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ISEHAN: 200 Years of Craftsmanship and Pioneering Spirit

Article - May 21, 2024

A Japanese cosmetics company that allies its pioneering spirit with a 200-year-long tradition of expert craftsmanship, ISEHAN has set its sights on global expansion.

A leading cosmetics company that is preparing to celebrate its bicentenary in 2025, ISEHAN started out as a manufacturer and seller of Komachi-beni – a traditional Japanese rouge made from Beni, a red pigment extracted from safflower petals. “200 years later, we are the only company in the world where craftsmen still handcraft Komachi-beni using the same methods employed during the Edo period between the 17th and 19th centuries,” says the firm’s president, Haruko Sawada.

It is this commitment to expert craftsmanship, allied with the innovative mindset of a company that isn’t afraid to take on new challenges, that has seen ISEHAN thrive over the past two centuries. From its beginnings as a rouge maker, the Tokyo-based firm has blossomed into one of Japan’s major general beauty companies, manufacturing a wide range of world-class cosmetics products.

Now, with the company’s KISSME brand at the forefront of the drive, ISEHAN is working to bolster its global presence – prompted, in no small part, by a domestic market that is shrinking amid Japanese demographic decline. “This is a grave issue experienced across all industries – and our strategy is to expand,” Ms. Sawada explains. “We see regions like the United States and ASEAN as holding the greatest potential; we then plan on expanding beyond. With our current plans, we are expanding to 15 countries and areas, as of April 2024.”

Whether in Japan or abroad, customers can expect Japanese cosmetics characterized by three key features. “Beauty is defined by quality and functionality,” Ms. Sawada declares. “And on top of these two elements, safety is also fundamental. Within our product portfolio, for example, we have our KISSME Mommy skincare brand, which can be used with very small infants. I feel that not only the quality but also the safety we provide distinguishes us from our rivals.”

As ISEHAN works to grow its sales beyond Japan’s borders, it does so in the knowledge that its expertly made KISSME products, especially Heroinemake, are already earning rave reviews in foreign markets. “Overseas, the brand has been widely recognized for its quality, particularly where the climate is hot,” Ms. Sawada notes. “People appreciate the fact that our offerings are sweat and sebum resistant. This type of functionality has been well received by international clients, which is why we have put a particular emphasis on our KISSME brand.”

Hand in hand with its long-standing commitment to quality, functionality and safety, ISEHAN has put its focus on “playful” branding. For example, it has been utilizing anime-like characters such as “Himeko”, an original character of its Heroinemake brand, thus creating packaging that leaves a strong impression on Asian customers. 

With global trends in makeup now shifting towards more natural-looking colors, hues, and lines, ISEHAN'S mascaras are the ideal option. “Our mascaras are long-lasting and create a delicate lash and I think this lends itself well to a more natural look that people are looking for these days,” says Ms. Sawada. “To cater to this natural trend, we have our KISSME Heroinemake Micro Mascara, which can be applied to the bottom eyelashes easily with a fine brush. I believe that the ability to apply both bottom and top lashes allows users to freely enjoy this makeup.

“In March 2024, we also launched Real Lash Mascara in Japan, offering a natural finish never seen before in the brand, which makes it look as if your own eyelashes have grown longer.”

ISEHAN’s cosmetics reflect the company’s commitment to cutting-edge research and development. For example, this pioneering spirit has spawned the firm’s HEAVY ROTATION eyebrow mascara – a ground-breaking product that has been a hit domestically and is central to ISEHAN’s designs on international growth. “Our company is actually responsible for creating the culture around coloring with eyebrow mascara,” Ms. Sawada says. “We have the biggest market share in this segment in Japan, and this is one of our key products that we export overseas.”

Ms. Sawada concludes: “On the occasion of our 200th anniversary, we would like to go forward with a playful spirit that excites users, in addition to our strengths in quality, functionality, and safety, so that we can further enhance our presence in the global market in the future.”