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Beautéjaponica: Scalp Care as Self-Care

Published May 24, 2022
Published May 24, 2022

“Creating this brand was about not just creating a product, but about scalp care being a wellness regimen,” Beautéjaponica founder Mai Nozoe told us on a recent video call. Nozoe, whose background prior to launch was in creative operation for fashion brands including Michael Kors, Moda Operandi, and alice+olivia, has crafted an elegant tribute to the culture and rituals of her Japanese roots. The luxury brand’s debut product, the Tohi hair and scalp serum, is an artfully crafted concoction of the country’s precious raw materials: seaweed and kelp.

Throughout Japanese history, hair has been endowed with spiritual qualities, holding a value far beyond the aesthetic realm, even being used as a tribute to deities in ritual ceremonies. “They consider hair to be sacred, it's a sign of beauty and vitality, our representation of life. Taking care of it wasn't just about looking nice, it was about honoring what was given to you,” Nozoe explains. In not just a ceremonial, but also a physical, sense, the scalp is a sphere of transition: the place where the living follicle transcends the dermal realm to become a lifeless protein that can be altered to the consumer’s delight with color, cut, chemical treatments, and products galore. Yet the proverbial soil from which it sprouts has been given little attention, until now. The past few years have witnessed the “scalpassaince” or skinification of hair, with scrubs, rinses, oils, and serums designed specifically for the area, boosting the global haircare and scalp care market’s expected 6.6.% CAGR until 2028. The onset of the pandemic saw an increase in consumers experiencing and seeking solutions for stress-related hair loss.

But as was Nozoe’s intention, Beautéjaponica looks beyond the material surface. “Beauty has progressed in so many different ways, but when I see Japanese beauty, there's a lot of stereotypical marketing. There's an opportunity to look at the ingredients again, get down to the science and real cultural authenticity. I hope that's something that people can continue to appreciate as they learn about the scalp, beauty, and hair practices,” she states. 

The brand’s ethos combines the concepts of “Kodawari” (the pursuit of attention to detail and quality) and “Mottainai” (respecting our resources) with a cruelty-free formula upcycling ingredients such as sake lees, housed in a glass bottle and FSC-certified packaging. The star feature is a 5-Kaiso Complex of meticulously sourced varieties of seaweed and kelp. Its founder searched across the country for the ideal supplier for each strain, finding each in regions such as the Ariake Sea, Hokkaido, and the Seto Islands, including a seaweed powder made from red algae, the use of which as a haircare ingredient dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867). The formula also contains yuzu (a type of Japanese citrus), cherry blossom, molasses, and hyaluronic acid, for a total of 13 actives.

The wide variety of product results include improved hair and scalp health, a boost in hair growth and strength by activating the dermal papilla cells at the bottom of hair follicles, dandruff and hair loss prevention, as well as anti-aging benefits by increasing fibroblast. Furthermore, the polysaccharide extracted from algae, fucoidan, has been shown to reduce inflammation and increase blood flow, as well as protect from UV rays and reduce wrinkle depth. Aside from the topical application, Beautéjaponica offers consumers an education in scalp massage, intended to not just stimulate blood flow and optimal product performance, but also to be a moment of intention as part of one’s daily routine, reducing stress and boosting relaxation.

Nozoe’s hope to create moments of peaceful moments of self-care for others is rooted in her own struggles with serious scalp issues throughout her life. “I always believed in using natural products like apple cider vinegar and tea tree. I would use anything on the market but everything felt too strong and wasn't really working,” she recounts. The creative polymath immersed herself in the world of hair formulations and finding a solution to her follicular dilemma, but also found equal inspiration in her upbringing. “My mother raised me with these specific ideas about the benefits of different types of seaweed in your diet for your hair. Also, whenever I went back to Japan to see my family, I would always go to these spas where they would offer these incredible experiences with taking care of your scalp. It made me curious to see what processes and ingredients they used, if that would work for my hair as well,” Nozoe explains.

Fast-forward to three years of working with a multigenerational science lab in Japan, researching the different types of sea kelp and algae native to the area, trialing the formulation they devised on her own skin—with eye-opening results. “For the first time in my life, I don't have the scalp issues that have plagued me for years, and my hair is growing thicker and stronger. It's all a reflection of what happens through your scalp health. Ultimately, I thought that it would be something that would be worthwhile to share with the public because it had helped me so much,” she enthuses.

While scalp issues, be they dandruff or alopecia, have certainly gained press coverage, Nozoe believes there is a preventative aspect that is often being overlooked. “People should start thinking about their scalp in the same way that you put SPF on your face, measures you can take to prevent those initial signs of aging and other hair and scalp issues,” she states. “Also when you start doing these massages, which is a big part of what we recommend in scalp care, it becomes part of a greater wellness ritual.” The founder also sees the segment as a natural extension of our obsession with skincare. “I'm almost surprised that scalp care took so long [to take off] in this beauty journey. If you were spending so much time on your facial skin, it was only a matter of time for us to focus on the scalp, because it's tied together. We are coming back to the roots, because while the aesthetic aspect of your hair is important, the anti-aging benefits of your entire face really comes from your scalp,” she adds.

Hair follicles age alongside us, with their shrinkage leading to less hair overall. “By massaging the scalp and hydrating it, you're allowing it to breathe life, which is so important. Our scalps are our first area of contact with the environment, there's so much you can do to protect your scalp and take care of it, so that the hair can grow out as healthy as it possibly can,” Nozoe explains. She specifically created a water-based formula, making the serum lightweight enough to be suitable for even oily hair types, creating access to the delightful pleasures of daily beauty rituals regardless of the consumer’s scalp skin category. “I hope that people get to enjoy scalp care as part of their wellness regimen and see it as something beautiful and sensual. Scalp care was waiting for its moment,” Nozoe proclaims. “And I think that that moment is here, right now.”


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