Budget Skincare Review: Hada Labo Tokyo + Giveaway *Closed*!

Monday, September 23, 2013

A few months ago, Refinery29 featured a little post on this supposedly amazing new Japanese skincare line called Hada Labo Tokyo. The brand, which is already well-established in Asia, hit Ulta stores over the summer and features the trendiest of all words in skincare right now: hyaluronic acid--but not just any hyaluronic acid, mind you: super hyaluronic acid. With my faith in Refinery and my love of Asian skincare, I literally went straight from the article to Ulta.com and placed my order.

I've ordered all but one of the products from the range (which I did order, but didn't get sent--long story), and have been experimenting with them for about a month now. The theme of this skincare collection is not just the super hyaluronic acid, but the technology behind it that makes these products "lightweight and deeply hydrating". I've sworn up and down several times before that nobody does skincare like Asian companies, so I had high hopes for my new skincare routine. Scroll to the end to read about the giveaway*!

All the products from the line except the Replenishing Hydrator are included here, and for reference I have extremely oily skin. Let's go in order of the regimen!

Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($12): This is the cleanser I've been using the most consistently lately (which is saying a lot if you could see my bathroom cabinet). The consistency is gorgeous, as it's light but very lush at the same time--sort of a whipped but unbelievably silky texture. That sounds as though I've just thrown every appealing word at you, but the feeling of this cleanser is definitely unusual. It squeezes out with the slip and silkiness of a lot of Asian cleansers, but quickly turns into milky suds on the skin. It lathers up nicely but doesn't turn into a foam, and leaves my skin feeling comfortable when I rinse it off. A cleanser like this always has its own space on my sink, as I can use it morning or night without worrying about it making me too greasy for the day or too stripped in the evening. 

Anti-Aging Hydrator ($18): This was the product I was most intrigued about as it sounds extremely similar to the cult favorite Hydraluron (made famous by Caroline Hirons). I've never tried it, as it's near impossible to get your hands on where I live, but this too is an extremely lightweight gel-type serum that's packed with moisture without feeling like it is. This product is the one that best represents the entire line, as it goes on light, smooth and doesn't feel like it does much for your skin, except that the particles are practically bloated with moisture. It absorbs incredibly quickly, and my skin feels comfortable--like I could continue with moisturizer or leave it as is. Personally, I think this works best when you use it in conjunction with a moisturizer, as the combination leaves my skin feeling completely saturated with moisture. On its own, my face can feel like it needs some more hydration. 

Skin Plumping Gel Cream ($25): Easily my favorite product of the line. The packaging on this one is a little clunky and cheap-looking, but the shiny moisturizer inside is the real deal. Consistency-wise, we're talking about a slightly jelly-like tacky gel that almost feels more like a lightweight hair pomade than a moisturizer. Don't let that description put you off, though, as I can immediately see a difference in my skin after applying this weird moisturizer. The "plumping" description is right on the money, as my face instantly looks incredibly hydrated, soft and plumped up--like all my facial cells have been flooded with moisture. This is what I call instant youthification moisturizer (and my mom agrees) because all that hydration leaves you with glowy, plump and extremely healthy-looking skin. I even feel like all that moisture helps even out my skin tone, as my next-morning skin tends to look more even--my mom says she feels the same way about her forehead lines. This is the most expensive product of the line, but it's also the one I'm most likely to repurchase. On my oily skin, this is absolutely enough moisture, so I don't really need to mix it with the Anti-Aging Hydrator--drier skin types might like to, though. 

Protecting Day Lotion SPF 18 ($18): I was hoping this could become my new everyday moisturizer, but I knew it wouldn't work out after just the first day of wearing it. Whereas every other product in this line is incredibly hydrating without sacrificing any comfort in the consistency, this lotion is the sad exception. It feels greasy and unfortunately, that oily feeling doesn't go away and makes any foundation I wear on top more likely to look shiny. Every time I wear this, I feel like I need my mattifying primer on top (Neutrogena Shine Control) even if I'm not wearing makeup that day. It doesn't dry down and settle into the skin--it does absorb, but that uncomfortable greasy film on top doesn't go away. Plus, in order to get the full SPF, you need to apply a reasonable amount, and in line with the rest of these products, you only need a little to actually hydrate the skin. Adding more makes your face more greasy, but it's also necessary to get the full amount of sun protection the product contains, which is why I'm a little frustrated with this. Bear in mind that I have oily skin, so people with dry skin could be just fine with this. 

Bottom line: All of these products truly do have excellent lightweight but high-moisture technology, so you only need the smallest bit to properly care for your face, which makes these fantastic value for money. Overall, I really can't think of a skin type that couldn't use this range, as I have extremely oily skin and have been very happy with most of these products, and so has my mother, who has normal/dry skin. Sensitive skin types would benefit from these products too, as the entire range does not use parabens, fragrances, dyes and mineral oils. With the exception of the day lotion, I'm quite pleased with all the products, and love that Ulta is bringing in Asian skincare lines that feel much more expensive but are available at a reasonable price. This kind of skincare technology is something I think every beauty junkie should try, starting with the Plumping Gel Cream. 

*About that giveaway...

I don't normally do giveaways, just because I don't really have the product and money to spare. And if I'm being honest, sometimes I feel like adding "giveaway" to a blog post title is more of a sneaky way to get readers to click than anything else. But this situation has rather special circumstances. After trying to order the Hada Labo Tokyo Replenishing Hydrator from Ulta in my second order, they would up sending me the same Anti-Aging Hydrator I already had. Being that I'm a careless idiot, I had already ripped up the order form (I was in the middle of an intense anti-paper and clutter rage) under the assumption they had sent me the right thing. That's why the Replenishing Hydrator isn't reviewed here, and why I have an extra Anti-Aging Hydrator looking for a good home. 

If you want it, just leave me a comment on this post saying so--I won't make you be subscribed to my blog to win, but if you wanted to click that button, there'd be some serious cyber love coming your way! Include your email address and I'll randomly pick someone two weeks from now. 

My Favorite Drugstore Base Products (Part 3): Concealer will be up on Wednesday!

Hope you're well!


  1. i'd love to try the anti-aging hydrator! glad i happened to find your blog, i have super oily skin as well and am always on the lookout for awesome products. email is nancy173@yahoo.com

  2. I would love to try this. RockiDreams@aol.com

  3. I've actually been following you privately since you got featured on temptalia! But i figured i'd come off private and show you more lovin' LOL. If you don't mind shipping internationally, i'd love for a chance to win! christine.chau@hotmail.com

  4. I'm new to your blog and I'm really enjoying your reviews. Very curious about this skincare line, thanks for the chance!
    Sam - nothingwinter@gmail.com

  5. I've heard such raves about this line, I found your blog looking for American reviews of this line. Would love to try and win this.

  6. I follow your blog regularly and I added you on Bloglovin'. I have a very nice spot on the shelf for the anti-aging hydrator! Phamx120@gmail.com. Also how did you get your skin to improve? Can you talk about that on your blog please! Thanks!

  7. I was going to buy this as a birthday gift for myself-- I went online to read reviews and came across your blog! I ended up zoning out for awhile reading different posts. I love the on point reviews, and I will be bookmarking! If you would like to give me this as a birthday gift... :-))) I am turning 28, so my skin is in need of some aging products! My email is -

  8. Oh my gosh! I thought it was just me that didn't feel my skin was hydrated after using it. I worry that a moisturizer on top will counteract the effects and purpose of the lotion.

    1. I like to think of it as the Anti-Aging Hydrator laying the framework for a better application of moisturizer. It can do a little bit of hydration on its own, but the full strength of the product comes through when you apply a moisturizer on top.

      Hope that helps, Single Nester!