dehydrated very quickly.

I will still use this mask as it feels really good but if you have any actual dryness issues that you want this mask to sort out then it might not be for you.


While this mask does have a subtle, clean, scent to it, I can’t find perfume as an ingredient on the back of the box so I guess the scent comes naturally. Down low on the list is alcohol (twice) which I find kind of strange. My skin can tolerate tiny doses of alcohol so it couldn’t detect such a small amount of alcohol in this mask, but it still strikes me as odd that a ‘super moisture’ mask had such a drying ingredient in it.

Ingredients: Water, Dypropylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Methyl Gluceth-20, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Potassium Carbomer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polysorbate 20, Xanthum Gum, Sodium Polyacrylate, Citric Acid, Alcohol, Royal Jelly Extract, Lemon Extract, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben


So I’m debuting the Glossed In Translation Rating System for this post, as I realise with my wordy reviews sometimes it’s nice to scan down and just get a categorical answer.

Staying Power: This mask stuck to my face well – I’ve heard many slide off – I could carry on internet surfing without worrying about it falling into my lap. It did have a little bit of slide but nothing to worry about. So 18 out of 20 for that.

Ease of Use: Yeah I had to cut some bits up but a mask can’t fit everyone’s face, right? The steps were very simple and it seems it would be difficult to go wrong with this mask. 17 out of 20 for that (3 off for facial adjustment, but that’s purely personal).

Results: Great at first, but after a while it seemed that I hadn’t put the mask on at all. Nothing negative though: it was very gentle, no irritation, no stinging, drying effect or blemishes. So I guess 12 for results (10 as totally neutral, +2 for the short-term effects).

This all averages out to 16/20