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Japanese Ingredients Sourcing Skincare Innovation


by Dr. Asim Akhtar

There is a definite trend emerging within beauty, where brands are harnessing the power of nature through the knowledge of science in order to produce efficacious natural and organic skincare products. A small Japanese village outside of Tokyo, called Yuzuri Hara—the ‘village of long life’—is filled with natives who are not only healthier than the average Western man—lack of diabetes, heart disease, etc.—but they have impeccable skin; and, 10 percent of the population is older than 80, nearly 10 times of that in the United Kingdom and the United States. After investigating the diet and lifestyle of these villagers, it appeared the natives consumed high levels of starchy root vegetables such as satsumaimo, a type of sweet potato; satoimo, a sticky white potato; konyaku, a gelatinous root vegetable concoction; and imoji, a potato root.

The Japanese are renowned for their flawless complexion and extended lifespan, and this has intrigued those of the health care and beauty world alike, leading a number of experts into the debates over the real benefits of their dietary habits—in particular whether there really exists “wonder seaweeds”. This phrase has been synonymous with an ingredient called phytessence wakame, which is derived from an exotic sea algae native to the Sea of Japan. Phytessence wakame is an exotic kelp that is said to have anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulating and possible cancer-preventing properties. In Japan, it is a commonly eaten alga.

Research has shown these locally grown starches and “wonder seaweeds” have effects not just on the health of the Japanese inhabitants, but they also stimulate the body’s natural creation of a protein involved in collagen production, called Hyaluronic acid (HA). Skincare experts have learned this specific type of sea kelp and starchy foods help block a harmful enzyme in the body called hyaluronidase. Hyaluronidase breaks down HA in skin. This substance binds collagen and elastin fibres together, helping the cells of the body to thrive and retain moisture, keeping skin firm, smooth and supple. Without HA, elastin and collagen fibers lose their “glue,” leading to a loss of youthful appearance. When collagen, a fibrous protein possessing great tensile strength, and elastin, another protein that helps skin stay flexible, start to break down due to aging, skin begins to sag and becomes less firm. Hyaluronidase prevents skin from forming new collagen and elastin molecules because it destroys their connective glue, HA. Many skincare brands recognize the consumer demand to maintain the appearance of youth and so try to use ingredients with high levels of HA that will help block the activity of this unwelcome “aging” enzyme in skincare.

Research on the benefits of natural Japanese ingredients into the preservation of collagen production, was basis for the creation of Kyoku for Men, which incorporates the ancient Japanese knowledge of the active properties in natural ingredients. Its facial moisturizer contains bamboo extract, which stimulates HA synthesis, resulting in increased collagen production and elastin synthesis.

In addition to their diet, the long-established Japanese skincare regimes have also inspired beauty brands. Traditionally, Japanese used natural botanicals and elements from the Earth within their skincare regimens. They moisturize using botanical oils such as jojoba and camellia oil, and nourish the skin with herbal teas, herbal extracts and nutritive oils. Some skincare lines use Japanese basil leaf from the Perilla plant, which is known to serve as a powerful anti-irritant. Japanese men and women have traditionally created a gentle skin exfoliator, using grains such as adzuki beans and rice bran. Adzuki bean powder gently exfoliates and removes dead skin cells and ingrown hairs that can clog pores. Along the coastlines of Japan there is an abundance of volcanic ash, which naturally magnetically pulls out all of the toxins found deep within the dermal layers.

The Japanese have a plethora of herbal and plant extracts, as well as elemental ingredients that are useful in skincare products that generate youthful and anti-aging outcomes.

Asim Akhtar, creator of Kyoku for Men, was born into the world of skin care and beauty. His family has been involved in the beauty industry for nearly half a century and, coming from a childhood spent in and out of the laboratory, knowledge of skincare became a part of his DNA. Asim developed his first beauty brand at the age of 13 and has since assisted in the development of countless beauty brands. Using many of the natural ingredients Akhtar found in Yuzuri Hara, a village two hours outside of Tokyo, he was able to disintegrate them and develop a dependable delivery mechanism in which the effectiveness of each ingredient would be fully actualized at the cellular level.

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