The lightweight Skin Plumping Gel Cream from Hada Labo Tokyo is among the brand's better skincare offerings in the North American market. So why doesn't it get a better rating? There are two reasons: a potentially problematic preservative and the packaging.
Front and center on the ingredient list is urea, which has good water-binding properties for skin. Also along for the ride are some antioxidants, skin-repairing ingredients, and even a ceramide, all of which are great ingredients to help repair, replenish, and moisturize skin.
Like most of Hada Labo Tokyo's products, this includes the brand's "Super Hyaluronic Acid," a combination of hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, sodium acetylated hyaluronate, and sodium hyaluronate. While that might sound impressive, on closer inspection, this ingredient blend isn't as special as it seems.
Without a doubt, hyaluronic acid is a beneficial ingredient—able to boost skin's moisture content, reduce inflammation, and help prevent moisture loss (Dermatoendocrinology, 2012). The various forms used by Hada Labo, though, are present in plenty of other skincare products, so this blend isn't proprietary, and, more important, it shows up fairly low on the ingredient list, meaning you're not getting a whole lot of it. In fact, there's more of the potentially sensitizing preservative methylisothiazolinone in here than two of the types of hyaluronic acid! Methylisothiazolinone is particularly problematic in leave-on skincare products such as this one (Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, 2014 and Contact Dermatitis, 2012).
Adding to problems for this gel-cream is the fact that it's packaged in a jar. Remember those great ingredients we mentioned a bit earlier? For them to work their best, many of them must be in packaging that protects them from exposure to light and air, which this doesn't. See More Info for why jar packaging is not ideal for skincare products like this one.
Were it not for the methylisothiazolinone and the jar packaging, the Skin Plumping Gel Cream would have gotten a better rating. As it stands, give this one a pass and look into the options on our list of Best Moisturizers for products that are gentler to skin and have better packaging.
The fact that it's packaged in a jar means the beneficial ingredients won't remain stable once it is opened. All plant extracts, almost all vitamins, antioxidants, and other state-of-the-art ingredients break down in the presence of air. Therefore, once a jar is opened and lets the air in, these important ingredients begin to deteriorate. Jars also are unsanitary because you're dipping your fingers into them with each use, adding bacteria that further deteriorate the beneficial ingredients.
The vast majority of ingredients that are most beneficial for your skin are not stable in the presence of light and air, which is exactly what happens when you take the lid off a jar (Pharmacology Review, 2013 & Journal of Biophotonics, 2010).
One of the critical factors in any anti-aging or skin-healing formula is the amount and variety of antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-repairing ingredients, and the more the better. These function in a variety of ways to reduce the effects of the constant environmental stresses your skin experiences (Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012 & The Journal of Pathology, 2007).
Once you open that jar you bought, you immediately compromise the stability of the anti-aging superstars it contains. (You can visualize their benefits disappearing like puffs of air each time you open up that lid!)
This luxurious silky gel cream combines the skin perfecting power of a serum with the intense hydration of a moisturizer. Its high concentration of Super Hyaluronic Acid™ saturates skin with rich, long-lasting moisture helping to plump fine lines and wrinkles. Skin is left hydrated, cushiony soft and smooth with a youthful, natural bounce.
Water, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, PEG/PPG/Polybutylene Glycol-8/5/3 Glycerin, Squalane, Triethylhexanoin, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Agar, Alpha-Glucan, Arginine, Citric Acid, Dimethicone, Dipropylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Glucosyl Ceramide, Hydrolyzed Collagen (Marine), Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Methylisothiazolinone, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Triethyl Citrate.
Hada Labo Tokyo At-a-Glance
Strengths: Reasonably priced; products are alcohol-free; most products are fragrance-free; a good cleanser for normal to dry skin; most of the products are packaged in containers that will keep their light- and air-sensitive ingredients stable; complete product ingredients are listed on the brand’s website.
Weaknesses: The potentially sensitizing preservative ingredient methylisothiazolinone is used in every product; the brand’s “Super Hyaluronic Acid” is not as impressive or exclusive as claimed; mostly average formulas that don’t offer a lot in the way of anti-aging benefits.
When it comes to skincare, what’s popular can often be as trendy as the fashion styles of any given season. Where French skincare used to be the height of what was once considered by some to be en vogue, beauty editors are now raving about the benefits of products from South Korea and Japan, leading to a rise in interest in East Asian skincare products among North American consumers. So it is that we have Hada Labo Tokyo, a brand that is the first Japanese skincare line to launch at U.S. mass retailers like Target and Ulta.
Hada Labo Tokyo is manufactured by Rohto Pharmaceutical, which got its start as a humble drugstore in Osaka, Japan, back in 1899. Rohto Pharmaceutical is now a major corporation, and owns the Metholatum Company, which is behind such drugstore stalwarts as Oxy and pHisoderm. As for Hada Labo, it’s a relatively recent addition, having only launched as a brand in 2004.
Most skincare lines have a hook, and Hada Labo’s is twofold: First, it claims to operate under the premise of “Perfect and Simple,” meaning it’s free of unnecessary ingredients and additives. Second: It contains a “Super Hyaluronic Acid” blend that is supposed to be proprietary and unique.
While Hada Labo’s products are alcohol-free (which is fantastic), the concept of purity is in the eye of the beholder. If we define “purity” as being free of potentially irritating ingredients, then Hado Labo isn’t as “pure” as the brand would have you believe. Its sole sunscreen contains two potentially irritating fragrance ingredients, and all of Hada Labo Tokyo’s products contain the preservative methylisothiazolinone, which once earned the dubious distinction of being the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s Allergen of the Year. In rinse-off products, such as cleansers and scrubs, that’s not a big deal, but methylisothiazolinone has the potential to be sensitizing if left on skin, and most of Hada Labo’s skincare products are leave-on products.
As for the “Super Hyaluronic Acid,” it’s a combination of hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid, sodium acetylated hyaluronate, and sodium hyaluronate, which are salts of hyaluronic acid. To be clear, these are all great ingredients for skin, but the combination of the three in a skincare product is not a proprietary mix and it does not make the products that contain it unique; these forms of hyaluronic acid are available to just about every skincare brand out there.
As for the products themselves, the standout is a gentle, nondrying cleanser, but the other products’ inclusion of the previously mentioned methylisothiazolinone is a problem. Even without that, many of the formulas are basic, and while basic isn’t always a bad thing, in this case, they’re so lackluster that they don’t live up to their anti-aging claims.
Note: These reviews cover Hada Labo Tokyo products sold at North American retailers such as Target and Ulta. Hada Labo Tokyo has a much more extensive line of products sold outside the United States.
For more information, visit http://www.hadalabotokyo.com.