Every two seconds, a bar of Kojiesan skin-lightening soap flies off the shelf in a market obsessed with fairer skin.
Kojiesan has become the “Bath Soap Brand of the Year” at Watsons Health and Beauty Awards and SM Consumer Top Choice Awards.
The soap’s main ingredient is kojic acid which, according to medical research, is a well-known fighter of tyronisase, an enzyme that spurs pigmentation or dark spots. It is often found in products that aim to combat dark skin patches due to sun damage, and wrinkles.
In beauty products, kojic acid cleanses the skin thoroughly that it produces a natural lightening effect.
To distinguish itself, Kojiesan is infused with the moisturizing and antibacterial properties of high-quality virgin coconut oil.
Kojiesan was founded by entrepreneur Jazz Burila, who left a job in a multinational to become an entrepreneur. She started selling fashionable slippers to retailers in Laguna, her home province, and in Divisoria and Binondo.
On her way to Manila, she would park at a gasoline station to take a nap. A dream inspired her to pursue her enthusiasm for beauty products. Burila instinctively knew that the market was hungry for a soap that would lighten and smoothen the skin.
With research, Burila and collaborators developed a whitening soap that didn’t have the harmful effects of other agents. Its main ingredient—kojic acid—is commonly found in Japanese rice wine or sake. Traditionally, Japanese women use sake as a beauty routine because of the beneficial effects of the amino acids.
Exfoliation is a vital step in skin lightening. If the rough, scaly layer of the skin is not cleansed regularly, then the dead cells will accumulate, and any skin whitener will not be absorbed.
Kojic acid gently sloughs off the top flaky layer of the skin to bring out the velvety and fairer skin tone underneath it
Kojiesan has become a hit because it also lightens dark armpits, knees, elbows and the groin.
Today, Kojiesan products are manufactured in a six-hectare factory in San Pedro, Laguna. The product is also distributed in Europe, the Middle East, Singapore Bangkok, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The product line consists of Kojiesan Classic, the original skin-lightening product; Kojiesan Dream White anti-aging with lightening effects, Kojiesan Men for Grooming and Hygiene, and Kojiesan Sunblock for sun protection.
Speaking at the Bevi’s 10th anniversary, Patricia Gregorio, marketing head of personal-care company Beauty Elements Ventures, Inc. (Bevi), attributed Kojiesan’s success to consumer trust and brand integrity. She explained that Kojiesan never resorted to misleading claims about the product’s benefits.
“We never promised that Kojiesan could provide instant or intense whitening because we know that duration and degree of the lightening effect varies from one person to another,” said Gregorio.
She likened the consumer’s trust to romantic relationships. “You can’t buy love. It must be earned.”
Gregorio added, “As with any romantic relationship, consumers want to be acknowledged, cared for, listened to and surprised. Brands need to keep the love alive through innovation and creativity.”
Kojiesan’s Dream White range, which includes a night cream, blemish-correcting cream, mist and mask, has been repackaged to stand out in the shelves.
Kojiesan Men, consisting of Face and Body Soap, Body Wash and Face Wash, is made with a patented CellActive formula, a complex that heals the nicks and cuts from shaving. It also improves resistance to stress and moisturizes the skin. The new Deo Spray and Deo Roll-On work as deodorizer and cologne.
Gregorio pointed out that the Saktong Pogi campaign veers away from the conventional idea of male attractiveness that is solely based on good looks.
“Instead, we focused on strengths and positive habits that let men be the best version of themselves,” she said. The campaign features YouTube sensations, Bogart the Explorer, the local version of Crocodile Dundee and Fil-Am blogger Wil Dasovich.
“They are witty, funny, adventurous and engaging; they are truly interesting individual,” Gregorio said.
Kojie Sunblock SPF 69 contains a patented formula, SunActyl Broad Spectrum, which shields the skin’s natural defense mechanisms from the harmful effects of sun radiation and heat stress. Its thorough protection allows the skin cells to repair themselves.
On its 10th year, the company is leveling up. Frances Favila, Bevi brand manager, announced the release of Bellic Peel and Glow, a skin-brightening range that complements the whitening brand.
“For years, Filipino women have been fascinated by getting light skin while all its neighboring countries, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, have long moved on to skin-brightening technology,” said Favila. “We linked together this gap in the market and connected it to our strength. To bridge this gap, we have formulated Bellic, a skin-brightening brand that exfoliates gently, peeling your skin to allow for healthy bright skin to shine through.”
The formulation contains glycolic acid, a concentrated acid that is used for anti-aging while salicylic acid is a milder form that is commonly applied to acne. These acids melt down the dead layer between the dead skin cells. The shedding of dead cells is subtle and won’t irritate the skin. The formula contains extract from the bellis perennis, which soothes the skin as dead cells are shedding.
“Gone are the days when peeling is synonymous to horror stories, and exfoliating meant redness, irritation, uneven peeling, skin damage,” said Favila. “Peeling is not an enemy but a necessity to achieving bright skin.”
To tap a younger market, Bevi created Defensil Anti-Pimple Soap and Pimple Defense Cream, both of which heal affected areas.
“The new and improved Defensil Pimple Defense is now powered by a Tri-Active Formula; promising better and faster results,” said manager Kelcey Chua. “This new formulation not only heals pimples, but also promises to lighten those horrific pimple scars.”
It lays claim in providing more protection—50 percent of isopropyl alcohol—compared to other brands. Then again, Bevi is also penetrating the antigermicidal market with Defensil Antibacterial 70% Isopropyl Alcohol.
Said Chua, “With our continuous market research, we’ve validated that the middle-class Filipinos are obsessive when it comes to overall cleanliness. This will become part of our daily essentials, part of our lives, part of the Filipino culture.”