Roaming the drugstores, the beauty sections of department stores, and doing Loft very thoroughly has given me lots of J-beauty favourites.
You won't be able to find the best beauty buys at your nearest konbini, but finding a pharmacy isn't difficult- look for the 薬 symbol, or ask for kusuri. Skincare treats also make excellent souvenirs.
These washclothes are generally used in the shower as a loofah alternative. They're made from nylon and polyester, and they're light and long. They look nothing like a regular old flannel, and nothing like a fancy loofah. And they're better. They dry quickly, so you don't have the frankly gross loofah bacteria issue. The length means you can use it to gently scrub your whole back. Salux clothes are cheap, you should be able to pick one up for less than $5, but beware! There are many brightly-coloured imitators floating around.
According to beauty legend, one bottle of this deep cleansing oil is sold every 10 seconds in Japan. Having hung out for longer than my husband would like in Japanese pharmacies and beauty aisles, I reckon this could well be accurate. Whether you're doing the infamous double-cleanse or not, this oil is a pleasure to use. It's free from colour, fragrance and parabens, and leaves skin feeling nourished. Plus the unfettered packaging is a nice shelf addition.
Tsubaki (camellia) oil
Tsubaki oil is a traditional Japanese hair product. Oshima Tsubaki Oil is probably the most famous and has distinctive bright yellow packaging and a retro bottle. The oil is packed with oleic acid (Omega 9), and it's light in texture and soaks in to skin, nails or hair quickly. You'll spot the distinctive Oshima packaging in pharmacies and drugstores.
Cure Natural Aqua Gel
Another cult product, this is an exfoliating gel that you can use on your face or body. Expect to shell out about ¥2600, but this might be a small price to discover a product that people swear by. The gel gently removes dead skin, which makes it perfect before using a fancy serum!
Everything at Yoji-ya is very tempting, but their most famous product is the one to choose if you're limiting yourself. The Yoji-ya aburatorigami or blotting paper was originally made for kabuki actors in Kyoto, who performed under bright lights.
The aburatorigami types change with the seasons, expect to choose from original,sakura, matcha and yuzu. You'll pay around ¥340, making them a great little souvenir for friends.
Some of the stores are housed in beautiful old machiyas, and a few even have cafes attached. It's worth making time for a coffee.