Japanese Cosmetics Companies Answer the Longing for Eternal Youthfulness

As we grow older, wrinkles and fine lines are inevitable. But Japanese cosmetics makers have been trying to put an end to that. For years, they've been working on products they claim will make such signs of aging less noticeable.

Now, some firms are going a step further, developing cutting-edge products that create artificial skin. The human desire to stay youthful is spurring innovation in the field.

What are "wrinkle-reducing" cosmetics?

"Wrinkle-reducing" cosmetics are health-ministry-approved quasi drug beauty products like serums and creams that claim to reduce wrinkles. Major Japanese cosmetic companies have been releasing such products and they're flying off the shelves.

Shiseido has introduced products that it says are designed to reduce wrinkles and prevent skin blotches. About 2.4 million units were shipped over a span of 9 months.

Pola sold more than1.2 million units of its new product in its first year -- an unprecedented hit for the company. The product has just hit the markets in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Kose announced it will release its own lineup soon containing a type of vitamin called niacinamide that works on the skin's inner layers.

Labels matter

In 2016, Japan's health ministry started approving cosmetics with anti-wrinkle effects as quasi drugs if their safety could be proved. Cosmetics firms have since been allowed to label their products as having such effects.

Before that, even cosmetics that were produced to work on lines and wrinkles could only be marketed with less-promising phrases like "makes fine lines less noticeable" under Japan's pharmaceutical laws.

In January last year, Pola became the first cosmetics brand in Japan to market a product with the new label.

Beauty reporter Kyoko Nakajima says demand for anti-wrinkle products will likely grow as the population ages.

Beauty at a whole new level

As competition intensifies among Japan's cosmetics makers, one company is investing in a totally new technology that may bring about fundamental change to the industry.

Shiseido is making use of artificial skin. The idea is to spread sheets of it over sagging skin and wrinkles.

Two kinds of gel are used to make artificial skin. Its contents are a closely-guarded secret, but Shiseido showed NHK how it's used.

One of the gels is applied to the back of a hand, over which the second one is spread. A chemical reaction starts immediately to produce a thin skin-like membrane.

Coming soon?

Originally, the technology for producing artificial skin was in the possession of a US venture firm founded by a group of scientists, including a world-leading dermatologist.

Shiseido's development group saw potential and purchased the rights in early 2018.

The company has since been working hard to develop a new line of cosmetics, with the goal of a commercial launch by 2020.

Hideki Takahashi, a researcher at Shiseido, says the artificial skin should help develop beauty products that will be safe and bring instant results.

He also says it also has great potential to be used for a wide range of purposes other than anti-aging, like concealing burn marks and scars.