The Shiseido Pureness Cleansing Water is in a nice plastic bottle with a suitably aqua-coloured dispenser. It also has a little plastic brace which you can clip on to stop the bottle leaking on your travels, a practical touch that only the Japanese would have considered.
In fact, Shiseido is big in Japan. It was founded in Tokyo in 1872 to sell Fukuhara toothpaste, named after its owner, a Mr Fukuhara. Now it's as big as Unilever and has food, restaurants and fashion as well as beauty products under its belt. There's even a Shiseido museum in Tokyo, displaying exhibits from the company's 125-year-old history, and there are three Shiseido R&D "techno-centres" in Tokyo, the US and Paris.
The Shiseido Pureness Cleansing Water looks, smells and feels like water. So, why is it so expensive? "The whole Pureness range is based on the concept of water and purity," says Nikki Guarnieri, national training manager for Shiseido. "The actual product is made to look and feel like water, but contains no more water than any other cleansing product. The point is that it is a water-soluble cleanser which can remove oil-based make-up. It contains Dihydrocholeth-30 which breaks through oil-based make-up while Complexe Phytogenique gives the product it's watery texture."
It's true. A couple of drops of Shiseido Pureness Cleansing Water on a cotton-wool pad wipes off make- up and leaves your skin feeling refreshed. But so, I discovered, does a couple of drops of cold Evian water (49p for a small bottle, at your local newsagents). So what's the extra pounds 14 for? "Water on its own would lift off some make-up," Nikki continues, "but not all of it, because it can't cut through oil-based make-up like foundation. Also, this product will remove mascara and eye make-up as long as they are not water-proof."
The Body Shop's Oil-Free Cleansing Wash (pounds 1.25 for 50ml) is a cheaper water-based cleanser that removes make-up, but you have to rinse it off, which is a bit messy, and it leaves your skin feeling dry.
Am I drowning in skin-care gobbledegook, or is Shiseido Pureness Cleansing Water really a ship-shape product? "Liquid cleansers, like shampoo, are mainly water-based but will get through the grease," says Dr Ian White, dermatologist at St Thomas' Hospital in London. So, can I use plain water? "All water does is hydrate the skin then it evaporates. You need emulsifiers to cleanse the skin," he explains. "Look at the Ancient Greeks. They used to put olive oil on their skins and then scrape the dirt off with a knife."
Ah, I can see it now - the Shiseido Olive Oil Bodycare Range, complete with luxury skin-scraper. Lovely.Reuse content