Beauty & Skincare in Japan

Awake, The Japanese Skincare Brand From New York

Last Updated on 2020-08-15 by Teni

I finally got to try Awake, the Japanese skincare brand from New York. Here are my thoughts as a J-beauty blogger and enthusiast!

The May 2020 edition of My Little Box Japan, “Feel Awake,” arrived last week, and it’s a collaboration with Awake Beauty.

Before the arrival of my box, I’d vaguely heard of Awake, but didn’t know much about the brand. Even after reading the info provided in the My Little Box newsletter, I wanted to know more.

New York Meets Tokyo — Awake’s Japanese Connection?!

You might want to know why I’m referring to Awake as a “Japanese skincare brand from New York.” Awake’s official “About” page boasts that the brand “utilizes cutting-edge Japanese technology.”



The newsletter that came with the May 2020 My Little Box Japan x Awake collaboration box describes Awake as a vegan skincare brand from New York: “NY生まれのヴィーガンブランドAwake.”

In fact, if you head to Awake’s Japanese website, the logo clearly states “Awake, Vegan Cosmetics From NY.”

Confused? Me too.

Awake, The Japanese Skincare Brand From New York — The Truth!

Awake is the sister brand of Tarte. It was (re)launched in 2018 under the direction of its parent company, Kosé, after its original debut in NYC in 1997.

If you’re into J-beauty, you’ve certainly heard of Kosé. It’s one of Japan’s leading manufacturers of cosmetics and toiletries. Some Kosé brands include: Softymo facial cleansers, Clear Turn sheet masks, and Sekkisei skincare.

Looking at Kose’s impressive corporate portfolio, Kose is also the parent company of Jill Stuart, Paul & Joe and Anna Sui. So, I doubt anyone would consider those brands “Japanese” either.”

The Awake products in my beauty box are “Made in Japan.” Yet, I really can’t tell what “Japanese secrets” Awake is harnessing.

Interestingly, the Awake products made in Japan use “Liquid Life Vitalizing Complex.” That’s an original ingredient made up of oils and extracts of a plant’s seeds, embryo, buds, leaves, and flowers. (Source: Kose Press Release)

I can’t find any mention of this in Awake’s English language press releases, so I’m guessing it’s an ingredient for the Japanese market.

Nevertheless, here are four of Awake’s defining brand features:

Awake Skincare Is…

1. Vegan and cruelty-free
Awake products are 100% free of animal products, and the brand does not conduct testing on animals.

2. Free of the following:
Parabens, mineral, vaseline, gluten, phthalic acid, mineral oil, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), artificial fragrances, triclosan, and sodium laureth sulfate

3. Only uses botanical oils and extracts
The botanical oils and extracts used in Awake products are original blends that come from from the bud, seed, flower and leaves of plants.

4. 100% Natural Aroma
As stated in #2, Awake products do not use artificial fragrances. All scents are come from essential oils and blends of carefully selected natural fragrances.

Awake, the Japanese Skincare Brand From Japan — Review

My Awake products came in a beauty box and a “perfect morning routine” to follow:

Wash face → Daily Glow Liquid Hydrator → Shot →Ray of Bright Radiance Moisturizer.

I tried this routine for a week, and did see some similarities between Awake and Japanese skincare brands.

One of the reasons I switched from K-beauty to J-beauty is the simplicity and “all in one” ness of Japanese beauty products.

The Awake products that I tried are full of quality ingredients that nourish and give my skin a pleasant glow.

Daily Glow Liquid Hydrator





The azure blue of the Daily Glow Liquid Hydrator reminds me of lazy days at the beach, and just looking at it lifts my mood! This is so pretty, it would look perfect in a shelfie!

Daily Glow Liquid Hydrator has a “woodsy” scent and contains rosehip oil, and beech tree bud extract, and Japanese honeysuckle for haritsuya hada (ハリツヤ肌), a term used to describe skin that is plum and radiant.

Beech bud, by the way, is also known as the “Tree of Everlasting Youth” and the buds can only be collected at a specific point in its 200+ year life cycle! (Source) That explains why this toner costs 5,500 yen for 200mL!

Concentrate Oil Serum (“Skin-awakening Shot”)

I received 4 Concentrate Oil “Shots” in my beauty box: Radiance Shot, Balance Shot, Hydra Shot, and Firma Shot. Of the four, only Balance Shot, Hydra Shot, and Firma Shot are available on Radiance Shot is only available in Japan.

In Japan, these Skin-awakening “Shots” are available in 30mL and 60mL. You can purchase a set of 4 10mL shots (pictured above) on Amazon Japan.

1. Radiance Shot

Radiance Shot is an oil-based toner that uses almond oil, hatomugi extract, and lavender oil to clear up and brighten skin. The lavender scent is light and pleasant. I used too much of this the first time and had the worst oily feeling, (but I loved how my skin looked!). I would use this in the winter in place of a night cream when Im in a rush.

Available on Amazon Japan

2. Balance Shot

Balance Shot is a serum with three layers of oil. Formulated for oily and combination skin (yay!) it’s a 3-in-1 toner, moisturizer, and treatment. Now, this is what I think of when I hear “Japanese skincare product.”

Though it’s an “oil,” Balance Shot has a watery texture that beads on the top on my skin. It absorbs easily after I gently press it into my skin. The cotton powder creates a matte, smooth, and weightless finish. This is definitely what my oily skin needs in the summertime!

Available on Amazon Japan

3. Firma Shot

Firma Shot is an oil-based toner for normal to dry skin that plumps and smooths fine lines. It contains argan oil and perilla oil to reverse the signs of aging.

Like Radiance Shot Concentrate Oil, it just feels too much for my skin type. I just can’t use this everyday. However, it could find a place in my skincare routine when paired with a intensive sheet mask during my #selfcaresunday routine. Since it’s an anti-aging oil that targets fine lines, it would work well with Saisei Faceline Sheet Mask.

Available on Amazon Japan

4. Hydra Shot

Hydra Shot is a serum with two layers and contains lychee seed oil and linden flower extract to lock in moisture. It’s formulated for normal to combination skin types.

It leaves a smooth finish. However, with my skin type I wouldn’t use it in the morning as recommended. This would be a great addition to a summer skincare night regimen to keep my skin from drying out when the AC is on all night long.

Available on Amazon Japan

Ray Of Bright Radiance Moisturizer

I was wary of how this pearlescent light pink cream would look on my face. But, I am impressed with the final results after I applied Ray Of Bright Radiance Moisturizer after using Daily Glow Liquid Hydrator.

I love the glowy finish, which is hard to perfect when you have oily skin. Perhaps people with fairer skin would get some coverage like a tinted moisturiser. In my case, it’s great for going out on errands and short neighborhood walks. There’s not enough SPF coverage for being out all day.

What I find interesting about this product that English reviewers bemoan the lack of SPF protection. BUT the Japanese version, released on 2020.3.6, is SPF20/PA++ and is available on Amazon Japan.

FYI: SPF measures protection from UVB rays. PA is a 1 to 4 scale used in Japan to denote a product’s ability to protect against UVA rays.

Now, it’s not uncommon for brands to have products exclusively for the Japanese market. Nivea and Dove are two brands that come to mind. I just find it weird that a “Japanese brand” isn’t adding SPF to its products. Adding SPF to skincare and makeup products is like the bare minimum that brands do here.

Face the Future Concentrated Oil Sheet Mask

Face the Future Concentrated Oil Sheet Mask is a “highly concentrated oil-based rayon-cellulose sheet mask [that] delivers a rich extract cocktail directly to the skin.”

This sheet mask is thick (3 layers) and it’s saturated in 20mL of a floral scented essence. Key ingredients include rice germ, corn gem, and sesame oils that work as a “pick me up” to revive tired skin. It’s a part of Awake’s “special care” line in Japan and is sold as a set of 6 sheet masks for 6,600 yen on Amazon Japan.

Now that I’ve tried all these products, let’s see how Awake rates as a Japanese skincare brand…

Awake, the Japanese Skincare Brand From New York — Final Verdict





Is Awake a Japanese Brand?


Remember, J-beauty is all about letting your multi-purpose skincare products, not makeup, do all the work.

Whereas a “western” glow would focus on bronzer and highlight, the Japanese approach uses nourishing skincare products along with a pearlescent moisturizer, all while providing SPF protection that works as a makeup primer.

In that case, the products I tried do deliver. But, personally, I would NOT classify Awake a Japanese brand.

(The “made in Japan” is a badge of quality/safety that may certainly persuade Japanese consumers to try vegan, cruelty-free skincare from NYC.)

The parent company of Awake is a Japanese and the products are made in Japan. But, to call Awake “Japanese” or “Japanese inspired” is a reach. It’s not even a Japanese brand here. I don’t think Awake has gone full Tatcha, so there’s that.

Honestly, I do appreciate the cruelty-free ingredients and results, but the ingredients just don’t wow me.

At the very least, to get some J-beauty cred, Awake could have added Kyoto/Shizuoka matcha to the Daily Glow Liquid Hydrator to detox…

Hokkaido lavender scent to the Ray of Bright Radiance Moisturizer…

Rice water/koji for the concentrated oil shots, etc….

Seasonal/regional ingredients are such a fun part of trying Japanese beauty products, in my opinion.

With that aside, Awake Daily Glow Liquid Hydrator, Ray of Bright Radiance Moisturizer, and Balance Shot would make excellent additions to my daily skincare routine.

And that concludes my review of Awake, the Japanese skincare brand from New York!

Want more J-beauty? Check out these posts:

Summer Skincare Must-Haves From Japan (Amazon Storefront)

Why I Switched From K-Beauty To J-Beauty

Raxy, the Beauty Box from Rakuten Japan

Where To Buy Makeup In Japan

UR GLAM, the Makeup Brand from Daiso Japan

The Truth About Japanese Whitening Cosmetics

LuLuLun Precious White, Red, and Green Sheet Masks


Awake, The Japanese Skincare Brand From New York

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