Home Beauty Japanese Cosmetics: a Look from the Inside. Interview with Inga Melon Panda

Japanese Cosmetics: a Look from the Inside. Interview with Inga Melon Panda

Japanese cosmetics: a look from the inside

For today, I’ve prepared for you an interview with one of my favorite bloggers – Inga Melon Panda.

Something about Inga Melon Panda

For those who don’t know about this girl yet, I’ll give you some information about her: Inga has been living in Japan for several years already and writes really wonderful sketches about this country. On the on hand, she sees Japan from the inside, through the eyes of its inhabitant, but on the other hand – she clearly understands what is the most interesting, incomprehensible and surprising for a European. For me her blog is a kind of oasis, where I can have a rest and relax, drinking a cup of strong aroma tea and eating a warm puff with an ice-cream scoop and get absorbed into her stories about this wonderful far away country, where I wouldn’t mind to settle down myself.

Moreover, Inga likes cosmetics and for the rather little period of time that she has spent in Japan, she managed to get the knack of Japanese skin care, make up, and cosmetic brands. After it became absolutely impossible to ignore her wonderful reviews on cosmetics and being overwhelmed with requests to dispatch this or that magic treatment to others, she opened an online store in her blog, where you can order the things that you like. I’ve ordered from Inga two times already, and I’m not going to stop.

Today we are going to speak about Japanese cosmetics, Japanese rituals taking care of oneself, and about some peculiarities of Japanese women’s make up. Just, about Japan in general.


So, Inga, I’m not going to mince words, my first question is: while staying in Japan has the condition of your skin improved or worsened? And what are the reasons for it in your opinion – ecology, food, cosmetics? Is there any difference in the approach towards taking care of your skin?

It has improved – greatly! The most important thing is my hair. When I arrived, my hair was like a broom with split ends, I had always had hair tips that were like straw. During the next two years the situation has improved, although I continue to have my hair dyed. Now I don’t have a single split hair tip. They always look as if they have just been cut – elastic and shining. But I don’t think it’s all only about Japanese hair treatments. In Russia I lived in the severe continental climate, and here I live in maritime.

Inga Melon PandaAs far as my skin is concerned, moving to Japan coincided with the time, I gave up using OCs and that has left its marks, nothing could help me here. But there is one important moment here that I treat as achievements of Japanese cosmetics–I stopped using ‘mechanical’ scrubs and I made up my mind that a well-moisturized skin does not need one at all. When there is enough moisture skin should not become coarse at all, it, if I can say so, makes up just one even soft layer and doesn’t need any exfoliation. Overall, while living in Japan got rid of common pimples and oily skin, but I think it’s more connected with growing up than with taking care.

Let’s talk about the double cleansing method of face skin. Once I wrote in a post on that topic – you need to use make up remover first and then just wash your face, and soon I understood that our people treat this like something exotic. What about Japan? As far as I understand it is a norm, isn’t it?

Yes, it is. I have also written about it not once and I won’t stop repeating it again and again. Removing your make up and washing up are two functionally different tasks. If we try to combine them, we’ll inevitably hurt our skin rubbing and soaping it with the remains of tonal pigment, that clogged the pores. By the way, I even before moving to Japan removed make up separately from my eyes and face (using facial milk like Garnier’s one) and then I washed my face with foam face wash. That is why Japanese ideas weren’t foreign to me from the very beginning. In Japan there are some treatments that are treated as two-in-one, but it is stressed that this is a kind of compromise – for the quickness and so on. Nevertheless in such cases you should remove make up from your eyes separately, using biphasic makeup remover. This also can be explained with the fact that Japanese mascaras and eyeliners, in general, are very long lasting, so you can’t remove them so easily. Japanese are very fond of a lot of foam, and Japanese treatments are made in such a way that you shouldn’t apply them directly to your face but whip it in your hand and then massage your face with this foam. Those, who had some negative experience with Japanese face cleaners, I advise to try this method.

I tried to soap  my face directly with foam wash – it came out tough, unpleasant and drying. The fluffy foam made out of the same wash, but whipped in hand never dries skin and cleans it thoroughly.

Japanese treatmentsOur women are not very fond of cleansing. Most of them prefer to use micellar water instead of washing their face, at least in the morning when their skin seems clean to them. The roots of all these fears are of drying the skin, a word combination “lipid layer” is almost sacred to us. Japanese women, as far as I understood, put cleansing above everything in skin caring, am I right?

Yes, your’re absolutely right. For young skin, under 20-25 years there are only cleansing treatments (makeup removers and face washes) and tonics in Japanese range, there are no creams at all. According to the Japanese, a thorough cleansing solves most of the problems at the young age. But here you should take into consideration that Japanese girls have more thick face skin and it is more endurable, there are no spider veins on face. There are problems connected with atopic dermatitis and pathological dry skin, but for such cases, there are therapeutic treatments. Even if we take this into account, nevertheless, our girls should pay more attention to cleansing. When I read in kosmetichka.livejournal.com a lot of complaints on the clogged pores and the following requests to advise a good tonal cream to disguise them, I have a strong desire to look straight into the author’s eyes and recommend to her to clean her face better. But, of course, I keep my temper and stay silent.

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Now we may turn to moisturizing. As I understand, in Japan for moisturizing more often, instead of creams, girls use… lotions? Sounds a bit strange! Could you, please, tell us more about those wonderful lotions?

Lotions are the thing that I could not get used to for a very long time. The absence of creams and presence of a large number of some liquids bewildered me, and for the first couple of years I bought on strawberrynet.com such creams as Clinique, Dermalogica, Payot. When I bought an absolutely useless putty cream Givenchy in an awesome face cream tub, little by little I began to understand the whole matter. Japanese tonics are much more than usual tonics, which we don’t know how to use and what they are for. Japanese lotion is practically the same thing as cream, but without silicones and emulgators. Most often their ingredients are very strong: modern moisturizers, algae and plant extracts, collagen, hyaluronic acid, fruit acids, vitamins,ceramides, oils – overall, everything necessary for a thorough care.

Japanese lotionMore than ninety per cent of Japanese women having washed their face use lotion and only fifteen per cent use creams. In Japan there is practically no such thing as “day cream”, cream is an additional more often night anti-aging treatment in cases “when nothing else can help”. If we have a look at an average product line of a cosmetic manufacture, there definitely will be a makeup remover, face wash, tonic and, more likely, moisturizing emulsion (consistence like of a face milk) and hardly ever a cream.

And, of course, sunscreens! Japanese girls (and what about boys?) can’t imagine their lives without treatments with high SPF, as far as I know. Is the sun more aggressive in Japan in comparison to Russia? Do the Japanese use treatments with SPF in winter? Are there any Japanese who take sunbaths?

Russia is big and it’s difficult for me to appraise different climates in different places, but still, I believe, that sun activity in the summer in Japan is higher than in Russia. After the July rainy season come such months when the heat is oppressive, you leave home at 7 a.m. and come out into a water bath, nearly at 11 o’clock, temperature are very hot. The idea of lying in the sun in such an extreme circumstances fades away very quickly; on the contrary, you feel like wrapping in a cold wet bed sheet and get your teeth into ice watermelon. Those who don’t use sunscreens spf 50, wear shoulder length gloves, UV proof scarves and plastic visors hiding their faces. There is no other way out.

In winter, of course, the situation isn’t so difficult, because in most regions of Japan winter is dull and gloomy with a great deal of precipitation. Most of Japanese face powders and tonal creams have at least SPF 15, it is quite enough. When people go to ski resorts they surely use sunscreens with high SPF. As far
as men are concerned, not long ago I got puzzled with this question where sunscreens for men were. I didn’t find any wide range of sunscreens definitely for men, but still there are some of them – men’s European cosmetic line – Shiseido, or this one – Muji, for example. Men in general buy universal sunscreens, I guess. For my husband I try to choose the least perceptible one – for us, women, it is easier to wear several face coatings than for them.

There are suntanned people, but they are very few. Some time ago, there was a fashion trend, ganguro – boys and girls with bleached hair and tan wearing bright neon clothes. Now they are almost gone.  Of course, working people and peasants are tanned, willy-nilly. (note – I do recommend you to read Inga’s post about special whitening and sun protecting lines of lux brands, manufactured in Asia.)

The next question follows the previous one: how deeply are the Japanese fond of whitening? And what are the visual results? Does their skin become whiter? If we take an average Japanese girl, what usual whitening products does she use everyday?

You should know what Japanese skin looks like – firstly, yellowish tint, secondly, susceptibility to pigmentation. Just have a look at the prime minister Naoto Kan, he must be shown in the news very often – he has noticeable brown marks on his cheekbones. Many Japanese (if not the majority of them) suffer from such kind of pigmentation, both men and women.  Certainly, they are eager to fight this problem. For the whitening of pigmentation different plant extracts are used as ingredients in such treatments as well as tranexamic acid and algae extracts. Special vitamin
additives help to reduce excessive production of melanin in skin.

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Shiseido white lucent brightening skincare powder with tranexamic acid.Shiseido white lucent brightening skincare powder with tranexamic acid.

However, I can’t tell you what the real effect is. What I can see is a slight whitening effect – In summer I don’t sunbathe and am constantly applying sunscreen with SPF 50, this gives your skin a white-pink tint, and cosmetics helps me to preserve this tint. But sometimes freckles still appear, for example, this spring, I constantly apply whitening treatments on them, but I can’t say they help me a great deal.

Your posts left an impression on me, that the Japanese like peelings, and in Japan there is a great deal of quite strong treatments for exfoliation at home. Do they go to beauty salons to have peelings there? What is their aim then – rejuvenation, exfoliation, whitening?

No, there are not so many of them. In Japan a new very successful product was launched – Obagi Triple Peel Mask (By the way, the brand is American, but this product was launched only on Japanese market).

According to my clients’ feedbacks Russian girls appreciated it more than Japanese did. In Japan, there are a lot of soaps, face wash foams and lotions with little amount of acids. Solon procedures are also advertised. But I can’t say that there is a mass trend to peel your skin. Moreover, I know two or three treatments with the same effect.

How do Japanese men take care of their skin? As far as I can judge by their clothes, they are quite fashionable and metrosexual (sounds good, hah). As far as cosmetics is concerned, do they use peels, whitening and moisturizing treatments? How widely is it spread?

It is hard for me to answer this question, because I don’t have so many intimate friends among men and I simply don’t know what they do. Judging by the product range in shops and their appearance, I can conclude that they pay special attention to their haircuts and hair dos, nowadays in Japan, semi long haircuts are very popular, and some men do their hair very thoroughly, creating an artistic chaos. Many men have their hair dyed.

Let’s talk about hair – a very important issue, so let’s dwell upon it. Are Japanese girls afraid of shampoos with silicones as our Russian girls are? What is your opinion about it – are these fears really justified? Is there any common feature in Japanese shampoos based on Japanese girls’ demands?

Japanese shampoosNo, they are not afraid of them. There is a market niche for silicone-free shampoos as well as shampoos for allergic people – silicone-free, without preservatives, non-scented with minimum ingredients, based on simple soap base. But these are, let’s say, narrow-specialized products. The majority of Japanese shampoos, conditioners and hair masks containdimethicone, modern washing base (laureth sulfate or its analogues, laurel isn’t used) and progressive protein and fats complexes. In Russia, a brand Lebel is popular; some hairdressers create a kind of magic halo around it. In fact, many hair treatments in Japan contain the same ingredients, so Lebelisn’t unique at all. Speaking again about silicones, personally, I prefer shampoos with silicones; they produce a visible volume and smoothing effect, whereas silicone free shampoos “without anything” wash hair well and nothing more.

What are the preferences of Japanese girls (and boys) in perfume? Are they selective aromas, fruit, sweet aromas, light? Are they spicy, flower aromas – are there any common tendencies? What about aroma concentration – do they prefer: perfume, eau de toilette or perhaps, sachets in wardrobes?

When I write in my blog that Japanese girls practically don’t use perfumes, a resident from Tokyo certainly writes a comment saying that everything is quiet different in “their residential area”. I guess, that it’s more connected with the territory aspect. For example, right now I’m living in a small town with a population of about 300 thousands. We have only two places where you can buy perfumes of world famous brands (Guerlain, Dior, etc.) There isn’t a big perfume shop at all. Cheap Japanese fruit colognes for youngsters you can find somewhere in pharmacies. It’s very hard to find new world aromas outside Tokyo. Although, of course, you can order them on the Internet. Most Japanese like Bulgari, cK, Chanel, Lanvin, Salvatore Ferragamo and a couple of others – and I have the impression that this choice is dictated by the suppliers, because everywhere you can find one and the same product range and it hasn’t been changed for a very long time. Overall, in my opinion, there is a lack of fantasy and choice.

Eau de toilette HanayagiKaneboEau de toilette Hanayagi Kanebo

Although sometimes the Japanese produce something interesting, little-known and not widely spread themselves.  But you should find it out yourself. For example, I like perfume HanayagiKanebo – it is sold in the official Kanebo outlets, and not in all of them, there is very little information about it in the Internet, and it is never written about in magazines.

Tell me, what the casual makeup of a Japanese girl is. What is an evening one? What do they prefer – a lipstick or a lip-gloss? How thick is a layer of powder coating? They use makeup my favorite bases very eagerly, don’t they? As far as I understood, most of Japanese makeup is different because of its quite delicate colors, so it’s hard to guess whether there is a makeup or there is none. Is it really looks beautiful on their skin or it’s more about customs and traditions?

Japanese girls put quiet a thick layer of makeup on their face, natural look isn’t for them. Makeup is noticeable, but it doesn’t matter, the most important thing is that, pores and marks on face mustn’t be seen. If we take a common, not very glamorous girl, more likely you can see on her face: a complex of a base and a tonal treatment, trimmed and heavily filled in eyebrows, eyelashes with a lot of mascara or thick false eyelashes, a lip-gloss of a natural colour on her lips. Many women don’t use makeup at all. Going out in the evening, they use glowing eye shadows, not pearl eye shadows, but glow ones. They don’t have any pigment and in electric light they look like watery waste with sparks.

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That looks beautiful especially with the Asian eye shape. On my eyes such shadows can’t be seen at all.

Japanese makeup

In your blog,you’ve posted a lot of photos of Japanese decorative cosmetics, of absolutely different designs. But all the time the design was rather unusual – if it was luxury and wiggly, they were special, not European, if it was simple and not very expensive, it was also special, a kind of dolly chic. What kind of package do Japanese girls prefer? Our girls, in spite of themselves like Benefit, Urban Decay, By Terry and many other creative packages, are still devoted to modest classy features –preferably black lines. So Benefit is good for some time, but they always return to something black with golden lines – Chanel, Lancome, Gurlain… Is there such a tendency in Japan?

Japanese cosmetics design is my worst enemy! It is hard to get used to cheap plastic boxes, in which even the most expensive cosmetics is packed. There aren’t any pleasant heavy metal or elegant features.

Although, sometimes these boxes can be rather convenient and functional – but the look of cheap plastic is everywhere. However, there are still some exceptions, more often with caring cosmetics. Since last year I have two empty glass bottles from Shiseido RevitalGranas – all together they weigh half a kilo, so beautiful with gleaming planes!

The following two are also nearly empty, of the same kind, but I don’t have the nerve to throw them away! For example, let’s remember the packaging of the anniversary seven-colored powder Shiseido Maquillage. However, decorative cosmetics looks funny. If Japanese brands decided to enter European markets, they would have to change their design completely. For European lines Shiseido has done something similar, but I don’t like it – to my mind, their packaging design is out-of-date, not attractive enough, and it spoils the impression from the cosmetics, which sometimes, perhaps, even better that Dior and Chanel, but it’ll never become popular because of its poor look.

At the end of our talk, I’ll touch upon a not very pleasant topic. Many of us say farewell to Japan, being afraid of Japanese cosmetics and think that Japanese people, roughly speaking, are sentence to death. Reading your blog I got an impression that the Japanese nowadays are more cheerful and calm than we are, even though, we haven’t had any disasters. The question is – what is the general mood in Japan? Can you feel the consequences of the recent tragedy?

These days we marked two months from that very catastrophic earthquake and the following tsunami… Mass media widely discusses economic and ecological sequences; all around the country people continue raising money, evacuation shelters keep on helping people who have been left homeless. Practically everyone’s position was undermined – both people’s and large companies’. But Japan is a big country.

For example, we live 500-600 km far from the places, which bore the brunt. There was just one quake three points and after that once or twice – of one-two points. Of course, after such a catastrophe our life in our area hasn’t changed at all. Although the consequences will be seen everywhere – taxes will be raised, some social payments will be cancelled as well as weekend discounts on toll roads.

Japan cultureAs far as radioactive contamination of cosmetics, diapers and other things is concerned, I don’t even know what to say in order not to offend anyone… Perhaps, I may sound a bit harsh, but I am sick and tired of it. To be afraid of radioactive diapers, living in Russia shows what a commonplace person you are, for whom the whole country is represented in a pack of those miserable diapers. In Japan, there are millions of babies-according to this logic, all of them are contaminated. Moreover, they use not only diapers but also bottles, dummies, prams. And what can you say about people on the whole? In fact, radiation is sometimes detected in some areas that a situated close to the wrecked nuclear power plant, news about vegetables, fish withdrawn from sale, about medical checks is broadcast. If the Japanese have found something – they report about it and take measures. In Russia, if somewhere radiation is found, people will never know about it and they will continue consuming goods happily. Radiation can’t just appear all of a sudden and cover numerous plants, warehouses that are situated in each Japanese city or town. All export from Japan is checked, going through Russian customs goods are also checked. I don’t know what to say more on this subject… I clearly understand that if a person made up his mind, that there is a hidden danger for him to get a dose of radiation from Japan, considering Russian level of anxiety, trying to make him change up his mind is quiet useless.

We had such a great talk (thanks to the format it was more of a talk than a formal interview), many thanks to Inga for her patience.

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