Monday, April 23, 2018

Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Base SPF50+ PA++++ and Translucent Base N SPF30 PA+++

You wouldn't know it was still spring according to the calendar. The weather has been silly hot the past few days and it feels like the middle of summer already. Crazy!
That means we are bombarded daily with new sunscreen releases and it seems that there are more and more of them every season.

But today, I want to tell you about two products from last year. One of them got updated packaging and very slight ingredient changes for 2018, the other is still exactly the same (at least according to what I could find online).

It's Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE time! And no, don't ask me to pronounce it. I don't do French.

Sorry, but that name drives me up the wall. I mean, who has the time to type it out every single time? If there was ever a perfect occasion to employ ctrl+c, this is it. Definitely. "Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE" copypasta all the way to the end of this post.

Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE is known for its makeup, or rather, for the packaging and visuals of its makeup. Rose petal blush, anyone? It's NOT normally a brand that comes to mind when talking about skincare. And especially not when talking about sun protection.

But first things first.
As you can read on the company's website, Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE started as a patisserie making "edible jewelry" in Paris (hence the very French name) back in 1862. The idea was to make innovative, beautiful sweets, and the same idea was later transferred to cosmetics.
That is how we ended up with blushes shaped like rose petals packaged in gaudy plastic baubles.

It looks very impressive, but as always, looks can be deceiving. The petals are not as realistic in real life as they appear in pictures. And the packaging is nothing but cheap, tacky plastic.
Yeah, but I still regret not buying one when I was shopping duty-free at Haneda.

Last year, when I was flying to Dubai, I found myself at Haneda. I rarely fly out of Haneda. I'm a Narita kinda gal. My flight was delayed, and then delayed some more and suddenly, I had buckets of time and absolutely nothing to do. I did what every self-respecting skincare addict would do in the same situation. I went shopping.

While most big skincare and makeup brands are sold both at Narita and Haneda, some smaller names can be found only at Haneda. Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE is one such example.

The rose petals were very tempting, their price - not so much. To stay on the safe side and not blow my entire shopping budget on a plastic egg filled with pink rose shreds, I went with my usual standby option. Sun protection.

I picked up these two sunscreen bases:
  • Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++
  • Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE Translucent Makeup Base N SPF30 PA+++.

Why both of them? No idea. I was curious. And they were probably the cheapest products in the entire Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE lineup.
So, how much?
They were both conveniently priced at 3800 yen plus tax (that means 4104 yen total) for 30 ml of product.

Long, skinny boxes were hiding long, skinny tubes.

Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++ got a makeover for 2018 and currently looks like that:

The tube is shorter and bulkier, but the volume and price stayed the same. It's still 30 ml and 3800 yen (plus tax).

I admit, I was very skeptical. Les Merveilleuses something something UV protection? So when I busted the SPF50 out of its box in Dubai, I didn't expect much. In fact, I expected the opposite of much. I was ready to be disappointed and very vocal about my complaints.

And guess what?

Hot damn, I liked it.
Yeah, the scent was annoying and it lingered a bit longer than I would like, but overall, I liked it. Let me say it again... To my shock and horror, it was actually a great sunscreen base.

Here's the summary.

Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++

It's a serum-like makeup base that is incredibly light and slightly moisturizing. It goes on smoothly, gives beautiful satin finish and works with any and all skincare layers you put under it, as well as any and all makeup you put on top of it.

Though colorless, it somehow manages to give the often talked about "blur" effect obliterating pores and turning the face into the smoothest of canvas.
It does all that while being totally lightweight and feeling like there is absolutely nothing on your skin.

Of course, it's not all roses and rainbows. The major drawback is the scent. It's strong, it lingers and it can be quite irritating and annoying. Despite roses and lavenders among the ingredients, Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++ smells like vanilla and almonds with a dash of spice. You know those liquid essences you use when making cakes? This smells just like that. A bit of vanilla, a bit of almonds, and a lot of rum. If you want to smell like an overly flavored cheesecake, this one's for you.

Ingredients (old version - BEFORE 2018) - Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++

Ingredients (2018 version) - Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++
センチフォリアバラ花水 (Rosa Centifolia Flower Water)・水 (Water)・エタノール (Alcohol)・メトキシケイヒ酸エチルヘキシル (Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate))・イソノナン酸イソトリデシル (Isotridecyl Isononanoate)・ジエチルアミノヒドロキシベンゾイル安息香酸ヘキシル (Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate (Uvinul A Plus))・ジカプリン酸PG (Propylene Glycol Dicaprate)・ポリシリコーン−15 (Polysilicone-15)・BG (Butylene Glycol)・ジメチコン (Dimethicone)・ビスエチルヘキシルオキシフェノールメトキシフェニルトリアジン (Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine (Tinosorb S))・センチフォリアバラ花エキス (Rosa Centifolia Flower Extract)・ダマスクバラ花エキス (Rosa Damascena Flower Extract)・ハチミツ (Honey)・ヒアルロン酸Na (Sodium Hyaluronate)・ラベンダー花エキス (Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract)・BHT・EDTA−2Na (Disodium EDTA)・PEG−30フィトステロール (PEG-30 Phytosterol)・PEG−5フィトステロール (PEG-5 Phytosterol)・(アクリレーツ/アクリル酸アルキル(C10−30))クロスポリマー (Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer)・(ビニルジメチコン/メチコンシルセスキオキサン)クロスポリマー (Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer)・カルボマー (Carbomer)・グリセリン (Glycerin)・ジラウロイルグルタミン酸リシンNa (Sodium Dilauramidoglutamide Lysine)・ステアリン酸グリセリル (Glyceryl Stearate)・セテアリルアルコール (Cetearyl Alcohol)・水酸化K (Potassium Hydroxide)・フェノキシエタノール (Phenoxyethanol)・メチルパラベン (Methylparaben)・香料 (Fragrance)
The translation is mine, so I do apologize for any mistakes. If you see any, let me know. That's why I'm including the Japanese list, as well. I don't trust any blogger (of unknown language skills) who posts only the ingredient translations and does not provide the original language version. That, in my opinion, is useless.

But, back to Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++.
What I loved about it the most is how it made my makeup appear absolutely flawless. Mind you, I suck at makeup. And it shows. My skin revolts at the very idea of foundation. Which sucks, because with the leftovers of my melasma, base makeup is a necessity if I want to look vaguely human.

The texture and overall condition of my skin is pretty decent these days. My only problems are pores (huge on my nose) and pigmentation. Even redness can be kept at bay with a proper skincare regimen.

Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++ took care of the pores. And I mean, literally, took care of them. As in "obliterated them". When followed with a basic foundation, my skin appeared pretty much poreless. Which is no small feat, because my pores are indeed yuuuge.

It also made my foundation (be it either liquid, cream or cushion type) last all day and look immaculate at the same time. Magic, I tell you. Simply magic.

Despite having alcohol (ethanol) high up on the ingredient list, Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++ is not drying. And trust me, I KNOW drying. And this isn't it. There were no breakouts or other unwanted skin sensations. In fact, I was reaching for this base especially on days when other products gave me pizza face.

In short, I am very pleased with this SPF50+ PA++++ sunscreen base from Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE. It's not love, because it's not a perfect product (the smell, the smell!), but all things considered, it's a very good product. So good in fact, that if I'm going to be at Haneda duty-free, I plan to pick up the new, updated 2018 release.


Now, let's take a look at its less powerful sister.

Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE Translucent Makeup Base N SPF30 PA+++

Where the SPF50+ PA++++ version was primarily a sunscreen doing magnificent double duty as a makeup base, Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE Translucent Makeup Base N SPF30 PA+++ is just that. A makeup base.

It's a basic, no frills, entry level makeup base. If you've never used a makeup base, this will be a good first intro. If you've had horrible experiences with makeup bases in the past, this is a good re-introduction to this step.

Relying on it as your only means of sun protection would be monumentally stupid. SPF30 PA+++ is not going to cut it when you're out in the sun. Don't be that (wo)man. You'll only hurt your skin. Use a sunblock with higher SPF. And then use Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE Translucent Makeup Base N SPF30 PA+++ as your makeup base. Your pores will disappear, your complexion will be evened out and your makeup will look great and stay on longer.

The downside?
The smell. Yep, it's there again. And it lingers. And lingers... And seemingly, doesn't want to go away. However, if you're into that type of scent, then you'll be in heaven.

Ingredients - Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE Translucent Makeup Base N SPF30 PA+++

This one I would not repurchase, but I can see why women may like it. It's a solid makeup base.
Again, despite the high alcohol content, this base was not drying, there was no redness, no irritation, and no breakouts. The serum-like consistency goes on like a charm and keeps the skin lightly moisturized. It gives wonderful silky finish and works with any and all skincare and any and all makeup. In other words, it does exactly what a high(er) end makeup base should do.

Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE makeup base swatches:

On the left - Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE UV Protection Makeup Base N SPF50+ PA++++
On the right - Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE Translucent Makeup Base N SPF30 PA+++

So there you have it. My first official experience with Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE. I can only hope that there will be others.

So, what do you think of Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE?
And what should I get next? Suggestions?

Friday, March 30, 2018

How House of Rose lost a fan

I used to love House of Rose. It's a Japanese skincare and beauty brand that this year will celebrate its 40th birthday. House of Rose prides itself on providing cosmetics that are "friendly for the skin." Its products are based on plant extracts and milk derived ingredients. House of Rose wants the customers to fall in love with its skincare and become loyal, long-term users.

Despite being "natural," House of Rose skincare is ridiculously cosmetically elegant, mostly expensive, and dare I say, effective. The Refining White (with tranexamic acid) line is pure gold.

The only thing that House of Rose does not have is a solid SPF50+ sunscreen. Sad. That was one of the reasons why I didn't visit their counter at the local mall more often.

Apart from Refining White, another reason why I loved House of Rose was the fact that it had a licensing agreement with Disney. If you buy a character hand cream at Tokyo Disneyland, you are buying a House of Rose product.

Yes, I'm a huge Alice fan. I can't help it. All these cute Disney goodies are made in Japan and are available exclusively at Tokyo Disneyland. I'm going there next week, actually. Yay!

The exception seems to be Winnie the Pooh, as you can find Pooh's image on honey-based products sold at regular House of Rose counters.

This is the shop selling Disney-branded House of Rose products at Tokyo Disneyland:

The name is La Petite Parfumerie and it's located in the Adventureland part of the park.

House of Rose was always my go-to place when I needed suitably fancy, but still (kind of) affordable gifts. And that is why last week I was standing in front of the House of Rose counter at a local mall. I stood there pondering which ones of the ready-made gift sets to grab. They included a hand cream, or a body butter, and a bath bomb. All beautifully packaged and ready for gift-giving.

The bath bombs had subtle and a lot more natural smelling scents than Lush next door.

I made my selections of sakura hand creams and bath bombs and body butters, paid, and the woman at the counter started to gift wrap my purchases.
I mean, you can't go wrong with a House of Rose gift, can you?

And then I picked up one of the bath bombs and looked at the back of the label carefully.
What did I see?

Made in China.

Made in freaking China.

Sorry, not sorry, but I do not buy beauty products made in China. The country can't get something as essential as a baby formula right, and I am supposed to trust it with cosmetics? No. Just no.

That is the reason why I do not buy L'Oreal or Maybelline products sold in Japan - they are made in China. Hardly anyone I know, except for foreigners perhaps, buys them, for precisely the same reason.

Now sadly, I will have to add House of Rose to the list of companies I am going to avoid. Why? If a drugstore brand makes its products in China, well, they are drugstore cosmetics sold at drugstore prices.

If a department store brand sells made in China beauty products, I have a problem with it.

I asked to cancel my purchase, removed all bath bombs from it, and settled on made in Japan bath salts instead.

This really saddens me, because House of Rose does have great skincare. However, I just can't support a "natural" and quite expensive brand that sells beauty products that are made in China.

I really wanted to buy some of this sakura line for myself, because it does smell divine, but in the name of principles, I didn't. I only bought the gifts. Then I tossed my loyalty card in the trash and went over to the next counter, to HABA, to buy skincare for me.

Bye bye House of Rose.
It was nice knowing you.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++

A couple of years ago, while reading various blogs written by foreigners living in Japan, I found one authored by a young woman from Eastern Europe. One day she posted something about her massive collection of Kanebo lipsticks. Her readers, mainly young, impressionable women in her home country, were suitably awed and amazed, and treated the blogger with all the reverence and respect that someone with a whole collection of Kanebo lipsticks deserved.

What the crafty blogger did not explain was that while Kanebo, her lipsticks were not from the global, high end department store brand. That part was conveniently left unsaid, or rather, unwritten. What she failed to mention was that her lipsticks came from the Media sub-brand, which is Kanebo’s super budget drugstore line. So while the readers assumed fancy, high end products with equally fancy, high end price tags, the blogger in fact had a collection of lipsticks that cost less than 8 dollars per piece.

That was not the first, and not the last time, when foreigners, either living in Japan, or shopping in Japan, intentionally misrepresented Media products on the internet. Heck, entire online stores based in Eastern Europe do the same. They know Kanebo has an immediate name recognition. They also know that it’s easy to trick the unsuspecting masses into believing that all Kanebo products are high end and expensive. The same has been happening to Shiseido. The number of Asian beauty fans that are unaware that both Kanebo and Shiseido carry a multitude of budget and drugstore brands is truly astounding. Google much? Apparently not.

Kanebo Media is a very hit or miss brand. I have some Media products, and while I am pleased with some, others are utter junk.

Kanebo Media misses - lipsticks! They are dreadful, old grandma formulas with horrible wear and feel. Lip glosses aren’t any better.

Budget Kanebo Media hits in my possession are: eyebrow pencils and loose powder. Ridiculously cheap and quite good.

What I remember fondly are Kanebo Media color bases. They were my very first foray into color base territory and while currently I use products that suit me better, I remember them as good, budget starter cosmetics.

So it was with great interest that I read that Kanebo Media was releasing an SPF50+ PA++++ makeup base. I went and bought it and have been using it for nearly all of March.

Yes, there is a bell taped to the package. Most drugstore cosmetics are equipped with this super low tech method of theft prevention. Because, yes, even in honorable Nippon people do shoplift. Imagine that! 

Here is my story.

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ (a.k.a. Media UV Protect Makeup Base, according to the English name on the back of the package) is a non-color type makeup base with high sun protection.

In case you are new here, I have dry skin (not dehydrated, just dry) that is prone to redness, outbreaks, zits and all sorts of horrible stuff. Rosacea with sensitive skin is no fun. Some in my shoes would avoid all products with alcohol, but in my experience, alcohol in a well formulated product does not bother me. What bothers me is the smell of alcohol. If a sunscreen reeks of ethanol, that is an automatic “no” from me.

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ does have ethanol pretty high on the list, it’s the third ingredient, but based on my previous experiences with Media base products, I wasn’t overly concerned about what ethanol might do to my skin. Most likely it would do nothing, and I was correct in this assumption. It did nothing.

What I was concerned about was the stench of alcohol. Luckily, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ passed the smell test. Despite the claim that it's fragrance free, it does have a faint scent of something, but it’s not the full-on “here comes the booze” stench of so many cheap sunscreens. The scent does not linger, which is a big plus in my book.

So far, so good.

And here is where it all gets very convoluted. You see, as a makeup base Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is a total disaster. I know I should not compare it to more expensive products, like Albion, or Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE, both of which have magnificent makeup bases with SPF50+ PA++++. I know that Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is a budget product, but c’mon now. If Kanebo is going to market it as a makeup base, at the very least they should attempt to make it act like a makeup base.

Unfortunately, as it is now, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ fails miserably at being a base.

First, the consistency. It is not very gel-like. It’s quite tacky to the touch, and that is the feeling you get when you apply it to the face. It feels like a layer of glue. Is this what cheap makeup bases are like these days? I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t want to know.

Usually, when applying a makeup base first, and then foundation, you expect your pores to be minimized and the foundation adhering nicely and evenly to your face. Not in this case. The pores stay huge and very visible, and the foundation just kind of smudges and sits awkwardly on top.

The overall effect is quite disgusting, to be honest. Both visually and when it comes to wear comfort. Despite the manufacturer's claim that it's comfortable to wear, in reality it's not. At least not as a base.

The only way I could make Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ work as a makeup base was to use powder foundation on top. Then the gel’s glue-like properties showed what they could do. I also tried it with just a setting powder and the results were decent enough, as well. But that is not enough for a makeup base in my book. I want it to work with anything and everything else I might wish to apply to my face.

As a sunscreen, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ has an impressive list of UV blockers and absorbers:

  • zinc oxide, 
  • Octinoxate, 
  • Uvinul T150, 
  • Tinosorb S 
  • and Uvinul A Plus. 
The formula gives full UVA and UVB protection.

Ratzilla has the ingredients here - Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ ingredient list - link.

I entered them into cosDNA for your convenience - cosDNA analysis - link.

The highly touted pearl protein (hydrolyzed conchiolin protein) is so far down the list that it’s there just for vanity purposes. Similarly with collagen. These two ingredients are third and fourth respectively - from the bottom of the list.

So, that’s what we have here. 30 grams of affordable, decent Japanese sunscreen and pretty crappy base.
The list price for Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is 900 yen plus tax, but it can usually be found for less. I bought mine for 720 yen, tax included.

Swatch of Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ dries to a transparent, but slightly tacky and gluey finish. You can definitely feel a layer of “something” on your skin. Personally, I don’t really like it, but I know many people are not bothered by it.

Final verdict?

  • good UVA and UVB protection 
  • affordable 
  • easily available 
  • minimal fragrance

  • crappy makeup base
  • poor wearing comfort
  • minimal skincare benefits
  • alcohol (if you care about stuff like that)

I’ll stick with more cosmetically elegant makeup bases with high SPF protection, even if they cost more. For me, the overall results are worth spending more money for a better product. A good base can make even a crappy foundation look good. But a crappy base… Well… you know what I mean…

In conclusion, it seems I grew up to be a base snob. But I will always remember Media fondly.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Korean beauty versus Japanese beauty - revisited

I wasn’t going to take part in the grand Japanese beauty versus Korean beauty debacle of 2018, because how much more can you beat this very dead horse?

To any thinking person with even the most basic reading and comprehension skills, it’s obvious that the whole thing started as a PR stunt to promote some non-name quasi-Japanese brand. Yet, K-beauty cheerleaders jumped on the cause with the zeal of religious converts and burning with righteous anger tried to convince the masses that K-beauty is great (some of it is), that it’s been around for as long as J-beauty (nope, no matter how you slice it, not true) and that the future belongs to skincare innovations coming from Seoul, not Tokyo (probably because they can’t read Japanese studies or press releases).

Now, let’s get a few things straight. I am a fan of K-beauty. Well, of some of it. There are great products made in Korea, that much is true. Just as there are great products made in France, or made in the US. Or made in Japan. But there is just as much junk made in those countries. No one place holds the answer to the eternal quest for the fountain of youth (apart, perhaps, from your plastic surgeon's office).

Yet despite being a fan of high quality K-beauty products, I prefer to use Japanese skincare. Why? Convenience. I live in Japan. It makes sense that I would use what is easily available. Having said that, I am all about equal opportunity when it comes to bitching. And that brings us to the sheer stupidity of the entire K-beauty versus J-beauty issue. So let's bitch a little.

If you have been living under a rock in a galaxy far, far away, this is the CliffsNotes version.

  • K-beauty = all trendy fluff and cute packaging, form over substance.
  • J-beauty = time honored ancient rituals and simplicity.
K-beauty blogebrities and assorted fangirls jumped to defend Korean skincare and cosmetic products, sometimes talking utter nonsense, because apparently googling dates and historical facts in a language you don’t understand is too much effort.

But, let's start at the start.

And it all started back in 2017 with this article in Cosmetics Business - link, which was clearly intended to promote certain brands in a quasi-objective manner.
That in turn led to two different stories.

One in Vogue UK produced this quote:
“K-Beauty is all about the razzmatazz - Instagrammable products and routines, extremes like 10-step regimes, glass skin… All with cute and clever packaging, backed up by serious formulations. In contrast, the Japanese approach to beauty is more about tradition, a quiet seriousness, understated luxury and played down presentation reinforced by a long heritage in beauty.” says Anna-Marie Solowij, a BeautyMart co-founder.

And all hell broke loose.

Anna-Marie Solowij apparently used to be an actual award-winning beauty journalist with over 25 years experience, even becoming the beauty director of British Vogue. Which only proves that you can make money doing something you are only vaguely familiar with. (This is going to become a trend, keep reading!)

These days she runs something called BeautyMART, which is supposed to be “a unique place to learn more about beauty, get insider advice and top tips from us and our industry insider friends, as well as a place to shop for innovative beauty products.” 

This is a woman who actually thinks that Fairydrops mascara is a hit in Japan. Newsflash, it’s not. Apart from Fairydrops, her knowledge of Japanese beauty seems to be limited to several DHC products and Daiso exfoliating towels.

Here’s the selection of what this expert thinks is the best of Japanese beauty - link.

Yes, try not to laugh too hard.

Around the same time, another clearly sponsored piece appeared, this one in The South China Morning Post - link, by one Funmi Fetto, who clearly believes every piece of PR that lands on her desk. But you’d expect nothing less from a Vogue UK contributing beauty editor, right? Do you see a pattern here? Is Vogue UK the hotbed of stupid? It seems so.

In The South China Morning Post article Ms. Fetto goes on a drivel spree showing just how little she knows about Asian beauty markets, trends and products. But clearly that small fact was not going to stop her from writing a story about it. This seems to be a common pattern among beauty editors, doesn’t it?

And while we're on the topic of Fairydrops - 
Dear Funmi, Fairydrops mascara is not, and never has been, a best seller in Japan. It’s actually quite mediocre. There are better choices. 
In case you’re not aware (and from your work I see that indeed you’re not), there’s something called @cosme in Japan. They do twice yearly rankings of best products. Wow! Can you believe that? Actual rankings by actual Japanese people! Magic! 
Next time you get a PR blurb, go and check how it compares with the listings of the most popular beauty products in Japan. Here you have the best mascaras of 2017. You’re welcome! xoxo :-)

Those two stories provoked a riposte in Beautytap (formerly known as W2Beauty) where the columnist does her best to prove that K-beauty has been around for centuries, in the process confusing traditional beauty practices and the establishment of actual commercial production. But history… so hard…

And that should have been the end of it. Yet, instead of fizzling into oblivion, this imaginary K-beauty versus J-beauty feud lives on. A new crop of articles about the superiority of Japanese beauty keeps appearing every few days. That's in part thanks to Victoria Tsai, the CEO of Tatcha, who smelled a chance to get her face in the news again and promote her brand.

Our favorite Chinese-American who owns a company headquartered in San Francisco that makes beauty products that are not even sold in Japan, seeing a great PR opportunity, sprung into action. I guess Tatcha’s sales must be really down, since Ms. Tsai is so desperately whoring for attention these days.

Apart from this “Japanese brand based on the beauty secrets of geisha”, the other name repeatedly pushed in these PR pieces (because let’s not kid ourselves, that is what all these fluffs with affiliate links are) is Adsorb.

Adsorb, made by Zeal Cosmetics is a brand that started in 2011 (OMG, it's not ancient and time-honored! Go and commit sudoku NOW!) and which is apparently all the rage in Japan, while being sold only via salons and professional beauty clinics.
Translation - nobody on the street really heard about it. The very limited number of reviews on @Cosme only confirms that.
But I digress.

However, in the most recent piece defending the virtues of Japanese beauty products, two new talking heads appeared: the founder of Surratt Beauty and the esteemed Frances Grant, the senior vice president of marketing for Shiseido America.

The utter nonsense they spewed in this Fashionista piece was what finally convinced me to speak up.

Everybody knows that Ms. Tsai will say whatever bullshit she can to plug Tatcha’s magical connections to ancient Japan. Because geishas and kabukis and sacred rituals and time-honored traditions… All of it is pure, undiluted, piled higher and deeper marketing BS. And anyone who believes in magical Japanese rituals is a gullible idiot who deserves the overpriced mediocrity that is Tatcha.

For the same money you can have Sulwhasoo, people...

The entry of Troy Surratt, the founder of Surratt Beauty, into the game of "let's defend J-beauty" peaked my interest. Once upon a time I even considered ordering some of his products, but eventually decided against it. I can go to any department store locally and buy better stuff for less money.

I know Mr. Surratt thought it would be a good opportunity to promote his brand, and he is trying, bless his heart.
But saying things like:
"While so many of the Korean products were whimsical and appealing in their cheekiness and playfulness, I think that globally we're taking on a more serious tone — people are looking for substance and integrity,” 
just shows how uninformed he is about K-beauty.

Mr. Surratt should stick to applying makeup, because apparently that is the only thing he is good at. It’s clear that he is only familiar with the packaging of low end Korean mass market products intended for teens and compares them with high end Japanese cosmetics. The key word here being - packaging.


That actually seems to be the main issue in this whole debacle. The original K-beauty vs J-beauty story did exactly the same - compared flashy Korean packaging to selected boring-looking Japanese products.

Mr. Surratt also says that,
“The Japanese are so honorable as a culture that if they are making a skin-care claim, they have the research to back it up. They would never make a claim that was dishonest or too lofty.” 
Poor child, in his pursuit of quality, he apparently never visited a normal Japanese drugstore and looked at normal drugstore products. Or, he simply is an idiot. Otherwise he would have known that just as anywhere else in the world, Japanese drugstores are full of products with too lofty claims. That's what advertising and marketing people get paid for, right?

This type of clickbaity nonsense can be expected from a no-name wannabe beauty journalist, or even a former Vogue UK beauty editor, apparently. Or even a makeup weeabo like Mr. Surratt. This level of ignorance seems to go with the territory. But when a beauty professional echoes similar sentiments, then you just start laughing.

Enter Ms. Frances Grant, who is the senior vice president of marketing for Shiseido America. Judging by what Ms. Grant says about K-beauty and J-beauty, it’s clear that Shiseido will hire just about anyone these days.

She said,
“In comparison to Korean beauty, which is known for its fun packaging and of-the-moment formulas and colors, J-Beauty is centered around quality manufacturing, understated opulence, and groundbreaking science and technology.”

Yes, this quote came from someone who is an "expert" in the industry. I told you that "dumb things beauty pros say" was going to be a trend, didn't I?

Ms. Grant, you're clearly in over your head here and have zero clue what you’re talking about.

Are you even aware that one of the sub-brands from your company, Shiseido’s own Majolica Majorca, is the drugstore leader in Japanese “fun packaging and of-the-moment formulas and colors?” Or that Shiseido’s Maquillage line is a serious contender for the "cheap plastic gaudiness and trailer park glam" award?
I guess not.

And isn't Ettusais a Shiseido brand as well?

Well, wouldn't you know it! It is!

Not only doesn't Ms. Grant know what the Japanese branch of her company produces, it also must have been a while since she visited a Japanese drugstore, otherwise she would have noticed brands like Canmake and Sweets Sweets that are doing their best to outdo Korea in the cuteness department.

She also seems unfamiliar with such Japanese beauty staples like Jill Stuart, Anna Sui and Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE, which would give any Korean brand a run for its money in the fun and spur of the moment anything. Understated opulence my ass.

In short, Ms. Grant, as the American VP of marketing for Shiseido, a leading Japanese beauty company and one of the oldest beauty companies in the world, clearly doesn’t know all that much about what Japanese cosmetics actually look like these days.

There you have it, folks. Sad, but true pitfalls of reducing one country's entire beauty industry to little more than packaging.

There's an ancient Japanese saying, full of time-honored Asian wisdom, passed down from one generation of geisha to the next, whispered in hushed voiced while practicing sacred beauty rituals and sipping green tea infused with the spirit of wabisabi.

It goes something like this.

Don't judge a face cream by its jar. Its beautiful jar.

Images without watermarks: companies' respective websites

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