Japanese beauty masks: what’s that on your face?

Health and beauty in Japan can look… unattractive, sometimes. As anyone who’s ever freaked out in the ‘horse oil’ aisle of a drugstore will understand.

Some of the best Japanese beauty products come in small sizes. Like moisture-filled face packs. Trust us, a true ‘relaxing deep cleanse’ means sitting in a hot bath with a cold beer and a slimy face. Sheet masks keep your mouth free for chugging.

One of the big facial skincare brands you’ll find here in Japan is Pure Smile. You can tell from the creepy eyeless and mouthless teardrop logo that they do face masks.

Oh, and they also sell eyebrow dye for men. And snail extract shampoo.

Time to relax, or time to get weird?

Pure Smile face masks do more than soothe skin. They come in loads of crazy types you can have fun wearing. The ones that ‘seem’ normal have stuff like snake venom and insect essence mixed in. Who needs collagen face masks when you can rub lumps of animal poison on your skin?

The REAL crazy designs are for poking your head around a corner and scaring people. Or for uploading to Instagram and scaring people. Pure Smile is super keen on social media. Show the world your beauty routine, especially the ‘novelty face mask’ bit.

Besides, make everyone around you laugh, and they’ll get more wrinkles. Win.

Put your money where your mouth is

Making fun of weird face mask designs is easy. Sticking them to your own skin takes guts. They’re made to look unusual – but the ingredients do work. And plenty of people use face masks as part of a weekly – or daily – beauty and skincare routine.

We really bought and tried out all of the following masks. Even the snake venom and horse oil ones. Look:

Sold! (0_0;;;;;

That venom packs a punch. When you can feel your heart beating through your cheeks, you know it’s working. And it cleared up a bunch of blemishes overnight. Enough to make us consider just getting a snake instead…

One thing you won’t see here is pics of masks on faces. We’re not that crazy.

Kappa face mask

The kappa’s a water-dwelling demon from Japanese folklore. The kanji literally mean ‘river child’. It has webbed hands and feet, and is usually green or blue. Exactly the kind of thing you want on your face.

It says this mask’s got a ‘calming’ scent. Well… good? We gave it a sniff. Somewhere between fresh cut grass and shiso (perilla). Kinda calming, if leaves make you feel relaxed. With the teardrops and the big, ducky mouth, this looks strangely harlequin. The ‘omg’ webbed hands up either side look like fish gills when they’re on your cheeks.

Oh. My. God. My skin looks AMAZING.

Geisha face mask

Always a popular choice. It’s one of the most pushed face packs, front and centre on the shelf. Unusual, ‘only in Japan’ face masks like this tend to make great souvenirs.

Apply a full face of makeup in seconds. The proper geisha look takes ages to get right – not with this. You’ll be done covering your face in less time than it takes to say “let me pour you some more sake”.

Some clever person even made sure the mask design includes ‘kanzashi’ hair accessories.

Pretend you're in Kyoto for 20 minutes.

As expected, the scent of a geisha is matcha. It was either gonna be that or sakura. Green tea face masks are a different thing, and are also part of the Pure Smile range. SO MUCH CHOICE.

Kitsune face mask

“What does the fox say?” In Japanese: kon kon kon.

Kitsune pop up in Japanese fairytales as devious, magical troublemakers. They’re unfairly smart, and love to trick people. If you’ve ever fancied becoming a mythical being, now’s your chance. It’s said foxes can take human form – sadly this fox face mask won’t help you grow a tail.

You’ll know this face if you’ve seen pics of a Shinto shrine. Those sneaky foxes get everywhere. The face pack itself is the ‘love’ kitsune, complete with pink cheeks and eyelashes. The eye holes are wide, so the pointy ‘eyeliner’ stretched as far back as our ears.

What does the fox smell like? Camellias. To our untrained noses, it was like a floral air freshener.

Dragon face mask

Part of the lucky 2017 art mask series. This year’s the year of the rooster. So we get one of those, a dragon, and a tanuki. Last year’s monkey and lucky cat must’ve been popular.

Each mask’s designed to bring you good luck and fortune. As well as nicer skin.

Seems like a shame to open such a detailed pack. The mask itself also has more on it than some of the others. That’s more electric blue eyeliner than any human could get away with wearing.

This art mask has the scent of… plum wine. Very Japanese. Sadly no real alcohol content. You can also find red wine face masks, which are equally disappointing if you’re trying to get drunk.

Cat (and dog) face masks

Are you more of a dog person or a cat person? Slap on a mask and you can be either. Different mask designs, like tabby, black cat, shiba inu, and dalmatian, give you more choices.

“Will you be a cat?” Yeah, go on then. The fruity smell of the cat mask is a mix of peach, banana and apple. Ever faceplanted a fruit salad? This is what it must be like.

Some of the cat and dog masks are smaller, for kids (over 7 years old). Kitten and puppy face masks, if we’re being picky. With little lollipops on them, so smaller adults don’t use them by mistake. It’s a daft idea. As if kids need extra collagen and vitamin E in their enviably line-free cheeks.

There are nearly 200 Pure Smile face masks – which ones do you swear by?

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