Shiseido Week: Let's start with trivia!

My first post for Shiseido Week was supposed to be about the eyelash curler, but I found some very interesting tidbits while I was researching the origins of the brand. So here's a little history lesson on Shiseido, something that I hope you'll find as fascinating as I did!

Did you know that Shiseido is credited to be the oldest cosmetics company in the world? It's actualy 141 years old this year! It was founded in 1872 by a pharmacist of the Japanese Imperial Navy. Arinobu Fukuhara was the first person who established a Westen-style pharmacy in Japan, complete with a soda fountain and eventually an ice cream parlor.

He started selling indigestion lozenges, beriberi pills, and soft toothpaste in the beginning. These were revolutionary products at that time, because Japan was only familiar with herbal medicine and tooth powder before Mr Fukuhara set up Shiseido.

Image from

Shiseido is not just a pharmacy and eventually one of the leading cosmetics brands in the world. According to an MIT paper, "Shiseido’s innovative product and promotional production tells a distinctive story about Japan’s experience of modernity, including the impact on national culture of mass market consumerism, urbanization, and changing gender roles." It was also a pioneer in advertising design and product marketing at that time.

 It played a huge role in defining comopolitan glamour for young women in Japan, bringing in Western imagery to one of the most traditional cultures in Asia on the cusp of a new, uncertain century.


It was in 1897 that Shiseido ventured into cosmetics with the world's first scented skin toner, the Eudermine. It was the norm for Japanese products to have, well, Japanese names, but Eudermine was taken from the Greek words "eu" meaning "good" and "derma" meaning "skin". Good skin! Up until today, Shiseido still sells the Eudermine, although in an updated formulation to reflect the newest technologies in beauty.

Shiseido started making makeup in 1906, with a lead-free skin-toned powder. It also started making different types of cream, like the cold cream, vanishing cream and soothing cream. It then moved on to fragrances in the 1920s, with over over 50 different variants! 

Interesting to note: according to the MIT paper, geishas were loyal customers of shiseido and loved the tinted powders as they were supposed to look better in electric lighting.

You can pretty much guess what happened afterwards. Shiseido set up offices and counters in countries like Hawaii, Italy then the rest of Europe, and then the United States. It still maintained its gorgeous packaging, the camellia flower logo, and dedication to coming out with innovative beauty products. ^_^

Hope you enjoyed the vintage photos and the trivia! I highly recommend that you read the MIT paper - it's a little long but utterly fascinating. It goes on to discuss how Shiseido established itself as a luxury brand and how it dealt with difficulties during the Second World War. Enjoy! 

Selling Shiseido: Cosmetics Advertising and Design In Early 20th Century Japan by Gennifer Weisenfeld

About Shiseido from the company website

Shiseido on Wikipedia

Photo credits from the same page, under the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US license.