A Sensai is a teacher or master. But for sophisticated consumers of skin care products, Sensai is a high end, high performance line from Kanebo International.
What makes Sensai unique, is that the skincare method is based on the concept of doubling up: double cleansing, double moisturizing and double treatment application. This is inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony where there are an elaborate set of rules called “Saho,” required to make a truly perfect bowl of tea. The rules guide one’s actions from beginning to end – from the preparation and decorum in the tea room to admiring the utensils. The idea of using Saho in a skincare line is to create a pampering ritual requiring the user to be mindful and thoughtful, not just slather on some “stuff.” The Sensai skincare program is also designed to calm the spirit and sharpen the senses. But there is nothing old fashioned about the high tech methods and ingredients Sensai uses to maximize the skin’s self-protective and regenerative power.
This all sounds lovely, and it is. As I began to use the products, I felt that I was doing something special and pampering. To learn about the products, how they are paired, and how to use them, you’ll find the Sensai web site to be invaluable, with plenty of information and lots of visuals, some of them even animated, to show you what to do. This is essential, because you need to use this skin care line properly to get the most out of it.
There are so many Sensai products, you might want some guidance to get a regimen that is right for you. Grouping the products as simply as I can, there are just a couple of targets: cleansing, moisturizing, treatment and body care.
Cleansing is the first step in any good skincare routine. The Sensai Silky Purifying claims that is the only series from a major brand dedicated entirely to facial cleansing. and this line offers a passion for purity that is intrinsic to the culture of Japan. The products have gentle ingredients and a calming fragrance, but the two cleansers together (more on that in a minute), really pack a powerful punch to remove impurities and cleanse your face.
There are four products to choose in each in the two steps of the cleansing line. There are five additional products including an eye makeup remover, plus masks and exfoliators. Good packaging includes clear labels for Steps 1 and 2.
While cleansing twice takes more time, I was surprised at how different my face felt after I used my choices — the cleansing milk for step 1, and the creamy soap for step 2. According to Kenebo,the reason for two cleansers is that there are two types of dirt: oil-based dirt like oil in make-up, and water-based dirt such as dust and sweat. Water and oil don’t blend well together because of their conflicting properties. So the Step 1 cleansers remove oil-based dirt, and the STEP 2 (facial soap) removes water-based dirt. I am not sure why these can’t be mixed into one product, or a dual-pump system, but I’m not a chemist. What I can tell you is that my skin felt clean after Step 1, but even better after Step 2. After experiencing the difference two cleansers made, I looked forward to using both. The Step 1 Cleansing Milk( 5.1 fl. oz.), in a pearly white, plastic bottle with pump top and silver accents, was light and creamy, with a refreshingly light scent. It rinsed off well, leaving my skin feeling moist and smooth. Normally, I would have been satisfied with just this cleanser as I thought my face was already clean. But Step 2 made my skin feel really super-clean without feeling tight, or overly stripped or tight. I really liked the very foamy Step 2 Creamy Soap (4.3 oz). My only issue with the Creamy Soap was the packaging. It is housed in a tube with screw-off top. This requires you to use your hands to open it, and when your hands are already wet, that’s more challenging. Two steps might be a pain when you are in a rush but the duo was really wonderful.
As with most skin care, moisturization is a key component of the Sensai skincare routine. The Sensai Premier series is a collection of products with exclusive ingredients and botanicals, as well as DNA repair support technologies to enable all cells, regardless of function, to perform at their peak for longer. SENSAI PREMIER soothes, refines, enriches and renews.
I personally didn’t try any of the 5 products: priming lotion, emulsion, cream, eye cream or body cream, but based on my experience with the other products, I’m sure these are superior. I did try something brand new and exceptional, 20 years in the making, with 19 global patents to it’s credit — Kanebo Sensai Prime Solution ($170 for 2.5 fl. oz). This product should (and probably will) win accolades and awards for the most beautiful packaging on a skin care product. Designed by French designer Gwenael Nicholas, the bottle is supposed to resemble a pure white silk cocoon with deep ocean waves cascading down it’s length (how poetic!). The slender glass bottle with small graceful ribs that look like waves, is filled with a milky white treatment that changes the clear color, to that of milk glass. There is a matching plastic topper covering a shiny silver pump top. The faintest scent wafts onto your skin as you apply it: gardenia, jasmine and lily of the valley, with a heart of furan (a night blooming Japanese orchid). Not one to like scent in my skincare, this unobtrusive but lovely fragrance was just a moment’s delight, and was breathtakingly beautiful. Apparently, brainwave testing showed that the fragrance has a proven, relaxing effect.
The key ingredient in Sensai Prime Solution is Koishimaru silk EX, that triggers HA Synthesis (hyaluronic acid) at the dermal layer of skin and also at the tough-to-penetrate, epidermal layer for superb moisturization. The technology is touted as the first solution to promote cellular receptivity, thanks to a plant called Sanzashi (crategus oxyacantha linne, hawthorn) that helps to increase cellular receptivity by a claim of over 60% . If you read my reviews regularly you already know that hylauronic acid makes
up a significant part of skin. It is a crucial component, providing moisture and nourishment. By the time you are no longer a teenager, your levels of hylauronic acid start to deline. That loss of HA can cause wrinkles and sagging. The technical description of the anti-aging technology is complicated beyond what I’ve just written, but what’s important to understand is that the ability for the ingredients in Prime Solution to penetrate more deeply into skin layers, also makes it possible (with the use of other moisturizers, serums and treatment products) to help keep your skin healthy, moisturized, and more youthful.
The final skincare focus from Sensai is Cellular Performance (treatment). Under ideal conditions, all skin cells function at peak capacity. However, stress and UV radiation can sabotage your skin’s ability to look youthful. Sensai Cellular Performance flagship series of products offers a holistic approach to counter all signs of aging and photo-ageing at the cellular level. Like the other Sensai products, it also pampers the senses with luxe textures and a relaxing fragrance. Among other things, the series initiates a “Beauty Chain Reaction” that optimizes cellular performance efficiently helping your skin to” feel soft and glow like silk” (poetic license, but you get the idea).
There are dozen of lotions and potions in the “standard” series, 6 products in the hydrating series; 11 products in the wrinkle repair series; 7 products in the lifting seriess; 9 products in the intensive care series (including 4 just for the body), and for those who have youthful skin but want to keep it that way, there is the Silk Series. This line is touted as the first skincare line dedicated to the prevention of early ageing symptoms, and will appeal to younger users, with 13 unique products to address the concerns of youthful skin.
The standout product I tried from this entire and extensive collection of product was the Sensai Cellular Performance Lifting Radiance Cream. Elegantly packaged in a silver metallic hard sided presentation box, the cream is luxurious and easily absorbed. No doubt used with the other products, and over time, it would be beneficial to your skin. But I nearly gasped when I saw that the price is $280.00 for 1.4 oz. . The simple jar has a plastic spatula to apply the product, but darn! It is in my very least favorite type of packaging — a traditional and old-fashioned, crew top jar. Open it, and you’ve immediately opened the door to contamination. At nearly $300 for less than 1 1/2 ounces, I am wondering why Kanebo chose a jar and not an oxygen-free pump or at least something you don’t have to stick your fingers into. Supporters of the screw top jar insist that when a product is this high end, a jar is more elegant. I vehemently disagree (leave a comment and tell me what side of the debate you are on).
Any way you look at it, This is the highest end of skincare, and it’s not for everyone. It’s a major investment. However, for your dollars you get high tech, high end skincare with five special ingredients supposedly help to visibly ‘lift’ and firm your skin by activating the metabolism of your facial muscles with “Natural Musculifter.” Basically, without having to make this review even longer than it already is, a natural yeast extract causes your facial muscles to contract (you can’t feel it as far as I can tell from my wear test), but what this does is help pull up sagging skin.
Other ingredients in the rich cream are a bit easier to explain. There is the Koishimaru Silk Extract (from the precious
Kioshimaru silk cocoon) I’ve already described that delivers high moisturization, golden camomile extract to brighten sallow skin and produce a glow, while supporting the actions of the natural musculifter, mandarin tree extract helps promote collagen production and adds to the firming effect, shilan purple orchid extract to encourage “cellular metabolism” and CPD vital extract which is a core ingredient of Sensai anti-aging skincare, that helps to minimize fine lines and helps prevent against wrinkles and discolouration.
The cream is lightly scented and feels nice, but after my skin was feeling so clear after the two-step cleansing, and using Sensai Prime Solution, this cream felt a bit “tacky” on my skin. On the other hand, it didn’t make my sensitive skin break out, turn red or itchy or irritated. My skin did feel much softer and more hydrated. The claim is that if you use this product regularly, you will improve your muscle tone. I am not sure how long it would take, or how many jars, however. Like so many skincare products, you have to read reviews like this one, consider the ingredients, and than select the right ones for your skin. Then, you are still going to take a leap of faith.
The bottom line. The entire Sensai product line is full of elegant, exclusive, pampering and high end products, that are beautifully packaged. There is more than enough information provided on the Sensai web site to educate a consumer about what s/he might want to try. The products are scented, but lightly so. Th 2-step method of skin care is not for everyone. But for those who love a pampering ritual, it’s amazing. Discerning consumers of luxurious skin care wont’ find the plethora of products nor the added time and expense to use them, a real issue. But if you’re a consumer of mass market or department store products, you may balk at the effort, price and shelf space this method requires.
The products are availabe in at Bergdorf Goodman’s SENSAI makeup counter on bergdorfgoodman.com, and Neiman Marcus on February first. You should also visit the Sensai Web Site: http://www.sensai-cosmetics.com