What do you think? Beauty topics and thoughts

(image from Shiseido)

For me, Japanese makeup is constantly innovative and progressive, and, on the whole, it is leading the rest of the field. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the product development of point (color) makeup, and I’ll probably touch upon base makeup in a later post.

If you have been following Japanese cosmetics for the last decade, you will probably remember that, in the late 90s, a lot of the innovations were about creating lipsticks with a beaming watery shine. It was all about “gloss in a stick”. I still remember some ads from Shiseido PN featuring Arisa Mizuki with very glossy lips. The image you see above, from Shiseido PN’s spring 1999 collection, is what I remember the most from that period of time, and it really reflected what was then going on with Japanese makeup.

After the millennium, the development moved onto eyeshadows. The pigmentation level became more varied and there were more textures available (mousse, cream, liquid,…), both of which offered more choices for us. Also, the texture of the powder as well as blendability the staying power improved quite substantially. As far as trend is concerned, Japanese eyeshadows were getting more and more shimmery. They created dimension for the eyes, but it became increasingly difficult to find matte eyeshadows from Japanese brands. (It is almost hard to believe that Sofina’s Aube used to release eyeshadows that were completely matte.)

Now, we are back to lipsticks, as we have come full-circle within the last decade. While it was mainly about the finish ten years ago, it is now about the inner strengths. Major brands like Shiseido and Kanebo have been working on improving lipsticks’ moisture level and lasting power. Marketing-wise, lipsticks are often taking center stage as key items in seasonal collections, whereas, only a few years ago, they seemed almost secondary to all the eyeshadow palettes.

Lavshuca spring 2009 collection features
Dramatic Memory Rouge, which incorporates
“moisture wrapping oil” for continual moisture
and “fit stay oil” for lasting color
(image and info from www.nikkei.co.jp)

Unlike eyeshadows, I don’t think we are going to see a shift in the finish of lipsticks. (It seems that most Japanese customers still prefer moderately-pigmented lipsticks with a mildly glossy shine.) But we will hopefully be experiencing lipsticks that are even more lip-conditioning and with even better lasting power. So far I haven’t seen the drastic difference across major brands that I saw in eyeshadows (in terms of texture and staying power), but this is where the advancement of technology can potentially work its trick. We’ll see what happens.

Precursors of tomorrow:

Maquillage Lasting Climax Rouge

Coffret D’Or Full Styling Rouge Color

SUQQU Creamy Lipstick


(both images from voce-platinum.jp)

Many of us are aware of the fact that Japan has a very vibrant beauty market. Apart from people’s pursuit of flawless skin and exquisite makeup, I think another reason for this is the strong media support.

Biteki, Voce, and Maquia are considered to be the top-three mainstream magazines that focus on skincare and makeup. Also, among many others, FRAU runs a great Best of Beauty issue in November, and Makeup Magazine is a solid quarterly publication.)

Beauty magazines in Japan also have specific target age groups. The three main ones mentioned above are mainly for those in their thirties and late twenties, while the ones like Bea’s Up are for slightly younger readers.

In October, Kodansha (which publishes fashion magazines like With and Vivi) launched Voce Platinum, a sister magazine to Voce. The tagline is “beauty magazine for mature women”, which clearly indicates the target age group.

The tagline may not appeal to all readers, but, based on the pages on the Voce Platinum website, it seems that the magazine is essentially a slightly more upmarket version of the mainstream ones. (But I am sure there are features that specifically interest more mature readers.) Overall, I think this magazine will appeal to whoever is interested in quality beauty brands presented in a sophisticated and elegant editing style.

But I think the birth of this magazine does reflect a trend. Apart from the age makeup of the Japanese society, we have seen recent launches of both top-end and drugstore brands, such as like (Kanebo’s) CHICCA and (Shiseido’s) Integrate Gracy, which are targeted at the more mature customers. Voce Platinum fills in the gap in the market and will probably give these brands the coverage they deserve for a lot of readers.

I certainly hope the magazine does well, because variety benefits all of us in the long run.

Related Posts:

Biteki – My Ultimate Cosmetics Archive

Voce 10th Anniversary Monthly Feature


(It’s more than just A Touch of Blusher, it seems…)

One of the things I try to do on my blog is to share my thoughts on beauty items from both East (mostly Japan) and West. Today I’ll be talking about blushers and, specifically, how pigmented western and Japanese blushers tend to be.

Very generally, there seems to be a wider range of pigmentation levels in blushers from western brands than in Japanese brands. For example, among the ones you see in the photo, Chanel’s Irréelle Blush is quite sheer, while the ones from MAC and NARS are very pigmented. Japanese blushers, like those from Majolica Majorca, Lavshuca and AYURA, are more towards the sheer side.

One of the reasons seems to be that many western makeup brands cater to a wide variety of skin tones (in terms of dark/light as well cool/warm). On the other hand, most major Japanese brands are either sold locally in Japan or within East Asia where there isn’t such a wide range of skin tones. I think people with darker skin tones will find that some blushers from Japanese brands are simply too sheer and don’t really show up on the skin.

Another reason, I think, is that Japanese customers seem to see the role of blushers slightly differently. This is reflected by the fact that some Japanese brands either categorize blushers as part of base makeup (along with primers and foundations) or release new blushers along with new base makeup items.

In most cases, for them, and many customers in Asia, blushers, when worn, just like foundations or concealers, are not to be seen. Like a freshly powdered face that should look ultra-natural (which is something Japanese base makeup excels at), blushers should simply make the face look healthy and slightly flushed, and nothing more. I think this is the main reason why most Japanese blushers are softly pigmented with relatively basic but natural colors. (The shade range is often small.) Even though some of them have shimmer, they still look natural and glowy, not glittery.

But there are of course exceptions. The shimmery particles in Canmake’s Loose Cheek are bigger than the norm in Japanese cosmetics and I think it definitely appeals more to a younger consumer group. (Many thanks to my friend Lynn for having me try this item.) Also, as Shu Uemura has been a professional beauty brand available globally, its blusher range features a very wide variety of shades.

I think, overall, I have been enjoying using Japanese blushers more. It is much harder to go wrong with the shade choices, mainly because most shades are quite natural anyway and they are not that pigmented. Also, since I can be quite heavy-handed at times, I tend to find it easier to apply blushers from Japanese brands. Even for someone like me, who likes to wear blushers relatively sheer, I can still enjoy the fun of slowly building up the color intensity to the level I want.

What about you? Have you tried blushers from both sides of the world? What would be your verdict?

Blushers featured in the photo above:

From Japanese brands-

Majolica Majorca Cheek Customize in PK333 and OR211

Lavshuca Cheek Color in PK-1

AYURA Aura Veil α in Sweet Pink

Albion Eprise Water Face Color in 100

From western brands-

Chanel Irréelle Blusher in Tea Rose

Fafi for MAC Powder Blush in Fashion Frenzy

Prescriptives Blush More Or Less Creamy Cheek Color in Thai Orchid

NARS Highlighting/Blush Duo in Albatross/Torrid


(Maybelline’s spring 2008 collection in Japan)
(from Voce February 2008)

If there is one country that maximizes the power of packaging of consumer products, it’s Japan.

A trip to a Japanese drugstore is a very visual experience. Brands like Lavshuca, Majolica Majorca, Kiss, and Love Clover are instantly visually appealing and attention-grabbing. They make some high-end brands look dull.

Some western drugstore lines know that their products will be displayed alongside Lavshuca‘s Eye Color Select palettes and Majolica Majorca‘s princessy golden cases and that they have to do something in order not to lose on the starting line.

One example is some of Maybelline‘s products sold in Japan and some other countries in Asia. As far as I know, products like the EyeStudio palettes (seen above) as well as the EyeStudio singles and WaterShiny Volumy lipsticks (seen below) are not sold in North America or Europe. (But, just to be clear, other Maybelline products still look more or less the same as those sold in the west.)

(image from www.maybelline.co.jp)

(image from www.maybelline.co.jp)

Obviously the style is not going down the cute and dreamy route, but the packaging does look more sleek and trendy than the globally available Maybelline lineup. (But I do personally like the Dream Mousse line, and I enjoy the chunky glass jars.)

Something worth mentioning here is that Angelfit is a base makeup range by Maybelline that is only sold in Asia. (You can check out the mini-site through the link.) I have not tried anything from the range, but, from what I have read, the powder foundation (Maybelline Angelfit Pact) has been getting very good reviews. (I believe the Angelfit range is developed in Japan as well.)

(Maybelline’s Angelfit base makeup range)
(image from www.angelfit.jp)

Packaging-wise, soft pink and gentle curves are used to increase the visual impact. The style of the packaging actually looks very Japanese to me.

While I would still prefer the look of Lavshuca on any day, other brands like Maybelline do show that makeup still needs a little bit of “makeup” in order to sell.

Related Posts:

Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush
(natural radiance from mousse-y sponginess)

Maybelline Dream Mousse Eyecolor
(soft, floaty, and airy)

Lavshuca Summer Gradually Compact

(one of the cutest items for summer 2008)


(Kosé Sekkisei, one of the best-selling
whitening line in Japan ever)
(image from www.kose.co.jp)
(Shiseido Haku 2, a recent sensation)
(image from www.shiseido.co.jp)
Last week, one of my readers asked me to write about whitening products in Japanese cosmetics. Since a friend of mine in the US also asked me about them a while ago, I decided that it was the time to highlight them on my blog.

I need to say at the onset that there is a reason why I have not talked about them, and it is that most of them simply don’t live up to their claims. Despite that, there are various aspects of this major Japanese skincare “phenomenon” that I would like to present, so this will be an extended post.

First of all, just to be clear, whitening products sold in Japan and some other Asian countries are not skin-bleaching products, the sales of which are illegal in many countries around the world. If the mechanisms of whitening products do work, what they do is to bring the coloration of the skin back to the tan-less state.

Most major Japanese cosmetics brands have a fully-fledged whitening line, with products from cleansers to foundations. The most established brands even have several different whitening lines. For example, Shiseido has UVWhite, White Lucent, and the recently very successful Haku (seen above).

(Shiseido UVWhite)
(image from www.shiseido.co.jp)

Many major western cosmetics lines also have Asia-exclusive whitening lines:

(Estee Lauder Cyber White EX)
(Lancôme Blanc Expert Neurowhite X³)
(image from www.lancome.jp)
(Helena Rubinstein Agewhite Reverser)
(image from www.helenarubinstein.jp)
One key thing to bear in mind is that, in Japanese cosmetics, “whitening” and “brightening” are usually two facets of one skincare concept. In the most general terms, whitening products incorporate melanin inhibitors and exfoliating agents to attempt to fulfill their promises. While melanin inhibitors are supposed to slow down the production of melanin and, as an indirect result, help the existing tan to fade faster, the exfoliating agents clear out the dead skin cells so the skin looks smoother and more even and therefore appears brighter and “whiter”.

With this concept as the basis, many Japanese and western cosmetics brands have a full whitening skincare and base makeup range. Typical items include:

Makeup remover & face wash: They are designed to deep cleanse the skin and get rid of dead skin cells.

Toner: It often has exfoliating agents like fruit acids and more than a fair amount of alcohol to help strip off the dead skin cells.

Serum: It is usually billed as the key item of a whitening line and is supposed to have the highest concentration of melanin inhibitors and, in some cases, exfoliating agents. Counter assistants usually recommend the serum if one wants to venture into whitening skincare products but doesn’t want to invest in the whole line.

Mask: More melanin inhibitors and exfoliating agents.

Nighttime moisturizer: More melanin inhibitors and exfoliating agents.

Daytime moisturizer: It usually has a high SPF (around 30 or more) and PA level. (PA indicates the level of UVA protection, ranging from PA+ to PA++++.) It usually also incorporates micro light-reflective particles to give an illusion of brightness and luminosity.

Concealers/ foundations: Again, high SPF and PA as well as a lot of light-reflective particles.

A more elaborate whitening line usually includes items like:

Wipe-off lotion: It is used right after cleansing (and before toning) to further strip the dead skin cells off the skin. It is used on a cotton pad and applied in a wiping (not patting) motion.

Massage cream: Used right after cleansing (and after the wipe-off lotion), it attempts to boost blood circulation and to combat dullness in order to achieve a brighter complexion.

Eye cream: It is specifically for the eye area and is not necessarily targeted at getting rid of dark circles.

So, do they actually work?

In most cases, quite unlikely. The reason why they don’t usually work is very similar to why self-proclaimed anti-aging skincare products don’t usually work. Whitening products exist mainly because customers want to be told that they can achieve what they want to achieve. This is exactly how anti-aging products market themselves. (Almost coincidentally, wearing a sunscreen happens to be the simple answer to both anti-aging and whitening…)

Also, in Japanese cosmetics, whitening products are by far the most frequently revamped products. (A complete new line or new additions to an existing line are usually brought out at this time of year because the weather is about to get warmer and sunnier and people start to get more concerned about sun exposure.) With most brands, the whitening range gets revamped (to various extents) every year or every other year. Most companies want customers to believe that the whitening technology is improving, but, in almost all cases, products are not delivering the goods, so new ones need to be brought out, with new pseudo-scientific claims and new glowing results from non-independent research.

Plus, I rarely hear people missing a certain whitening product when it is discontinued and replaced by a new version. That alone is quite telling.

On a personal level, for a couple of years quite some time ago (when I was avidly experimenting with all kinds of skincare products), some of the whitening products that I tried are the harshest skincare products that I have ever used. Many Japanese toners and moisturizers already have a lot of alcohol (which simply should be avoided in any skincare product), and whitening toners and moisturizers sometimes have even more. (Despite its popularity, Kosé’s Sekkisei is perhaps one of the most skin-irritating products I have ever tried, as it is heavily loaded with alcohol.) Judging by the ingredient lists of many current whitening products, it seems that nothing has changed.

(To be fair, I am sure there are a few whitening products that are a little more gentle. Out of the several that I bought during that time, only the whitening serum by Sofina was something I remotely liked. It was free from alcohol and exfoliating agents. What it achieved was simply a more even complexion, but so can any well-formulated moisturizer.)

On a related note, every year, the names of a brand’s whitening line and individual whitening products incorporate such blatantly suggestive terms, so much so that I find them almost amusing.

(Beauté de Kosé White Succeed)
(image from www.kose.co.jp)
Here are just some of the names (of current and previous whitening lines) to show how some cosmetics companies desperately want to convince customers that their products are the answer to everything:

Helena Rubinstein: Premium White (2006), Divine White (2007), Age White (2008)
Guerlain: Perfect White
Givenchy: Doctor White
Estee Lauder: Cyber White
Lancôme: Blanc Expert NeuroWhite
Clinique: Active White (2005), Derma White (current)
Cosme Decorte: Whitelogist
Pola: White Shot Melano Shooter
SKII: Whitening Source Derm-Revival
Dior: DiorSnow Sublissime
Origins: Light Years Ahead

Currently, the Kanebo website is building up to the grand launch of their latest whitening serum. The name:

Whitening Conclusion

I can’t help but wonder what they will name their new whitening product in 2009. I am extremely curious…

(On a minor note, as you might have observed, a lot of ads for whitening products feature blue as the predominant accent color. In Japanese culture, blue denotes purity, lucidity, and transparency and goes well with the idea of whitening products.)

However, there is still a lesson to be learned from this whole whitening phenomenon in Japan, which doesn’t involve whitening products themselves. Because many Japanese people strive to have a milky and porcelain-white complexion, they tend to be very diligent and almost religious about applying sunscreens.

So, even though their long and winding road to a perfect/premium/divine/active/cyber white complexion might be never-ending, at least they are keeping their skin optimally protected against the harmful and aging UV rays and maintaining a healthy and youthful appearance of their skin.

Related Posts:

A Touch of Blusher‘s Anti-Aging Series

Sunscreen Basics

10 Golden Skincare Rules


(Come back to my purse!)

Every year, Biteki‘s reader survey reveals interesting aspects of their readers. In the last couple of years, I have found some statistics particularly fascinating.

Among the recently surveyed 664 Biteki readers (average age 31.2), their average monthly expenditures on makeup and skincare (in 2007) are:

Makeup: 8030 Yen (74.8 USD, 38.5 GBP)

Skincare: 13110 Yen (122.1 USD, 62.8 GBP)

(from Biteki February 2008, p. 38)

When I compare my own expenditures with the average figures, there are some intriguing observations.

First of all, I used to spend more money on skincare than on makeup products. But, in recent years, it has been the opposite. At the moment, purely in terms of the ratio between my skincare and makeup expenditures, mine is somewhat close to the reverse of what we see above.

Secondly, I was particularly fascinated by the expenditure on makeup. The people surveyed are Biteki readers, who are probably more interested in cosmetics and more eager to try out new products than the rest of the general public in Japan. If this is the case (and if we think about the four potentially “damaging” bombardments of seasonal collections every year), it appears that 74.8 USD, for them, isn’t a large sum of money and leaves relatively little room for experimenting or collecting after the regular re-stocking (like replacing mascaras and refilling the foundation). (Bear in mind that it is entailed that some surveyed readers spent less or much less than 74.8 USD per month.)

Also, most of the products on the readers’ favorite lists are from high-end department store brands and would eat up a big portion of the 74.8 USD. (For example, both the readers’ favorite eye palette (from Lunasol) and powder foundation (from Albion Exage) cost around 50 USD.) From this, it appears that the average Japanese consumer is quite selective in buying cosmetics.

Thirdly, while I do think that 122.1 USD can be quite a lot to spend on skincare products in a month, this amount doesn’t strike me as unusual. Apart from the fact that Japanese brands tend to update their skincare lineups much more frequently than most western brands, it seems that many Japanese brands feature more elaborate skincare routines. So there are potentially more products to purchase on a regular basis.

What is your take on these figures? Are these average spendings more or less than what you would expect? How would you compare your spending habits with those of a typical Biteki reader in Japan? Have your spending habits and preferences changed over the years?

Related Posts:

Biteki Readers’ Favorite Cosmetics Products in 2006
(Find out what they are!)

My Ultimate Makeup Archive
(getting larger month by month)


The Super Bowl Sunday is coming, and several beauty bloggers and I decided to write up sports-themed posts for all of you to enjoy.

Since I have a particular passion for Japanese makeup items, I thought I’d have a play-off between the two teams. (You can also read my previous post on Japanese and Western cosmetics.)

Meet Team Japanese:

(the defending champion)

Eyeshadow palette from Lunasol (Sheer Contrast Eyes in Lavender Coral). This is a sneak-peek preview of this palette on my blog. I have been enjoying using this palette from Lunasol’s spring 2008 collection, and I will post a full review of it later on!

Eyeshadow single from Miss Elégance (Powder Color in 16). Discontinued but not forgotten, this adorable eyeshadow is a wearable matte chocolate brown.

Blusher from Ayura (Aura Veil α in Sweet Pink). Soft, delicate, warm, and feminine, this shade is perfect for the coming warmer months.

Lipstick from Anna Sui (Sui Rouge in 373). A flattering cherry-red with the signature Anna Sui scent.

Lip gloss from Paul & Joe (Lip Gloss N in 001 Black-Tie). Another dose of the mouth-watering cherry hue, this time with sparkling multi-color shimmer.

Team Japanese is looking impressive. Now let’s check out Team Western:

(the challenger)

Eyeshadow palette
from Dior (5-color eyeshadow palette in Seascape). Vibrant purple and warm blue are balanced by mint green and soft grey with purple iridescence.

Eyeshadow single from MAC (Alexander McQueen for MAC eyeshadow in Haunting). I haven’t bought a lot from MAC for the last couple of years, but this satiny matte turquoise has won me over.

Blusher from Chanel (Irréelle Blush in Tea Rose). This is one of my favorite blushers, as it creates a very natural flush on my cheeks.

Lipstick from Helena Rubinstein (Stellars Showlights in Hanky Pinky). A bouncy and playful pink with fine pink shimmer. Very Valentine’s Day…

Lip gloss from Nina Ricci (Tender Lacquered Lipglaze in Rose Jupon). Nicely pigmented and with a rich syrupy texture, it helps lips take on some extra dimension.

With some of my favorite makeup items from both teams, the play-off is fierce. But I think I know which team has edged out the other for me, for a second time…

Now, I’d like to invite you to head over to these beauty blogs to check out their Beauty Super Bowl posts! Have fun!


(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?)


(sales ad from Selfridges & Co.)

(image from www.selfridges.com)

I was surprised when I went to my first seasonal sale in London years ago (at the start of the winter sale on December 27th). In the most high-end department stores, a lot of limited-edition beauty items from a couple of seasons ago had a mark-down between 30 to 50 percent. I didn’t expect to see them, but then they were back and stacked up at the edge of the counter.

I soon realized that, during seasonal sales in the UK, cosmetics items are reduced just like clothes are.

There are mostly 4 types of beauty products that are marked down in UK seasonal sales:

1. Seasonal gift sets, especially fragrance sets. (Christmas fragrance sets usually have a 30% mark-down right after Christmas. Many people stock up their favorite fragrances at this time of year.)

2. Limited-edition makeup items. Dior, YSL and Guerlain do this the most, among many other (mostly French) brands.

3. Discontinued and soon-to-be discontinued products. If I see a couple of products from a brand’s current lineup being reduced massively (sometimes up to 50%), I know they are going to be discontinued very soon. (Or, if I know something is going to be discontinued or replaced, I’d expect it to be on sale.)

4. Surplus stock of makeup shades that are less popular.

So here are just some of the things I saw this time:

— Guerlain’s Pucci collection (limited-edition, summer 2007), 50% off
— Guerlain’s 4-color eyeshadow palettes, 50% off (the new range has replaced these).
— YSL Palette Esprit Couture (limited-edition, fall 2007), 30% off
— YSL limited-edition items for summer 2007 and holiday 2006, 50% off
— Dior Diorissime palettes (limited-edition, fall 2007), 30% off
— Various Dior eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks, 30% off
— Paul & Joe’s discontinued base makeup items (change of packaging and formulation in summer 2007) and the full nail color line (soon to be replaced by a new nail color range), 50% off.

For the first time, I saw fall limited-edition makeup items, such as Diorissime palettes, reduced right after Christmas in the same year. But, with spring collections out earlier and earlier, maybe it is not all that surprising.

I have always been in two minds about all the clearing out. Of course it is nice to buy things at reduced prices. I have bought some lovely Paul & Joe items during the sale for very affordable prices.

However, even though high-end brands have a certain image and cache that they try hard to maintain, some of them still haphazardly stack up discounted palettes at the counter. Lip glosses are bundled up in rubber bands and put in plastic boxes. I can’t help but feel that this is rather unsightly and that the only thing they aim for during the sale is to get some stock space back. It doesn’t really reflect elegance and sophistication.

(True to its Japanese roots, Paul & Joe’s attention to detail during the sale stands out. In Fenwick on Bond Street, Paul & Joe’s reduced items are usually lined up neatly on a small and simple round table next to the counter. No plastic boxes or rubber bands…)

As I understand, there are clear-outs like this in the US for brands that are going to be discontinued. But it appears to me that seasonal limited-edition makeup items from high-end brands are not usually marked down regularly like they are here in the UK.

In some other countries (as well as in the US), I am aware that there are similar seasonal beauty clear-outs, but they are done in companies’ warehouses or headquarters. These events can be slightly more exclusive in terms of how they publicize the event information.

Are cosmetics items reduced regularly like this in your country? Let us know!

Voice more of your opinion on:

Can I return this, please?
(Can you?)

You Mean It’s Not Real?
(Are there problems with mascara ads?)

Japanese vs. Western
(Which side are you on?)


(My Boots Advantage Card…and what it got me.)

When it comes to shopping for cosmetics, living in the UK has crucial disadvantages. Things are more (or much more) expensive, and, once opened, they can’t usually be returned and refunded.

But there are a few positive things. One of them involves one of my favorite drugstores (which we call chemists in the UK), Boots.

Boots runs a loyalty card called Boots Advantage Card in the UK and some other countries. The customer reward system has often been accurately described as “generous” by the UK press.

Anyone can apply for the card for free. For every pound spent on anything in store, 4 points is earned on the card. Each point is worth 0.01 pound, so every 100 points is worth 1 pound (about 2 USD).

Customers can use their points to get anything sold in any Boots store for free (but not on Boots.com) and the points never expire. For example, 500 points are worth any 5-pound product in a Boots store.

I know this doesn’t sound very exciting. But it is all the extras that make the system more than generous:

1. There are usually 200 extra points for a transaction over 25 pounds, as long as I remember to print out the voucher at a kiosk in the store before paying for the items.

(or in this case…300 points)

I always try to do my Boots shopping either once or twice a month (instead of many small purchases). I make sure I go into the store knowing the amount I will be spending. If I plan to spend more than 50 pounds, I print out two vouchers and pay for them in two lots. (A calculator is always handy for a Boots visit.)

Extra points earned this way during a year: 3000

2. Both drugstore and premium brands sold in Boots stores do point giveaways. Each brand runs the giveaway several times a year. For example, Lancôme gives 1000 points for 2 skincare purchases, Clinique gives 1200 points for 3 skincare products, and Estee Lauder gives 750 points for 2 makeup products. (Dior, YSL, Clarins also run similar promotions.) Also, different promotions are run in store and on-line.

(a typical Boots promotion on premium brands)
(image from www.boots.com)

I have noticed that each promotion is run at about the same time during the year, so I plan my purchases accordingly to get the maximal points. (Shopping for me is a highly-organized activity. I am like Monica in Friends. The more organized, the more fun…)

Extra points earned this way during a year: 2000

3. Several times a year, there are triple-point weekends. 12 points are given for each pound spent instead of the usual 4.

Extra points earned this way during a year: 250

4. There are Boots magazines in store and occasional mailed newsletters with extra-point vouchers.

(a Boots extra-point voucher,
from Boots Health & Beauty Magazine Nov/Dec 2007)

Extra points earned this way during a year: 250

5. My favorite is Boots Christmas Shopping Evening. They are run two to three times before Christmas. Each Boots store advertises its own dates, which are well advertised in advance. In these events, 1000 points are given for each transaction over 50 pounds. This is usually on top of all the other extra-point offers mentioned above.

Extra points earned this way during a year: 2000

Total extra points during a year: 7500
This plus 4 points for every pound spent: about 10000
Cash equivalent: 100 pounds (200 USD)

These points are usually more than enough for me to use on what I want to have from Dior during a year. What is left would just keep accumulating and would not expire.

I have always been an extremely loyal Boots customer. (Apart from the point scheme, they have great customer services.) Whatever I want (general toiletries, premium cosmetics, electronics, exercise equipments, cell phone credits, light snacks), if it is available in Boots, I won’t buy it anywhere else.

But one strict rule that I do have for myself is never to buy anything just for extra points. Otherwise it would just be a waste of money.

One negative point I have come across about the Boots Advantage Card system is that it is a way for Boots to analyze a customer’s purchasing habits. The system helps Boots come up with new products as well as take on or stop stocking a certain brand of products. Some people don’t like their shopping habits to be monitored, and I perfectly understand that. But their system is essentially like any other loyalty card system in any other store. (London’s high-end department store Harrods started a similar but much less generous one earlier this year.) Overall, systems like this work for or against customers, and it all depends on one’s point of view.

I do enjoy getting and using my points and the reward system is more generous than those of any other drugstore, supermarket and department store I know in the UK. I think this is why a Boots card is quite an usual thing to have for people living in the UK. As long as customers (like me) enjoy planning purchases ahead of time, points can roll in quite quickly and we can use them on virtually anything sold in store. I am sure there are many people who save up their points to get more pricey items like digital cameras or MP3 players.

I could be wrong, but, in the US, Boots’ own brand products are sold in stores like Target and Boots doesn’t have its own free-standing stores carrying other drugstore or premium cosmetics brands. So maybe this is why Boots is not running the same system in the US. But things might change. We’ll see!

Related Posts:
(Some of the items I got with my Boots points)

Dior Pretty Charms

Dior Detective Chic and Diorissime Palettes

DiorLight Jewelled Necklace

Dior Addict Ultra-Nude Lipstick in Undressed Mauve