Cosmetics manufacturers have, until recently, done little to anger Japanese consumers. But many industry executives could learn a thing or two from the experience of Shiseido, the nation's top maker of beauty products. It all began with a report on the company's website on April 21, based on a poll last year on thinning hair. It was part of the company's efforts to promote its new hair-growth tonic, Adenogen, which was launched in March. It contains adenosine, a compound (patented by Shiseido) that is known to expand blood vessels and thus stimulate hair growth. Lagging behind in the highly lucrative Japanese market for hair-growth products, the company was counting on this new creation to pull in sales of some 6.8 billion yen ($490 million) in a market which is worth 40 billion yen annually. However, one part of the report has caused an uproar. Under the headline: 'Thinning hair is not your problem alone; it will trouble your descendents', one question in the survey was: 'Do any of your relatives have thinning hair?' It triggered hundreds of angry e-mails and a flood of phone calls to the company's Tokyo headquarters. One person asked if the company thought that people with thinning hair should be allowed to have children. Others accused it of espousing eugenics and promoting discrimination. Another section of the report added fuel to the fire, hinting that people going bald have fewer opportunities for promotion. The survey showed that a strong majority of those polled - executives, workers and recruitment agents - had no concerns about their own hair. The writer then hypothesised: 'It seems that those in important positions do not have thinning hair, however.' Clearly, whoever wrote the report failed to consider the possible backlash. In fact, one in 10 Japanese worry about going bald. As a result of the public fury, Shiseido deleted the controversial report a week later. Then, after another week, it added a public apology on its website. A spokesman said that they would improve the internal checking system and 'ethics values' to prevent such a scandal in the future. Two weeks on, the apology has also disappeared. Some consumers are still angry. More than 1,000 comments have been posted on Channel Two, Japan's largest online bulletin board. The uproar has exposed not only the need for corporate social responsibility, but also the lucrative business of hair-growth products. Cosmetics manufacturers now target both men and women in a nation that is rapidly ageing. Sometimes though, it seems that sensitivity is a little thin on the ground.