Asian drugstore products just hit different — and this is a hill I'm 100% willing to die on. Growing up in Macau, China, I'd often visit local drugstores for all manners of beauty supplies and health remedies. The products range from homegrown Chinese inventions to imports from neighboring countries like Japan and Thailand. More often than not, these discoveries come by way of my mom or grandma (aka the strongest word-of-mouth engine you can imagine). One thing these hidden gems all have in common? They are affordable — and they work.
Thanks to the magic of globalization and e-commerce, I can now turn to my Amazon shopping cart for these useful products instead of booking a long-haul flight to Asia. And, since sharing is caring, I'm opening up my treasure trove of Asian drugstore must-haves to our readers. From solutions for sore muscles to powerful cleaning products, keep reading for my editor-approved Amazon picks that will make life so much easier.
This product has been a stronghold on my packing list ever since I discovered it in my late teens. I was on a shopping trip to Hong Kong with my school friends, and they recommended it as the perfect antidote to sore feet after we clocked way too many steps on our daily mega-mall crawls. The adhesive feels minty fresh and contains a medley of herbs — including lavender, rosemary, sage, and orange — that helps to melt any muscle tension away. I usually cut these patches in half and stick them on the back of my calves and the bottom of my feet. I wake up with cooler, calmed muscles (and the sense that any lactic acid buildup has been eased).
My mom first introduced me to this bright green ointment when I was suffering from gnarly mosquito bites after a trip to Southeast Asia, and it actually happens to be a household item in Thailand. The popular herbal salve is most commonly used to treat itchy insect bites, but it's also known to work wonders on alleviating muscle pain and bruises. When inhaled, the menthol-heavy balm can even help with seasickness and nausea.
Bee & Flower, a soap brand founded in Shanghai back in 1928, is a staple of many Chinese people's upbringing — including my beloved grandma. She refuses to throw her intimates in the washing machine, and instead, she insists on hand-washing everything with this Bee & Flower antibacterial bar soap. Formulated for cleaning underwear, it's a total beast when it comes to removing nasty stains and odor.
If you frequently suffer from screen fatigue, you should pretty much add this product to your cart ASAP. These disposable eye patches heat up quickly and last for about an hour. I love using these after a long day staring at the screen to help relax my tired eyes, and I often take them with me aboard long-haul flights to block out the light. This invigorating yuzu smell is my favorite, but the brand also offers a scentless option.
Rice is a beauty super-ingredient in Japanese culture: The water used in rinsing the grain is softened to nourish the skin and hair. This multipack face mask, drenched in rice water, takes the crown as my favorite Japanese drugstore beauty product. It makes my skin feel moisturized and my pores appear smaller after use. This is my go-to for weeknight masking, due to how inexpensive it is (each releasable packet comes with 10 masks).
This nifty gadget is poised to be a winter MVP, especially if you're always cold. The adhesive can be stuck to the inside layers of your clothing (just make sure it is not directly touching your skin), and the warmth will emanate for 10 hours. You can find heating patches all over Amazon, but I personally think this Japanese brand has the best long-lasting quality.
Here’s another excellent recommendation from my grandma that has since become a regular practice for me: Whenever we traveled together, she’d put these patches on the back of her neck and trapeze muscles before going to bed. The ingredients, including menthol and camphor, provide instant relief to muscle aches, and I love the compact, flexible, and odorless design. I often pop these on when I have strained my neck and shoulders crouching over my laptop too long.
My grandma dropped this wisdom when she came to see me recently: We were visiting my in-laws' garden, and she shrieked with joy upon spotting honeysuckle blossoms in the bushes. According to her, the flower is a much-coveted ingredient in Chinese medicine, known for chasing away colds. I ordered myself a big bag of dried honeysuckle pretty much immediately and have been sprinkling in small amounts in whenever I brew herbal tea. The flower doesn't really taste of anything, so it goes really well with chamomile, rosebud, and green tea leaves. I can't vouch for its medicinal prowess per se, but I have recovered from colds and coughs faster since adopting this habit.
Mugwort, also known as wormwood, is a leafy plant commonly found in the mountains of northern China. Mugwort essential oil has long been a trusted favorite in Chinese households for nourishing dry skin and chasing away the "internal chill" in your body (aka, that nasty feeling when you're on the verge of getting sick). The oil is often used in foot baths and gua sha routines. My grandma loves dousing this oil on sticky patches and sticky them on her back; it's her personal remedy for back pain. Don't knock it till you try it.
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