Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sasa who? Guide to shopping for Asian beauty products in the Bay Area

Sorry for the delay in posting, but this took me a few days to write.

This has been a post I've been wanting to write even before I started the blog.

Personally, I always try to buy Made-in-USA products. The manufacturing of so many consumer products are outsourced overseas. But makeup, even drugstore makeup still is predominantly made here. I like to do my part to keep it going. :)

And when I can't stick with my lofty goal (too many cute Asian goodies), I try to buy in store locally, so I know it goes to people who pays taxes here. Haha, relieves the guilt!

After a few years of shopping locally here, I've got a good idea of where to look. I rely mostly on Asian grocery stores since there's usually a good selection and no pushy SA's watching you. I'll break it down into two categories: variety and price.

It's super pic heavy, so I'll leave it under cut

Here are my rankings for variety:

1) Marina Food

You really can't go wrong with Marina. It has the largest selection of Taiwanese and Japanese skincare and makeup that I've ever seen in person!

Some pics, by which I mean A LOT

That's just the one teeny shelf of Asian goodies. The Union City Marina Food devotes half a store aisle with displays in the front. *Drool*
Some of the more expensive stuff will be in a locked display case. But it's not uniform across all stores what get put in the case.
Shisedio Aqualabel with Kanebo Hyalocharge
Shirojyun (whitening) line from Hada Labo, they also have Hada Labo lines!
B&C Browlash Ex Lash Sculpture LS, the mascara Youtuber Queenie went nuts over.
Kracie cleansing oils, they also have the beloved Mandom ones!

Kracie Purenavi skincare, I've been lusting over this. Will definitely pick myself some when I'm done with the cleansers I already have (which will never happen, lol)
Sana Hadanomy collection, the ones Muse raved over.

A look at another shelf: Aquamoist, Moistage, etc. (Japanese skincare is all about hydration!)
If you are an avid follower of Asian beauty blogs, you probably have Lucido haircare stowed away somewhere.
Just a small snippet of the hair dye shelf. It's absolutely insane. You want blue hair? Just buy a box!

A closer look
Like lotions? There's a whole row!
Meishoku peeling gel to the far left. Blotting papers in the back with hair fringe holder

Love Chouchou Cheek Powder in Peach, Strawberry, and Orange. I bet these blushes are scented, sounds awesome!
Kao Essential Rich Premier shampoo and conditioner. I've seen hair masks and treatments and also the Airy line from Essential
And why you should never order Tsubaki shampoos online when you live here

Tsubaki white set with shampoo, conditioner and treatment for $22.99

Tsubaki Hair Spa line, who needs e-tailers?!

Check out the Tsubaki Water Hair Treatment. It's not even online yet! Too bad it's $17.99!
I only covered about 20% of what Marina has to offer. They carry a sizable line of cosmetics. I've seen Shiseido's Majolica Majorca Frame Expander Plus mascara and the new Koji Dollywink line. They also offer a small selection of Kate palettes.

But it ain't all about Japanese goodies. You'll have access to the newest My Beauty Diary Mask collections. 
The classic masks

Oh yeah, they carry the new France Apricot and Bird's Nest varieties.
MBD 8-piece Gold Marine Collagen & Gold mask and Platinum & Pearl mask.

Super super new MBD 5-piece floral mask varieties in Lily, Sunflower, Phalaenopsis (huh?), and Hydrangea.

And also Tulip
2) Whew, after that, do you need another store? Well, yes. There are only three Marina Food locations in the Bay (Cupertino, San Mateo, and Union City) so you might not live near one. Coming in second is a three-way tie.

They are:

 Ichiban Kan (Only the SF branch)
I am only including the Ichiban Kan in Japantown, because they have the widest selection of the chain. The other ones are not that impressive for an Asian shop in the Bay Area. Ichiban Kan sold my HG Deonatulle deodorant (past tense because they sold out and aren't restocking. Sadz). But they actively stock Love Labo's Bihada Ichizoku masks, which Marina doesn't even stock. Yay! Along with these products, they have a wide selection of haircare and bath products. They carry a modest selection of Japanese cosmetics and skincare.

Thankfully, the Japanese supermarket giant Mitsuwa has a San Jose branch or else I would have never tried Ishizawa Lab's truly awesome Urea and Hyaluronic Acid Lotion. They stock products that other chains don't, like Ishizawa Lab. Like Ichiban Kan, they carry Bihada masks. Near the entrance, Mitsuwa has a counter devoted to Sensai, Kanebo's luxury line. They stock a bunch of haircare, bath stuff, and skincare, like most stores. This is the store I know that carries the cult favorite Koji eyelash curlers.

Its selection is comparable to Mitsuwa, but I always seem to find the newest imports at Nijiya, at least at its SF Japantown branch. I first sighted the Purenavi line and Dollywink lashes and liners at Nijiya.

3) At a distant third is the Taiwanese chain 99 Ranch Market. It carries a comparably puny selection of beauty products than the other four and availability can be inconsistent from branch to branch. But I got to give props for stocking both Japanese products and Taiwanese ones, like Marina Food.

As for affordability, my rankings are as follows:

1) Mitsuwa and Ichiban Kan rule here. From my experience, they carry products close to Japanese retail price. For example, Bihada masks retail for 450 Yen in Japan, but both chains charge just $4.99. Scchweet. Ichiban Kan is particularly awesome, since it usually has sales on bath items and haircare. Recently, I saw Tsubaki Head Spa shampoo on sale for $8.99!

2) Ranch 99 also has good prices, but not as impressive as the two above. I notice from time to time they will hold face masks sales like for MBD or Kanebo.

3) I wish Marina Food had more affordable prices, because that would make it the perfect store! There is definitely a price jack going on, often a few dollars above ($3-5) but usually under $10. Lol, I guess it's helpful to curb the Asian beauty addiction.

4) The worst offender is definitely Nijiya! They often charge $2-3 on top of the markup found at other stores. The prices are blood curdling. I would often go check out products in Japantown Nijiya and walk up the hill to Ichiban Kan, because I knew I would get a better deal there. Made me feel like I was working for it, lol!

I know I skipped out on Korean skincare, not too familiar with it. But there's a Face Shop in Santa Clara and Hankook Supermarket has a LaNeige counter near the entrance.

I wanted this to be a guide for Bay Area people who were interested in Asian goodies, but didn't know where to find them offline or given them new places to look.

Have you shopped at any of these places? Have other places in mind? Your thoughts! 


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