Home » Japanese Cosmetics » Gifts from Kyoto: Ueba Esou Gofun Nail Polishes 上羽絵惣 胡粉ネイル

Gifts from Kyoto: Ueba Esou Gofun Nail Polishes 上羽絵惣 胡粉ネイル

Ueba Esou Gofun Nail Polish Bottles 上羽絵惣 胡粉ネイル

In recent years, I’ve noticed myself being more and more drawn to traditional Japanese arts and crafts. There’s something so charming about beautiful designs that come about from the masterful craftsmen who preserved the arts and their methods from generation to generation. It’s fascinating to see what the human hands and mind can produce, even without the advanced technology of today, or better yet, that even machines cannot recreate.

Imagine my joy when I recently received these distinctly Japanese nail polishes as gifts. Nail polishes! I was immediately drawn to the Byakko “white fox” logo, with phoenixes guarding its sides. With quite a retro look and their origin being Kyoto, I knew this company had quite a history to tell.

Aside from its packaging, I was told these are water-based gofun nail polishes that are completely natural, odorless, and non-toxic that make them popular and safe for even pregnant women and children. I’ve heard of, but had never used, water-based varnishes and I was intrigued.

So what’s gofun?

Ueba Esou Gofun Nail Polish Bottles 上羽絵惣 胡粉ネイル

Gofun means “seashell powder” and it refers to the ingredient used to make these polishes. The company Ueba Esou was established in Kyoto in 1751 (!!!) and began making high quality paints from gofun to be used for Japanese arts, including painting the famous Kyoto dolls, ceiling and wall paintings in temples and shrines, as well as Noh theatre masks.

These gofun nail polishes do not contain any organic solvents unlike regular nail polishes. The solvents are what give off the “nail polish” scent, which is why these water-based polishes are virtually odorless, and more importantly, non-toxic.

The company boats of these points as some merits of using gofun polishes:

  • Gentle on nails
  • Non-toxic
  • Safe for use by children and pregnant women
  • Quick-drying
  • No strong scent

Ueba Esou Gofun Nail Polish Box 上羽絵惣 胡粉ネイル

They came housed in a cardboard box, with each nail polish arriving in their own clear plastic box. Each had a small folded note that explained gofun nail polishes and that they’re carefully made by craftsmen using traditional methods.

I found through researching this company that each 10ml nail polish retails for 1,200yen, or a little less than USD $16. Mine came in a set with a base and top coat (the white bottles) plus 3 colors, which are 5,000yen (USD ~$65) for the set. More information can be found on their Japanese site, and they also have an English site, though their online shop is entirely in Japanese.

By Japanese standard compared to other regular polishes on the market, these nail polishes are on the inexpensive, affordable side. However, I currently don’t have a good impression of water-based polishes, as I’ve heard they do not apply or stay on like regular polishes and dissolve in water.

I’ll be putting these water-based gofun polishes to the test and I’ll report back on how they perform.

Have you ever tried water-based nail polishes? If not, would you?

20 Responses to Gifts from Kyoto: Ueba Esou Gofun Nail Polishes 上羽絵惣 胡粉ネイル

  1. Isn’t it interesting how we only really learn to appreciate our cultures as we grow up? When I was younger I was quite a cultural rebel. These days, I’m more accepting and more “traditional” in my outlook. I love how delicate Japanese arts and crafts are and you have such a long history too!

    As for the polish, I like the sound of an odourless polish. Its part of the reason I dislike nail painting :P

    • Same here, Paris. I tended to have “the grass is greener…” mentality, but now I’m really coming to love and appreciate what Japan has to offer. My friends think I’m crazy for not seeing it before, I’m sure.

      I don’t like nail polish fumes either and can’t help but feel I’m doing my health a disfavor. I like that there are alternatives.

      • I don’t think that they are really odorless… they just have a different chemical-y scent. Or at least that’s what it seems like to me.

        • This one is virtually odorless! I guess there are different formulations. It has an extremely faint powder scent. I really have to stick my nose to the bottle and take a good inhale. :)

  2. oooo these look nice *w* the label on the bottles look so traditional :)!!The pink and pale blue look soo pretty!~~~
    i cant wait for ur feedback!!~~~~

    • Aren’t the bottles cute? The ones that look pale blue are actually bottles of base and top coats. Seashell powders give them that cloudiness, apparently.

  3. These are really adorable! I have to admit that $16/10 ml bottle is not very affordable from my US point of view–I would have a lot less polish if that were the norm here, but I know we’re spoiled in that regard. I would love to have something so unique as these in my collection but I’m not too excited about water-based polishes, to be honest. I like my chemicals! :) Still, I’m excited to see your swatches!

    • Haha! I’m all for chemicals, too, although I try to use polishes that are less toxic than some. I do agree the US is blessed by more inexpensive prices and having some real gem of polishes at low price points!

  4. oo and Peach:3
    Have you ever tried SCOTCH NATURALS??If you did , what do u think of those??I am thinking of trying some!~

    • I tried them. They were sooooo hard to use!!! They don’t apply like regular polishes at all. I would put a coat down, and then parts of the edges, or even the middle of the nail would “shrink” and show bare nails. Plus they apply like really bad jellies: NOT EVENLY.

      I don’t have the patience to try them anymore. I even followed the directions the card said… use some oil on your nail bed since the polish doesn’t like a dry bed. Nope. Still didn’t work.

      • oo thanks for telling me that!!!!then i wont try them haha :p
        it is selling for $15 CAD on a Canadian website….not cheap at all!
        Thanks again ;3

        • If you are looking to try a water-based polish, perhaps try Honeybee Gardens? I tried one of their colors, and I didn’t have many application issues, although I didn’t wear it for very long either.

          Scotch Naturals is expensive in the US, too.

      • Interesting! These polishes say to avoid cuticle oils or hand creams on nails since water-based nail polishes will repel oil. I’m sure they contain different ingredients, though.

        • I tried both, no oils & with oils, and got the same results. Not sure if it would be any different with the brand’s base & top coat, but I’m not spending a bunch of money to try it.

    • I’ve never tried them, but the bottles sure are CUTE!

  5. These polishes sound so intriguing and I can’t wait to see what they’ll look like on you :-) The green shade looks quite interesting.

  6. LOL, it’s the color of Green Tea Ice Cream! :) I like the pink on the far left. Surprised there’s no robin’s egg blue.

    • Hi Pook! Haha it really is. :D Now I want some green tea ice cream, even though I’m cold. That pink seems to be a very sheer, mostly transparent wash of color. I checked the site and they make a bright blue. You can pick and choose 3 colors to include in a set!

  7. Any idea where to get the Gofun polish in Europe or the US??
    I’d really, really like to get a set!

What say you?