Photo: すしぱく on Pakutaso

Cheap Cosme – Exploring the World of Japanese Makeup on a Budget

When I first came to Japan in my early twenties, I didn’t know very much about makeup and didn’t follow the trends very consciously. Flash-forward ten years and makeup is now an integral part of my daily routine and one of my favourite things to shop for. While I could blame this on aging, I think that Japan’s amazing and well-priced makeups really had more to do with turning me into a hardcore fan of cosme, or cosmetics in Japanese. Whether you are a seasoned Japan visitor or are coming for the first time, here are five affordable makeup brands that you should check out!

Note: Nothing I am recommending here is over 2000 yen/20-ish American dollars.

Cheap Cosme

1. Canmake Tokyo キャンメイク東京

Initially famous for their blush, Canmake has the same wide range of products as a luxury line except that everything is incredibly well-priced. Their affordability makes it an ideal entry point for anyone starting out with Japanese makeup as well as anyone who wants to have fun experimenting with different colours or styles. I recommend their eyeshadow, and especially the Perfect Stylist Eyes palettes which have diagrams to show you how to combine colours. They also have impressive staying power and colour payoff for their pricing. The sparkles, for instance, rarely if ever transfer to other parts of the face.

Cheap Cosme

2. Opera オペラ

A newer Japanese brand that became wildly popular, Opera follows the opposite pattern to Canmake–they focus exclusively on one part of the face: the lips. Their lip tint and lip glosses, which come in a variety of colours to suit different moods, coat your lips in a glossy but not sticky balm that is surprisingly moisturizing as well. Their staying power is not perfect, especially after eating, but reapplying is easy even without a mirror handy and they are very comfortable and weightless on the lips. Check out their seasonal limited-edition colours as well!

3. Rimmel London Japan リンメルロンドン

Rimmel London’s Japanese subsidiary is a mainstay at most Japanese cosmetic stores and with good reason: their prices are on par with other budget brands and their Japan-only products stand up to the demands of the market here in Japan as well. A must-buy are their eyeshadow palettes which come in a wide variety of neutrals that are easy to blend and perfect for the everyday: The Chocolat Sweet Eyes series for a bit of sparkle and the Chocolat Sweet Eyes Matte if you prefer to avoid the shine; their single eyeshadows in the Prism Powder Eye Color series also pack a punch in terms of colour payout and give great glitz for a night out. 

Cheap Cosme

4. Shiseido Integrate 資生堂インテグレート

Integrate is one of Shiseido’s budget makeup brands, aimed at women in their 20s and 30s. Available in an astonishing amount of locations- including convenience stores, (where I first came across it when I ran out of tinted moisturizer on a trip in my early 20s) and electronic megastores like Yodobashi Camera and Bic Camera. Integrate is known for its impressive quality to price ratio. The first product I ever tried from them was their foundation which particularly impressed me for something I bought at Lawson! I later found out that their foundations and color-correcting makeup primers are some of their most well-loved products. And, if their restrictive skin tone options don’t work for you, their eye liners are also award-winners!

Cheap Cosme

5. UZU/Flowfushi UZU/フローフシ

Flowfushi’s mascara, eyeliners, and 38º lip treatment were very well-regarded in Japan so when they launched a new brand, UZU, in 2018, everyone had high hopes. Happily, UZU’s first products, “eye-opening” liners, “mote” [popular] mascara, lip treatments and lipsticks have upped the game even further, improving on the original Flowfushi formula. I especially recommend the lip treatments, super-moisturizing glosses which increase blood circulation and treat the natural bacteria on your lips to change their colour to the perfect just-flushed look that occurs at 38 ºC. With their rebranding, Flowfushi’s advertising and product photos are also surprisingly diverse compared to other brands on this list.

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