Challenging beyond language and culture. Key is experiencing local conditions.

The new facial care brand “POISE” was created through collaboration with researchers at a Lion Group affiliate in Indonesia. Overcoming differences in language, culture and environment, group researchers built relationships based on trust and succeeded in developing facial day cream and facial wash based on a deep understanding of local consumers. Below is a look at the technologies and ideas that went into the creation of these products.

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Experiencing Local Conditions First Hand Enabled Us to Understand the True Use Environment.

A discussion between Japanese and Indonesian researchers*
* This photograph was taken during the development of “POISE” facial day cream, and the researchers photographed may no longer be involved in development.

Indonesia has remarkable economic growth and the awareness of "buy a little better" in personal care products is increasing year by year. Skin care, especially the growing market of skin brightening products, has garnered particular attention. Lion strives to develop products that meet the needs of local consumers. In line with this drive, Lion began collaborating with an Indonesian affiliate on a project to develop POISE” facial care series, aiming to challenge the facial care market. We kicked off development with work on a facial day cream as the series’ core offering.

 Lead researcher Naoko Kawaguchi described the team’s initial approach to the project. “We have long been awareness and needs for skin brightening among local consumers. We were thinking that we could probably leverage our knowledge gained in the development of beauty care products for the Japanese market in the development of new products to meet this needs.”

 Product development for overseas markets involves different challenges from that for the Japanese market. One of them is to understand culture gaps, knowing that there are differences in values, living environments that are unique to each country. Also, at the start of the project, there were a number of internal concerns about local security conditions, and visits by Japanese researchers to Indonesia were infrequent.

 Kawaguchi tried again and again to persuade her superiors and the relevant departments of the importance of business travel. Thanks in part to the thoroughgoing cooperation of the local affiliate, internal thinking about local security conditions and safety gradually shifted, and a business travel system was set up. Researchers gradually began to be able to make business trips and get to know and see the reality of local consumer situation up close.

 Kaori Watanabe, who experienced the local environment, said that “Before I visited, I assumed Indonesia would be always hot. But, in actuality, despite it being hot and humid outside, it was freezing indoors due to strong air conditioning, completely different from the very hot and humid conditions we had created in the laboratory in Japan. Because of this visit, I was able to get a feel the real-world environment of consumers.”

 Koji Ninomiya, who also visited many times, said that “In Japan, many people go through several skin care steps after washing their faces, applying several kinds of moisturizers like lotion and creams. In Indonesia, it is common to apply only facial day cream. The condition of skin itself and skin care routines used are completely different.” The researchers gained valuable insights by actually experiencing the climate and seeing people’s daily habits, the reality of which could not be sufficiently conveyed online or over the phone.

Repeated Adjustments as Unexpected “Requirements for Brightening” Emerged.

In the development of products for overseas markets, researchers often use portable evaluation devices

The development team conducted surveys and interviews to more accurately assess the preferences of local consumers and the ways they actually use skin care products. The team repeatedly evaluated the use feel and functions of our prototypes.

These efforts revealed that they require the smooth feel without stickiness like naked skin, immediately allocation to their skin. In addition, we found that there is a big gap between how Japan and Indonesia think of brightening.

Koji Ninomiya reflected on this stage of development. “While Japanese women apply a makeup primer after their skin care routine to adjust their skin color, many Indonesian women use only a facial day cream. Therefore, in addition to the brightening effect of the skin itself, which is achieved over a certain period of time, as in Japan, Indonesians require an immediate brightening effect like skin tone correction by makeup primer.”

To achieve the immediate brightening effect sought by Indonesians, we first made prototypes based on the actual skin tones of the Japanese researchers and tested it on local consumers. However, the tonal mismatch was greater than expected, and the participant face looked too bright unnaturally. We made new color models ranging from darker to blighter tones in line with the wide variation in skin tone among local consumers. We repeatedly made fine adjustments to the dosage and ratios of various solid materials to achieve a tone that blends into the skin for a natural look.

Verifying Brightening Effects and Adjusting Evaluation Methods for the Local Market

Carefully checking skin tone in Indonesia*
* This photograph was taken during the development stage, and the researchers photographed may no longer be involved in development.

To achieve a complexion brightening effect, we screened over 50 ingredients as we considered possible formulations. In the end, we confirmed a high effect from an extract of the seeds of Alpinia katsumadai, a traditional Chinese herbal plants.

Kaori Watabe recalled, “Although we had confirmed the effects of the brightening materials on artificial human skin models, we did not know whether there would be a similar result on the skin of local consumers. Then we conducted a survey of local consumers to confirm whether the appearance of tan lines created under controlled conditions changed after using a prototype cream formulated with the extract.”

This survey was conducted in conjunction with a local university and external evaluation organization. Despite consistently controlled test conditions, there were large discrepancies in the results, and we were unable to evaluate accurately. This was because Indonesia is nation of diverse ethnic groups, with significantly differing skin tones and sensitivities to UV.

Kaori Watabe explained, “Differences in sensitivities to UV was connected to the conflicting results. This happened an issue unique to developing a product for overseas markets that we never would have realized when developing products based just on the skin of Japanese people.”

We continued to collaborate with local researchers, working to root out the causes and repeatedly verifying optimal testing methods until we established evaluation methods suited to the skin and living conditions of local consumers. Using these methods, we were able to confirm a brightening effect after one week of continuous use of a facial day cream prototype.

Drawing on Many Years of Basic Technological Research, We adjusted the Formula to Local Preferences to Achieve an Ideal Use Feel.

Evaluating skin before and after applying the prototype

Because many Indonesian women wear hijabs around their faces, they typically prefer a clean, smooth feel after application.

 Naoko Kawaguchi explained, “Products that feel oiliness and stickiness on the skin are strongly disliked here. Product textures that are ordinary in Japan are often considered too sticky here. To solve this problem, we worked to come up with the suitable oil balance and experimented with different emulsification technologies.

 To achieve the smooth feel that local consumers prefer, we focused on emulsification technology using soap. Specifically, we utilized a traditional technology that is rarely used in Japanese products today.

 Sawako Kato explained, “Emulsification using soap is such a traditional technology in textbooks, so we had to go looking through some very old internal data.”

 This was not the only innovative approach used in development. Seeking an ideal use feel, we combined silicon powder with the emulsification technology using soap to further enhance the product’s smooth feel on the skin. Based on this traditional technology, we combined new propriety functional materials to achieve use feel that aligns with the preferences of Indonesian consumers.

Further Product for Overseas Markets Development Expand from “POISE”

Following “POISE” , we successfully entered the new market of color cosmetics.

After a long process of trial and error, “POISE” facial day cream was finally launched. Thanks to its sophisticated use feel and effects, sales have been growing steadily. We have expanded the “POISE” lineup with four types of facial foam, each with different functions, including an antibacterial type to meet the recent growth in demand for hygiene. We continue to evolve the development of skin care products in Indonesia.

 Sawako Kato remarked, “Working with local researchers, we aim to expand the product lineup with the intention of building a firm position in new markets. Brands with their wide selections tend to be more widely displayed on the shelves and standing out. Therefore, expanding overseas product lineups is crucial. Amid heated competition and rapid market changes, we strive to collaborate with local researchers and incorporate local consumer opinions in a timely manner. Effectively connecting those opinions to product development is key to the creation of overseas products.”

 Currently, Mayuko Ishii continues to work on “POISE”. She is engaged in research aimed at further developing technologies and insights gained through the development of “POISE” facial day cream and applying them to the development of a wider range of products.

 Mayuko Ishii remarked, “There are ways of communicating nuance through moods and facial expressions that are specific to Japan. These aren’t always understood when developing products with people of different cultures. I learned the importance of clear and thorough communication to enable accurate mutual understanding. Some of the analytical equipment we take for granted in product development in Japan were not available in Indonesia. I think that dealing with these conditions honed our ability to construct hypotheses in order to find answers within the limitations of the development schedule and research environment. I believe to evolve the development know-how gained through this project and further bolster the development of products in the skin care field that will be well acceptable to consumers in various countries, including Japan.”

 Indeed, the understanding of consumers and technological insights gained through this development of “POISE” facial day creams are being utilized not only in the expansion of the of the “POISE” brand lineup but also in the development of color cosmetics under other brands.

 Lion will continue accelerating global research and development in cooperation with local partners while leveraging the basic research know-how it has cultivated over decades of product developments. Through research and development, Lion aims to make a difference in more consumer’s everyday lives around the world by redesigning habits. All of our researchers keep this aim in their heart as they engage in their work.


Affiliations are as of the time of the interview. (Interviewed May 2022)

Development Leader Kawaguchi
With experience in basic technological research and R&D in oral care and beauty care for the Japanese market, she develops toothpaste for overseas markets.
Researcher Ninomiya
Since joining Lion, he has been developing beauty care products.
Researcher Watabe
Since joining Lion, she has been developing beauty care products.
Researcher Kato
With experience in basic technological research, she develops beauty care products.
Researcher Ishii
With experience in developing beauty care products for the Japanese market, she develops beauty care products for overseas markets.