Photo: Robin Black / Model: Sasha Neboga
I had my official introduction to overseas beauty products when I was only 13 years old. My older cousin had just returned from a trip to Japan and had brought back a special face cream made with actual pearls as a gift for my aunt. It was a small, dark blue glass jar and I was convinced that whatever was inside must be nothing short of miraculous given the reverence with which my Japanese relatives discussed it. That was quite a while ago but I’ll admit to having never lost that feeling of excitement about Asian beauty products.
Related: The Beauty Box From Korea
These days, Japanese and Korean products are becoming widely available in the US. I love to prowl the aisles of my local Korean cosmetics mecca, searching for the latest and greatest in skincare. I also frequent a tiny Japanese beauty shop (conveniently located next door to one of my favorite sushi restaurants) that carries an astonishing selection of false lashes and endless fascinating tools. However, if you don’t have any stores nearby, there are some great websites that carry excellent curated selections. Some of my personal favorites are Peach and Lily, SOKO GLAM!, and IMOMOKO.
Photo: Robin Black
I just happened to have a huge haul of Asian beauty products in my studio last week and Sasha generously offered to help me to test them. This photo was shot immediately after 15 minutes of a face mask plus a lip mask—no makeup.
We used a LuLuLun Face Mask, an inexpensive product that has a cult following in Japan. I couldn’t read the packaging (part of the fun!) but the mask applies exactly like the one made by SK-II and has a similar feel. Online resources claim that the mask contains active ingredients that calm the skin, moisturize, give it a supple appearance, and reduce discoloration plus it’s free of oil, alcohol, fragrance and coloring.
Related: Face Mask 101
And why stop at just a face mask when you can layer on a lip mask? Korean lip masks are meant to hydrate and plump up your lips. I’m not 100% sold on the effects but they are fun to wear. Tony Moly, a Korean cosmetics brands that sells just about everything, makes one called Kiss Kiss Lovely Lip Patch. Another popular brand is the Choosy Pure Smile Lip Gel Mask, which I used on Sasha.
Photo: Robin Black
Once Sasha’s skin was prepped, plumped and moisturized, I applied the IOPE Air Cushion. This extremely popular Korean base has all the benefits of a BB cream (moisturizing, anti-aging, SPF 50+/PA+++) but it comes in an air cushion compact, which is basically a sponge. It has an almost watery texture that you apply using the dense sponge provided and you can reapply it throughout the day without it becoming cakey. The IOPE Air Cushion leaves skin glowing, even, smooth and just straight up gorgeous—no wonder they claim one of these is sold every 30 seconds!
The coverage of the Air Cushion is sheer to medium but be warned that it only comes in a few very pale shades so if you have a deeper complexion, try Amore Pacific’s version. They own IOPE so the product is almost exactly the same, Amore’s just has a much better color range.
Next I dabbed on some Addiction By Ayako Cheek Polish in a color called Revenge. This cheek polish comes in what looks like a nail polish bottle and has a small brush for the applicator. Although the product has a liquid consistency, it’s extremely pigmented and easy to blend.
On Sasha’s lips, we tested the PeriPera Tint Jelly Stick in Apple. It’s a bright neon green lip balm that turns various shades of pink and coral when applied. The Apple Tint Stick was supposed to be a neutral pink but instead it turned a lovely strawberry shade. The colors are sheer but act as a stain so they last all day.
The Clio Waterproof Pen Liner in Kill Black is a product I have been wanting to try for ages. It has a reputation among cat eye aficionados as the ultimate liquid liner. Everything I’d heard about it is true: the liner is easy to use with a precise tip, it’s extra black with an almost wet look, and stays put for hours.
Related: How to Create the Perfect Line
In my opinion, Japan has the market cornered for amazing faux lashes. They come in every size, shape, color and style you can think of—plus the Japanese brands tend to hold their shape for longer than their Western counterparts. I particularly like the Dolly Wink, outer corner only lashes.
Another cult product from Clio is their Salon De Cara Mascara. I tested all three brushes and definitely liked the orange one best. The more tapered shape allowed me to get into corners and reach the baby lashes on the edges. Each of their brushes is meant to create a specific look so you can pick which style suits you best.
For the final step, I used my favorite eyelash curler to give Sasha’s lashes a little lift. What makes the Suqqu eyelash curler special is its flat contour. I can slide it right up against the lash line and get an extreme curl or a subtle one.