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Do you think Asian-brands or products marketed toward the Asian community are better than their Western counterparts?

I recently had a reader ask me if Asian cleansers are better than Western ones. Here’s what I told him:

“I have to emphasize that products geared towards these Asian countries don’t have some type of “monopoly” or exclusive rights to any skin care ingredient. Most of the companies that come out with these products operate worldwide, so if a product or ingredient were truly beneficial or magical, these companies wouldn’t want to limit their potential net income by restricting said product’s availability to a single market.”

This also extends to BB creams, something I will get into detail in its own dedicated post. But I see so many people on Youtube and beauty blogs claim that Asian BB creams are infinitely better than Western ones… That is completely untrue. They are all glorified tinted moisturizers. The textures, ingredients, etc. can all be the same, with of course the exception of ingredients limited by law, such as the Tinsorb class of chemical sunscreens, which have yet to be approved by the FDA. Those who claim that they are vastly different are simply seeing what they want to see: personal bias or perspective is coloring their judgment. This is why in well-designed medical studies, both parties have to be blinded so the placebo effect does not manifest!

What do you guys think about this idea or concept?

About John

The Triple Helixian is an unbiased science and research-based site that attempts to clarify and elucidate questions about skin care, while aspiring to be the most thorough and complete source of information.


10 thoughts on “Do you think Asian-brands or products marketed toward the Asian community are better than their Western counterparts?

  1. I can’t really comment on skincare specifically but I do lean towards Asian makeup ranges- namely Kanebo and Shiseido. I find the quality and the end result considerably greater with these ranges- but then the cost is also considerably greater. For example, my Kanebo foundation of choice is £52, whereas the Western foundation that I favour (Laura Geller) is £28. I’m can’t even recall sampling a Western foundation in a similar price range, so obviously the comparisons I’m making aren’t totally fair.

    Posted by JezVonSavage | May 20, 2012, 5:00 pm
    • Hey, if it works for you, why change it? I’m not particularly in love with Shiseido foundations, and I can’t comment on Kanebo. But thanks for sharing your throughts by commenting!

      And of course, if you’d like, please update on us if you find any new “HG” foundations that you’ve discovered!

      Posted by John | May 20, 2012, 6:11 pm
  2. I agree with you, John.
    I do sometimes use the powder form cleansers that Asian brands have for travel–spilling isn’t really a problem; and it means one less liquid/gel item to fit in my carry-on baggie. Unfortunately I’ve also found the powder cleansers are a bit drying.
    Calling these products “BB Creams” is just creating another needless category of products, like Eye creams, Neck creams, etc. Some Western companies are bringing out their own versions of BB Creams now, and if they manage to make another good tinted moisturizer, that’s great; but I am pretty much fed up with the endless marketing ploys, just slapping new names on a slightly different product. I do admit, it is nice that the items that are named “BB Creams” do tend to include an SPF and moisturizer, but it’s still annoying to me.

    Posted by ladyisla | May 20, 2012, 4:47 pm
    • Omg I love that analogy! How just like eye creams are more expensive facial creams, BB creams are just tinted moisturizers with SPF! You ma’am, are brilliant! Lol! I’m also 100% with you that I’m fed up with recycled BS. I’m fine with “old” products as long as their good! There’s really no need for all the flashy new names and pseudo-claims.

      Unfortunately, most consumers are drawn into that kind of marketing because they’re always looking for the miracle product and just want to believe that this new product will solve all their problems. And if not this one, the next one. Or the next one..

      I’d totally retweet your analogy if it were on Twitter. 😉

      Oh and you didn’t lose your comment!

      Posted by John | May 20, 2012, 6:09 pm
      • “(…) I’ve seen many Western brands make cleansers that don’t contains SLS or SLES (…)”.

        Sure. But in Western these cleansers usually are “high end” products. The only two exceptions I know is Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser (very runny, doesn’t foam up beautifully) and the new cleanser from Paula Begoun (seems to be very good, but I haven’t tried yet). You don’t find in Western drugstores cheap (although very effective) cleansers like this: http://ratzillacosme.com/2011/hada-labo-gokujyun-hyaluronic-acid-bubble-face-wash/

        “(…) That applies for all those “milks” and “fluids” that’s I’ve seen. Like I said in my FutureDerm post, ethanol is excellent at evaporating already volatile products, which creates a thinner, matter, and more transfer-resistant product. (…)”.

        There are some Asian sunscreens with a high “elegant” texture without any ethanol. An example is Hada Labo UV Moist Emulsion SPF 50+/PA+++. Although initially it seems a bit oily, it has an incredibly fine, lightweight texture that leaves your skin with a soft matte texture yet hydrated. Anthelios Extreme Fluid SPF 30 (it isn’t sold in the US) has a lot of ethanol, but leaves my skin looking like a disco ball all day. 😦

        Another problem with American (not Western in general) sunscreen is they don’t show any UV-A rating system. In Asia you have the PA method. PA+ = low UV-A protection. PA++ = medium UV-A protection. PA+++ = high UV-A protection (meaning PPD 8 or above). Paula Begoun says about PA method that “(…) the concept is interesting, but ultimately the SPF rating and the active ingredients matter far more because the method of assessing UVA protection is not widely accepted, primarily because it is very difficult to get agreement from scientists on what tests to use and what they mean. (…)”. I totally disagree with her. The active ingredients can just give you an idea because the non-active ingredients can influence a lot the final UV-A protection. For eg.: if you use 3% of AVO in a gel without silicones will can obtain a much lower UV-A protection than 3% of AVO in a emulsion with silicones. And the PA is a method that is based in the PPD method. PPD was created in Japan and is officially used by UE. So, actually, PA and PPD are widely accepted.

        “But you’re wrong that most Western products don’t protect again UVA rays.”

        Actually, I’ve said that “(…) many don’t protect well against UV-A rays (…)”. Even stabilized AVO usually don’t give you a very high PPD or PA protection. CIBA has a site where you can simulate it (I’ll not put links for references here because I think WP wouldn’t accept). And lot of people that have used AVO based sunscreens conclude that their skin and eyes do not tolerate this filter…

        Posted by easttowestskincare | May 20, 2012, 9:18 pm
        • I’ll address each paragraph with numbers, so that everyone can know to which paragraph of yours I’m referring.

          1. No, many of these gentle cleansers are not “high end.” In fact there are plenty of high end cleansers that are very potent, and likewise there are plenty in the drugstore that are gentle. For example, the Alpha Hydroxy Foaming Cleanser, Boots Expert Anti-Blemish Cleansing Foam, Boots Expert Sensitive Gnetle Cleansing Wash, Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser, Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser… the list goes on and on. Like I said, just because you haven’t found them yet, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. 😦

          2. You are correct that some don’t use ethanol. And I believe in my original comment, I said that “most” use ethanol. The particular one you cited is a light silicone based emulsion, which is great. But there are plenty of silicone-based sunscreens in Western brands as well. And ethanol certainly isn’t the defining characteristic when it comes to whether or not a product will keep a user from becoming oily. It’s just one of the factors. For example, the Lancome Teint Miracle contains a lot of alcohol, but whenever I use that, I become a greaseball within 2-3 hours, which is awful! I totally tossed my sample after two uses. Haha!

          3. Yes I know that there is no uniform UVA rating system in the US. I also agree with you that Paula is mostly wrong about the PA system being unreliable. I don’t deny this. In fact, I use elements of the PA system in my own sunscreen evaluations, at least when it comes to looking for high concentrations of mineral sunscreens.

          4. Also, I do know that there are sunscreen rating simulation sites. I believe I linked one on my homepage, BASF. And according to that, stablized avobenzone (stabilized meaning that it contains other chemical sunscreens that inhibit degradation) works just as well as other UVA blockers like Tinsorb S, and Uvinul A Plus, at the SAME concentration. The only reason why Asian sunscreens have slightly better protection is because those countries allow for high concentrations of various sunscreens. Even avobenzone is allowed at 5% in Japan, while only 3% is allowed in the US.

          But there are Western and Asian sunscreens that protect just about equally. For example, take 3% avobenzone and 10% octocrylene. That gives a UVA-PF (accorindg to the simulation) of 12.8. That’s 92.3% UVA rays absorbed. Let’s take 3% Uvinul A Plus and 10% octocrylene, which gives slightly less 11.9 UVA-PF, which absorbs 91.5% of UVA rays. See what I mean?

          And even if it were 10% Uvinul A Plus and 10% Octocrylene, that would give a UVA-PF rating of 30.2, which means that 96.7% of UVA rays are absorbed. That’s a difference of about 4.5%. I wouldn’t say that 4.5% makes the Asian sunscreen great and the Western one poor. I’d say they both protect against UVA rays well, though obviously the Asian one does it slightly better. And I apologize for my original comment; I just forgot to type “well.” xD And for those who can’t tolerate avobenzone or don’t believe that their sunscreen with avobenzone provides good UVA and UVB protection, there are plenty of sunscreens with zinc oxide.

          But in the end, it’s all about personal preference right? I mean, that IS the topic of this discussion. 🙂 Thank you for this awesome contribution!

          Posted by John | May 20, 2012, 11:10 pm
      • Haha you are welcome to put it on Twitter with your more elegant wording. 🙂

        Posted by ladyisla | May 21, 2012, 1:07 am
  3. Personally I prefer Asian cleansers. Usually they have much nicer textures than western cleansers (foam up better, are more creamy etc)… And they usually don’t use Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate. They prefer surfactants like Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, so, tend to be milder than Western cleansers (of course I’m generalizing). Finally, there are more creative forms to wash your skin in Asia, like cleansing powders, foaming oils, gel oils etc. etc. etc.

    For sunscreens, I only use the Asian ones. No way I’ll use a Western sunscreen anymore. All Western sunscreens are terrible for my skin. IMO Western sunscreens are greasy, don’t spread well, gives me white cast, irritate my skin and smell bad, many don’t protect well against UV-A rays… (I’ve tried everything: La Roche Posay, Roc, Lancôme, Coppertone, SkinMedica, L’oréal Paris, Vichy…), while Asian sunscreens are like a dream for my skin: TRULY matte (I’m generalizing again), don’t give me white cast (even the ones with a high amount of physical sunscreens), don’t irritate my skin, are much more resistant etc.

    For BB Creams, I agree with you. 🙂

    Posted by easttowestskincare | May 20, 2012, 1:55 pm
    • Wow that as a fast and nicely long response! Thanks!

      Cleansers: I’ve seen many Western brands make cleansers that don’t contains SLS or SLES, but perhaps you haven’t found one that you like yet. And of course “better” is a subjective term. I’m just glad you’ve found something you like.

      Sunscreens: The Asian sunscreens that I’ve encountered mostly use alcohol/ethanol to dry down or matte the texture. That applies for all those “milks” and “fluids” that’s I’ve seen. Like I said in my FutureDerm post, ethanol is excellent at evaporating already volatile products, which creates a thinner, matter, and more transfer-resistant product. So that’s great! But you’re wrong that most Western products don’t protect again UVA rays. Avobenzone when stabilized, and of course zinc oxide (which are both used extensively in Asian sunscreens as well) all defend against the full spectrum of UVA rays. But I do agree, that Western products tend to miss the UVA portion of the UV spectrum more than Asian ones, which is unfortunate. And that affects a larger part of the unknowledgeable consumer base. 😦

      Thanks for commenting!

      Posted by John | May 20, 2012, 2:15 pm

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