Mentholatum Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening UV Day Gel SPF50+ Review

The YS Beauty Lab

The term “whitening” is considered a somewhat sensitive topic these days. To clarify, the “whitening” bit in the Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening UV Day Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ (whew!) actually pertains to the ingredient arbutin.

Err, not exactly the kind of whitening I want
Photo: The character Kayako from “The Grudge.”
Source: kayakowithtoshio Instagram

What is Arbutin?

This article from Byrdie.com explains well why we’re seeing a lot more products that use arbutin as their primary ingredient. While the more familiar brightening ingredients are Vitamin C, licorice root and kojic acid, dermatologist Dr. Michael Lin says in the article that arbutin is more gentle and less irritating as it’s released slowly.

Arbutin is extracted from the bearberry plant and it inhibits the formation of melanin, the pigment in our skin cells that absorbs light. Simply put, arbutin prevents dark spots from forming on your skin when you’re exposed to the sun. Since my ongoing skin concern is to lighten my acne scars, I thought the Arbutin Whitening UV Day Gel might be worth a try!

Gel or Cream?

The name says “Gel”, but for me it actually looks and feels more like a cream. The product itself is an off-white color, and comes in a jar with a screw-top lid. I know some people aren’t fans of face creams in jars, and this one in particular doesn’t come with a spatula, unlike many products these days. However, I always wash my hands prior to dipping my fingers in any of my skincare products so I’m perfectly fine with that.

The texture is light enough for me but since my skin still becomes oily on very humid days (Like now!), I only use this cream very sparingly on my face and neck. Which is why even after using this for nearly two months, I’ve only managed to skim off the top. I’m looking forward to using it more frequently once it gets colder again here in Hong Kong.

Even with just pea-sized amounts dotted on my face, a little goes a long way. I love that this gel (cream?) has SPF50+ PA++++, which is the highest UV protection grade that Japanese sunscreens can have.

“Out, Damned Spot!”

Thank you, Lady Macbeth and Mr. William Shakespeare, for that immortal line. Some of the smaller spots on my face have faded quickly in about a month, and the slightly bigger ones are getting there. I tell myself that it’s just a matter of time and effort. Even when I cringe at the thought of applying cream on my face and going out in 34°C daytime temperatures, I know that consistent product usage is key – my improved skin condition is proof of that.

While the product clearly says “Day Gel,” I sometimes use it as a night-time mask. In the comfort of my cooler home, my skin can tolerate the slightly heavy consistency of the gel for longer periods. I rinse it off after 20 to 30 minutes and then apply a moisturizing sheet mask to seal the deal.

Absorbs quickly, non-sticky and leaves no white cast!

I also use it sometimes on top of my feet when I’m wearing sandals. There’s nothing more embarrassing than very obvious sandal or flip-flop tan lines on your feet, and those body parts are often neglected in our skincare routine. It’s a two-birds-one-stone situation for my feet: They get SPF50 protection and the skin tone looks even!

The Verdict

If you have oily or acne-prone skin like me, or even combination skin, the Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening UV Day Gel might be too heavy for you. However, the last two months of use have shown me that I don’t need a lot to actually see results. I use it sparingly but regularly and that, I think, is what made it work for my skin type.

The Hada Labo Arbutin Whitening UV Day Gel SPF50+ PA++++currently retails for US$34.11 on YesStyle for an 80g jar.