Anti-ageing products that ward off wrinkles, spots and lines are more than just multitaskers in a jar. Think of them as a pension — you make the investment now, hoping the results will pay off handsomely in 20 years.
A make-up foundation, however, rewards you with instant dividends. Like a magician, a good formula vanishes into your skin and gives it a luminous finish akin to the afterglow of a yoga session.
Fancy cameras with their unforgiving zoom technology have prompted numerous brands to introduce high-definition products that camouflage our blemishes. However, Japanese beauty conglomerate Kanebo Cosmetics seems unfazed by such marketing guff — its reputation was built on accentuating natural beauty, not artificially creating it.
Its new base make-up range, parked under the same banner as its premium Exceptional skincare line, enhances your features imperceptibly without making your face look overly creamed.
Kanebo’s heritage stems from a deep-seated culture that is derma-obsessed. Japan’s standard of beauty began as early as the 1700s in traditional establishments called karyukai — which means “The Flower and Willow World” — where geishas reside. Modern women still wax eloquent about the geishas’ natural porcelain complexion beneath all the meticulously applied make-up, emulating their skincare routine with reverential awe. But beauty is no longer limited to those who won the genetic lottery — you can play up the planes of your cheekbone or create a three-dimensional quality around your iridescent eyes with some stealth make-up techniques.
Such promises were made when Kanebo aptly launched its new Primer and Cream Foundation in Bangkok, where beauty mavens still welcome new cosmetics with a collective gush. After all, Thailand’s beauty and personal care products markets — valued at US$6.2 billion in 2018 — is expected to soar to US$8 billion in the next two years, according to the International Trade Administration.
Today, personalising means adding a monogram to your handbag or picking a colour for your new convertible but Kanebo redefines bespoke by treating its customers as one would at the tailor’s. A beautician will check your skin for allergies before swiping a helping of product on your jawline to match your exact skin tone. Like a fitted dress, a well-turned-out look is the sum of many intricate details and Kanebo does not scrimp on those.
Our personalised session took place in The Peninsula Hotel’s spacious hall, decked out with large glass panels that overlook the gleaming malls and ornate temples along the Chao Phraya River. While the space was a grand spot for people watching as cruises shuttled tourists from bank to bank, sitting close to a sun-bathed window that amplified every flaw was not exactly favourable to one’s self-esteem.
During this enforced period of calm (or calamity, depending on how you see it), a beautician inspected the condition of our skin before administering a soothing massage that made us a little less self-conscious about our fine lines. At the end of the day, ageing with wisdom comes with a small betrayal, so we told ourselves.
Primer is make-up’s saving grace as it holds your foundation in place at least until post-dinner cocktails. Kanebo’s Exceptional version comes in a gel formula with an apricot hue that minimises pores and evens out skin tone. A whiff of Teatopia white flowers — with an undergirding of geranium robertianum extract, pear juice and watercress extract — washed over us when the beauticians dabbed the product across our features with their thumbs.
With our dead skin sloughed off, cheeks plumped and T-zones matted, our face was ready to be sculpted. Equipped with the “Shift Change Effect Formula”, Kanebo’s Exceptional Foundation comes in six shades to target areas that need to be colour corrected. Again, without piling on products haphazardly, fingers — not brushes — were used to buff and blend as they provide strokes that lend a sheerer and more natural finish.
The coverage was decent and, as promised, lasted well after dessert. The launch culminated in an eight-course dinner at the famed Supatra River House, a two-storey traditional Thai abode dating back to 1975. It was the home of Khunying Supatra Singholaka, founder of the Chao Phraya River ferry company and a leading advocate of women’s rights in Thai society.
Cosmetics have long been a case study for diversity because consumers see a reflection of themselves through the brands they rally behind. Kanebo’s new line-up is just one of its strategies to reach a wider audience that seeks representation as it continues to redefine the meaning of beauty. Kanebo lacks the glamour and glitter that other tech-savvy brands take pride in but its storied heritage will continue to attract customers who believe in a trustworthy name. Besides, who does not want a few little luxuries that give you an instant emotional lift?
This article first appeared on Feb 10, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.