With mountains that reach for the sky, numerous waterfalls and lush greenery, the island of Yakushima off the southern coast of Kyushu often has a misty landscape as it gets the most rainfall in Japan annually. It is believed that it rains somewhere on the island every day.  

These conditions make the World Heritage Site a paradise for tea cultivation, especially for a rare variety of green tea called benifuki, which accounts for only a small percentage of all the tea produced in Japan. 

Compared with ordinary tea, benifuki is exceptional because it contains a higher concentration of methylated catechin, an active ingredient with anti-allergy properties. 

And benifuki extract, harnessed from the young buds of the organically cultivated tea, is a new ingredient used in Japanese skincare brand Decorte’s AQ Meliority range, which will be relaunched in September following the brand’s scientific breakthroughs in skincare research over the past decade. AQ Meliority, which stands for absolute quality and superior technology, is the brand’s most luxurious anti-ageing skincare range.

The ultimate skincare aim

Benifuki tea

Benifuki tea (Photo: Decorte)

Inspired by regenerative medicine, Decorte researchers sought to discover what they believed to be the ultimate goal of anti-ageing care – skin regeneration. They found that three key elements – cells, scaffolds and growth factor (GF) – are crucial to tissue regeneration.

If you are wondering what scaffolds are, they can be thought of as wound dressing materials – a delivery system to ensure the healing of wounds. 

Growth factors are like switches. They help to trigger regeneration signals in the skin’s dermis layer. With enough growth factors, skin can regenerate and make new cells easily. Not enough of them? That’s when skin ages more rapidly.

Structurally, to survive, the growth factors also need to be strong in their environment, called GF storage. Imagine a tree that needs to be rooted in good soil for its branches and leaves to grow. Growth factors need such a winning ecosystem too.  

However, the amount of growth factors one has is affected by age and oxidation damage, which is the harm sustained by cells and tissues unable to keep up with free radical production. The Decorte researchers believed that if they could reduce the growth-factor depletion and increase the stability of GF storage, the effects of ageing in skin could be slowed down. 

Decorte discovered that benifuki extract was very effective in protecting growth factor cells, improving the structural stability of GF storage and suppressing oxidation. 

With the new formulation that includes benifuki extract, Decorte conducted tests on users in Beijing and Guangzhou in China, and Lyon in France. What they found: Every one of the Chinese testers felt their skin was softer and more plump after using the products. And some 97 per cent of the French testers felt their skin was more even-toned after two weeks. 

The rebooted range 

AQ Meliority Intensive Regenerating Multi Cream

AQ Meliority Intensive Regenerating Multi Cream (Photo: Decorte) 

The revamped AQ Meliority range comprises seven products, including its most expensive – the top-of-the-line Intensive Regenerating Multi Cream, which costs $1,650 for a 45g jar.  

Why is it so expensive? First, it has a higher concentration of benifuki extract as well as 30 other ingredients, compared with other products in the range. 

Second, the more ingredients a product has, the harder it is to mix or emulsify them. So creating this cream takes three times more man hours than it would to make regular products.

Other key ingredients include extracts of Murasaki-cha (a tea leaf with powerful antioxidant properties), white mucuna extract (helps improve blood circulation), black soya nectar (prevents thinning of skin) and white birch water (also called the “water of life”, collected in spring when the snow begins to melt). 

AQ Meliority Intensive Revitalizing Emulsion

AQ Meliority Intensive Revitalizing Emulsion (Photo: Decorte)

Another product from the range that is worth trying is the Intensive Revitalizing Emulsion ($400 for 200ml). It has a high concentration of oleic acid to soften skin, and should be used before toner – Decorte believes this is the key to preparing the skin to absorb other products after.

For an entry-level option, try the Radiance Repair Foaming Face Wash ($135 for 200ml). It feels like a thick serum and creates a dense foam which melts away dirt and sebum. It has botanical cleansing ingredients and is hypoallergenic. 

Other products include the Intensive Revitalizing Lotion ($750 for 200ml), the High Performance Renewal Cleansing Cream ($135 for 150g), the Intensive Regenerating Eye Cream ($400 for 20g), and the Rejuvenating Glow Day Serum and Restorative Radiance Night Serum ($670 for 30ml of each).  

Decorte says that with regular use of AQ Meliority products, you can expect skin that feels more lifted and looks less dull, as well as a reduced appearance of fine lines. You’ll also appreciate the green, floral scent, which is intended to relax and calm.