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Cosmetics Developed Especially for the Japanese Market (December 10, 2004)

Morphing Rouge, a lipstick developed for the Japanese market. (Helena Rubinstein)
For Japanese women, lipstick or eye shadow from prestigious western makers can be prized gifts from a friend's trip overseas. But sometimes, the recipient's initial delight fades when she tries out the stylishly packaged product only to realize that the shade does not suit her Asian looks. Until now, there was little that Japanese women could do about this situation. After all, the products are made in western countries for primarily western customers. Over the past few years, however, a growing number of European and American cosmetics manufacturers have been introducing lipstick, eye shadow, nail polish, and other beauty-enhancing products in colors exclusively for the Japanese or Asian markets.

Japanese Women: The World's Best-Informed Consumers
In July 2004, Chanel came out with a six-lipstick series based around the concept of "the beauty of Asian women's skin." The introduction of pinks, beiges, and other shades designed to blend in with Asian skin tones may seem surprising in the context of Chanel's corporate image, of which fire-engine-red lipstick is a prime symbol. But Givenchy, Clarins, Helena Rubinstein, and Yves Saint Laurent are also coming out with lipsticks for the Japanese market. Yves Saint Laurent's lipsticks, also introduced in July 2004, are imbued with a pearly sheen that the designer describes as being "inspired by the summer night sky"; the colors include a pink with a golden pearly tone that gives it a sophisticated air. And in September, Yves Saint Laurent introduced a four-color lipstick palette of beige-toned pinks.

This heightened interest in Japanese and other Asian consumers does not end with lipstick. The eye shadow line introduced by Stila in October is focused on pastel colors and includes a white, a blue, and an orange - all in pearly tones available only in Asia. OPI, a maker of nail polish and related goods, offers the Yokohama Collection of manicure products, which includes pale beiges and pinks developed exclusively for the Japanese market.

Concealer - used to cover skin blemishes and dark circles under the eyes - is another product of which shades are being created especially for Japan or Asia. A line of concealers with fine-tipped brush applicators, made by Clarins, includes Claire Apricot, a shade developed expressly for Japanese women. The orange-toned shade blends in well with Japanese skin. Once upon a time, European and American cosmetics manufacturers served the Japanese market by simply importing products in the same colors that they were pushing in the West. But this approach did not fly with Japanese women, who avidly read trend-conscious fashion magazines and other publications and may be the world's best-informed consumers. Japanese women are highly particular about color and finish (for example, the pearly tones that are all the rage nowadays). Ultimately, cosmetics makers realized that Japanese women constituted a separate, extremely important market that they could not ignore.

Spotlighting Uniquely Asian Beauty
Virtually all of the colors being developed specifically for the Japanese or Asian markets are beiges and pinks, and this holds true across all categories of cosmetics. One expert explains this trend by pointing out that the typical Japanese woman wants to look stylish without standing out too much. In a society that sees more appeal in cuteness than in adult allure, the cosmetics that find favor are eye makeup that makes the eyes look bigger and lipstick that makes the lips look soft and rounded. Western cosmetics makers, whose main product lines are geared toward mature adult sensibilities, have had to develop colors specifically for the Japanese market in order to fully tap into the needs of Japanese women.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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