Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening Lotion Review: New Nano Formula

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sometimes, Asian drugstore skincare brands can be excessively gimmicky and trend-driven, rather than truly effective. That's why Hada Labo (literally "skin lab" in Japanese) has won my respect out of a plethora of available options, just because they have simple, cosmetically elegant products that work. While they do have a supremely effective marketing slogan ("one drop locks up an ocean", anyone?), I generally feel that Hada labo actually also has products that have proven to be effective. The latest product, the Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening Lotion, is also similarly promising.

The company previously had a Lifitng and Firming Lotion for bouncy skin, their famous moisturizer with the "one drop locks up an ocean" tagline and even an olive oil cleanser, so what's missing from a complete repertoire of products for the Asian market? A new-and-improved whitening line, of course!

Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening Lotion: pretty bottle, effective ingredients, easy to use - great!

The Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening Lotion is the star of this line, and in true Hada Labo style, the product is packaged like other Hada Labo lotions - in a very nice, tall cylindrical container with Japanese words and design. I'll say this about the company - they sure are generous with their amount of product! I believe this bottle has 170ml of face lotion! Wow, I mean, most creams are in pots of 30ml or 50ml, but nope, not Hada Labo, they do it big. I like that. I'm pretty sure if you divided the cost, on a per-ml basis it would be cheaper than a lot of other drugstore brands. But it doesn't mean it's any worse a product. And the sensible pour spout you see below? Fantastic. I never worry about spillage - when you tip the bottle, only a few drops comes out at a time, so you don't dispense too much by accident.

hada labo whitening lotion 2
Sensible pour-spout opening that pours a few drops at a time, so clumsies like me don't end up spilling half the bottle.

The Arbutin Whitening Lotion itself is a milky liquid. It is thinner and more liquid in texture than the Retinol Lifting and Firming Lotion, but less watery than the Super Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Lotion. I imagine that the liquid texture would make it popular. I use this by pouring a few drops onto my palm, and applying onto my face with fingers. I know others who like to pat it into the skin. Whichever method you use, it absorbs fast, and doesn't leave your face feeling sticky. Your skin still feels moist, for sure, but it's not gross and tacky-feeling.

hada labo arbutin whitening lotion
Milky, light liquid that absorbs fast into your skin.

One thing that really impressed me about the Hada Labo Whitening Lotion is the ingredients. It seems like they have made an effort to include a good amount of Arbutin (fourth in the ingredient list, after water et al. solvents and humectants, and is pretty effective as a whitening agent), which probably does most of the heavy lifting, whitening-wise. There is also a lesser amount of Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, a relative of L-Ascorbic Acid (aka Vitamin C), which has also been backed up by available research as a whitening ingredient. Other ingredients, such as Glycerin and Sorbitol, function primarily as humectants to draw water to the skin. It's a good ingredients list - no "fairy dust" type of non-functional ingredients that are just there to look good in marketing materials. Well, if I wanted to be picky, I'd say that the Hyaluronic Acid, billed as one of the a selling point, is really the last ingredient on the list, and its neutralized form, Sodium Hyaluronate, is also somewhere-near-last on the ingredients list. Still, this gives good moisturization regardless.

Ingredients: Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Arbutin, Sorbitol, PPG-10 Methyl Glucose Ether, Methylparaben, Disodium succinate, Styrene/VP Copolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Succinic acid, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid

hada labo whitening lotion ingredients
Key ingredients include arbutin, sorbitol, and some magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.

So, would I recommend this product? I think I would, especially when you consider its cost-for-quality ratio. This is a nicely balanced product - good ingredients that will deliver on the product claims, great cosmetic elegance, and all for a good price. Sure, there are cheaper whitening lotions, but I suspect they may not be as effective as this (arbutin as the fourth ingredient? I don't think so...). And sure, there are whitening lotions that are more effective than this, but you will also pay horribly, disproportionately more. All in all, this is a great all-arounder, and is probably my favourite Hada Labo product to date. If you're interested, Hada Labo's Facebook page allows you to redeem some product samples, so do give it a browse.

(Product was sent for review. Review is my complete and honest opinion. I am not affiliated with/compensated by the company.)


  1. i live in pakistan is how can i order it?? i dont have credit card

    1. Look on eBay , they ship it international. Paypal is accepted

  2. Hi. Just wondering after applying this whitening lotion do I have to apply other things etc facial mask or just this product will do?

    1. @Anonymous: It depends on your skin type - primarily how dry it is. The lotion is fairly light in texture, so if you have skin that is on the dry side, or live in a cold climate, you may find it useful to follow up with a moisturizer that is more emollient or thicker. On the other hand, if your skin is on the oily side or you live in a warm climate, you might just find that this is sufficient. Either way you use it, it can be used alone or under another moisturizer or cream. Hope this helps!

  3. Hello! I hope you won't mind me asking almost 3 years after you wrote this post. I have been using this product, as well as the non-whitening version, and am loving them. However, it seems to me that in both formulations, the hyaluronic acid ingredients appear after paraben? Does this mean that the hyaluronic acid concentration is actually rather low? Do you think this is normal for hydrating lotions?

    Thank you so much in advance!

    1. @Mel: You are right, any ingredient appearing after the preservatives typically is not there in large amounts. Hyaluronic acid in this case is a humectant, and it performs the same function as Butylene glycol and glycerin, which are there in much larger amounts. So in this case, the sodium hyaluronate is there in small amounts, but the butylene glycol and glycerin, also perform the same function. So the product functionality is still the same :) It is quite normal in hydrating lotions, if you look at the ingredients lists of a few of them it will be obvious that most of them have this general formula. Hope this helps!

    2. Thanks - that's helpful and really good to know!



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