A new grooming line wants to bring Japanese skin care essentials to men

Descriptions such as “artisanal” and “small batch” are common in the world of women’s skin care — but not often heard in reference to men’s grooming products.

Justin Brown wants to change that with Shodai, a start-up men’s skin care line he founded.

“I had a favorite brand of everything, from watches to milk, but I’d never fallen in love with a skin care product,” Brown said. “I’d never found my brand. I thought I couldn’t be the only guy out there who felt that way.”

Brown, who lives in Tokyo, is hoping to redress that imbalance with his new offering, Shodai (Japanese for “first generation”). This month, he’s launching the brand with a duo of essentials, a moisturizer and a face wash, and he plans to expand the product offerings in 2017. The initial products contain quintessentially Japanese ingredients such as hiba oil, sake, green tea and onsen — water from Japanese hot springs.

The brand was created in an incubator program at the marketing company that Brown, who was born in London, has worked with in Tokyo for the past five years. Brown lived in the U.S. for 15 years before that and says that Shodai most likely would not have been born were it not for Japan, the country that’s now his home.

“Shodai is essentially built using a combination of traditional Japanese ingredients and modern skin care technology,” he said. “I learnt about some of these ingredients and it clicked — that this could be the kind of skin care product line I would really love.”

Hiba oil, which has a masculine, woodsy scent, is from the Aomori Hiba tree in Japan, which can take 300 years to mature. The oil, a natural antibacterial, is combined it with sake, which contains kojic acid, known to brighten the skin. Green tea is noted for its antioxidant properties, while the inclusion of onsen water soothes and rejuvenates. The products are free of parabens.

“All four ingredients have been used historically in Japanese skin care,” Brown said. “But hiba oil and sake are expensive, and a lot of manufacturers have moved away from them to find cheaper alternatives. They’re harder to find now, even in Japan, despite their effectiveness and how good they feel.”

Shodai will be available online in the U.S. at shodaimen.com; $20 for face wash and $24 for face moisturizer.


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