The pursuit of timeless beauty has shaped Shiseido since it was founded in 1872. It is an ethos that continues to inspire the company today. Omotenashi, an approach to hospitality originating in the Japanese tea ceremony, is the Shiseido credo. “We believe in Japanese beauty, not riding on J-beauty,” says Ryota Yukisada, deputy chief brand officer of Shiseido. For the 147-year-old cosmetics company, the oldest in the world, the essence of Japanese beauty is not tied to a trending ingredient or a novel application technique, but rather honing received knowledge to inform the present as well as the future. “We have different values based on culture,” affirms Yukisada.
In Japan, beauty rituals and the use of cosmetics date back to the Heian period (794–1185); traditional attitudes towards beauty are a seductive mix of ritual and artistry. From the country’s geisha culture to the mod looks of the 1960s all the way to the Harajuku girls of today, the Japanese have earned a formidable reputation in the beauty industry, and for good reason. With complexions often described as flawless, radiant, and youthful, Japanese women have long been held up as the epitome of luminous skin.
To mark a decade since the launch of its Future Solution LX skin-care range, Shiseido created the Beauty Transcends Time project, a look at the evolution of beauty in Japan and the country’s reverence for timeless beauty. Shiseido chose to commemorate the milestone in Kyoto—the former capital, whose beauty is a combination of nature and human design—with a gift the company hopes will last another thousand years. At the Kyoto National Museum in May, a specially commissioned tamatebako (treasure box) was unveiled. Conceived from a poem written by Japanese philosopher Motoaki Shinohara and visually translated by Yoshitaka Amano, the artist behind video game Final Fantasy, the lacquered box was crafted by artisans at Zohiko, which has been producing handmade lacquerware since 1681. Tamatebako are not solely pieces of art; they were also once used for storing cosmetics, hence their particular relevance to Shiseido. And in Kyoto, with the cherry blossoms fluttering in the wind, Yukisada offered up the treasure box in a traditional dedication ceremony at Shimogamo Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most sacred Shinto shrines in the country, the gesture a symbol of how much Shiseido honours its roots.
“Fundamentally, Shiseido is a different type of beauty. A blend of heritage and modernity, traditional ingredients combined with Japanese ritual and modern-day advances.”
Shiseido operates on the premise that beauty radiates from within. “Fundamentally, Shiseido is a different type of beauty,” explains Yukisada, “a blend of heritage and modernity, traditional ingredients combined with Japanese ritual and modern-day advances.” From the celebrated Future Solution LX, Shiseido’s best-selling anti-aging collection, comes a new product, the Legendary Enmei Ultimate Luminance Serum. The enmei complex is a proprietary anti-aging ingredient that slows the appearance of visible signs of aging. At Mount Koya, where it has grown in the wild for centuries, enmei was given by monks to weary pilgrims to restore their strength. Shiseido has tapped into the powers of this Japanese botanical for Future Solution LX and in this newest serum, combines it with green silk.
Shiseido’s enmei complex has been formulated to suppress the free radicals that can diminish skin’s overall health and appearance. It works to inhibit protein carbonylation, which can leave skin looking dull and helps boost overall skin health from outermost to deep dermis, improving the natural self-repair abilities of skin over time. “I am a researcher,” says Eriko Kawai, who has a PhD in medical bioscience and has been working in Shiseido’s research department for 25 years, “but I also respect the Japanese mindset, the culture and traditions, and believe in the power of nature.” For this new serum, the enmei is harvested by hand on a tensha nichi day, considered to be the most auspicious days on the Japanese calendar, of which there are only four in 2019. Kawai supervises the formulation of global skin-care products for Shiseido and is credited with discovering the SkingenecellEnmei complex, the key ingredient in the Legendary Enmei Ultimate Luminance Serum, which contains a number of active ingredients that penetrate well into the skin and has a comfortable, dewy texture on the surface.
“The reason of existing in the beauty industry is delivering on our own values,” affirms Yukisada. Future Solution LX has, for 10 years, delivered on scientific achievements and ritual, in addition to being a “vital solution to the skin.”
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