Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

The secret allure of the surgical mask

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Who is that masked woman? (Satoko Kawasaki photo)

Last month in Nagano, despite sweltering temperatures, a number of high school students were spotted attending school wearing surgical masks. This wasn’t hayfever season, nor were there any colds going around, so why were these teenagers covering their mouths and noses up? They were simply following a national trend for date masuku,  surgical masks that are just for show. (That’s read “dah-te,” nothing to do with dating.)

A journalist for Shinano Mainichi Shimbun asked students why they were wearing masks and got some surprising answers. One girl commented, “I’m shy about being seen without my makeup on.” Worryingly, another boy said, “I feel safe with it on.” Another 16-year-old female high school student explained that, “The mask hides the acne around my mouth.”

While this looks — on the face of it — like a problem created by low self-esteem, one that teenagers might grow out of, Japanese Wikipedia states that research done by Asahi Shimbun back in 2011 showed that adults are reaching for the date mask, too. Many began by using surgical masks for health reasons and then continued because they found that they enjoyed wearing a mask.

A writer under the name of Tama Tsupi, a self-confessed former date mask addict, wrote about the issue for Gadget News earlier this year. “Tsupi” began using a surgical mask to protect herself against hay fever and infection, but gradually came to find that she got a pleasant feeling from wearing a mask. Stressed at work, she found it useful for those times when she couldn’t be bothered to do her make up properly, or when she had trouble relating to others.

Though she’s now kicked the habit, she has stuck up for mask wearers by stating that covering up part of the face can have the effect of highlighting a person’s beauty. In the piece, she evangelizes about the unexpected cosmetic effect she experienced when wearing a mask. She points out that it’s common practice in Japan for people to upload shots of themselves to social networking sites that hide part of their face. These shots are both flattering to one’s vanity and protect one’s private image in the public domain. She writes: “Don’t you think this technique could be put to good use not only in a photograph, but in reality?”

The origin of the term date masuku (伊達マスク)is apparently connected to the Sendai’s famous daimyo Date Masamune. Problem is we’ve yet to figure out how the family name of this fierce, one-eyed warrior has come  to mean “vainglorious,” as seen in the similar terms date megane (prescription-less glasses) or date otoko, which essentially means dandy.  This YouTube video even suggests a connection with the true surname of the masked hero of Tiger Mask. So there you go. Think of it as being somewhere between vanity and anonymity.

The Korean beauty secrets are out

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Beauty products containing snake venom, distributed by Dodo Japan, on display at Cosme Tokyo 2012 (Mio Yamada photo)

In the West, Japanese cosmetics have developed quite a devout following, so it might come as a surprise that in Japan, women are actually becoming more interested in South Korean beauty products and treatments.

At Japan’s first-ever Cosme Tokyo fair, South Korean companies made a strong showing, taking the top slot among the non-Japanese exhibitors. In addition to shiny eyeliners, sparkling eye shadows, bright blushers and other makeup items, they presented crowd-drawing snail-slime moisturizers and synthetic snake-venom face packs.

Like K-Pop and Korean TV dramas, the popularity of Korean cosmetics has been undeniable for the past few years. And as South Korea has become a popular tourist destination, Korean cosmetic companies have begun to realize that Japanese tourists were perhaps some of their best customers. While it’s not all going to Japan, one thing is certain: Korea’s cosmetic exports climbed $600 million in 2010, up from $80 million in 2001.

Exotic ingredients aside, there’s not a lot to distinguish many of the Korean goods from Japanese cosmetics.  So what is it that gets consumer attention? While we can’t discount the lure of bright colors and cute motifs on the packaging, the most attractive draw is most likely the use of natural ingredients or the focus on natural derivatives for products. They’re also often far cheaper than their Japanese counterparts.

Skin Food, which opened its first store in Harajuku in 2009, for example, bases all its products on food extracts, using fruit, vegetable, grains and snail (well, yes, snails can be viewed as food). Missha, which is famous for its Missha BB “blemish balm” cream, uses snail and mixes it with natural plant extracts, as does Etude House, a popular line of products aimed at a younger generation — both brands opened their first stores in Shinjuku in March this year.

“Made in Korea” has become a selling point, and not only have prominent Korean brands opened up shop in Tokyo, but more Korean cosmetics in general have started appearing on the shelves of the city’s major drug stores (see DoDo Japan’s line of makeup).  A couple of new Korean-goods-specific stores have also opened in the city. In March, Chongane & Skin Garden in Shin-Okubo opened its doors to offer Korean foods, accessories and cosmetics, while  Skin holic, which opened last month, stocks a wide range of Korean cosmetics, including some of those already mentioned here.

Beauty treatments get busy with the fizzy

Friday, June 15th, 2012

From carbonated face washes to machines that blow bubbles, quite a few fizzy products are making a splash in the Japanese cosmetics market this summer. Far from dismissing these as gimmicks, 54 percent of women interviewed said that they had tried a carbonated beauty product. Trend Souken published a report that indicated Japanese women are ready to embrace beauty products injected with carbonic acid in a big way, with 87 percent of the 501 women questioned responding that they were interested in becoming bubblier beauties.

By far and away the most popular sparkling product so far, according to News Searchina, is Chocola BB Sparkling, a sparkling nutrition drink that contains niacin, iron and vitamins B1, B6 and C. In the eight  months since it was launched last May, it has sold 10 million bottles in Japan. That’s an impressive figure, especially considering that absolutely no claims are made as to the efficaciousness of its carbonated bubbles for increasing a lady’s beauty.

But spurious claims aplenty have been made about the effectiveness of bubbles when applied to the exterior of the skin. The marketing blurb for Dr. AI Acnes Labo Gel Pack, for example, claims that carbonic acid is the active ingredient in a compound that helps reduce redness and repair damaged skin for acne sufferers. The tiny bubbles in Kanebo’s Blanchir Superior: White Foam Totalizer skin lightening wash are supposed to promote good circulation for smooth, fresh skin.

The real money spinner might be gadgets that produce bubbles. Mitsubishi Rayon Cleansui Company’s Sparkling Bath is a bath that produces carbonated water. Options include the Sodabath, Carbonated Bath, and, alas, the Sparkring Bath. The website stops short of making any pseudo-scientific claims by simply stating that in Germany, sparkling spa baths have long been thought to be good for the body. If you can’t stretch to buying a bath, then how about the Plosion from MTG, a dinky little bottle that sprays out a mist of beauty lotion fizzing with bubbles, a snip, ahem, at ¥47,500. If you’re really short on cash you could even try bunging some face cream into an old Soda Stream to enjoy a cut-price bubbly beauty treatment.

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