Strengths: Several inexpensive products; many fragrance-free products; complete product ingredient lists on their Web site; several worthwhile cleansers and makeup removers; an effective AHA product; antioxidant olive oil and olive leaf extract are present in many products.
Weaknesses: Mostly unexciting toners; an effective BHA product that regrettably contains an irritant; no skin-lightening options with a roster of proven ingredients; huge assortment of products, many with repetitive or gimmicky formulas; products with nanoparticles of silver (completely useless for skin), which can cause permanent skin discoloration (who wants to absorb silver into their skin given that it can be toxic when consumed).
There's a lot of interest in this Japan-based line; the e-mails asking if these products really work keep pouring in, which means their marketing campaign is garnering the attention it's supposed to. The problem we have, though, is that we don't see any substantial reason to explain the DHC line's popularity!
First of all, here's a little background information. DHC (which stands for Daigaku Honyaku Center) is the Number 1 direct-mail skin-care company in Japan. Their U.S. headquarters is in San Francisco, and they publish a huge (and poorly organized) catalog a few times each year. Many of you have received their catalog unsolicited, perhaps with a few sample packets of DHC products, which may be why we receive so many questions asking whether the products are worth it. The overall answer to that question: Absolutely not! Although DHC offers some very good products, none of them are groundbreaking or unique in a way that's meaningful for the health and appearance of your skin.
The company bases many of their formulas around olive oil and olive extracts. In fact, if you're looking for the most expensive bottle of pure olive oil around, look no farther than the tiny vial DHC offers as their star product! They do their best to convince you that this olive oil is special because it is purified, but we ask you: What do you think you're buying at the grocery store? Do you think it's unpurified, sludge-laden olive oil? Of course not! And your skin won't be able to tell the difference between DHC's olive oil and a quality olive oil from your local market—you can use either one to moisturize dry skin.
What does olive oil have to offer your skin? Well, it's a good source of antioxidants and, of course, has moisturizing properties for dry skin, but that's about it. Olive oil isn't a must-have ingredient for skin, but is a must-avoid ingredient if you're prone to breakouts or have oily skin because its fatty acid content can contribute to clogged pores. Its antioxidant ability has been proven, but there is also research showing that other oils (such as date seed oil) offer even better antioxidant protection (Sources: Biofactors, 2007, pages 137–145; Free Radical Biology and Medicine, April 2005, pages 908–919; and www.naturaldatabase.com). DHC would have been wiser to couple olive oil with other established antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients, but instead they parsed those ingredients out over a wide variety of products, most with overlapping or repetitive claims.
For example, their olive-based products contain olive oil or extract and no other antioxidants of note, save for a tiny amount of vitamin E. But then they offer standalone vitamin C products, vitamin A products, and several products containing coenzyme Q10. We can assure you that more of their products would have earned a Paula's Pick rating had they contained a cocktail of skin-friendly ingredients rather than making their customers pick and choose among such a huge, disjointed assortment (and your skin would benefit from them all being together, as many other companies have done). You shouldn't have to pick four or five DHC moisturizers to get the benefit of multiple antioxidants, but that's the predicament you'll be in, and things get confusing when you try to determine which of the company's claims have merit and which do not. (Hint: Most of them are nothing more than a string of adjectives along with a sprinkling of truth.)
Speaking of disjointed, although we don't normally comment much on a line's packaging beyond the need for avoidance of jars for products with antioxidants and other sensitive ingredients, DHC's packaging is all over the place. The logo, color schemes, bottle shapes, fonts, and just about everything else have no rhyme or reason. You could easily have several DHC products on your vanity and the only way you'd know they were from the same line is the company name, if you can find it. On the upside, DHC avoids jar packaging for their antioxidant-enriched products.
The main benefit of DHC products is the lack of fragrance, though a few products do contain fragrant floral extracts, as noted in the individual reviews. If you're curious to try this Japan import, it is possible to assemble a good, basic routine. However, this is also a line you could ignore in favor of a selection of skin-care products that offer more for your money, especially in terms of single products with multiple state-of-the-art ingredients for skin, and fewer claims that don't correlate with what the ingredients can actually do for your skin. One more plus that deserves mention: the company is forthcoming with their ingredient lists, and their customer service in that arena is prompt and thorough.
For more information about DHC, call (800) 342-2273 or visit www.dhccare.com.