April in Tokyo is best known as cherry blossom season but, this past spring, those iconic blooms had some competition from another of Japan’s beauty signatures.
Shiseido, the country’s No. 1 cosmetics company with more than $13-billion in sales and brands such as Nars and Laura Mercier in its portfolio, unveiled its new Global Innovation Center (GIC), a research and development facility unlike any other in the world that emphasizes Japan’s growing influence on beauty regimens.
“My mission is to make Shiseido ready for the next stage,” CEO Masahiko Uotani said at the unveiling of the 16-storey open lab, which is located in Yokohama, an area undergoing development for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Uotani points to research and development as forming the foundation for Shiseido’s growth, which includes a target of employing 1,500 research staff by next year. The GIC is a key part of that direction. “This is a symbol of our innovation investment and capabilities,” Uotani explained. “It’s a completely new concept.”
Shiseido was established in 1872 as the first Western-style pharmacy in Japan, a legacy that still informs its science-first approach. While other heritage brands have had a tricky time weathering industry disruption by digital natives, e-commerce and ingredient-savvy consumers demanding transparency, Shiseido can lean on its research-focused roots to stay relevant.
This fall, its revamped makeup offering will amp up with the launch of Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Foundation. The formula includes a patented technology called ActiveForce, which Shiseido says self-refreshes over time for longer wear. “What I love specifically is that you have that natural finish,” says James Boehmer, global director for artistry at Shiseido Makeup. “It looks like a second skin. As your day goes on, it just gets better and better.”
The new foundation is available in a diverse range of 30 shades. That kind of inclusivity in beauty is a global discussion that’s being tackled at the S/PARK Museum, an interactive complex at the GIC that’s open to the public. “It is a museum of experience, encouraging visitors to question beauty as consumers,” says its director Gen Nawa.
Part of that experience is the S/PARK Beauty Bar, where visitors can sample a selection of Shiseido products including personalized skincare formulas mixed in plain view by lab coat-clad researchers. With targeted treatments being heralded by product developers and dermatologists as the way of the future, the promise of your own Shiseido recipe should be enough to lure its fans in Canada halfway around the world.
Big in Japan
With limited availability in Canada, getting your Japanese beauty fix can be hard at home. Here are four other labels to look for
Founder Victoria Tsai takes an East-meets-West approach to Tatcha, which she develops with American and Japanese scientists. Green tea, rice and algae – superfoods that are popular in the Japanese diet and were used in geisha beauty rituals – form the basis of the luxe line. It’s a recipe for success. In June, Tatcha was acquired by Unilever for a reported US$500-million.
Tatcha The Silk Peony Melting Eye Cream, $78 at Sephora (tatcha.com).
The star of this Procter & Gamble-owned skincare brand is called Pitera, an ingredient derived from a natural fermentation process created after a chance encounter at a sake brewery, where scientists noticed that workers hands were soft and smooth. Pitera makes up more than 90 per cent of SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence, a brightening and smoothing formula.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, $235 at Sephora (sk-ii.com).
Clé de Peau Beauté
French for “key to skin,” it’s easy to mistake Clé de Peau for a Parisian luxury brand. Started by Shiseido in 1982, Clé de Peau is the company’s premium offering, formulated to achieve bright, luminescent skin. The aestheticians at its Tokyo spa are trained using a wearable finger sensor that measures pressure to optimize the right amount of touch.
Clé de Peau Cream to Powder Foundation, $128 at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Holt Renfrew (cledepeau-beaute.com).
World-famous makeup artist Shu Uemura founded his namesake brand in 1983 on the idea that beautiful makeup begins with beautiful skin. Now owned by L’Oreal, the brand includes makeup, skincare and haircare offerings that are inspired by Tokyo flair. Uemura ’s cleansing oil and eyelash curler are widely considered essential beauty buys.
Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil, from $50 at Sephora, Hudson’s Bay and Nordstrom (shuuemura.ca).