Dissertation Abstracts

Aesthetic Perception Power and Spread of Innovations: Historical Context of “Bihaku Cosmetics Scandal”

Author: Ogihara, Tsuyoshi , dE210903@aoyama.jp
Department: Graduate School of International Management
University: AOYAMAGAKUIN University, Japan
Supervisor: Dr. Tsutomu NAKANO
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Innovation , Diffusion , Historical Context , Whiteing Cosmetics
Areas of Research: Historical and Comparative Sociology , Professional Groups , Science and Technology


The “Bihaku (Whitening) cosmetics scandal” has provoked much criticism in Japan. A delay in countermeasures to customer skin troubles caused repeated users to suffer from leukoderma. “Bihaku cosmetics” has been on sale since the 1980s as quasi-drug cosmetics with approval by officials in Japan. Safety assessment of a product is studied in the approval. There is no report for any leukoderma issues by cosmetic product until now; why does “Bihaku cosmetics scandal” happen in Japan? Two perspectives help illuminate this question: first, the historical context of “Bihaku cosmetics” market-building, and second, the organization behavior of safety management as “GVP (Good Vigilance Practice)”. In this research, I conduct an empirical study of “Bihaku cosmetics” market building in the Japanese historical context. According to Ferlie et al (2005), the “nonspread of innovations” occurs when the cognitive boundaries of professionals retard the spread of innovations in health care. Scientific knowledge and technology spread not only by robust evidence-based innovations. This theory suggests that more complex innovations diffuse easily as a result of the relationships and trust that cross professional boundaries. There are some professional boundaries in “Bihaku cosmetics” fields; these include dermatological doctors for studying epidermis functions and structure, cosmetics researchers for developing whitening materials, marketers for creating product promotion plans, and customers who use these products. When relationships and trust are forged across these professional boundaries, a market for “Bihaku cosmetics” will emerge. Actually “Bihaku cosmetics” has spread in Japan. Yet “Bihaku (Whitening) cosmetics” didn’t diffuse in Western countries. The research reveals that the reason that there is a market for whitening products in Japan but not in western nations is because of culturally specific aesthetic perceptions. Aesthetic perceptions are considered culturally and historically specific; thus, culture may affect the diffusion of innovations.