Flawless skin aspirers, you’re not alone. Flawless-skin-aspiring males, you’re in luck. New skin care line, Kyoku for Men, aims to give guys healthy, age-defying skin by combining natural tried-and-true Eastern ingredients with cutting edge science.
For founder Asim Akhtar, an early interest in the epidermis led him on a quest for the perfect skin-enhancing ingredients, taking him all the way to a small village in Japan called Yazuri Hara, or the “village of long life”.
Akhtar realized that men in this region had nearly five times the amount of hyaluronic acid – a protein involved in collagen production – than the average man. He decided to combine the active natural ingredients that the villagers used in their skin care rituals and diets with micro-particle technology, which would allow the products to penetrate the skin and create an environment suitable to collagen synthesis. The resulting Kyoku for Men line, which deals with everything from razor burn to oil control, is slated to hit stateside by early 2010 and ranges in price from $12.50 to $49.
We spoke with the Chicago native and self-proclaimed ‘fragrance nut’ about his journey in creating the line to even some of his favorite food encounters along the way:
BATF: What types of products were you using prior to Kyoku for Men that you weren’t happy with?
AA: Prior to starting Kyoku for Men, I was using a blend of different products to maintain my skin. I think it all began with Jergens at the age of 13 or so. I was using a basic moisturizer coupled with Clearasil face wash. Then, I moved on to Nivea for Men and found it terribly unsatisfying. It made my skin very irritable and the after shave balm did not fix the incidence of razor burn or bumps (something I suffered with ever since I started shaving). Later, I moved into the luxury men’s grooming category, using the likes of Kiehl’s, Zirh, and the like. Once again, I didn’t feel like they were fixing any of the problems I had on a day-to-day basis. The experience of creating Kyoku for me was not only of making products that I was happy with, but ones that brought out the best in my skin.
BATF: I read on your website that you developed your first beauty product at 13! Could you give us some more details on what it was and why or how you thought of it?
AA: I developed a product line named Generation-X at the age of 13. It wasn’t a scientific skincare brand, but was more of a teenage wellness brand with nice shower gels, soaps, hair styling products, and basic creams. I developed the entire marketing and branding scheme and was in the early stages of product development when the project was scrapped from the list (due to licensing, conflicts of interest). During that process though, I felt like I had tapped into an innate ability within myself to develop products suited for different segments of the consumer goods market. It’s funny, but I never thought that this brand was just a sign of things to come.
BATF: What’s in your medicine cabinet/bathroom/shower caddy right now?
AA: Well – I have all of the Kyoku products on my counter and in my shower. This is my core skin care line-up. For the under eye area, I have the first incarnation of the Kyoku for Men eye lifting gel (to be released). For shaving, I have the also soon-to-be-released sake infused shaving crème and a masque known as the Kyoku for Men Lava Masque. In terms of my shower, I use Molton Brown eucalyptus & ginger body scrub and their eucalyptus shower gel, and Kerastase shampoo and conditioner for normal hair. I’m currently trying out the Skin Caviar facial serum by La Prairie as well.
As for fragrances, I have Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver, Tom Ford for Men, Tuscan Leather and Bois Marocain by Tom Ford private label, Escentric Molecules, Viktor & Rolf Antidote, and Dolce & Gabbana The One. I know, I’m a fragrance nut.
BATF: What has been the most exciting moment of the whole process of starting the line?
AA: It’s funny, because I don’t even feel like I am the “founder” of this line. I feel like I was just the intermediary to something that already existed. The idea just hit me one day like a ton of bricks, almost in like some Hollywood style moment. If you take a look at the male skin care industry, there are so many brands that are just generic. They try to satisfy every customer, conform to industry standards, and don’t dare to be different.
On the other hand, you have a lot of male grooming brands that use a fashion house to almost mask their products. Even further, you have big name women’s brands delving into male grooming by simply adding a different scent to their women’s formula. It’s as though the industry was begging for Kyoku when it was created. So, it’s as though this need somehow gained hold of my consciousness and literally created itself. This, to me, was the most satisfying experience – it caused me to really dig deep within myself to bring the world my perspective on male grooming. That’s why I called it “Kyoku” (which means a climactic moment, or an epiphany). It’s really satisfying now to see so many people loving the brand and eager for the new products to come out. We have a waiting list of literally hundreds of people for our new products in 2010. The ability to bring people this little piece of my consciousness is extremely fulfilling.
BATF: What in particular were you looking for in a men’s skin care line, as opposed to one that caters to women?
AA: The biggest issue with male skin is the fact that it is inherently more difficult to create products for due to it’s density and acidity. For men, our skin is much thicker than a woman’s and less likely to absorb active ingredients. That’s why we created a micro-particle delivery system that delivers the active ingredients to the source of the problem.
BATF: What are some of the Kyoku’s special ingredients?
AA: The line has a host of special ingredients, though I think the ones that have had the largest impact have been volcanic ash, bamboo, rice bran, and calendula leaves.
BATF: Do you have a personal favorite from the line?
AA: My favorite product is the moisturizer – it probably took us the longest to make this product work to the highest specifications. I was very meticulous about this product until it was exactly the way I wanted it to be. I’m pretty sure I had some of our chemists pulling their hair out to make sure it not only worked, but also had the look and feel better than anything out on the market right now. As a result, this moisturizer has won 3 beauty industry awards.
BATF: Upon stumbling upon Yuzuri Hara, what made it so special to you in comparison to the other places you visited in your travels?
AA: The village was so unique because I could not believe that some of the villagers I met were well into their 80s and 90s – their skin was flawless, especially the men. On top of this, their general level of happiness and fulfillment was astounding. There was almost no incidence of heart disease, insomnia, Alzheimer’s, depression. It was like a timeless realm of some sort – and this realm is what I tried to capture through Kyoku, both through the creation of certain products as well as the entire vibe behind the brand. Something about this village connected with me on a very deep level.
BATF: You mention changing the skin from the inside out, including using the diets of the Japanese villagers. Could you explain this further? How exactly were their diets used to develop these products?
AA: The Japanese villagers had a specific diet that increased hyaluronic acid production, which leads to increased collagen production. This has actually been proven in many medical journals and research studies. However, this diet on its own is almost unpalatable for most Westerners. The only other way to take these ingredients and get them deep into the dermal layers would be to develop a reliable delivery system. I used the most effective ingredients from their diets and encapsulated them for targeted delivery – so it’s as though the skin itself is eating the active ingredients. This leads to long term changes in the skin’s metabolism. From there, the outward appearance of the skin changes. Think of it like modifying your diet – whatever you eat will eventually be reflected in the outward appearance of your body. This is simply a scientific fact. The skin works the same way.
BATF: Upcoming products from Kyoku?
AA: Within the core lineup we have the following products to be released in 2010: Sake Infused Shave Crème (normal skin), Sake Infused Shave Crème (sensitive skin), Pore Reducing Serum, Lava Masque, and Electric Shave Optimizer.
BATF: Finally, in the spirit of BATF, any food in Japan that you were particularly obsessed with?
AA: I love sushi – I eat sushi like 3 times a week. I think my absolute favorite food in Japan, though, is Wagyu Beef – there’s nothing quite like a Wagyu Filet Mignon.
BATF’s East Coast Editor