American Beauty is a series written by an American beauty writer temporarily marooned in Japan and is in no way affiliated with the actor Thora Birch.

Japan is a nation full of gorgeous things. Everywhere you look, there is a mountain you feel compelled to write a poem about, or a pair of jeans you would murder your neighbor to own, underscored by one of the most melodic languages you have ever heard. In English, you’re just kind of stringing together a macaroni necklace of words, but in Japanese, sentences are crafted into precise mosaics and then colored with vocal inflection, like a stained glass window animated by a sunbeam. Borne on the tongue of an American idiot, it becomes fragile and prone to shatter, like a stained glass window animated by a sledgehammer.

This is all to say that I am doing my best, thank you, but I lack the vocabulary and knack for the artisanal composition necessary to put together a Japanese sentence. Physically I am a grown man, but linguistically I am but a baby, able only to communicate yes and no, please, this is delicious, [noise indicating physical distress], laughter. I am also (like a baby) desperately in need of attention at all times. Babies do crazy things for attention, like shit on the floor, and I haven’t had to do that… yet!

But moving to a new country makes you do crazy things. When everything is a brand new experience, it warps your senses of danger and risk; when everything is unfamiliar and terrifying, everything is also somehow numbly comfortable and painless. I will tell you later about how a trip to McDonald's nearly turned into a diplomatic crisis, but I will tell you now about buying orange mascara, the easiest thing I have ever done. I was in a department store stacked on top of another department store shopping for kitchenware when I encountered it; in line for the register, between hand sanitizer and mixed nuts. I bought a tube along with a set of bowls and a spatula.

Ettusais’ Eye Edition Mascara Base comes in a tiny rainbow of colors, including a ghostly purple and a raspberry jam, but I went for the Healthy Style Copper Orange. My eyes are set so far back in my skull that wearing eyeshadow is a total waste, like painting a mural behind a refrigerator, but my hope was that lighting my eyelashes on fire would provide alternative drama and bring out the blue of my irises. Mostly I thought it would be a cool look. But if I’m being honest, I also hoped it would inspire more people to try to talk to me by silently introducing a natural healthy-style-copper-orange talking point into my daily conversations.

Applying Healthy Style Copper Orange mascara base is difficult—the provided brush is, I’m sorry to say, utterly impotent, and more like a sawed-off rake than anything resembling a mascara spoolie. But perhaps because it is nearly impossible to apply, it’s absolutely impossible to overapply. No matter how many times you, or I, scrape the comb against your/my eyelashes, it does no more than wrap each eyelash in a nuance of color. A kiss of leprechaun genetics.

Based on this description, are you surprised that nobody has seemed to notice? So far, my orange eyelashes have earned no compliments, no commentary, no banter; nothing beyond “How can I help you?” or “Thank you for visiting Starbucks.” The only person to mention them was a dinner companion, a fellow American, also kind of a bro from Oakland: “You’re doing an orange makeup thing?” he asked. And I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.


Shodai is a moisturizer that smells exactly like dirt but you should still try it
Shodai, a Japanese-based brand from the British guy, is all about using traditional beauty ingredients like onsen water and Hiba oil.
Kemio, the Japanese influencer on growing up biracial, coming out as gay and his K-pop obsession - Very Good Light
Very Good Light caught up with the star to talk about how he didn’t know he was half-Persian until high school and coming to terms with his sexuality.
Glossier wants its new Lash Slick to be the eyelash answer to Boy Brow
Glossier’s Lash Slick is its first foray into mascara. And just like the Boy Brow, it wants people to have that seamless look.
7 Asian American beauty brands you need to know now - Very Good Light
Asian beauty is so much more than K-Beauty. Here are the Asian-American beauty brands you need to know.
Share this post