Among Mitsui’s many areas of business is a push into the US J-beauty, or Japanese beauty, market, both through supplying J-beauty ingredients and through their consumer-facing collective of brands and products company, Shikо̄ Beauty Collective.
Jim Berkrot, Vice President Marketing for beauty and personal care at Mitsui said US consumers have been increasingly interested in Japanese culture in general, and the technologies and messaging behind J-beauty fit into current consumer sentiment and fit into ingredient demands.
Quality, efficacious ingredients and simplicity hallmark J-beauty
Akira Oichi, managing director of Shiko, said J-beauty products are about active skin care with time-tested, quality ingredients in a simple routine.
“J-beauty’s approach to skin care is more about ‘less is more,’ rooted in tradition and organized by innovation,” Oichi said. “J-beauty practices are more about preventing future skincare problems, as opposed to aggressively targeting every blemish or wrinkles, as in the Western approach.”
A J-beauty routine, unlike a complex eight to 12 step K-beauty routine, includes only four steps, an oil-based cleanser, a second cleanser, an emulsion and a cream moisturizer. Berkrot said the goal is to create “mochi skin,” or supple, even and matte skin.
Generally, Oichi said he feels there is a real space for effective and simple routines. While K-beauty was ideal for younger or more experimental consumers, J-beauty can serve a consumer looking for an effective and consistent routine.
“We are able to accomplish everything a K-beauty regimen of eight to 12 steps accomplishes in much fewer steps, because of the highly potent level of active ingredients in the formulations,” Berkrot said. “We're really loading up the formulations with effective levels of the Japanese raw materials or technologies.”
Both Shiko and Mitsui are working in the prestige and mass-tige spaces at this time.
J-beauty ingredients fit into modern ingredient demands, trends
On the back end of the industry, Berkrot said Mitsui has been working to introduce Japanese ingredients to brands and distributors, which are largely centered around traditional botanical ingredients paired with innovations and new technologies.
Some of the trendy ingredients in mass-market, mass-tige and prestige brands right now originate from Japanese cosmetics ingredients, Berkrot said, including rice and sake.
Botanical and fermented ingredients play an important role in Mitsui’s portfolio, with 14 of the 17 ingredients they offer from “natural origins.”
Mitsui has also been showcasing more new-aged ingredients and formats, available for contract manufacturers and brands. At the 2021 NYSCC show the company displayed age defense and SPF protection technology, waterless formulation formats, microbiome-friendly actives and “holistic wellness” ingredients.
Among those technologies was a freeze-dried cube, carrying actives like retinol, sacran, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, which can be sliced into sheets and, when in contact with water, turns into a serum.
While these specific ingredients are Mitsui’s, Berkrot said the underlying philosophies of product quality and desired results are undercurrents through J-beauty.
The B2B side of the business is focusing on partnering with contract manufacturers at this time to spread their existing ingredients through the US market more efficiently, he said.