Will cosmetics ever be cheaper?

How Japanese beauty companies are conquering the world

Unknown worlds always exert a great fascination, whereby fascination can be complex. If you want to understand Japan, you could try the novels of the writer Haruki Murakami. A good life, conscious simplicity and cool emotional detachment determine his view of the world.

Very few people overcome the 9127 kilometers between Vienna and Tokyo, so for most of them Japan is an exotic country. Why do Japanese women walk through downtown Vienna with umbrellas in bright sunshine? Why are you standing in line in front of the luxury label boutiques on Kohlmarkt? The mutual ignorance of one another has a great advantage: It creates a fascinating exoticism, on the basis of which you can do great business. Cosmetics from Japan are marketed as luxury in our part of the world. There are two big players: on the one hand Shiseido, on the other hand Kanebo with her luxury label Sensai. What one could call Japanità are the beautiful clichés of a country in which white made-up geishas in silk kimonos sit under blossoming cherry trees - aloof, ageless and virtually untouchable, that's the idea.

What also belongs to Japanità: Zen-like simplicity at the highest level - and please be sure to pack it carefully. Cosmetics labels such as Kanebo or Shiseido have been playing on this keyboard for decades and have brought consumers closer to Japanese culture keywords such as "Sakura" (cherry blossom) or "Kanso" (simplicity). As users of these brands, it was thought that these lightly formulated, subtly scented creams were used They are also popular in Japan. It was also thought that there are so many cleaning products because it is so common in Japan. Soap alone is not enough, rather it is about multi-stage cleaning rituals, as they are called in the Japanese "onsen" Sources, to be practiced: "Immaculate beauty must be clean."

Cultural export

Along with Shiseido, Kanebo is one of those brands that celebrate Japanità to perfection. But anyone who has ever been to a perfumery in Japan knew: Shiseido is not a luxury brand there, but something like Nivea. And you searched in vain for Sensai, because this brand only existed outside of Japan, as a pure export item for the West, so to speak.

J-Beauty, Japanese beauty, is the technical term for a trend in cosmetics marketing that has become well established in the western world in recent years due to its success. J-Beauty also corresponds to the zeitgeist: Cosmetic products should not only solve skin problems when they are already there, but should prevent them from the outset, even before they have arisen. Specifically: The skin should be clean (so that there are no pimples), it should be well moisturized (to prevent wrinkles), and it should always be protected from the sun (because otherwise there would be pigment shifts, i.e. brown age spots). In addition, the directive: Skin care takes time, time is created with rituals, and in the best case, self-awareness also creates Zen-inspired calm and serenity.

Fire reloaded

But Japanese managers still have big plans for J-Beauty. "Sensai is very well known in Europe, but we see that Made in Japan is also becoming more and more popular in Asia, which is why we now want to launch Sensai in Japan and in other Asian countries, especially China," said Makiko Takahashi, corporate spokesman of the Kao group, which has an annual turnover of four billion dollars with two dozen very different brands from the consumer good area. So Sensai is the luxury horse in the stable and will be "brought home" in September 2019, and in early 2020 it will be released in China. The parade product will be the "Absolute Silk Micro Mousse Treatment", an immediate product against wrinkles, because globally consumers want quick results. This is why the so-called micro-bubble technology has been developed: with miniaturized bubbles that are similar to carbon dioxide, one wants to push rejuvenating silk particles under the skin and thus achieve an anti-aging effect.

But luxury is, of course, expensive by definition. For the managers of the Japanese cosmetics companies, the fact of the high price became a problem. Younger consumers could often not afford the expensive skin care products. Both Shiseido and Kanebo have launched lower-cost product lines alongside their well-established luxury skin care lines. The Waso line for Shiseido is to enter the race with a peppy design, for which the robot Pepper and the slogan "Japanese Beauty Secret" are entered as advertising media - a new facet, far removed from geishas and cherry blossoms.

Cheaper lines

In addition to Sensai, the Kao Group also needed cheaper creams and dug up the Kanebo label, which had already disappeared five years ago. It also stands for cleaning, for aesthetics and pale refinement, but it is not that expensive.

So the question arises as to whether two large Japanese cosmetics groups are not simply fighting for supremacy on the global stage under the guise of J-Beauty? So in the end, the female skincare audience around the globe will decide who will win. Because Japanese brands are actually mostly unknown in our part of the world. When European cosmetic labels penetrate the Asian market, they have to develop brightening products with azelaic acid or kojic acid, which work against pigmentation disorders and whiten the complexion. That, in turn, is rarely a skin care goal for women in our part of the world.

The interplay between East and West has a long tradition. Incidentally, the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is more of an export product with his bestsellers. As a Japanese writer, he sells his books particularly successfully outside of his home country. (Karin Pollack, RONDO, July 18, 2019)

Japanese cosmetics (from left to right): Sensai, Kanebo's luxury brand, is said to be a global success with its "Absolute Silk Micro Mousse Treatment". € 165/ Kanebo "Global Skin Protector SPF 50+": creamy-gel. € 49,95/ Sensai "Silky Purifying Silk Peeling Powder" cleanses and smoothes. € 74,95/ Shiseido The young Waso line with the "Color-smart Day Moisturizer". € 45/ Cure facial peeling with aloe vera extracts from Nägele & Strubell. € 39/ Shiseido "Ultimune Eye Power Infusion Concentrate". € 69,95/ Muji The Japanese design chain has creams in its European branches. € 15