My Ultimate Cosmetics Archive

by PJ on Tuesday, January 22, 2008

in makeup,What do you think? Beauty topics and thoughts

(my trusted beauty database)

A while ago, I wrote about Biteki, my favorite beauty magazine. Today, I am focusing on an element of Japanese cosmetics magazines such as Biteki and Voce that makes western equivalents pale in comparison.

With Biteki, four times a year, it has a grand seasonal makeup catalog (March for spring, June for summer, September for fall, and December for Holiday). The feature is about 30-page long for spring and fall and slight shorter for summer and Christmas.

Voce, another top cosmetics magazine in Japan, does things similarly. For example, in the seasonal makeup catalog from the February 2008 issue of Voce, you will find, under each brand:

(Givenchy spring 2008 collection
in spring 2008 makeup booklet,
Voce, February 2008, p. 28-29)


1. clear photos all the new items and shades
2. names of the products
3. all the shade names/numbers
4. retail prices in Japan
5. whether they are limited editions
6. promotional image
7. all the products featured in the promotional image
8. a short description and analysis of the collection

Obviously, you don’t really need to understand any Japanese to enjoy browsing the catalog.

Even though I do like the booklets that both Biteki and Voce do now, I slightly prefer Biteki’s old way of presenting the seasonal collections, as they used to have a lot of actual-size photos of the items. Packaging is as vital for me as the actual products, so knowing the actual sizes of products can be very helpful.

(Right: Ayura Lip Retouch Compact
Left: actual-size photo on Biteki March 2005, p.53)


The past catalogs might seem less useful, but, for me, they are just as important. I often refer back to past catalogs to confirm when a certain item was released, whether it was a limited edition, and whether a certain shade is a repeat in a new packaging. I also go back to previous catalogs just to reminisce past collections and to trace a brand’s evolution. I have been buying/subscribing to Biteki ever since its debut issue in May 2001, so what I have, right at my fingertip, is an archive of all the seasonal items from all the major Japanese and international brands in the last six and a half years. The size of the archive will only grow bigger.

(Chanel fall 2001 collection,
from Biteki September 2001, p. 50)


On a related note, twice a year, usually in May and October, Biteki does a seasonal base makeup feature/catalog, focusing on the new primer/concealer/foundation releases.

(part of the fall 2007 foundation feature,
Biteki October 2007 fall foundation booklet, p. 28)



Some time ago, a friend asked me why beauty magazines in the west simply don’t do this. Obviously I don’t really have an answer, but I have some speculations.

1. There is very little competition in the west. In the US, I think Allure is the only major beauty magazine. In the UK, we don’t really have any. In Japan, there are very major ones like Biteki, Voce, and Maquia. They are not obscure magazines. In Japan, they are the Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar in the beauty world, and there are other less major ones. These magazines strive to be the best and offer the most comprehensive information, and the readers are the ultimate winners.

2. The relationship between cosmetics companies and print publications seems different in the west. It appears to me that it is either that the magazines only want to cover new releases selectively or that the cosmetics companies don’t want the readers to have full information of the lineup and the release dates from magazines.

3. I have sometimes come across articles implying that many aspects of the cosmetics industry in Japan are at least a decade ahead of the west. Perhaps this is one aspect of it, even though it is not all about the cosmetics industry itself. Maybe there will be more thorough seasonal makeup release coverage…in some years’ time. (But, at lease in the UK, we need to have that beauty magazine first!)

For me, in a way, it doesn’t really matter whether western beauty magazines will do anything similar. They will not be covering all the Japanese brands that are popular all over Asia, and, in my opinion, cosmetics magazines in Japan have been covering western cosmetics brands better than western magazines…

Other Beauty Phenomena:

Seasonal Beauty Sale in the UK

“Can I return this, please?”
(It depends on where you are.)

“Would you like some samples?”
(How can you get just a bit more?)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Angelique Thursday, January 24, 2008

Oh how I’d kill for that blue Givenchy polish.

I’ve already got the violet mascara–and I’m sad to say that it doesn’t show up nearly as well as the green one does– and I’m getting ready to buy the two lipsticks.

But what I’d really love is that polish.

The fiends at Saks have my number so that tells me that Houston, being the made-of-FAIL city that it is, will probably not get it in. And don’t that just figure.

And Biteki does look like a good magazine. My issue with it would be I know I’d find a ridiculous amount of things that I’d want to add to my collection only to find out that ninety-five percent of ‘em won’t be released in the US.

You know, I’d really like it if the damn companies here would release a color other than beige but for some reason women here have this thing with beige. Thinks it makes ‘em look tanned. Being naturally dark-skinned I’ve never gotten the whole tan thing. Hell, I’ve always wanted lighter skin so the colors I like would show up better.

Well I’m off to go watch another silly horror film. Have a good day!

Reply

CuttiBeBe Thursday, January 24, 2008

I agree with everything you’ve mentioned. To add to that, I think Westerner simply don’t put as much detail in anything they do. So they don’t demand detailed reviews. Most of their reviews are themed anyways, like, the blues are in for spring, so let’s put every line that has blue theme in it and ignore the others. I’m sure advertisment is a big deal here too. If they cosmetics line doesn’t want to pay, they won’t get mentioned.

Another thing I absolutely adore in Japanese cosmetic magazine is their step-by-step application for the most up-to-date make up. How to achieve dewy sheen look with foundations, how to contour, how to draw dramatic evening eye makeup. I usually buy the ones in Chinese, cus I need to understand everything they say. I followed one of the tutorials ones and it came out looking AMAZING.

oh how i wish i could get those magazine for cheaper than $12 in US.

Reply

PJ Friday, January 25, 2008

Hi Angelique,

Would you be able to order the blue nail polish from other stores outside Houston? I hope your local department stores can do that for you…

About purchasing Japanese cosmetics from outside Japan/Asia, there are a couple of websites that you might know from surfing on-line. One is http://www.adambeauty.com and another is ichibankao.com. I have shopped from both sites and I am happy with their services. I have friends in Asia but I don’t usually like troubling them to pick up things for me, so these websites are good replacements…

Hope you are having a good day, and thank you for posting your comment again!

Reply

PJ Friday, January 25, 2008

Hi CuttiBeBe,

Indeed, the attention to detail that the cosmetics magazines in Japan have is wonderful. You are right that many cosmetics-related articles in western magazines are themed. I am sure you know that Japanese magazines do themed articles as well but that they also do so much more.

It is also true that the step-by-step makeup tutorials are why these magazines have been hugely popular as well. (This is one aspect of these magazines that I didn’t mention in my post. Thank you for bringing it up!)

Thank you for visiting my blog and posting your thoughts. Hope to hear from you again! :)

Reply

Row Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hey PJ

I ABSOLUTELY love Bikteki and Voce. Ooooohh *just remembered I am popping to London next week, and therefore can pick up these magazines at The Japan Centre*.

I love the guide that comes with it. The detail – for example, knowing what is LE is very important to me? I just adore them.

They are a far cry from what is availble in the UK – perhaps us UK ladies are not as interested in make up generally? I used to love the Instyle Beauty Buys and I still do BUT, it is always the same brands (ie. their advertisers) who make appearances and the same old same old products.

Also I love looking at the hair styles, the style guides etc. in the Japanese magazines. And even though they cost about £14 in the Japan centre they are well worth it!

:)

Reply

PJ Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hi Row,

Have fun in London! Remember that if the latest issue of Biteki or Voce is out of stock, you can try the nearby JP-Books in Mitsukoshi Department Store (on Lower Regent Street).

I also enjoy In Style’s annual Best Beauty Buys, but I also think similar features on Japanese cosmetics magazines are more dynamic.

I have to say that, in the most general sense, people in Japan and some other Asian countries seem to be more interested in makeup. But, I guess we can also say that all the cosmetics magazines in Japan are both the cause and result of this. Perhaps, if there is a well-edited beauty magazine specifically for UK readers, people in the UK will be more interested in makeup too.

Well, the Japanese cosmetics magazines in the UK are quite expensive indeed. I subscribe to Biteki and I buy Voce and Bea’s Up very occasionally. But I think it is all worth it for me… :)

Thank you very much for posting your comment again! :)

Reply

Annie Monday, January 28, 2008

Do you think it is possible to scan the magazines into say, google books, or something? Is it worth asking the publishers if they will mind, given that most of us (non-Asian residents) don’t have access to them? Thanks

Reply

PJ Monday, January 28, 2008

Hi Annie,

Thank you for your comment!

As I understand, the copyright regulations in Japan work quite differently. In terms of magazines, I have very rarely seen bloggers in Japan posting scans of magazines (or even cosmetics counter leaflets).

So, when I take photos of covers or the content of Japanese cosmetics magazines, I leave substantial margins so that my photos are of the magazines instead of reproductions of the pages. Even so, I try to post photos of the magazines as sparingly as possible.

Also, each issue of Biteki (and Voce) has about 350 pages. Time-wise, it would be difficult for me to scan the magazine monthly. (Without the advertisements, there are still a couple hundred pages of editorial content.)

If you are interested in the content of Japanese cosmetics magazines, I have noticed that Biteki’s, Voce’s, and Maquia’s websites have been posting more and more of their magazine pages on their official websites every month. You can find the links to these websites under my “Wealth of Information” list on the sidebar.

By the way, if you happen to live in the US and Canada, I believe there are ways to try short-term subscriptions of these magazines if you are interested. I have readers (both in the US and in Canada) who are subscribers of these magazines.

I apologize for not being able to scan the magazines, and thank you very much again for posting your comment! :)

Reply

Jess Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hi!
Yeah, you are so right! There is really no beauty magazine like those popular ones in Asia.

I really miss these detailed beauty magazines from Asia here in Austria. I wish those asian beauty magazines were translated into English or subtitled. Otherwise I can only look at the photos of the products only.

Reply

PJ Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hi Jess,

Thank you for reading this post. :)

Here in the UK, we don’t really have a beauty magazine. Even though I subscribe to Biteki, I do hope that there will be a locally based and well-edited beauty magazine in the future.

Thank you very much for your comment. Hope to hear from you again! :)

Reply

Anonymous Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thank you so much for this article. I rushed out and scored big on Japanese cosmetic magazines.I even got some great samples in them. I am very happy with a foundation sample I got of Pola BA the make foundation. I have to get one now. I am so glad that I am no longer missing out on the good things from Asia.Do you know if Hong Kong has any magazines comparable to those from Japan? thanks.

Reply

PJ Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hi,

I am glad you enjoy Japanese beauty magazines. For me as a beauty fan, they are so important!

I am not sure if there are beauty magazines in Hong Kong that are similar to those in Japan. I think there are, but I am not totally sure.

Thank you very much for your comment! :)

Reply

Tracy Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Japanese beauty magazines are really lovely for every girl who loves beauty. I discover biteki end of last year & I became a fan. Despite the fact that I can't read much japanese for real, the pictures are so much in details, I know what it is trying to imply. As compared to local magazines (in Singapore), the beauty spread is wonderful as we do not have any totally beauty related magazines. Other than loving the detailed and precise application methods featured in the japanese magazine,I also appreciate the fact that the magazines emphasis on having good and healthy skin. At age 21, I learnt and am still learning to love my skin more each time I flip through the pages.
:)

Reply

PJ Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hi Tracy (and a fellow Biteki fan),

I think you are definitely right. In the last couple of years, Biteki has been devoting a few pages in each issue to healthy living. There are short articles focusing on healthy eating and exercise. Even though I would still like Biteki to be purely about skincare and makeup products, the magazine does seem to promote the idea that healthy skin has a lot to do with one's overall healthy living.

Thank you very much for your comment! :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Please note that information on purchasing Japanese cosmetics on-line can be found on my FAQ page.

Thank you very much!

Previous post:

Next post: