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The Quest for Beauty Continues Apace

New Products and Services Defy Recession

The desire to be beautiful seems to know no bounds. Sales of beauty products at department stores in Japan rose for 23 months in a row on a year-on-year basis through November 2008, and the beauty industry has proven itself remarkably resilient to the subsequent downturn. The pillars of the Japanese beauty industry are its high standards of service and its use of new technologies. Here we highlight some of the new products and services that have found favor with Japan's discerning consumers.

Personalized Beauty Counseling A major Japanese cosmetics manufacturer opened a salon in the spring of 2009 offering clients the experience of an exhaustive, individualized quest for beauty. Located in central Tokyo in the upscale Ginza district, the facility operates under the concept of "tender loving care for you and your skin."

The beauty consultants at the shop possess expertise in makeup, color analysis, and fashion and employ advanced skin analysis equipment to provide customized counseling services. Troublesome skin problems are examined and methods to resolve them proposed. In addition to instructing customers on makeup methods to achieve the "golden ratio" standard for facial beauty, they also give advice on skin nutrition and even offer fashion tips. These private lessons are so popular that places are filled a month in advance, as soon as reservations open. Products like Japanese cut glass perfume bottles and lacquered makeup boxes can be specially ordered, and displays of these and other traditional crafts reflect the salon's pursuit of authentic beauty.

Another major cosmetics manufacturer offers a full lineup of beauty products suited to specific skin types, ages, and even seasons of the year, along with consultation services to determine which of their products suit a particular client. The cosmetics are targeted at women from their twenties to forties and are especially popular among working women in their thirties. They are easy to apply and were developed on the basis of a cellular-level analysis of data gathered from 10 million cases over a 20-year period.

During the initial consultation, a beauty adviser checks the skin's keratin and melanin, likelihood of developing wrinkles, and other points using tools developed by the company. About a week later, the customer receives a skin-care "advice sheet" and samples of the skin-care products recommended by the adviser based on the results of the analysis. Customers who purchase one or more products are entitled to free follow-up consultations every three to four months. The findings of these sessions are maintained by the adviser and analysis center and used for future consultations.

Professional Beauty Equipment at Home Beauty devices for home use have also developed to meet consumers' expectations, with various innovative and easy-to-use models having hit the market recently. The latest blow dryers, for example, not only dry the hair but help to prevent and repair damage.

One dryer uses a combination of nanotechnology and platinum to reverse some of the damage caused by ultraviolet rays, including frizzy and flyaway hair. Slightly acidic negative ions are produced by the device, which makes the surface of the hair slightly acidic and helps to retain moisture and seal the cuticles. The use of platinum enables 1,000 times more moisture to be retained than with ordinary negative ions. The result is a smooth sheen that users say is clearly perceptible.

Some recently developed facial devices cleanse and massage so well they make the home feel like a salon. One model, for example, uses the power of ions, as used in beauty salons, to remove foundation residue lodged deep in the pores. Such residue cannot be removed by washing alone. The device makes use of ultrasound waves that vibrate at 3 million times per second to ensure that collagen, hyaluronic acid, vitamin A, and other nutrients penetrate deep into the skin. It is a powerful weapon in the constant battle to keep skin looking healthy.

Baths, meanwhile, are becoming incubators for beautiful skin. A microbubble generator for the home has been unveiled by a bathtub maker. The device, which employs state-of-the-art technology usually used to clean precision components, is attached to the tub and generates ultrafine bubbles just 10 micrometers in diameter - thinner than a hair. The milky foam penetrates deep into the pores to remove impurities and keeps skin youthful. Its massaging action also improves blood circulation and helps maintain good health.

Like the other new services and products, the microbubble generator gives consumers access to salon-standard skin care and relaxation in the comfort of their own home. (July 2009)

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