12/16 UPDATE: This post contains references to DHC products and was originally published before the statements made by DHC Chairman Yoshida. I do not agree with his sentiments and will soon be replacing the DHC listed here.
New to J-beauty but don’t know where to start and you don’t want to spend a fortune testing new products? I’ve got a shopping list for you! You’d be surprised to know that among the products in drugstores across Japan are cult favorites loved across Japan and coveted by skincare addicts across the world. I’ve rounded up 10 best Japanese skincare products under $15 that will make great additions to nearly any skincare routine.
I made sure to select items on Amazon that don’t have a significant markup as these items all go for under 1,000 yen at Japanese drugstores and Amazon Japan!
10 Best Japanese Skincare Products Under $15
This post contains affiliate links.
1. Kose Softymo White Cleansing Oil
ソフティモ ホワイト クレンジングオイル
An oil cleanser is an important component of a double cleansing routine. DHC Deep Medicated Cleansing Oil is practically the holy grail of cleansing oils to the AB community.
But, Softymo White Cleansing Oil is a wonderful wallet-friendly alternative that’s just as effective. Not only does it remove dirt and makeup, it also clears the skin by preventing the build up of melanin which causes freckles and sunspots. (For more on “whitening” skincare products, please see this post: The Truth About Japanese Whitening Cosmetics)
2. Rohto Hada Labo Japan Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Bubble Foaming Cleanser
肌ラボ 極潤 ふんわりヒアルロン泡洗顔 スーパーヒアルロン酸&吸着型ヒアルロン酸W配合
After using an oil to break up the impurities on the surface on the face, follow up with a foamy cleanser to rid your pores of the impurities trapped within. Hada Labo Japan Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Bubble Foaming Cleanser has a gentle formula with a low pH and it is also free of alcohol, coloronats, mineral oil, and fragrances.
3. Meishoku DET Clear Bright & Peel Peeling Jelly
明色化粧品 DETクリア ブライト&ピール ピーリングジェリー
This is the fragrance-free version of my favorite peeling mask. DET Clear Bright & Peel Peeling Jelly uses both AHA and BHA to gently improve the texture and clarity of the skin and diminish the appearance of pores. I use this 2-3 times a week, after double cleansing and am very pleased with the results.
4. Naturie Hatomugi (Coix Seed) Skin Conditioner
An excellent starter product if you’re new to the world of Japanese “toners,” Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioner uses coix seed to smoothen, moisturize, and balance the skin’s acidity. Use it as a wipe-off toner after cleaning or use it with cotton pads as a DIY face mask. You can also use this all over your body after a bath. Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioner is free of irritants, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors.
5. Keana Nadeshiko Rice Mask
For smooth, hydrated skin with a diminished appearance of pores, you can’t go wrong with Keana Nadeshiko Rice Mask. Each resealable package comes with 10 individually folded masks and the essence is made from four different varieties of domestic rice to moisturize and tone supple skin that glows.
6. Rohto Melano CC Serum
Melano CC Serum has made several guest spots on my summer beauty lists, because it actually works! This product has done wonders in reducing the appearance of dark spots on my face, as well as treating PMS breakouts! This tiny tube lasted me 3 months, even though I used it twice daily.
7. DHC Medicated Lip Cream
One of the first DHC products I tried when I first navigated the world of J-beauty is DHC Medicated Lip Cream. It’s called a “cream,” but it’s so light-weight, it’s like a balm, yet it’s very nourishing. What I like most about DHC Medicated Lip Cream is that it’s also gentle enough for my daughter to use, and she carries her own stick in her backpack.
8. MUJI Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Milk, High Moisturizing
I was first blown away when I first discovered the cosmetics section at Muji, especially their skincare lines! The water in these products comes from a cave found in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture. Its water is so gentle, it has the same pH of human tears! Muji’s sensitive skin lineup is allergy-tested and free of fragrances, colorants, parabens, mineral oil, and alcohol. It uses grapefruit seed extract to moisturize and purslane extract to lock in seal in hydration.
9. Sana Nameraka Honpo Wrinkle Eye Cream
I just introduced Sana Nameraka Wrinkle Eye Cream to my “aging care” nighttime routine and wish I’d started this earlier! Sana Nameraka Wrinkle Eye Cream is a rich, nourishing cream. It uses fermented soy milk, retinol and Vitamin E to brighten the under eye area, hydrate, and plump fine lines. While I haven’t noticed any significant brightening (yet), this stuff is amazing when applied to smile lines!
10. Nivea Sun Super Water Gel SPF50/PA+++
If you have sensitive skin, I can’t recommend this sunscreen enough! Nivea Sun Super Water Gel has honestly been a lifesaver this summer. My daughter has skin so extremely sensitive, even kids’ sunscreen messed up her skin. This has been the only thing to work after trying nearly every kids’ sunscreen in Japan for literally 3 years. As a bonus, Nivea Sun Super Water Gel is SPF50/PA+++, whereas most kids’ sunscreen is usually SPF 28.
FYI: The “super” doesn’t mean “waterproof,” but this rubs in with no whitecast and has no overpowering smell (or any smell that I can discern.)