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.