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Tapping the Skin-Care Properties of Everyday Foods (January 18, 2005)

cosmetics from food
Cosmetics made from sake (Gekkeikan Sake/Jiji)
Skin-care products made out of sake, soy milk, natto (fermented soybeans), and other common Japanese fare are now all the rage. Their popularity is thought to be an outgrowth of heightened public interest in healthy living. Facial cleansers and other skin-care products have become a focus of particular attention because they are applied directly to the skin. The trend is also being fueled by the ready availability of these goods at neighborhood drugstores and over the Internet and by their low cost.

Natural Moisturizers
In Japan, it has long been said that The hands of sake brewers who handle rice bran every day are white and youthful, so the beautifying effects of this part of a rice grain are common knowledge. Even before the present trend took shape, some Japanese washed themselves with a bath mitt filled with rice bran or poured a bit of sake into their bath water in place of bath salts or powders.

Rice bran, which is the outer part of the grain, is rich in vitamins and minerals but is removed when brown rice is milled. A huge amount of bran is generated in the process of manufacturing sake. Over the past few months, one sake maker after another has entered the skin-care market, intent on making use of this valuable byproduct by creating its own line of goods.

The trailblazer for rice bran cosmetics is the Komenuka Bijin ("Rice Bran Beauty") line, manufactured by the sake brewer Nihonsakari Co. Having started with a facial cleanser in 1987, the company has since developed a full lineup of products. In October 2004 it added a new series of products, Komenuka Bijin NS-K, which are made from an extract of the yeast used to ferment sake. Komenuka Bijin is sold not only in Japan but in the United States, too, where it has a devoted following, and the company is now considering expanding into the Russian and Chinese markets.

Another sake producer, Gekkeikan Sake Co., released a line of four products, including facial cleanser and toner, under the label Moist Moon over the Internet in October. Moist Moon skin-care goods have been a hit with consumers who prefer natural products and do not want to use anything strong on their skin, since they contain no added fragrances, coloring, or mineral oils. Meanwhile, Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co. also joined the fray, coming out with three Rice Beauty products, including a toner and a milky lotion. The company plans to expand its sales network from online shopping to supermarkets and other retailers. The products provide long-lasting hydration for just ¥1,000 ($10 at 100 yen to the dollar) to ¥2,500 ($25).

Staying Young with Soybean Isoflavones
Cosmetics containing soy milk are also popular, thanks to the benefits of isoflavones, compounds that function like the female hormone estrogen. Isoflavones are found in the liquid generated when soybeans are fermented with lactic bacteria. Tokiwa Pharmaceuticals Co. recently marketed a line of basic skin-care goods that uses an isoflavone-rich liquid made from organic beans. The products are said to remove active enzymes and slow down the aging of the skin, prevent the production of melanin and maintain the skin's whiteness, and keep in moisture. Sold in drugstores, the products cost about ¥1,000 ($10).

Finally, Japan Corporation, a subsidiary of ST Chemical Corporation, has marketed four skin care products featuring a combination of the amino acids that make natto sticky. The products do not have natto's stickiness or pungent aroma, but they leave the skin feeling moist thanks to the inclusion of these moisture-maintaining amino acids. The soybeans used to manufacture them are not genetically modified. The products are available at drugstores and other retail shops for about ¥1,000 ($10).

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Copyright (c) 2005 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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