One of the 101 questions I asked folks while preparing for Japan was about shampoo and conditioner. Before you consider me vain, I asked at least 100 other more important questions first. I'd never been to Japan before - what were shampoo and conditioner like there and how did they differ from those in the U.S.? Considering different hair care products exist for a vast array of hair types, my assumption was that most of the hair products in Japan might be primarily formulated for certain kinds of hair (much like skin cosmetics). And my hair, being blond and fine, is particular when it comes to hair products.
Most people didn't have any answers for me. They listed off the common brands and said they are all basically the same. So I, being a bit OCD about preparedness, shipped giant bottles of shampoo and conditioner to my address in Japan. If only I'd known how unnecessary THAT was. So, for the curious, and for those wondering, "what will I use???" here's your guide.
*And, unlike me, you don’t need to ship giant bottles of haircare products to yourself unless you are REALLY attached to them.
First though, let’s quickly run through the essential words when shopping for hair products:
Shampoo – シャンプー (shampuu)
Conditioner – コンティショナー (condishonaa)
Hair – 髪 (かみ) or 髪の毛 (かみのけ) (kami, kaminoke)
Haircare – ヘヤケヤ (heyakeya)
*Someone just informed me that conditioner can also be called "rinse" (リンス). So if you see a "rinse" but have no idea where the conditioner is, well, you're probably looking at it. Nevertheless, searching with either term online will give you the same results - so no worries!
Where to buy shampoo and conditioner:
1. The lovely Yu Ming over at Beauty Box wrote a great two-part guide about products you will see in most local drug/daily goods stores. Personally, I don't prefer to use most of these kinds, as the stuff is so heavy on my hair, and as you probably can guess, I try to go the natural way. (Although I did see a display of "gentle" products at the store yesterday.) However, one of these many brands might be just your thing. Feel free to browse.
2. The Flying Pig - Costco, of course, has everything. They carry some typical brands like Pantene, Head and Shoulders, and Herbal Essences, as well as some other Japanese brands. Keep in mind the items are bulk.
3. Tengu Natural Foods – Not only does Tengu sell natural and organic food products, but carry some natural body products as well. Some are more expensive than local brands, but perhaps worth it for those who prefer natural and organic products.
4. iHerb – iHerb is another online natural foods store that sells natural body products (a far wider selection than Tengu). They have a large selection of both shampoo and conditioner - all natural and/or organic brands. iHerb is my first go-to for body and food products.*Use this referral code for a discount on your first order: ACI278*
5. Lush – If you're familiar with Lush, you already know about their handmade, “mostly” natural products. Not only can you order online, but you’ll find Lush stores in a variety of big cities around Japan. *Note: The online store is all Japanese. I recommend looking for ヘヤケヤ and browsing the brands. Try opening an English Lush site if you want to check product descriptions and ingredients of products you're considering. This is easier and more accurate than any online translator.
6. The Body Shop – You may already be familiar with The Body Shop - essentially along the same lines as Lush. You'll want to click on オンラインショップ to shop online. Again, you can find Body Shop stores all around Japan.
7. Amazon.jp – A HUGE selection of regular (non-organic/natural) products, and also has a large natural/organic shop. Because of the wide selection, you should probably have an idea of what you want before checking this out, as there are thousands of items, and item descriptions are typically Japanese. You can of course, check out (purchase) in English, but have a translator and/or Rikaichan handy for reading the details.
8. Cosme Kitchen - I just discovered this great site (store). They have a wide selection or organic and natural products (haircare and others). Easy to shop by brand.
Now, that's a selection that should keep you busy for awhile. Hopefully one of these sources will help you find haircare products that are right for you (unless you really could care less what you use on your hair). Still stumped? There's always baking soda and water...
If you prefer organic/natural products - please check out how to find natural/organic personal care products...