Comparison Review of 5 Japanese Ceramide Toners

I’ve been trashing a lot of toners (among other things) from my skincare stash. I hate being wasteful but I finally came to the realization that I don’t have the mental energy to force myself to use up products that don’t bring me joy if I want to do other unenjoyable, adult things like eating vegetables or going to the gym, so it had to be done.

What I learned from this purge is while botanical extracts and fancy hanbang ingredients make me buy buy buy, none of those things entice me to actually use a toner. The toners I reach for day after day tend to be fragrance free and to have a targeted function. At the moment, I’ve been relying heavily on various ceramide toners. As all 5 in my stash survived my latest purge, so I figure I would review them.

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About Ceramides, the Importance of Formulation, & My Experience with Ceramide Toners

Ceramides are waxy lipids that naturally occur in cell membranes and are a main component of the stratum corneum. In skincare, they can do some pretty amazing barrier repairing things when formulated in a 3:1:1:1 ratio with cholesterol, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid. To my knowledge, none of these toners have the proper ingredients in this ratio, so if you’re looking for an intensive, reparative treatment, you might want to go elsewhere. However, after using some of these toners regularly in in heavy doses for the past couple of months, my dry and reactive skin does seem to be less sensitive, more resilient, and overall better functioning.

This category of products seems to have specific benefits to my skin I have not observed from other types of products. Specifically, when I use ceramide toners in heavy dosages, I notice:

  1. My skin handles retinoids A LOT better. My Curology prescription (tretinoin + azelaic acid + zinc pyrithione) is awesome for combatting acne but causes chronic inflammation and flaking of skin around the nose and mouth. Soon after I started heavily utilizing the Matsuyama Hydrating Toner (light version), the way Curology affected my skin suddenly changed. The area around my nose is CALMER after using Curology, which blew my mind. I’ve known azelaic acid is supposed to be inflammation/redness fighting, but it’s just not something I’ve ever witnessed in the previous 16+ months I’ve been using a tretinoin + azelaic prescription. My theory is this toner is allowing the calming effects of azelaic acid to finally supersede the irritating effects of tretinoin. I’ve been able to maintain this effect with the Mebika toner and regular version of the Matsuyama toners, but not with the Biyougeneki toner or Cezanne.
  2. My skin regulates turnover better. I struggle with exfoliants – both physical and chemical. If I use them too regularly, my skin becomes exceedingly sensitive and irritable. If I don’t use it enough, my skin tone looks dull. Two + years into being a serious skincare user (whatever that means) and I still struggle to figure out the correct balance. I’ve noticed that after using these toners regularly, my skin is much less prone to dullness. I haven’t touched any AHAs, BHAs, or PHAs in 6 weeks, relying solely on retinoids and L-Ascorbic Acid to regulate my skin turnover, and texturally, my adult skin has never looked or felt better. I continue to use an AHA body lotion on my arms and legs (it’s necessary to keep my reptile-dry skin and mild keratosis pilaris in check) but when paired with the Cezanne or Mebika toner, I’ve been able to reduce the frequency with which I have to use acid. My skin stays notably hydrated and soft for longer between AHA uses.

I feel the need to reiterate that these toners do not (to my knowledge) contain the proper ratio of cholesterol, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid that are necessary for barrier repair to happen so I really don’t know how to explain the mechanisms by which these effects are working. That said, I have dry skin which means my skin lacks lipids, so it’s possible ceramides in a watery delivery system are exceptionally good at combatting dryness. After all, ceramides are lipids and fundamentally function as an emollient, meaning they replace the absent natural skin lipids in the space between corneocytes in the [stratum corneum]. Additional benefits include the smoothing of roughtened skin thereby changing the skin’s appearance and providing occlusion to attenuate TEWL and enhance moisturization.

In either case, ceramide toners work well for my skin. Everyone’s skin is different so they might not work for you, but maybe they will.

Now onto the individual reviews:


Product Name
松山油脂 肌をうるおす 保湿浸透水 ライトタイプ // Matsuyama Skin Moisturizing Water, Light Type
 – and – 
松山油脂 肌をうるおす 保湿浸透水 // Matsuyama Skin Moisturizing Water (Regular)

Where does it fit in your routine?
I use this after cleansing and after applying first essence.

Size and Price
The regular and light bottles are identical and both contain 120ml of product. I purchased the light version from Chomotto for ¥1,404 (~$11.90 USD) through Tenso, which is a forwarding service. That was before Amazon Japan offered international shipping. It is also available on Amazon US, and Amazon Japan. I purchased the regular version from Amazon Japan for ¥1,404. It is also available on Amazon US.

Packaging
Hefty, minimalistic glass bottle. Product dispensed through a hole in the opening.

Fragrance
Blissfully fragrance free.

Color and texture
The light toner has a texture very similar to water. The regular toner is still very fluid but is more viscous and has more slip.

Ingredients

The ingredients are very similar for both toners, with the key difference being the light version has trehalose higher in the ingredient list and also contains Rice Bran Extract and Sericin, which the regular version does not contain.

Full Ingredients (Light):
水、BG、グリセリン、1,2-ヘキサンジオール、トレハロース、ダイズ種子エキス、ダイズ発酵エキス、ダイズステロール、セラミド1、セラミド2、セラミド3、セラミド5、セラミド6II、ヒアルロン酸Na、コメヌカエキス、セリシン、水添レシチン、キサンタンガム、クエン酸、クエン酸Na
Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Trehalose, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Lactobacillus / Soybean Ferment Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 2, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 5, Ceramide 6II, Sodium Hyaluronate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Sericin, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate
Full Ingredients (Regular):
水、BG、グリセリン、1,2-ヘキサンジオール、ダイズ種子エキス、ダイズ発酵エキス、加水分解ダイズタンパク、ダイズステロール 、セラミド1、セラミド2、セラミド3、セラミド5、セラミド6II、ヒアルロン酸Na、トレハロース、水添レシチン、キサンタンガム、クエン酸、クエン酸Na
Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Lactobacillus / Soybean Ferment Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 2, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 5, Ceramide 6II, Sodium Hyaluronate, Trehalose, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate

Cosdna identifies butylene glycol (1) as an acne trigger in both the light lotion and regular lotion.

Performance

I’ve tried 4 products from Matsuyama so far (these two toners, cleansing gel, and emulsion) and although the products aren’t super exciting, every single product has been a joy to use. Matsuyama is the perfect white T-shirt of skincare and I’m totally obsessed with the brand.

When my skin does get irritated, it tends to overreact. I have an arsenal of calming/anti-inflammatory products to deal with this sensitivity. Since I started using these toners regularly, I rarely find myself reaching for those anti-redness products because I haven’t needed them.

Both of these toners get a good amount of use in my routine. The normal version is more hydrating than the light version and I think it’s an excellent toner, but I freaking LOVE the light version. The thinner consistency of the light version allows me to apply a lot more toner, which is key for it to do its best work.

You know how foundation looks best on good skin days? A few days after I started using the light version of this toner, I started having good foundation days EVERY SINGLE DAY. I would look in the mirror and be shocked at how even and smooth my base makeup looked. There were a few moments where I would look at myself in the mirror and be really confused because it didn’t look like I had foundation on but my skin also looked like it had been put through a selfie app. This toner makes my skin smoother, creating the perfect canvas for makeup. It doesn’t shrink pores, but it makes my pores less texturally intrusive to my skin which makes them less noticeable, especially under makeup. I have no doubt that if I used the regular version in the same quantities as I do the light version, I would see a similar effect, but the thicker texture of the regular version makes that impractical.

Overall Rating
Matsuyama Skin Moisturizing Water Light: 5/5 Stars
Matsuyama Skin Moisturizing Water Regular: 4/5 Stars


Product Name
美容原液 KTローション // Biyougen’eki Rice Ceramide & Soy Ferment Lotion

Where does it fit in your routine?
I use this after cleansing and after applying first essence.

Size and Price
This lotion contains 185ml of product. In Japan, it is dirt cheap but unfortunately super hard to source to the US. I bought it from Rakuten for ¥ 413 (<$4 USD) through a Tenso, a forwarding service.

Packaging
Plastic bottle with an orange label that dispenses lotion through a hole in the top. If you’re familiar with the Hada Labo lotion products, it’s the same bottle.

Fragrance
None

Color and texture
Translucent and fluid but not watery texture. It’s kind of soupy? Not at all sticky.

Ingredients

  • Ceramides Contained in toners: Rice Bran Sphingoglycolipid, Glucosyl Ceramide
  • Other Noteworthy Ingredients: Soymilk Ferment Filtrate, Soybean Seed Extract, Rice Ferment Filtrate

Full Ingredients:
水、グリセリン、BG、豆乳発酵液、ダイズエキス、加水分解ダイズタンパク、コメヌカスフィンゴ糖脂質、グルコシルセラミド、コメ発酵液、カルボマー、フェノキシエタノール、カラギーナン、デキストリン、水酸化K、メチルイソチアゾリノン、水添レシチン、リゾレシチン、(スチレン/アクリル酸アルキル)コポリマーアンモニウム
Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Soymilk Ferment Filtrate, Glycine Soja Seed Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Rice Bran Sphingoglycolipid, Glucosyl Ceramide, Rice Ferment Filtrate, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Carrageenan, Dextrin, Potassium Hydroxide, Methylisothiazolinone, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Lysolecithin, Ammonium styrene/
acrylates copolymer

Cosdna identifies butylene glycol (1) and carrageenan (5) as acne triggers and carbomer (1) and carrageenan (2) as potential irritants. This lotion also uses methylisothiazolineone (MIT) as a preservative. I am not personally sensitive to MIT but it is a super common allergen so proceed with caution and please consult a medical professional if you experience any adverse effects.

Performance

This lotion is kind of the odd one out in this review. Despite the ceramide content and other nice ingredients, it doesn’t do much for me beyond basic hydration. If I apply multiple layers, it does make my skin supremely soft to the touch which is really nice on days I need a quick skin texture boost but the effects are relatively short lived.

Overall Rating: 2.9/5 Stars


Product Name
セザンヌ スキンコンディショナー高保湿 // Cezanne Skin Conditioner High Moist

Where does it fit in your routine?
I use this after cleansing and after applying first essence.

Size and Price
This bottle contains 500ml of product and costs ¥702 before shipping on Amazon JP where I purchased it. It is also available on Amazon US and Ebay.

Packaging
Transparent plastic bottle. The cap and all label information is in pink.

Fragrance
None detected.

Color and texture
This lotion has a translucent white color. It is very fluid but is a tad milkier than water in both appearance and feel.

Ingredients

  • Ceramides Contained in toners: Ceramide AP, Ceramide NP, Ceramide EOP, Phytosphingosine
  • Other Noteworthy Ingredients: Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-yuen Seed Extract, 3 forms of Sodium Hyaluronate, Cholesterol, 7 Amino Acids

Full Ingredients:
水、グリセリン、BG、ハトムギ種子エキス、セラミドAP、セラミドNP、セラミドEOP、フィトスフィンゴシン、ヒアルロン酸Na、アセチルヒアルロン酸Na、加水分解ヒアルロン酸、サクシノイルアテロコラーゲン、ダイズ種子エキス、グルタミン酸、アロエベラ液汁、レモン果実エキス、ローズマリー葉エキス、ホップ花エキス、セイヨウアカマツ球果エキス、スギナエキス、PCA-Na、セリン、リシン、グリシン、アラニン、アルギニン、トレオニン、プロリン、コレステロール、ベタイン、アラントイン、ソルビトール、クエン酸、クエン酸Na、EDTA-2Na、ヒドロキシエチルセルロース、キサンタンガム、ラウロイルラクチレートNa、カルボマー、(スチレン/VP)コポリマー、メチルパラベン、プロピルパラベン
Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-yuen Seed Extract, Ceramide AP, Ceramide NP, Ceramide EOP, Phytospingosine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Succinoyl Atelocollagen, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Glutamic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Pinus Sylvestris Cone Extract, Equisetum Arvense Extract, Sodium PCA, Serine, Lysine, Glycine, Alanine, Arginine, Threonine, Proline, Cholesterol, Betaine, Allantoin, Sorbitol, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium EDTA, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Styrene/VP Copolymer, Methylparaben, Propylparaben

Cosdna identifies butylene glycol (1) as an acne trigger and carbomer (1) as a potential irritant.

Performance

After using this for 3 days on my face, it started breaking me out so now I use solely as a body product. This makes scoring difficult because everyone’s acne triggers are different and I really didn’t get to observe its effects on my face long enough to make any sort of informed statements about it, so I’m going to focus on what it does when I apply to my arms and legs. In general, I find this to be the heftiest and most moisturizing lotion of this bunch, which is both good and bad. It not only keeps my skin hydrated and soft but seems to make any other body products I use work better. On the other hand, I find it to be a little sticky immediately after application. It’s a minor annoyance, but one that is enough to deter me from purchasing again, especially as the Mebika lotion works similarily but without the stickiness.

Overall Rating: 3.2/5 Stars


Product Name
米美糀 モイストローション // Mebika Moisture Lotion

Where does it fit in your routine?
I use this after cleansing and after applying first essence.

Size and Price
This bottle contains 500ml of product and costs ¥972 before shipping on Amazon JP where I purchased it.

Packaging
Transparent plastic bottle that is rounded on top.

Fragrance
This is 97.5% fragrance free. If I really stick my nose into it it kind of smells like rice water.

Color and texture
Translucent white, milky color and texture.

Ingredients

  • Ceramides Contained in toners: Ceramide 5, Rice Bran Sphingoglycolipid, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 2, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6II
  • Other Noteworthy Ingredients: Rice Bran in every form (extract, powder, ferment filtrate, oil, protein), a ton of Extracts (ie Royal Jelly, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-yuen Seed, Soybean, Artichoke, Licorice Root etc), Evening Primrose, Soy Sterol

Full Ingredients:
水、DPG、セラミド5、乳酸桿菌/コメヌカ発酵液、コメ胚芽油、加水分解コメタンパク、コメヌカスフィンゴ糖脂質、コメ粉、コメヌカ油、コメ発酵液、コメヌカエキス、イノシトール、プラセンタエキス、水溶性コラーゲン、セラミド1、セラミド2、セラミド3、セラミド6Ⅱ、ローヤルゼリーエキス、月見草油、ソメイヨシノ葉エキス、ハトムギ種子エキス、ダイズステロール、ダイズ種子エキス、ヨモギ葉エキス、ヒマワリ種子エキス、アーチチョーク葉エキス、アマチャヅル葉エキス、ワイルドタイムエキス、ゲットウ葉エキス、ローズマリー葉エキス、マドンナリリー根エキス、オタネニンジン根エキス、カンゾウ根エキス、オウゴン根エキス、グリセリン、PEG/PPG/ポリブチレングリコール-8/5/3グリセリン、エチルヘキシルグリセリン、トレハロース、(スチレン/アクリレーツ)コポリマー、ヒドロキシプロピルシクロデキストリン、クエン酸Na、クエン酸、水添レシチン、リゾレシチン、キサンタンガム、ポリアクリレートクロスポリマー-11、PEG-60水添ヒマシ油、t-ブタノール、BG、トコフェロール、フェノキシエタノール、ブチルカルバミン酸ヨウ化プロピニル
Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Ceramide 5, Lactobacillus/Rice Bran Ferment Filtrate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Germ Oil, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Rice Bran Sphingoglycolipid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Powder, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Inositol, Placental Protein, Soluble Collagen, Ceramide 1, Ceramide 2, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6II, Royal Jelly Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Pronus Yedoensis Leaf Extract, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-yuen Seed Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Artemisia Princeps Leaf Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Extract, Cynara Scolymus (Artichoke) Leaf Extract, Gynostemma Pentaphyllum Leaf Extract, Hymus Serpyllum Extract, Alpinia Speciosa Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Lilium Candidum Bulb Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Glycerin, PEG/PPG/Polybutyleneglycol-8/5/3Glycerin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Trehalose, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Lysolecithin, Xanthan Gum, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-11, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, tert-Butyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate

Cosdna identifies evening primrose oil (2), butylene glycol (1), and tocopherol (2) as acne triggers and evening primrose oil (2) and tocopherol (2) as potential irritants.

Performance

I started using this after I had already reaped much of the benefits of the Matsuyama light lotion, so I unfortunately cannot quite confirm it initiates the same calming and skin-resilience boosting effects, but it does work equally well in maintaining those effects. When I use this regularly, my skin is less less irritable and less sensitive. Also, my skin drinks this stuff up. Even though this is thicker than the light Matsuyama skin moisturizing water, I’m still able to apply multiple layers without any residue or stickiness, which is helpful.

Since it’s so cheap and there’s so much of it in a bottle, I use this on both my face and my body. On my body, it imcreases overall hydration, improves skin smoothness, and boosts/prolongs the moisturizing and exfoliating effects of the AHA body lotion I use.

In addition, of all the items discussed in this post, this lotion stands out in that it also has modest but noticeable brightening effects! This is likely due to the ferments and rice ingredients it contains, which is a really nice bonus for an already awesome product!

Overall Rating: 4.2/5 Stars


 Summary + Comparison of All 5 Toners

From L to R: Matsuyama Light Hydrating Toner, Matsuyama (Regular) Hydrating Toner, Biyougeneki Rice Ceramide & Soy Ferment Lotion, Cezanne High Moist Skin Conditioner, Mebika Moisture Lotion

My ranking of the toners from least favorite to most favorite is:

  • Cezanne High Mist Skin Conditioner – This is the heftiest / most moisturizing toner in the bunch, but on my face it breaks me out and on my body it feels just a tad sticky. Functionally, I like it enough to keep it around and finish it as a body product but I don’t enjoy using it and will definitely not be repurchasing
  • Biyougeneki Rice Ceramide & Soy Ferment Lotion – I’ve had no issues with this toner but it’s overall kind of unremarkable. Will not repurchase
  • Matsuyama Skin Moisturizing Water – I really like this toner. It hydrates and allows my skin to deal with retinoids better.
  • Mebika Moisture Lotion – This toner is a cornicopia of skin beneficial ingredients and is the only one in this round-up that has (modest but noticeable) brightening effects. I use this as a face and body product and like that it helps my skin handle retinoids and that I can easily apply multiple layers of this without any stickiness or residue. I also like that this  helps my skin handle retinoids.
  • Matsuyama Skin Moisturizing Water Light Version – Like the Mebika, it helps my skin process retinoids and I can saturate my skin in multiple layers of this. It also makes my base makeup look amazing, which I really, really appreciate

In short, I use all of these ceramide toners in my routine regularly but the ones I plan on repurchasing over and over again are the Matsuyama Light toner and the Mebika moisture lotion.


Disclaimer: This product was purchased by me. This post contains an affiliate links. Purchasing an item through an affiliate link does not add any cost to the customer but does help support this site’s upkeep.

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15 thoughts on “Comparison Review of 5 Japanese Ceramide Toners

  1. Mimi says:

    I really like the sound of the Mebika Moisture Lotion and the Matsuyama. Both sound exceedingly promising, will add them to my never ending toner wishlist. Thanks for mentioning the fragrance (or lack thereof), that’s one of the biggest determining purchase factors for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Erika says:

    😍 Now I need to try the Mebika and the Matsuyama when my bottle of Kikumasamune. Sounds like these might work even better for me. My skin on my body is very much like yours so I’m excited for this, especially since the Kiku isn’t as moisturizing as I thought it would be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jen says:

    Thank you for the in-depth review. I’ve been searching for a new toner as I try to figure out what’s casing my CCs and improve the overall texture and moisture level of my skin. Thanks!

    Like

  4. juliakaczmarczyck says:

    Thanks for this!
    I’ll keep an eye out for Biyougen’eki (I would put an ‘ in there to be clear it’s gen-eki and not ge-ne-ki) because I suspect the others will break me out due to hyaluronic acid.

    Like

  5. annacaramela says:

    Thank you for writing this!! Needed to read this! I have a few questions:

    -Aside from the Stratia LG, do you know of any other products that follow the ideal ratio of ceramides and fatty acids? Probably one that’s more accessible internationally 🙂
    -Can you site examples of products you used to reach for when you get irritated? I think we are the same in terms of skin sensitivities (redness and small bumps).

    Liked by 1 person

    • V. Rex says:

      Epiceram has the correct ratio but is prescription only, unfortunately. That’s the only one I know of.
      The products I reach for are benton honest TT mist, LJH tea tree sheet mask (tea tree works great for my redness!), etude house air therapy snail mask, and 2 sol propolis solution!

      Like

  6. may says:

    Do you have a link where we can buy the Matsuyama toner and Mebika lotion from a seller that uses SAL shipping? Thanks!

    Like

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