AT LAST, A PRODUCT THAT MAKES JAPAN'S SUBWAYS SAFE FOR MEN

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TOKYO-The rise of working women in Japan has given birth to a fad one can't kiss off easily: Long-lasting, no-smear lipstick.

Targeted at fast-moving Japanese businesswomen, the products which didn't even exist three years ago are now a booming $45 million business monthly.

The long-lasting lipsticks give women the power to pucker up with compunction. The country's largest cosmetic marketer Shiseido touts this in its 15-second and 30-second spots for Reciente Perfect Rouge long-lasting lipstick brand, telling women they can "dine, chat, kiss and change [their] dress without leaving smudges," a spokesman said. The commercials, created in-house, feature Ryo, a popular 21-year-old model, racing through her day wearing no-smear lipstick.

This freedom doesn't come cheaply. The lipsticks come in a variety of colors and are priced at $30 for a 3.6 gram tube. A cleansing agent to remove it costs $10.

The Shiseido spokesman attributed the popularity of no-smear lipstick to the 50% of Japanese women who work outside the home and prefer brands that eliminate time-consuming reapplications.

Introduced last July, Reciente Perfect Rouge sold 2.3 million units in the first two months of introduction, more than double the company's normal lipstick sales of one million units during an average two-month period.

While lipstick marketers have traditionally made long-lasting claims for their products, these new no-smear lines are considered truly different because of new, proprietary properties.

The secret of Shisedo's long-lasting lipstick, for example, is a super-micron powder, a clear polymer agent to keep the particles or coloring fixed and a light oil.

Lipsticks racked up about $160 million in sales during 1993 in Japan. But long-lasting lipsticks are a whole new category and an even bigger market. According to Shiseido, consumers bought $180 million in no-smear lines from July-November 1994 alone.

Kanebo claims a 15% share of the long-lasting lipstick market and while Shiseido said it's now holding 45% of the category.

Shiseido's success is all the more notable considering that the company was three years behind kissing cousin Kanebo, which first brought the long-lasting lipstick concept to Japan.

Rival Kanebo markets three lines under the Testimo name, according to Toshiro Shoji, manager of the product development department. Its no-smear products are also sold, since February 1993, under the brand name Bio in France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Finland and the U.K. Kanebo is now targeting not only executives but the average female office worker with ads from Dentsu showing young women eating spaghetti while keeping their lipstick in perfect shape. The key to Kanebo's product is natural food coloring including seaweed, a lip-smacking delicacy in Japan.

No-smear lipstick also solves a sticky yet common problem in crowded Japan. A Shiseido survey found that 40% of all male commuters have been smeared by lipstick in Tokyo's infamous jam-packed trains and subways. "This can cause a riot at home," the Shiseido spokesman said.

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