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Branching into Beauty Care

Women in Japan have nearly limitless options when it comes to beauty-care products. The market is worth 20 billion dollars a year. This is attracting interest from some unexpected places. NHK WORLD's Akiko Okamoto reports.

This is a display of photography products at a Fuji film shop in Tokyo. The company is Japan's largest maker of camera films.

The firm's executives had been facing a big challenge. The market for films was shrinking because most people now take pictures with their smartphones and digital cameras.

So officials started looking for ways to diversify their business. They came up with the idea of making beauty products. Last month, they released their first hair-care line. It includes shampoo, conditioner, and treatment.

The products utilize some of the technology used to make camera films.

Here's a cross-section of film that shows microscopic compounds created by the engineers. The substances are as small as one-billionth of a meter in diameter.

The engineers used this "nano-technology" to help boost hair growth. The effective ingredient in the hair product is called glycyrrhetic acid. At first, developers couldn't use it because it doesn't dissolve in water.

So they developed a "nano-sized" acid. This allowed the substance to become water-soluble. It could then penetrate the hair shaft and scalp to boost hair growth.

"The process of making this compound is our exclusive and original technology. No other companies can do this."
Kozo Nagata / Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Research Laboratories, Fuji Film

Products that use glycyrrhetic acid are slightly more expensive than others on the market. Company officials are watching to see how consumers react to their new products.

"Another non cosmetic firm also entered the industry last year. A Major food company that makes this...caramel."
Akiko Okamoto / NHK WORLD

Ezaki Glico is well-known for its caramel sweets. An ingredient in the candy called glycogen is now being used for facial soaps.

Scientists at the firm's research institute had been studying the substance for nearly 30 years.

Glycogen is a type of sugar that's stored in muscles and liver. Researchers discovered that it's also found in the skin and that it helps reduce the effects of aging.

So they developed a type of glycogen for use in skincare products. It's now an ingredient in the company's soaps, toners, and creams.

Officials are hoping to export the substance to cosmetics companies overseas. They've been marketing it at international trade shows.

"We want glycogen to become a popular ingredient -- just like collagen. We're hoping to make more products with it and sell them overseas."
Takashi Furuyashiki / Institute of Health Science, Ezaki Glico

More and more Japanese companies are looking to enter the beauty industry.
That's good news for consumers, who will have more -- and better -- choices than ever.

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