Review: Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Foam Cleanser

Japanese beauty, Hada Labo foam cleanser,

As hinted at before here, I have a new favorite foam cleanser, the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Foam Cleanser. Before our trip to Seoul/Tokyo, I had been very happy with my tried and trusted SK-II Facial Treatment Cleanser. But from the very first moment, I was swayed by the newcomer. Let’s look into the reasons why.

The importance of non-irritating skin care

I already elaborated on this point in another post, but I don’t mind saying it again: mild, non-irritating skin care is important! For anyone really, but especially those who are acne-prone.

[Read about the link between skin irritation and acne here.]

Now, especially when you’re cleansing, a lot of stuff is going on which could potentially irritate the skin. Water, for example, and especially hot water, dries out and irritates the skin not only physically. With a pH of about 7 – 8, depending on the area you live in, water also impairs the skin’s natural, antibacterial moisture barrier on a biological, chemical level.

[Read how pH affects the skin on FutureDerm here.]

Then there is the physical rubbing and tearing with your hands and towels which is never good for the skin. Now add to that aggressive cleansing surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, or Sodium Myreth Sulfate, etc., and… don’t be surprised if your angry acne doesn’t show signs of ever calming down.

Fortunately, there is a solution to all those things. Don’t ever use hot water to wash your face, and don’t expose your skin to water for long stretches of time in general! Don’t rub and tear at your skin, whether with your hands or towels, and pat your face dry! Re-balance your skin’s pH with a pH-balancing toner after cleansing! Avoid harsh, aggressive cleansers!

And here is where the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Foam Cleanser appears on stage!

What Japanese users have to say about it

Curiously, and standing in complete opposite to my own experience, the cleanser merely scores 2.8 from 7 stars from Japanese users on Cosme.net, one of the biggest Japanese beauty rating websites.

Users mainly criticize its lack of thick, dense foam. However, I think this is a very Japan-specific complaint as consumers there are used to lather up foam cleansers by even using special cleansing nets. This allows them to cleanse their faces without requiring manual contact on the skin and prevent friction. But I cannot say that the lack of thick foam bothers me in the slightest.

Another criticism concerns exactly the feeling I will gush over later on: some get the impression as if the cleanser leaves a film on the skin, and does not cleanse it properly.

Since in a standard Japanese routine, the foam cleanser will usually be the second step after an emulsifying oil or balm cleanser, what I think users are referring to is that it does not leave that “squeaky clean feeling” or leaves the skin dry or matte. However, as you will see further down, I consider this a huge, enormous plus! Instead of stripping the skin of protective lipids, it replenishes them with a light protective layer of its own. This is probably what some perceive as “not clean enough.” But admittedly, this has yet another consequence.

Not suited for really oily, acne-prone skin types

I searched the web extensively for a list of ingredients of this cleanser, but depending on the country, the list looks different every time. Even the one on the English website is not in the exact same order as the one on my own tube. So I simply transcribed the Japanese ingredients list into English:

WATER, GLYCERIN, SODIUM COCOYL GLYCINATE, BUTYLENE GLYCOL, HYDROXYPROPYL STARCH PHOSPHATE, COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE, PEG-400, DECYL GLUCOSIDE, SODIUM LAUROYL ASPARTATE, POTASSIUM COCOYL GLYCINATE, SODIUM STEAROYL GLUTAMATE,
GLYCERYL STEARATE SE, SODIUM ACETYLATED HYALURONATE, HYDROXYPROPYLTRIMONIUM HYALURONATE, CITRIC ACID, STEARIC ACID, LAURIC ACID, PEG-32, EDRA-2NA, POLYQUATERNIUM-7, HYDROXYPROPYL METHYLCELLULOSE, POLYQUATERNIUM-52, METHYLPARABEN, PROPYLPARABEN, BHT

Please note, however, that some parts may have gotten lost in translation by me.

In the list, I marked the ingredients with a comedogenic rating of 1 in yellow, while those with 2 – 3 are marked in orange. Lauric Acid is marked as red because it has a comedogenic rating of a whopping 4 from 5 maximum.

Obviously, everyone’s skin is different. If not tended to properly, my skin gets oily, and complains by breaking out. Still, it apparently can handle slightly comedogenic products such as this cleanser well enough. But not so M’s!

His definitely tips more to the oily side even in the best condition, and has always been prone to mean cystic acne. So just from using the Hada Labo cleanser once his skin flared up with breakouts immediately on the next day. With at least a couple of pore clogging ingredients, the cleanser proved too much to handle for his oily, acne-prone skin. Mine, however, did not return even a single clogged pore.

My own experience with the cleanser

So my own experience was completely different to M’s and those of many users on Cosme.net.

Right from the very first moment on, I was smitten by how gentle the Hada Labo cleanser cleanses, how it does not strip but actually nourishes and conditions my skin. It does not feel dry or tight and my face is not red and irritated right after washing with it, but glowing, relaxed and temporarily brightened. Within a few days, my skin also felt softer to the touch [Correction 5 Jan, 2016: although, more accurately, this was actually down to my cleansing balm – read here], and simply more happy overall. I have not broken out from it, but quite to the contrary, my outbreaks have decreased even further. Although the cleanser should be slightly comedogenic, I have not observed my pores to clog as a consequence.

Also, a tiny little bit of the cleanser really goes a long way. I usually don’t use more than a small pea-sized amount of it to lather up in between the palms of my hands and use on my entire face. And still, it removes dabs of heavy duty concealer and brow pencil reliably and thoroughly. It’s true that the cleanser leaves a light film on the skin. But for my oily turned normal skin, it has so far proved to be a good thing!

[Read how my skin went from oily, acne-prone to normal here.]

So after just two weeks of using it every day during our trip, I got four more tubes of that stuff while we were still in Tokyo to last me at least several months. The cleanser was around ₩15 000 ≈ €12 in Korea, but only around ¥650 ≈ €5 in Japan. A steal!

Who is it for?

In conclusion, I find that you will either love or hate the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Foam Cleanser.

Who will hate it?

Those who love that “squeaky clean feeling” after cleansing. So anyone who would rather strip their skin from anything that’s good and holy to healthy skin.

Also, anyone with really incorrigibly oily, acne-prone skin. That means, if you have always suffered from painful cystic acne outbreaks during your teens or now in adulthood, stick to products with a comedogenic rating none higher than 1.

Who will love it?

Me! I will love it, forever and ever! And I think dry to normal skin types in general that are afraid of stripping valuable lipids from the surface of their skin. And anyone who wants to be gentle and nice to their skin, and fight the underlying reasons of acne, not just the symptoms.

From my own experience, not all oily skin types are inherently oily. With the right treatment, oiliness can be reduced significantly. And I feel like this cleanser draws the line between the two: If you really are inherently oily, this cleanser will much likely not be of help. But if your oiliness is just down to the wrong skin care, this cleanser might actually make a difference!

Have you ever tried the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Foam Cleanser yourself, and if so, how did you like it? Share with us in the comments!

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