【Japanese Beauty Vol.9】No More Wrinkles! ”POLA-Wrinkle Shot Medical Serum”

Wrinkle Shot Medical Serum” came into existence as Japan's first wrinkle-improving quasi-drug beauty product. But behind the sensation it stirred in the beauty world, this anti-wrinkle serum owes its creation to blood, sweat and tears. In the 9th installment of Japanese Beauty, we're getting an all-access backstage pass!

New insight into the mechanism behind wrinkle formation led to the development of Wrinkle Shot's main ingredient: NEI-L1. The 7-year journey from experiment to release was one challenge after another.

In the winter of 2003, one young researcher sat alone in the POLA lab, silently going over papers. His name was Hirotaka Takeuchi. He poured his heart and soul into developing Wrinkle Shot.

“It all started with an innovation project the company did in 2002. The whole company was searching for ‘what is actually valuable to the world’. In the research department, we were focusing on making a product that was truly effective and show results. And if we were going to do this, we thought we should develop something the world had never seen before: a quasi-drug verified anti-wrinkle serum,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

Mr. Takeuchi entered the company at age 26. For this new project, the first step was unraveling the cause of wrinkles.

“At the time, we didn't really understand the actual mechanisms behind wrinkles. We knew that collagen loss and movements for facial expressions were related to forming wrinkles, but the underlying mechanisms were poorly understood,” said Mr. Takeuchi. Looking for hints meant an A to Z review of the literature.

(Hirotaka Takeuchi, research leader at Frontier Research Center)

“Things weren't set up in a database like they are now, so 4 or 5 of us were going through factors one by one. It was really a case of slow and steady wins the race. You could say that first 3 years of work was like the first Dark Age for us.”

With evidence piling up, researchers began to understand “neutrophil” was somehow related to the formation of wrinkles.

“Neutrophils are a type of immune cell. Mild inflammation occurs in the areas around wrinkles, and we realized that neutrophils accumulated in those areas,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

Neutrophils release a sort of defense mechanism called “neutrophil elastase,” which helps fight things like bacteria. Unfortunately, neutrophil elastase not only fights inflammation, it also damages collagen and elastin fibers in the skin.

(Left: rendering of neutrophil elastase released from neutrophil cells. Right: neutrophil elastase near wrinkles, damaging collagen and elastin fibers.)

Still, no one else at the time was focusing on the relationship between neutrophils and wrinkles. And there was certainly no data from observing what was happening inside the skin. To confirm the theory, Mr. Takeuchi was dispatched to do further research while working in the Yamagata University Faculty of Medicine. “I spent 2 years running back and forth between Tokyo and Yamagata,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

“University professors have their own teaching and research obligations, so I couldn't give this research project my uninterrupted attention. I also had to learn how to use equipment from outside my field of expertise and how to create observation samples, all from square one. Every day was a struggle.”

Every time he returned to the lab in Tokyo to report on his progress, Mr. Takeuchi was told not to come back until he had succeeded in photographing neutrophils. Was it a joke, or were they serious? Even he wasn't sure. “I was staying at hotels in Yamagata, usually eating alone. It was lonely. Mentally, it was a really hard time, like my second Dark Age,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

Towards the end of this tough two-year period, Mr. Takeuchi finally succeeded in capturing images of neutrophils in the skin using an electron microscope.

(Left: healthy skin. Right: illuminated skin surrounding a wrinkle, with neutrophil elastase stained green.)

“Our guess was confirmed,” said Mr. Takeuchi. While Mr. Takeuchi was busy in Yamagata, the research center had been carrying out research into compounds that could act on the mechanism of neutrophil elastase.

The focus of their research? A whopping 5,400 different chemicals.
“Drugs, plant extracts, microorganism metabolites, we checked all sorts of ingredients. Of course, one important question was whether or not these ingredients could be used in a cosmetic product,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

The team faced a vast checklist of issues, including whether or not the ingredient would be safe, whether it infringed on any patents, and more. “It was really daunting work,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

Emerging from this incredibly ambitious search was a promising candidate: a wrinkle-improving compound called “NEI-L1.”
“This compound is synthesized from 4 amino acid derivatives. If neutrophil elastase were a keyhole, then NEI-L1 is like a key that fits perfectly into that hole. It binds to neutrophil elastase to inhibit its activity,” explained Mr. Takeuchi.

In this case, stopping the activity of neutrophil elastase equals stopping wrinkles before they have a chance to happen. So what about wrinkles that are already there? Everyone probably wants to know what they can do about their fine lines, right?

“Within the body, we are constantly repeating the cycle of breaking down and synthesizing collagen and elastin fibers. When this degradation happens faster than synthesis, wrinkles develop. But when collagen and elastin synthesis increase, it can be assumed that wrinkles are ameliorated,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

Uh huh...that makes sense. So POLA continues to carry out tests and experiments, accumulating data related to the effects of NEI-L1.

You might think that the discovery of this innovative ingredient would finally lead to an anti-wrinkle cosmetic product, but the research team faced one more unexpected barrier.

POLA's team had unraveled the secret behind how wrinkles develop, which led them to developing NEI-L1. But a new problem arose during the process of formulating a cosmetic product with NEI-L1.

This is Toshihiro Hinokitani, who helped complete the NEI-L1 formulation while finalizing the product.

(Toshihiro Hinokitani, manager at Frontier Research Center)

“Under Japanese law, quasi-drugs must be able to remain stable for a period of three years after being opened. The biggest challenge was the fact that NEI-L1 is very difficult to keep stable when it comes in contact with water,” explained Mr. Hinokitani. Of course, water is an inherent part of most skin care formulas. Whether it's a toner or a cream, many products contain water. “We made sample after sample, but none of them worked,” said Mr. Hinokitani.

In the meantime, time was running out.

“We were considering other ingredients, but we hadn't found anything that performed better than NEI-L1,” said Mr. Hinokitani. Still, no matter how promising the ingredient might be, there was no point in further development if it couldn't be integrated in a product. We asked him whether it might have been better to prioritize creating a product with other ingredients that had been shown effective.

“Oh yeah, at the time, I wanted to say that to Mr. Takeuchi,” said Mr. Hinokitani.
“Personally, we had such a promising ingredient, we wanted to somehow make it work,” explained Mr. Takeuchi.
They smile as they tell the story now, but there must have been more than a little friction at the time.

Mr. Takeuchi continued with a laugh, “In the end, I kept pushing and said I would help too. Then I had to start over and learn how to use more tools I was unfamiliar with so I could help develop the formula.”

They spent another 3 years in perfecting the formula!

“This period was our third Dark Age,” said Mr. Takeuchi.
“It was absolutely a dark period for sure,” laughed Mr. Hinokitani.

Of course, Mr. Hinokitani couldn't just sit back and do nothing. He contacted universities and research organizations all over the country to ask for advice, looking for a hint.

“We couldn't share the details of NEI-L1, so we just had to say 'Would it be possible to make this kind of product with this kind of ingredient?' But everyone we asked said it would be too difficult,” said Mr. Hinokitani.

Even within the company, the development of NEI-L1 was confidential. Other researchers at the company were starting to wonder what the team had been doing for so many years.

Mr. Hinokitani told us, “We weren't getting results, so we were feeling the pressure from other teams. We were really at the point of giving up.”

As a last resort, Mr. Hinokitani made a visit to a research institute in the Kansai region.

Unfortunately, even they were unable to provide any promising leads. Mr. Hinokitani was feeling more than a little blue as he headed back to the train station. Speaking with his project manager, he wondered if it was time to give up on a NEI-L1 product.

But wait! When they stopped for lunch on the way home, something happened that changed the fate of NEI-L1 and Wrinkle Shot forever.

At lunch, dessert was a serving of mint chocolate chip ice cream. As soon as he saw the otherwise unremarkable frozen treat, Mr. Hinokitani had a flash of insight. “I thought, 'Wait, if NEI-L1 is in that form, maybe we can stabilize it.”

Ice cream and cosmetics don't seem like they have anything in common, but maybe there's more to the picture.

“As an analogy, we had been looking for a way to completely dissolve the chocolate in the ice cream, so to speak. But instead of doing that, if we could do it like a mint chocolate ice cream, the way the ice cream is dotted with chocolate chips... basically, I thought we might be able to disperse NEI-L1 in the base to stabilize it,” explained Mr. Hinokitani.

As soon as he got back to the lab in Tokyo, Mr. Hinokitani's first stop was the makeup product development team. “Makeup products are essentially made with a base mixed with a powder, so I thought POLA must have some kind of technique in that area to make it work,” he explained. The leader of the makeup development team said, “It would be difficult, but it might be possible.”

“Until then, everyone I had asked told me it couldn't be done, so when I heard that we might be able to do it, I was really happy. It was like, at long last, we can finally move forward with this.”

The Wrinkle Shot development team brought the makeup development team up to speed and moved forward into a new stage of the development process.

In order to ensure NEI-L1 retained its stability and that the formula could be used comfortably on the skin, Mr. Hinokitani got to work making another batch of samples.

“Including the stability evaluation samples, we probably went through 1,000 to 2,000 sample runs before we managed to perfect the formula,” said Mr. Hinokitani.

Wrinkle Shot contains nothing but its base and NEI-L1. With no other active ingredients, the formula is extremely simple. That's also why one might question whether the active ingredient will deliver results.
“We were confident in the results of Mr. Takeuchi's research into NEI-L1's effects on wrinkles, so we hadn't really considered including other active ingredients in the formulation. In any case, we feel like we've more than demonstrated that it's able to fight wrinkles, and that we created a product customers can enjoy using.”

Through trial and error, they finally arrived at a formula with a comfortable texture and adhered to the skin. And now it was time to test on actual human skin.

“Neither the trial participants nor the doctors knew which cosmetic samples contained NEI-L1, so we had one sample or the other applied to the left or right eye area. We were able to obtain highly reliable data from this evaluation process that was pharmaceutical grade,” said Mr. Hinokitani.

POLA began gathering data for product approval in 2006. Over the course of three years, they collected a variety of data showing the improvement of wrinkles. Finally, in 2009, they took the plunge and applied for approval as Japan's first anti-wrinkle quasi-drug.

“This was the first anti-wrinkle product for the government as well, so we had to explain everything to the examiner from square one; the mechanisms underlying wrinkles, the action of NEI-L1 and every single experiment. They would come back with questions and we responded accordingly...this process repeated itself for 8 years,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

7 years of development, 8 years in the approval process. The more we heard of the story, the more daunting it seemed.

“We were receiving fewer and fewer questions from the government, so we had a feeling that maybe, just maybe, this was it. On the other hand, we had been struggling for so many years that even I felt like we might never receive approval. Mixed feelings, you know?” said Mr. Takeuchi with a chuckle.

July of 2016. This 15-year-long journey finally reached its end. NEI-L1 was approved as a quasi-drug with recognized anti-wrinkle effects, which would be the first in Japan.

So how did they feel when they heard the news?

“At first, it was like 'Huh, really?' We were more in disbelief than excitement,” said Mr. Hinokitani.
Mr. Takeuchi added, “It was the same for me. At that moment, I was more nonchalant. “

They both agree that the last 15 years took too too long, but they agree that when they saw the quasi-drug certificate of approval, it finally hit home.

Mr. Takeuchi recalled, “It snuck up on me. Yeah, the feeling snuck up on me. Like wow, we finally made it.“

The picture above is the original certificate issued upon approval as a quasi-drug. A copy of the certificate is still hung on the wall of the laboratory.

Next up, we get a crash-course in how POLA brought their long-awaited, newly approved product to market!

From the moment NEI-L1 was approved, POLA hit the ground running. Designer Yuushi Watanabe was in charge of creating the design that would become the “face” of the product.

“Around the Golden Week holidays of 2016, we started hearing some internal talk of NEI-L1 being approved. If it was approved, it would go on sale in January of 2017, which meant we had a total of a month and a half to complete the design. The project was extremely short on time,” said Mr. Watanabe.

(Yuushi Watanabe, Chief Designer at the Design Laboratory)

In fact, there had also been a design project for Wrinkle Shot all the way back in 2012. “There was a design from that project, and that became the base for the new design,” said Mr. Watanabe.

(Initial design from 2012)

“When approval came through the final decision was made to launch the product, it was like, 'OK, so what are we going to do about the design?' An anti-wrinkle quasi-drug was a ground-breaking product for POLA, so we thought it would be good to re-do the design to make it more appropriate for 2017.”

Mr. Watanabe's team was entrusted with that crucial task.

“Originally, the Shot Series (Wrinkle Shot and White Shot) was meant to 'promise real results' to the customer, so the idea of a 'contract' became part of the concept. We used cursive for the logo to give it the image of a signature on a contract with the customer,” said Mr. Watanabe.

To re-design the logo, Watanabe and his team consulted the signatures of famous historical figures like Galileo and Einstein.

(Signatures of historical figures used for reference)

“The other source of inspiration was discovery,“ said Mr. Watanabe.

“We thought the R&D department's monumental search for ingredients and the challenge of getting a quasi-drug approved was a lot like finding a new star in the vastness of space. We wanted to express the drama and impact of that process. As a color that evoked the challenge of the unknown, the first color schemes were deep outer space blue, star-like gold or silver designs,” explained Mr. Watanabe.

With their deep blue, gold, and silver monochrome color schemes, Mr. Watanabe took the initial designs into the first internal presentation. How did it go?

“We didn’t get the best reactions. It seemed like they thought, 'We get what you're going for, but it feels a little outdated.' Basically they flat-out rejected it.”

(Monochrome designs used for initial presentation)

Once NEI-L1 received approval, the product release was set in stone. We were nearing the design deadline, and there was no time for error. “I was thinking, 'seriously, what are we going to do?' From that point on, we tried pretty much every color scheme and logo design. Out of that trial and error process, we came up with this two-tone design that combined blue and gold,” said Mr. Watanabe.

(Blue-gold designs used for final presentation)

This two-tone design went over well within the design department. But POLA had never released a cosmetic with this kind of color scheme. Mr. Watanabe told us that there was a debate over whether it would work, but in the end, “Because the product itself was something completely new, we might as well go for an innovative design.”

The team was also reworking the cursive lettering for the logo.

“We went through hundreds of original designs based on famous signatures. Out of all of them, everyone agreed it had to be the one in the bottom picture eventually,” said Mr. Watanabe.

(Above: initial cursive logo designs. Below: final logo design.)

The inspiration for the final design was the signature of Grace Kelly, legendary actress of Hollywood's Golden Age.

“It’s rounded, with a friendly charm and feels trusting. When a right-handed person signs their signature, it slants slightly to the right. “We added that same slant to the logo,” explained Mr. Watanabe.

A vibrant orange was selected for the logo itself.

“When we were doing research about space, we would occasionally come across these pictures of astronauts in bright orange uniforms. The suits for spacewalks are white, but they wear orange uniforms for launch and re-entry,” said Mr. Watanabe.

(Source materials collected by Mr. Watanabe)

“We thought the color worn when journeying to space was the color of taking on a challenge, which made it perfect for Wrinkle Shot. We used orange as the key color for both the logo and the outer box,” said Mr. Watanabe.

When it comes to cosmetics design, usability is just as crucial as a beautiful appearance. “We designed the Wrinkle Shot's tube and cap with the idea of a pen and pen stand in mind. With this shape, you can store it standing up after use,” said Mr. Watanabe.

To make it easier to apply the product directly to the skin, the tube uses a proprietary two-way split design. In order to find a kind of applicator that could flatten out fine lines and apply the product to the deepest parts of wrinkles, the team went through multiple prototypes before landing on this forked design.

Finally, at the second design presentation, the new look was highly rated within the company.

“I think it came across really easily; the logo, the colors, the whole idea of an orange that expresses discovering uncharted territory and taking on new challenges,” said Mr. Watanabe. While he was relieved that they had settled on a design for the packaging, Mr. Watanabe still wondered if it was really good enough.

“The rest of the company might like the design, but how the customers respond to it is another story. It had taken us 15 years to get to that point, so we couldn’t mess up the design,” remembered Mr. Watanabe. He told us that his worries stayed

On December 30, 2016, right before the product launch, Mr. Watanabe brought his camera in to POLA's headquarters. “I went to take some promotional shots of the building all covered in Wrinkle Shot's signature orange. I gave up my New Year's holiday, from morning to night. At the time I was really willing to do anything for Wrinkle Shot,” laughed Mr. Watanabe.

Finally, on January 1, 2017, Wrinkle Shot arrived on the market.
Television commercials and transit advertisements splashed color across screens and walls, decorating all of downtown Tokyo with Wrinkle Shot's signature colors.

“I was visiting my parents in my home town, and when I opened up the newspaper, there was a full-page Wrinkle Shot ad. It was completely overwhelming. I still have the clipping to this day,” said Mr. Takeuchi.

(On January 1, 2017, POLA ran full-page ads in major Japanese newspapers.)

“I was traveling over New Year’s holidays, but when I got on the train home from the airport, the station and the train were covered in Wrinkle Shot's theme colors. I can't even describe how it felt. I told my wife, 'I did that.' That was the first time in my career as a researcher that I said something like that,” said Mr. Hinokitani, laughing.

(Transit advertisement on a JR Yamanote Line train car)

On January 1st, lines of customers stretched out in front of POLA shops and department stores across Japan. Now, a year and a half after their sensational debut, Wrinkle Shot has moved sold over 1.11 million units. A total of 560,000 people have used the product. From 2017 to February of 2018, Wrinkle Shot has won 40 awards as “Best Cosmetics”.

After 15 years of passion and devotion, the creators of Wrinkle Shot Medical Serum can finally enjoy the fruits of their labor. As of 2018, this fan-favorite has grown into a bestseller and the price has been lowered by 10%, now available for ¥13,500 without tax.

While working to find a product to fight wrinkles, POLA studied wrinkles from every possible angle. In our final chapter, we're going to take you through a few wrinkle facts that might surprise you.

“While I was perusing different documents, it became clear Europe was more aware of wrinkles than compared to in Japan,” said Youko Tomizawa. She works as a curator at the POLA Research Institute of Beauty and Culture.

(Youko Tomizawa. Curator, POLA Research Institute of Beauty and Culture)

“Around 1000 BC, there were already anti-wrinkle cosmetics in ancient Egypt,” she told us. It's hard to believe this kind of anti-wrinkle product was around thousands of years ago!
“According to 'Fashions in Makeup: From Ancient to Modern Times' by R. Corson, a method existed to blend perfume, wax, olive oil, and sedge with milk and apply to the skin for six days,” said Ms. Tomizawa.

In the 18th century, techniques for preventing and fighting wrinkles began to appear in books.
“A beauty manual called 'Abdeker' was published in France, in which the author revealed a secret technique learned from the Persians. He explained that one was to bathe the skin in the steam of wine and myrrh,” said Mr. Tomizawa.

(“Abdeker ou l'art de conserver la beauté” by Antoine le Camus. 4 volumes, 1754/1756. POLA Research Institute of Beauty and Culture Library.)

“Abdeker” was a collection of beauty techniques supposedly passed down from ancient times, a sort of how-to guide that taught readers how to make lotion, blush and more. Perhaps wealthy ladies of the time would have this book close at hand as they worked to keep wrinkles at bay.

During Japan's Edo period, “Miyako Fuuzoku Keiwaden” was published. Purportedly containing the beauty and makeup secrets of the capital city's courtesans, it also contained techniques to combat wrinkles.

“Miyako Fuuzoku Keiwaden” 1813. POLA Cultural Research Institute Library.)

“First, it instructs you to boil wild boar's hoof, or what could be pig's hoof today, then apply the thickened extract to the skin. That was probably collagen. It says that after half a month, one will become like a youthful maiden,“ explained Ms. Tomizawa.

It's a bit of a surprise to hear that collagen was known as a way to fight wrinkles even 200 years ago, but it seems like Japan's wrinkle-fighting skill hadn't caught up to the rest of the world yet. Up next is the reason why.

“In the Miyako Fuuzoku Keiwaden, there are numerous descriptions of how to brighten the skin, but very few related to wrinkles,” said Ms. Tomizawa. Fair skin has been ideal beauty in Japan since the Heian period, which is over 800 years ago. In contrast, wrinkles have practically been ignored.

“Several fair-skinned beauties appear in ‘The Tale of Genji’, but descriptions of older women use phrases like 'her face was dull' or 'her hair was dry.' There are no remarks about wrinkles. One medical text from the Heian period, the 'Ishinpo,' contains a chapter on beauty. Even in that, there are no comments on wrinkles,” said Ms. Tomizawa.

We asked for a reason and Ms. Tomizawa gave us her personal opinion. “Noble women laughed without showing their teeth, and culturally, it was considered unseemly to move the face with obvious facial expressions. That cultural trait might be related to how little people seemed to be aware of so-called expression lines,” explained Ms. Tomizawa.

The next factoid seems all too familiar. Ms. Tomizawa continued on to tell us about a special edition of the women's magazine, “Fujin Sekai.” This beauty advice booklet was entitled “Keshou Kagami,” which means “makeup mirror.” This one took us all the way back to 1907.

(“Keshou Kagami” Special edition of Fujin Sekai, 1907.) POLA Cultural Research Institute Library.)

“In a section entitled 'How to Avoid Wrinkles,' they tell readers to avoid washing the face with hot water or exposing the skin to cold air. This part is all the same as today's beauty advice,” said Ms. Tomizawa. On the other hand, it also explains that “wrinkles are the result of overusing the facial muscles.”

Thankfully they tell us how to fight those lines.

“If one laughs, scowls, or frowns excessively, they will quickly develop wrinkles on their face. Therefore, it is vital that one try not to smile, become angry, or let themselves become preoccupied with worries.”

Uh... Never laughing or frowning seems like a lot to ask just to prevent wrinkles. We all have to live a little! Still, with Japan's culture of restrained emotional expression, you can imagine where this theory came from.

In the second half of the Meiji period, awareness of wrinkles began to spread. For that, we can thank the growing ranks of famous beauticians.

“Around the middle of the Meiji period, several beauticians began publicizing their unique beauty regimens, producing their own cosmetics, and opening their own beauty salons,” said Ms. Tomizawa.

(“Biganhou” Tomio Kitahara, 1910.) POLA Cultural Research Institute Library.)

One of those beauticians, Tomio Kitahara, who found the “Kitahara Bigan” brand of salons and cosmetics wrote in his book “Biganhou,” which means “beautiful face principles,” a wrinkle correcting technique.

He explained that the long baths preferred by Japanese people can easily deplete the moisture in the surface of the skin. Even today, it sounds convincing. Ms. Tomizawa added, “He also explains how to make an anti-wrinkle recipe from egg whites and glycerine.”

By the end of the Meiji period, the new trend was massage. Below is a excerpt from a women's magazine published during that time. This page is entitled “Gendai Ryuukou Sugoroku,” which adapts modern fashion trends to a traditional Japanese board game. Imagine something like a game of Snakes and Ladders with a theme of the year's most fashionable destinations and hottest makeup looks. Flower parties, evening parties, and traveling abroad. What else was the hot new thing for upper-class women to do?

(“Jogaku Sekai” 1911. January issue supplement, “Gendai Ryuukou Sugoroku.” POLA Cultural Research Institute Library.)

“In the upper right, we can see a young woman receiving an old-fashioned facial treatment, like if we went to a spa today. Going to a famous esthetician for skin care was a status symbol for the children of well-bred families. But it seems like they would go in secret so that no one knew about it,” laughed Ms. Tomizawa.

From the end of the Meiji period to the beginning of the Showa period in the 1920s, books detailing massage techniques began to appear.

(Left: “Oubei Saishin Biyouhou” or “Latest Western Beauty Techniques” 1908. Right: “Ronri to Jissai Biyou” or “Theory and Fact: Beauty” 1929. POLA Research Institute of Beauty and Culture Library.)

One manual includes illustrated instructions for massaging the face: massage the face with circular motions, moving from the bottom of the face to the top, following the muscles that control the eyelids. Looks a lot like the massage exercises that show up in modern women's magazines, doesn't it?

As part of POLA's historical research, they have collected a huge variety of data on the skin, which has led to some unique insights. One interesting result is the “Nippon Beautiful Skin Prefectural Grand Prix,” which began in 2014.

“In the near 29 years since 1989, POLA has collected about 17.5 million pieces of data relating to the skin. (As of Jan. 2018) Based on this skin data, plus weather reports and lifestyle surveys, POLA has been able to carry out some unique analyses,” said Reika Kono, head of PR for POLA.

(Reika Kono, POLA Public Relations Department, In Charge of PR)

There is an overall winner in the “Beautiful Skin” category, but winners are also chosen in categories like “Most Moisturized” and “Fewest Acne.” But we were interested the results for the “Least Wrinkles” category...

2017 “Least Wrinkles” Category

1st Place: Wakayama Prefecture. Skin Score: 73.95
2nd Place: Kyoto Prefecture. Skin Score: 65.99
3rd Place: Hiroshima Prefecture. Skin Score: 65.60

(“Skin Score” is an estimation of the skin's collagen quality, based on information like micro-irregularities on the surface of the skin.)

“In first place is Wakayama Prefecture, which has a very good wrinkle score, despite having relatively high UV exposure. From these results, one can assume that most people there protect their skin from the sun. It's also notable that their lifestyle scores were very good in terms of their low stress levels and good sleeping habits,” said Ms. Kono.

And which prefecture scored the worst?

47th Place: Gunma Prefecture. Skin Score: 24.20
46th Place: Kagawa Prefecture. Skin Score: 30.50
45th Place: Saga Prefecture. Skin Score: 31.6

“Thanks to the dry mountain wind in the northern Kanto region, Gunma has very dry air, which means that the skin can become dry very easily. Kagawa has longer daylight hours and less rain. Saga prefecture is exposed to strong winds from winter to spring, which seems to have an effect on the skin scores from that area,” said Ms. Kono.

These scores can all be influenced by different skin care methods and techniques, and differences in weather patterns mean this ranking fluctuates often. We're looking forward to seeing how the rankings turn out in 2018!

“This is part of how POLA tries to approach issues like wrinkles from as many angles as possible,” said Ms. Kono. Thanks to this kind of in-depth, passionate research, POLA managed to develop a product as ground-breaking as Wrinkle Shot Medical Serum. With all of the products and data generated through POLA's research, it's clear that they will be helping women in Japan and abroad, look their best for years to come.

Hirotaka Takeuchi
Research Leader, Frontier Research Center. In the 15 years since joining the company, he has not only researched ways to fight wrinkles and hyperpigmentation of the skin, he has also worked to elucidate the mechanisms that cause them. His specialist knowledge in dermatology and cosmetic science helped him contribute to the search for NEI-L1.

Toshihiro Hinokitani
Manager, Frontier Research Center. In 2004, he took on the responsibility of formulating Wrinkle Shot Medical Serum. He spent years ensuring that Wrinkle Shot was approved not only as a quasi-drug containing NEI-L1, but also as a wrinkle-fighting quasi-drug. His expertise lies in the development of functional ingredients for cosmetics.

Yuushi Watanabe
Chief Designer, Design Laboratory. While packaging development takes up most of his time, he's had his hands busy with all aspects of POLA's creative direction, working to strengthen the POLA brand. In the last few years, he has worked in design management and poured his heart and soul into nurturing the whole Shot series of products.

Reika Kono
Head of PR, Public Relations Department. Formerly in charge of beauty counselor education and product planning, she assumed her current role in 2017. Using her experience in product planning, she crafts communications that capture the heart and soul behind the products. Her work helps translate the allure of POLA to print, web, and other media.

Youko Tomizawa
Curator, POLA Research Institute of Beauty and Culture. In her research of beauty culture, she traces the changing face of beauty and the history of cosmetics through the years. Her main area of research is modern cosmetics culture. Through the research institute's publishing outlet, she has also authored a book detailing the history and design of silver hand mirrors during the Art Deco period.

Photo/Saito Daichi
Interview・Text/Namiko Uno

※Our pages are translations of articles published on Japan's @cosme. All products introduced in the articles are sold in Japan.