The OG version of Hada Labo’s famous Gokujyun “Lotion” never held my interest for long, even though I did keep it around and occasionally changed my mind, but when I first heard about the Hada Labo Gokujyun PREMIUM Lotion, I knew I had to have it. Its five different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid called to me. FIVE. That’s a lot of different kinds of hyaluronic acid!
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What is hyaluronic acid?
Quick refresher: hyaluronic acid is a humectant, an ingredient added to skincare products in order to bind water and deliver it to the skin. It hydrates. Hyaluronic acid is also one of the Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMFs) that occur in our skin and that, of freaking course, diminish with age.
Well hydrated skin looks plumper and firmer, with shallower wrinkles and fewer fine lines, than dehydrated skin. Hydration also gives skin a special radiance due to the refraction of light from the water in the skin. When people talk about “dewy skin,” especially in the context of the K-beauty glow, the ideal is hydrated skin with that inner radiance. Not the oil slick of highlighter on the surface of skin that tends to represent dewiness in the makeup world. Hydrating products like Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion aim to fill skin with the hydration it needs for true dewy radiance.
Review: Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion
Purpose: Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion is a lightweight hydrating product.
Best suited for: All skin types, but especially dehydrated and/or aging skin.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to hyaluronic acid in any form or have problems with anything else in the ingredients list.
When and how to use: Use after cleansing and before any serum/ampoule/moisturizer steps in your skincare routine. Dispense product onto hands and spread over skin. Pat in if desired or let dry down a little, then continue with the rest of your routine.
Bonus uses: Since it’s unfragranced and doesn’t really taste like anything, Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion (and the OG Moist Lotion) makes a great lip treatment! Exfoliate lips, then dab a drop on and seal in with lip balm. This helps keep my lips soft and happy on dry days! Hada Labo Gokujyun lotions are also great carriers for other skincare products like facial oils (check out Beauty and the Cat’s tips), propolis ampoules, and pretty much any serum, letting you use less of the more concentrated (or more expensive) stuff without sacrificing your glow.
Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion ingredients (translated by Reddit user imnikky): Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, PPG-10 methyl glucose ether, hydroxyethyl urea, sodium acetylated hyaluronate (super hyaluronic acid), sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid (nano hyaluronic acid), hydroxypropyltrimonium hyaluronate (skin absorbent type hyaluronic acid), sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer (3D hyaluronic acid), aphanothece sacrum polysaccharide (sacrum), hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, glycosyl trehalose, diglycerin, sorbitol, pentylene glycol, triethyl citrate, carbomer, polyquaternium-51, PEG-32, PEG-75, ammonium acrylates crosspolymer, disodium EDTA, potassium hydroxide, diethoxyethyl succinate, disodium succinate, succinic acid, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben
Notable ingredients: In CosDNA terms, the Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion has an exceptionally clean ingredients list. Butylene glycol scores a 1 as a potential acne trigger, but that ingredient is in nearly everything and not something most people need to worry about. Same goes for carbomer, which scores a 1 as a potential irritant. Nothing else in the ingredients raises any CosDNA eyebrows. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t patch test and pay attention to your skin’s response to this product, but it does allow us to turn our attention to the star ingredients of the product: those FIVE DIFFERENT MOLECULAR WEIGHTS OF HYALURONIC ACID OMGGGGG!!!!
Having a variety of molecular weights of hyaluronic acid is beneficial because different molecular weights of HA can penetrate to different depths of skin. Theoretically, this should enable the product to plump up skin more thoroughly and from deeper within than competing products with less HA or fewer variants of it. The lower the molecular weight, the deeper it can absorb and therefore the deeper it can carry water into your skin.
With that said, there are disadvantages to lower molecular weights of HA. The biggie is that the lower the molecular weight, the shorter the amount of time the HA will remain in skin. There are also some concerns around lower molecular weight HAs being potential inflammation triggers for some people. This might explain why some people cannot handle hyaluronic acid in skincare products.
For some context, the classic Hada Labo Gokujyun Clear Lotion contains three different molecular weights of HA: hydrolyzed hyaluronic acid (nano hyaluronic acid), sodium acetylated hyaluronate (super hyaluronic acid), and sodium hyaluronate. What’s new in the Premium Lotion are the “skin absorbent type hyaluronic acid” hydroxypropyltrimonium hyaluronate and the “3D hyaluronic acid” sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer. Yay. All of these molecular weights of hyaluronic acid hold extra water against your skin or within the extracellular matrix within your skin, allowing your skin to absorb it from there.
(Many thanks to Chel, the blogger behind Holy Snails and part of the Snailcast‘s Snail Unit, for looking over my explanation to make sure it makes sense and is correct, and then talking to me about HA because I find it so interesting. Hey Chel? Fiddy luhhhh you.)
OG Hada Labo lotion is beloved by both Western AB enthusiasts and actual Asian consumers. The eternally beautiful and perfect Jun Ji Hyun shilled the brand in adorably comical CFs that I can watch over and over because she’s so pretty and sassy and has such amazing skin and I love her very much.
What I’m saying is that many people are familiar with the original lotion, and those people might be in for a slight surprise when it comes to the consistency of the newer, PREMIUM variety. Here’s a visual comparison of the two “lotions” side by side. In both pictures, the original lotion is on the left, the Premium on the right.
Where the classic Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion is a runny liquid, the Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion is thick. It’s a light gel, hardly runny at all.
As you might expect for a product substantially thicker than the original, the Hada Labo Premium Lotion takes a bit longer to absorb, even when used on skin in the same quantity as the original. Interestingly, the Premium Lotion doesn’t leave quite as sticky a finish as the original. My cheeks don’t stick to my palms when I pat this stuff in the way they did when I (and Jun Ji Hyun) used the original version. It doesn’t particularly matter to me either way, but I did find the difference notable. I’d expected the Premium to be stickier.
The difference in effects is notable too, and that matters.
In my opinion, one of the key differences between Asian skincare products and practices and Western ones is that East Asian skincare heavily emphasizes hydration and humectants. That leads to product categories like these hydrating “lotions,” which don’t have many equivalents on mass-market drugstore shelves in the West. (God, I’ve seen products here that present hyaluronic acid as a prestige active ingredient. Ha.) The classic Hada Labo Gokujyun lotion was one of my first forays into hydrating toner lotion things, and even though it bored me to death after a while, I did understand the appeal. The formulation constraints of typical moisturizers don’t allow for as much pure hydration and plumpage.
Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion takes that plumpage to the next level on my skin, which it suffuses with a good 5% more hydration than the original lotion does, according to a week’s worth of tests using my digital skin analyzer,. The extra hydration shows in the way my skin looks after using it. This stuff has plumping effects almost equivalent to a high-quality sheet mask. My Areas of Decreased Firmness look firmer, my Fine Line Problem Regions look smoother, and my skin gets that dewy glow overall. Locking the hydration in with a moisturizer appropriate to my skin’s needs of the day retains the glow and all that juiciness all day long.
In my time with this product so far, I’ve only noticed two real drawbacks. The first is that this product lacks the power to help skin rapidly suck subsequent products in. It works well under a sheet mask, but as a prepping toner used immediately after cleansing, it’s not as effective as the original lotion or my favorite skin-softening, absorption-accelerating Dear by Enprani Moistfull Booskin. As a result, I generally don’t rely on this as a first-step toner. Instead, I use it as a hyaluronic acid serum, as I mentioned earlier in this review.
The second drawback may be more my fault than the product’s. Because of the thicker consistency of it and the fact that it’s less slippy than the original, I find myself using much more product at a time than I did with the OG Gokujyun Lotion. My bottle of Premium is running out much faster.
Conclusion: Despite those little weaknesses, Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion has earned the solid spot in my skincare routine that the original did not. Its superior hydrating abilities really show up on my skin, which makes it particularly useful when I’m short on time and can’t pat in lots of layers. I haven’t been tempted to drop it the way I constantly thought about dropping the original, and I see no reason not to repurchase after I finish this bottle. Good stuff.
Where can I buy Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion?
So here’s the thing. Although it was released last fall in Japan, Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion hasn’t yet become as widely available as many other Hada Labo products. In fact, I’ve heard it’s still pretty challenging to find even in some Asian countries! We can only hope that will change soon. I purchased my bottle for $16.79 on Amazon*.
What’s your favorite hydrating product?