Review: Hada Labo Retinol Lifting + Firming Essence

August 07, 2014
When it comes to beauty, there’s a lot of special lingo we have to learn. The vocabulary of skin care alone is big enough to intimidate almost anyone. Emulsifiers, peeling gels, sleeping packs, the list goes on. One of the more ‘popular’ terms, if you will, is a beautiful, little world: essence. So what is an “essence” exactly and how is it different from say, a moisturizer?

In a nutshell, an essence is the lighter version of your average skin serum and tends to be less concentrated. Just like serums though, they’re used for specific purposes or skin care problems. Most essences are quite watery and light in consistency too, thus they also tend to be absorbed quickly. One essence I wanted to try in conjunction with another product I bought (which was the last review I did here) is the Retinol Lifting + Firming Essence from Hada Labo.


Product info:
  • Powerful regenerating essence that penetrates deeply into the skin to improve skin’s elasticity and firmness.
  • Helps to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles leaving skin smoother, firmer, lifted, and restores youthful bounciness.
  • Skin pH balanced. Low irritation.
  • Free of fragrances, mineral oil, alcohol & colorant.
As I already wrote about in my last review for the Retinol Lifting + Firming Cream, the products in the Lifting + Firming range feature what is called Insta-3D Moisture-Lock Technology. According to Hada Labo, this is a “combination of 4 types of Hyaluronic Acid (3D Hyaluronic Acid, Nano Hyaluronic Acid, Super Hyaluronic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid) that are linked together to form a 3D moisture net that wraps your skin to lock-in moisture for continuous hydration.” There are also 2 key anti-ageing ingredients, which are a Retinol Vitamin A Derivative and Hydrolyzed Collagen.

I already briefly talked about what retinol is in the last post and how it benefits skin, but what about collagen and Hyaluronic Acid? Those are fancy words we see a lot in skin care, especially “collagen”, but just what are they? Hyaluronic Acid, despite its harsh-sounding name, is a humectant or moisture-binding ingredient that naturally occurs in the body and helps keep skin plump and hydrated. Babies are actually born with high levels of Hyaluronic Acid which is why their skin is so soft and pillowy. Unfortunately, as we age, the levels of Hyaluronic Acid in our bodies decrease, especially once we hit 40. That’s why Hyaluronic Acid is such a popular and powerful ingredient used in anti-aging products. Collagen, on the other hand, is a type of protein that works with keratin to make skin stronger, flexible, and more resilient. Like Hyaluronic Acid, we produce less collagen as we age, thus our skin loses its elasticity which leads to fine lines and wrinkles. Collagen can either be applied topically, onto your skin, or taken orally in the form of collagen drinks or pills.

Sorry for the brief chemistry lesson, but I felt it was important to talk a little about the important ingredients present in the product and to learn more about very common skin care ingredients in general.


Like the Retinol Lifting + Firming cream, the product is packaged quite simply. I still like the red and gold color scheme they went with. I think it makes it stand out from most other skin care products that use lighter or more muted colors. The sturdy, plastic bottle comes with a pump, which I forgot to take a picture of, and holds 30 grams of essence. The pump itself has never acted up on me and it’s easy enough to control the amount of essence you want to dispense.

hadalabo_retinolliftingfirmingessence_03 hadalabo_retinolliftingfirmingessence_04

Like your typical essence, it is indeed quite light and watery in texture and consistency, but it’s not watery. It’s very easy to spread on the skin and true enough, it absorbs pretty fast! Within a few minutes it’s already mostly absorbed into the skin and I find I can move onto the next step of my skin care regime after. It doesn’t leave a greasy or tacky film behind and only feels a little sticky as it starts to absorb.

The scent of it is very faint, so faint that I can’t quite tell what it is exactly or what else to compare it to. At most I can get the tiniest traces of something medicinal, just like the cream, but this one is even fainter. On that note, I mentioned that the fact that the cream had fragrance meant it wasn’t fragrance-free like the product claimed, but it could very well be a naturally occurring scent and what they meant was they didn’t add artificial fragrances to it. My bad!

Now just like the cream, I can’t comment on how truly effective the product is as I don’t exactly have wrinkles or fine lines to get rid of yet (I think the ones under and around my eyes are a different story), but I find this also makes my skin feel smooth and supple after applying. It’s also very moisturizing, but I still need to follow it up with a heavier moisturizer in the mornings prior to makeup because some areas on my face are really dry and flake up and using this alone won’t be enough to cut it. I use this twice a day, morning and evening, and need about two pumps which is just the right amount for my entire face. Any remaining essence on my hands I apply on my neck. So even though I can’t confidently state that this product is effective, I do like to believe it is helping to stall the inevitable signs of aging. At the very least, it’s a nice addition to my skin care routine because it’s added hydration and with my skin type, I need all the hydration I can get!

  • Makes my skin feel smoother and more supple after applying.
  • It’s very moisturizing, but if you have dry skin like me you might need to follow it up with something richer or heavier.
  • Absorbs quickly.
  • It helps to soothe irritated skin.

I guess the only improvement I’d like to see is that this comes in a bigger bottle or is sold as more than just 30 grams of product since I can already see that I’ll have used this all up before the cream is even halfway finished (I only use the cream at night because it’s heavier and takes longer to absorb). It’s only because I prefer using the two products together, really.

(!) I can’t remember the exact price of this, only that it was purchased in Tokyo. Sorry!

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