All You Ever Wanted to Know About Japan’s Skincare Companies

  • When in Japan, hordes of tourists buying Japanese skincare and cosmetic products in huge quantities are a common sight these days, especially at places such as drug stores where tax-free shopping is available. This phenomenon has become so prevalent partly due to the good reputation of Japanese products in terms of quality and stringent quality control standards. Coupled with the promotional effect of using well-known and popular Japanese celebrities, both male and female, to plug these products, it is no wonder that Japan-branded skincare and cosmetic products are well-loved by consumers both domestically and overseas.

    The Cosmetics Market


    The Japanese cosmetic and skincare industry is so competitive that existing brands have to rejuvenate their product ranges and introduce new products constantly. Coupled with relatively stagnant growth over the years due to uncertain economic conditions, Japanese consumers have preferred to save money rather than spend it. The growing popularity of cheaper products having almost the same or even better effects than the incumbents has made it increasingly difficult for big brands to stay ahead especially in the domestic market.

    According to data from the financial reports in the fiscal year ending March 2014, Shiseido is the top brand in Japan in terms of sales figures with Kao, Pola Orbis, Kose and Mandom finishing in sequence within the top 5. In case you are wondering, these top brands do not just sell skincare and cosmetics. In Shiseido’s case, they have such an extensive range of products that will take care of you from head to toe. Nowadays, even guys can get a piece of the action with dedicated product ranges for men.

    Among the numerous brands out on the market these days, here are three unusual ones which you may not have heard of, are made by companies which you hardly associate with this industry or contain ingredients which are rarely included in skincare products. Read on to discover these hidden gems which may just have the perfect product to suit your needs!



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    What’s special about ASTALIFT is not just about its products. It has more to do with its parent company which you would hardly ever associate with making skincare products, FujiFilm, which is more well-known for its film and cameras.

    With the emergence of digital cameras and their growing popularity over traditional cameras which used film, this caused a huge drop in demand for film negatives since 2000. As FujiFilm’s business was largely dependent on this business segment, this crisis made the company decide to change its business strategy of solely focusing on the photographic equipment business. Despite the fact that its digital cameras were still selling well at that time, FujiFilm still decided to press on with the change despite the uncertainty.

    It was then that the company turned their attention to the things that they had been using and researching all this while such as collagen and nanotechnology. In the case of collagen, many people know about it being a great ingredient to make skin look younger and retain moisture but do you know that collagen was also used to prevent the degrading of film negatives? FujiFilm used their expertise in the research and usage of collagen accumulated over the years and its success in applying nanotechnology to the chemical astaxanthin which was said to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative capabilities. This subsequently led to the birth of their ASTALIFT skincare products range in 2007.

    ASTALIFT has engaged famous actresses/singers Matsuda Seiko and Matsu Takako to be their brand ambassadors and you can view their commercials on the company’s website.


    Many people would have heard about SK-II on virtue of its expansive marketing campaign featuring many female celebrities in Asia and beyond. At present, the brand counts Cate Blanchett, Tang Wei, Ni Ni, Momoi Kaori, Ayase Haruka and Kim Hee Ae as their SK-II muses and the latest addition to this lineup is Arimura Kasumi. Due to the fact that SK-II was developed by Japanese scientists during the 1970s who found that yeast is a great ingredient for skincare products, it is no wonder that most people would think of SK-II as a Japanese brand. The truth is that SK-II is actually owned by the American company Procter & Gamble although it was first launched in Japan in 1980.

    The secret behind SK-II’s success lies in its special ingredient pitera which is the liquid derived from a naturally-occurring yeast named galactomyces. It is said that this ingredient cannot be reproduced by chemical processes which can probably explain its hefty price tag compared to most of its competitors. Personally, I find that the smell from the yeast takes some adjusting to and the yeast ingredient might not be suitable for everyone so you may wish to get some samples to try out first before investing in the products from this prestigious brand.


    AVILO is a brand under Kyudenko Corporation which you would hardly associate with the skincare business, considering that the company’s main businesses include the designing, construction and administration of electrical, information, communication and energy facilities. What’s unique about AVILO is that it has its own olive plantation in Amakusa City, Kumamoto Prefecture, and takes charge of the entire production process from growing the olives, harvesting, extracting the olive oil and manufacturing of the products.

    Amakusa has a long history with olives since the first olive plantation was set up in 1965. Due to its long sunshine hours and a Mediterranean climate of warm winters and cool summers, this had allowed the olive trade to thrive here. However, with the subsequent popularity of grapefruits and the fact that it took a longer time for olives to be harvested as compared to grapefruits, this led the olive industry to slip into oblivion. Luckily, with the increasing popularity of olive oil in Japan in recent years, Amakusa is back in the limelight again as a suitable place to grow olives within Japan.

    Besides Amakusa’s suitability as an olive plantation area, Kyudenko’s desire to promote industrial growth in the Kyushu area led to the development of the Amakusa Olive Garden AVILO in February 2010. They invited experts from Italy to guide them on how to grow the olives and insist on harvesting the olives by hand and extracting the freshest oil within 24 hours after harvesting. This has allowed AVILO to come up with an extensive range of naturally created olive products using 100% Japan-made olives.

    If you are heading to Japan anytime soon, do check out the extensive range of skincare options produced by these companies in order to look great inside and out!

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