• We Tried the 10 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2022 (Beauty Expert-Reviewed) 1
  • We Tried the 10 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2022 (Beauty Expert-Reviewed) 2
  • We Tried the 10 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2022 (Beauty Expert-Reviewed) 3
  • We Tried the 10 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2022 (Beauty Expert-Reviewed) 4
  • We Tried the 10 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2022 (Beauty Expert-Reviewed) 5

We Tried the 10 Best Japanese Whitening Serums in 2022 (Beauty Expert-Reviewed)

Whitening serums are essential for those who want to suppress melanin production and reduce the appearance of freckles and dark spots. However, with a wide range of products available, from brands such as HAKU, Chifure, and MUJI, to high-end brands such as Sunstar and Albion, as well as a dizzying number of active ingredients like tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and arbutin, it’s difficult to tell which ingredients are actually effective and which aren’t, as well as which products are best for sensitive skin.

To determine the best whitening serums, we gathered the 48 best-selling whitening serums on e-commerce sites popular in Japan, like Amazon, Rakuten, Yahoo! Shopping, and @cosme SHOPPING and tested them all.

We tested each product for the following:
  1. Ingredients
  2. Moisturizing ability
  3. Feel

In addition to our buying guide on how to choose a whitening serum, we'll also explain what you can expect from a whitening serum and answer your questions on whether or not they work on hyperpigmentation. Keep reading to find out more!

Featured in this article

Kaori
mybest US Editors
  • Last updated: 05-18-2022
Table of Contents

What Does a Whitening Serum Do, Exactly?

What Does a Whitening Serum Do, Exactly?
We know it’s called whitening, but whitening serum doesn't actually make your blemishes fade away or make your skin paler. When our skin absorbs UV rays, our skin produces melanin, which can cause spots or blemishes. To prevent this, whitening serums contain ingredients meant to inhibit the production of melanin.
In other words, whitening serum should be used as preventive care; if you only use it after you’ve been peppered with freckles and sunspots, then you’re using it too late. The earlier, the better.
Words like “bihaku” or “whitening” are used a lot in the Japanese beauty world, but perhaps a more suitable translation would be “brightening.” That’s because “whitening” skincare mainly aims to help you maintain an even, luminous complexion.

This article discusses “biyoueki,” which we’ve translated as “serums," but some brands will refer to their whitening products as essences or ampoules. While all three are essentially used interchangeably, there is a minor difference in the concentration of ingredients. Generally speaking, ampoules are the most concentrated, followed by serums, then essences, but this can differ depending on the brand.


Serums can also come in various forms, such as gel, foam, emulsions, and even cream, but for the purposes of this article, again, we'll be referring to all products collectively as "serums."

Compare the Best Japanese Whitening Serums

We picked out some of the most popular products and tested them all. Then, based on our tests and our expert's advice, we ranked the 10 best Japanese whitening serums available online.


We tested each product for the following:

  1. Ingredients
  2. Moisturizing ability
  3. Feel

※Japanese prices for some of the products are given, but they've been converted into US dollars for easy reading.

Image
1
Ayura Laboratories, Inc. Ayura White Concentrate 1

Ayura Laboratories, Inc.

2
Premier Anti-Aging DUO The Medicated White Rescue 1

Premier Anti-Aging

3
Tokiwa Pharmaceutical Industry Nameraka Honpo Medicinal Whitening Essence 1

Tokiwa Pharmaceutical Industry

4
FUJIFILM Astalift White Essence 1

FUJIFILM

5
ETVOS Medicated Whitening Clear Serum 1

ETVOS

6
ALBION EXIA AL Whitening Immaculate Essence MXC 1

ALBION

7
Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare Minon Amino Moist Medicinal Mild Whitening 1

Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare

8
FUJIFILM Astalift White Jelly Aquarista 1

FUJIFILM

9
Shiseido HAKU Melano Focus Z 1

Shiseido

10
Sunstar EQUITANCE White Essence 1

Sunstar

Name

Ayura White Concentrate

DUO The Medicated White Rescue

Nameraka Honpo Medicinal Whitening Essence

Astalift White Essence

Medicated Whitening Clear Serum

EXIA AL Whitening Immaculate Essence MXC

Minon Amino Moist Medicinal Mild Whitening

Astalift White Jelly Aquarista

HAKU Melano Focus Z

EQUITANCE White Essence

Features

Top-Class Ingredients, Hydration, and Feel

Contains Two Types of Whitening Active Ingredients. Bubbly Serum Melts Into the Skin!

Top-Tier Hydration Makes It Perfect for Brightening and Preventing Roughness

Perfect Composition of Ingredients for a Moist Finish With a Non-sticky Feel

May Strip Too Much of the Skin’s Oils, but Skin-Friendly Tranexamic Acid Is a Plus

The Container Isn’t User-Friendly, but High Hopes for the Whitening Effects

Slightly Lacking in Hydration, but Rich in Amino Acids and Ceramides

Formulated With Only One Whitening Ingredient, but Has a Great Consistency

Formulated With Proprietary Ingredient 4MSK

Contains Three Active Ingredients but Not the Most Hydrating

Price$80.89$71.77$8.12$95.45$47.98$268.75$24.76$86.36$72.93$114.31
Japaneseアユーラ ラボラトリーズ アユーラ ホワイトコンセントレートプレミアアンチエイジング DUO ザ 薬用ホワイトレスキュー常盤薬品工業 なめらか本舗 薬用美白美容液富士フイルム アスタリフト エッセンス インフィルトエトヴォス 薬用ホワイトニングクリアセラムアルビオン エクシア AL ホワイトニング イマキュレート エッセンス MXC第一三共ヘルスケア ミノン 薬用マイルド ホワイトニング富士フイルム アスタリフト ホワイトジェリー アクアリスタ資生堂 HAKU メラノフォーカスZサンスター エクイタンス ホワイトエッセンス
Volume1.35 fl. oz.1.41 oz.3.38 fl. oz.1.01 fl. oz.1.7 fl. oz.0.05 fl. oz. x 28 bottles1.06 oz.1.41 oz.1.59 oz.1.06 oz.
ContainerPumpPumpPumpPumpPumpBottlePumpJarPumpTube
Effective ingredientsDipotassium glycyrrhizate, tranexamic acid2K glycyrrhizic acid, L-ascorbic acid 2-glucoside, albutinArbutin, stearyl glycyrrhetinateDipotassium glycyrrhizate, L-ascorbylmagnesium phosphateTranexamic acid, stearyl glycyrrhetinatekojic acid2K glycyrrhizic acid, L-ascorbic acid 2-glucosideArbutinTranexamic acid, 4-Methoxysalicylic acid potassium saltS linoleate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, tranexamic acid
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, 1,3-butylene glycol, sodium hyaluronate (2), N-lauroyl-L-glutamic acid di(phytosteryl-2-octyldodecyl), 1,2-pentanediolConcentrated glycerin, glycerin, N-stearoyl dihydrosphingosine, hydroxystearoyl phytosphingosine, stearoyl phytosphingosine, phytosterolBG, concentrated glycerin, sugar squalane, diglycerin, soy milk fermentation liquid, trimethylglycine, phytosterol soybean extractConcentrated glycerin, BG, betaine, diglycerin, DPG , pentylene glycolConcentrated glycerin, 1,3-butylene glycol, N-stearoyl dihydrosphingosine, N-stearoyl phytosphingosine, hydroxystearyl phytosphingosine, sugar squalane, meadowfoam oil, 1,3-propanediol, 1,2-pentanediol, diglycerin, cholesterolConcentrated glycerin, glycerin, 1,3-butylene glycol, cholesterol, dipropylene glycolConcentrated glycerin, BG, serine, arginine, alanine, glycine, threonine, L-palin, histidine, L-leucine, lauroyl glutamate di(phytosteryl octyldodecyl), DL-PCA, Na solutionConcentrated glycerin, glycerin, BG, betaine, hydroxystearylphytosphingosine, N-oleoylphytosphingosine, stearoyloxyheptacosanoylphytosphingosineConcentrated glycerin, sodium acetylated hyaluronate, vaseline, dipropylene glycol, maltitol solutionN-lauroyl-L-glutamic acid di(cholesteryl/behenyl/octyldodecyl), vegetable squalane, olib oil, hydroxyethylcellulose, sodium chondroitin sulfate
ConsistencyThin gelFoamGelThick liquidMilky liquidMilky liquidThin gelGelCreamCream
FragranceAromatic herbal fragrance with rosemary and bergamot-Fragrance free-Fragrance freeYesFragrance freeRefreshing green floral scentFragrance-freeRelaxing floral aroma fragrance
FeaturesMineral oil-free, weak acidity, colorant-free, paraben-freeMineral oil-free, paraben-free, synthetic fragrance-free, alcohol-free, synthetic colorant-free, petroleum-based synthetic surfactant-freeMineral oil-free, weak acidity, colorant-free-Mineral oil-free, petroleum surfactant-free, silicone-free, paraben -free, tar-based dye-free, synthetic fragrance-free, alcohol-free, patch tested, non-irritating-Weak acidity, colorant-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free, UV absorber-free, patch-tested, allergy-tested, non-irritating-Allergy tested, non-comedogenic tested-
UsageMorning and nightMorning and nightMorning and nightMorning and night---Morning and nightMorning and nightMorning and night
TimingAfter tonerAfter cleansing faceAfter cleansing faceAfter tonerAfter tonerAfter tonerAfter tonerAfter cleansing faceAfter tonerAfter toner
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skinDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skinDry skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skinDry skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skinDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skinDry skin, normal skinDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skinNormal skin, oily skin, combination skinDry skin, normal skinDry skin, normal skin
Overall score4.354.254.0643.983.863.853.823.83.75
Ingredients4.34.34.03.74.53.63.93.73.94.3
Moisturizing ability5.05.05.05.04.05.03.93.83.83.3
Feel3.83.53.53.93.43.53.54.03.43.8
Link

10 Best Japanese Whitening Serums

1

Ayura Laboratories, Inc.Ayura White Concentrate

$80.89

Japaneseアユーラ ラボラトリーズ アユーラ ホワイトコンセントレート
Volume1.35 fl. oz.
ContainerPump
Effective ingredientsDipotassium glycyrrhizate, tranexamic acid
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, 1,3-butylene glycol, sodium hyaluronate (2), N-lauroyl-L-glutamic acid di(phytosteryl-2-octyldodecyl), 1,2-pentanediol
ConsistencyThin gel
FragranceAromatic herbal fragrance with rosemary and bergamot
FeaturesMineral oil-free, weak acidity, colorant-free, paraben-free
UsageMorning and night
TimingAfter toner
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skin
Overall score4.35
Ingredients4.3
Moisturizing ability5.0
Feel3.8
2

Premier Anti-AgingDUO The Medicated White Rescue

$71.77

Japaneseプレミアアンチエイジング DUO ザ 薬用ホワイトレスキュー
Volume1.41 oz.
ContainerPump
Effective ingredients2K glycyrrhizic acid, L-ascorbic acid 2-glucoside, albutin
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, glycerin, N-stearoyl dihydrosphingosine, hydroxystearoyl phytosphingosine, stearoyl phytosphingosine, phytosterol
ConsistencyFoam
Fragrance-
FeaturesMineral oil-free, paraben-free, synthetic fragrance-free, alcohol-free, synthetic colorant-free, petroleum-based synthetic surfactant-free
UsageMorning and night
TimingAfter cleansing face
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skin
Overall score4.25
Ingredients4.3
Moisturizing ability5.0
Feel3.5
3

Tokiwa Pharmaceutical IndustryNameraka Honpo Medicinal Whitening Essence

$8.12

Japanese常盤薬品工業 なめらか本舗 薬用美白美容液
Volume3.38 fl. oz.
ContainerPump
Effective ingredientsArbutin, stearyl glycyrrhetinate
Major moisturizing ingredientsBG, concentrated glycerin, sugar squalane, diglycerin, soy milk fermentation liquid, trimethylglycine, phytosterol soybean extract
ConsistencyGel
FragranceFragrance free
FeaturesMineral oil-free, weak acidity, colorant-free
UsageMorning and night
TimingAfter cleansing face
Best forDry skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skin
Overall score4.06
Ingredients4.0
Moisturizing ability5.0
Feel3.5
4
Japanese富士フイルム アスタリフト エッセンス インフィルト
Volume1.01 fl. oz.
ContainerPump
Effective ingredientsDipotassium glycyrrhizate, L-ascorbylmagnesium phosphate
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, BG, betaine, diglycerin, DPG , pentylene glycol
ConsistencyThick liquid
Fragrance-
Features-
UsageMorning and night
TimingAfter toner
Best forDry skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skin
Overall score4
Ingredients3.7
Moisturizing ability5.0
Feel3.9
5

ETVOSMedicated Whitening Clear Serum

$47.98

Japaneseエトヴォス 薬用ホワイトニングクリアセラム
Volume1.7 fl. oz.
ContainerPump
Effective ingredientsTranexamic acid, stearyl glycyrrhetinate
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, 1,3-butylene glycol, N-stearoyl dihydrosphingosine, N-stearoyl phytosphingosine, hydroxystearyl phytosphingosine, sugar squalane, meadowfoam oil, 1,3-propanediol, 1,2-pentanediol, diglycerin, cholesterol
ConsistencyMilky liquid
FragranceFragrance free
FeaturesMineral oil-free, petroleum surfactant-free, silicone-free, paraben -free, tar-based dye-free, synthetic fragrance-free, alcohol-free, patch tested, non-irritating
Usage-
TimingAfter toner
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin
Overall score3.98
Ingredients4.5
Moisturizing ability4.0
Feel3.4
6

ALBIONEXIA AL Whitening Immaculate Essence MXC

$268.75

Japaneseアルビオン エクシア AL ホワイトニング イマキュレート エッセンス MXC
Volume0.05 fl. oz. x 28 bottles
ContainerBottle
Effective ingredientskojic acid
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, glycerin, 1,3-butylene glycol, cholesterol, dipropylene glycol
ConsistencyMilky liquid
FragranceYes
Features-
Usage-
TimingAfter toner
Best forDry skin, normal skin
Overall score3.86
Ingredients3.6
Moisturizing ability5.0
Feel3.5
7

Daiichi Sankyo HealthcareMinon Amino Moist Medicinal Mild Whitening

$24.76

Japanese第一三共ヘルスケア ミノン 薬用マイルド ホワイトニング
Volume1.06 oz.
ContainerPump
Effective ingredients2K glycyrrhizic acid, L-ascorbic acid 2-glucoside
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, BG, serine, arginine, alanine, glycine, threonine, L-palin, histidine, L-leucine, lauroyl glutamate di(phytosteryl octyldodecyl), DL-PCA, Na solution
ConsistencyThin gel
FragranceFragrance free
FeaturesWeak acidity, colorant-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free, UV absorber-free, patch-tested, allergy-tested, non-irritating
Usage-
TimingAfter toner
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin, oily skin, combination skin
Overall score3.85
Ingredients3.9
Moisturizing ability3.9
Feel3.5
8

FUJIFILMAstalift White Jelly Aquarista

$86.36

Japanese富士フイルム アスタリフト ホワイトジェリー アクアリスタ
Volume1.41 oz.
ContainerJar
Effective ingredientsArbutin
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, glycerin, BG, betaine, hydroxystearylphytosphingosine, N-oleoylphytosphingosine, stearoyloxyheptacosanoylphytosphingosine
ConsistencyGel
FragranceRefreshing green floral scent
Features-
UsageMorning and night
TimingAfter cleansing face
Best forNormal skin, oily skin, combination skin
Overall score3.82
Ingredients3.7
Moisturizing ability3.8
Feel4.0
9
Japanese資生堂 HAKU メラノフォーカスZ
Volume1.59 oz.
ContainerPump
Effective ingredientsTranexamic acid, 4-Methoxysalicylic acid potassium salt
Major moisturizing ingredientsConcentrated glycerin, sodium acetylated hyaluronate, vaseline, dipropylene glycol, maltitol solution
ConsistencyCream
FragranceFragrance-free
FeaturesAllergy tested, non-comedogenic tested
UsageMorning and night
TimingAfter toner
Best forDry skin, normal skin
Overall score3.8
Ingredients3.9
Moisturizing ability3.8
Feel3.4
10

SunstarEQUITANCE White Essence

$114.31

Japaneseサンスター エクイタンス ホワイトエッセンス
Volume1.06 oz.
ContainerTube
Effective ingredientsS linoleate, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, tranexamic acid
Major moisturizing ingredientsN-lauroyl-L-glutamic acid di(cholesteryl/behenyl/octyldodecyl), vegetable squalane, olib oil, hydroxyethylcellulose, sodium chondroitin sulfate
ConsistencyCream
FragranceRelaxing floral aroma fragrance
Features-
UsageMorning and night
TimingAfter toner
Best forDry skin, normal skin
Overall score3.75
Ingredients4.3
Moisturizing ability3.3
Feel3.8

How We Tested the Whitening Serums

How We Tested the Whitening Serums
This time, we gathered the best-selling whitening serums on e-commerce sites popular in Japan, like Amazon, Rakuten, Yahoo! Shopping, @cosme SHOPPING, and tested them all.

We tested each whitening serum for the following:
  1. Ingredients
  2. Moisturizing ability
  3. Feel

Test ① Ingredients

Test ① Ingredients
The ingredients found in whitening serums are particularly important when it comes to choosing the best one.

We asked scientific beautician Kaori, who has extensive knowledge of ingredients, to evaluate the ingredients that are particularly important in whitening serums based on the following points:

  • Can the ingredients brighten the skin
  • Are the ingredients hydrating
  • How gentle the ingredients are on the skin

In Japan, whitening serums are usually considered over-the-counter drugs (or medicated), which are categorized as quasi-drugs. Companies are not obligated to list all ingredients for quasi-drugs, so Kaori was only able to evaluate the ingredients that were listed.

Test ② Moisturizing Ability

Test ② Moisturizing Ability

Next, we tested how moisturizing each whitening serum is. Hydration is important in order to improve dullness caused by dry skin.


To test this we used a Corneometer, which is a special device used by research institutions that can measure moisture levels in the skin. We compared moisture levels in the skin before application and after two hours from application and evaluated each product based on how much of an increase there was in moisture levels.

Test ③ Feel

Test ③ Feel

Finally, we tested how each product feels to use, since a whitening serum is something that should be used every day. 


To test this, we gathered three testers from mybest's Japanese editorial team and had them test each product for the following points:


  • Whether or not the product feels comfortable to use
  • How convenient the container is
  • Whether or not the whitening serum smells good

How to Choose a Japanese Whitening Serum – Buying Guide

Here are four major points to look out for when choosing a Japanese whitening serum.

Consider the Timing of When You'll Use It

Consider the Timing of When You'll Use It

The timing and effectiveness of the active ingredients found in whitening serums can differ greatly depending on the product.


If you haven't been exposed to harsh UV rays yet, look for ingredients like tranexamic acid or chamomille extract. If you've just been exposed to UV rays, look for kojic acid, arbutin, and vitamin C derivatives.


Finally, your body starts actively producing melanin around 48 to 72 hours after being exposed to UV rays. If it's been less than 72 hours since exposure, look for ingredients like nicotinamide, placenta extract, or linoleic acid for post-UV ray melanin suppression.

Kaori
Scientific Beautician
Kaori

Nicotinamide is a common ingredient that has a low risk of irritating the skin. Additionally, chamomille extract and tranexamic acid are gentle on the skin, given the way they inherently act on the skin.


If you're prone to irritated skin, consider products with these ingredients.

Look For Moisturizing Ingredients Like Glycerin and Ceramides

Look For Moisturizing Ingredients Like Glycerin and Ceramides

Dry, dull-looking skin can make your face look less healthy than it actually is. In order to combat this, it's important to look for a whitening serum with effective moisturizing ingredients.


Ingredients that you should definitely keep an eye out for are glycerin and ceramides. While it's fine for a product to have one or the other, whitening serums formulated with both will have more moisturizing abilities.


When choosing a product formulated with ceramides, ideally look for one with multiple ceramides!

Avoid High Concentrations of Plant Extracts or Ingredients That Promote Penetration if You Have Sensitive Skin

Avoid High Concentrations of Plant Extracts or Ingredients That Promote Penetration if You Have Sensitive Skin

Whitening serums that are formulated with high concentrations of plant extracts or are formulated to promote penetration can present a higher risk of irritating the skin.


If you are considering a product with ten or more plant extracts or essential oils, or if the product suggests that it's formulated for penetration and absorption, always conduct a patch test before applying it to your face. If you're also sensitive to alcohol, watch out for products formulated with ethanol.

Consider a Comfortable Consistency and Container

Consider a Comfortable Consistency and Container

One of the most important aspects when it comes to skincare is consistency, and how a product feels to use can greatly affect how consistent you can use it. Look for products that blend well into your skin, aren't sticky, and come in convenient containers.


Serums with emulsion-like, milky textures blend into the skin easily and tend to not be so sticky. These products also feature high amounts of oil, which helps the ingredients penetrate the skin.


Containers that can be used single-handedly were popular among our testers, such as pump bottles or droppers, which make it easy to adjust how much product you're using.

How Long Should You Keep Using a Whitening Serum?

How Long Should You Keep Using a Whitening Serum?

Since skin turnover happens in a cycle of about 28 days, make sure you use your whitening serum during this period; you'll start seeing results as your skin cells are renewed.

As we mentioned earlier, it's important to be consistent when using whitening serums, so we recommend that you continue to use them beyond the 28-day period.

Use Sunscreen in Addition to Your Whitening Serums

Use Sunscreen in Addition to Your Whitening Serums
Even if you the best whitening serum every day of your life, if you bathe in UV rays, it’s not going to make a difference. You can’t prevent blemishes just with a whitening serum.

A lot of people think UV protection is something that only matters in summer, but it's best to protect your skin against harmful UV rays throughout the year, and then use a whitening serum on top of that. Think of serums as the icing on the cake.


For more information on sunscreens, check out the link below.

Other Products to Ensure Your Skin Stays in Tip-Top Shape

If you want to keep your skin clear, you need to keep it hydrated. Toners and creams are some of the most important aspects of your skincare routine, and you’d do well to supplement your serum with them. Learn more below.

Author: Yukina Matsuda/Translation: Jasmine Li, Mitsuki Nagasawa, Tomoko Leeper/Images: Anan Ma

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    10 Best CC Creams for Oily Skin in 2022 (Makeup Artist-Reviewed)
    It’s nice to have a full coverage foundation for that flawless finish, but there are days wherein it can just get too much and too heavy for people with oily skin. An excellent alternative for this is CC cream, which has a lighter formula. It comes in with light to full coverage, packed with skincare ingredients and SPF for sun protection. It’s a quick way to get coverage and protection when you’re always out and about.To help you pick the right CC cream, we put together a list of our favorite products. We choose It Cosmetics' CC+ Cream for its oil-free, mattifying, and protecting formula for our number one pick. It is also made with collagen, peptides, and charcoal that are beneficial and nourishing to the skin. Check out the rest of our favorites and the buying guide reviewed by a professional makeup artist that we prepared for more tips and information on picking the right one.
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