Volcanic ash in my cosmetics? It's more likely than you think, especially to those who extol the virtues of pumice soaps and cleaners - pumice being solidified, frothy lava. Like pumice, volcanic ash is added to soaps and cosmetics for its exfoliating properties.
A Japanese company called Tengen has based an entire line of cosmetics around a certain type of volcanic ash that is hundreds of thousands of years old - but will help users look very, very young.
According to company president Kayoko Matano, "We dig... to find pure white ash", at a secret location on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. Known locally as Shirasu, the ash was deposited in a massive volcanic eruption approximately 400,000 years ago.
Shirasu's extremely fine particles are ideally sized to remove dirt and debris from skin pores without acting as an abrasive. The graphic below, illustrated with the smiling and frowning faces so beloved by Japanese advertisers, shows how Tengen's Kingo Kingo skin cleanser works.
"There are still indefinite ways of using the effect of the volcanic ash," adds Matano, a former beautician who has directed Tengen's growth since 1994. "I want to continue to study (the ash), and contribute to promoting health and beauty."
Today, Tengen's production facility in the city of Kagoshima produces ash-based gels, cleansers and creams to the tune of 200 to 400 kilograms daily, and the company plans to extend its reach to Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China and Singapore.
Tengen cosmetics, winners of the coveted Monde Selection award in 2009 and 2010, are also available online via Japanese internet retailer Rakuten. (via TokyoMango, Channel News Asia and Girls Power)