REVIEW: Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion

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Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion is a Japanese sake-based hydrating toner that I’ve heard only good things about. It took me a while to remember the name without looking it up, but now that I have, I can’t stop saying it in my head. Kiku-Masamune. It’s like poetry.

front of bottle

I’ve come to realize that my love for watery, quick-absorbing skincare products is purely theoretical. The closest I’ve ever come to loving an actual first essence or toner is Hada Labo Gokujyun lotion, and I like that stuff okay. I hoped the Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion, with its rave reviews and its bonkers price-to-size ratio, would be the first.

Unfortunately, the search continues.

What it’s supposed to do

Kiku-Masamune is a Japanese sake (rice wine) brewing company founded in 1659 (!!). In addition to sake, they also make a few sake-based beauty products. Their High Moist Lotion, the ethanol-free version of their regular skin care lotion, is a watery, toner-type product. It promises to provide “ultra hydration”, healing, and whitening.

back of bottle

How to use it

Japanese “lotions” are similar to Western “toners” – that is, they’re watery and go early in your skincare routine. This product would go after cleansing and pH-dependent actives (like AHAs, BHAs, and vitamin C), but before essences, serums, and creams.

To use, pump a little puddle in your hand (although, as I’ll get into, that’s easier said than done). Massage it between your hands and pat or spread it into your face. Let it dry before applying your next product.

One thing to note: it’s absolutely enormous (half a liter!), so you can easily use this on your body in addition to or instead of your face. For size comparison, here it is next to a normal 12 ounce beer bottle:

beer comparison

Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion: the product of choice for people stocking up for an apocalypse.


Water, glycerin, butylene glycol, rice ferment filtrate (sake), glutamate, arginine, leucine, ceramide 3, ceramide 6 II, placenta extract, arbutin, Glycyrrhizic acid, soy protein, maltitol, methyl gluceth-10, peg-60 hydrogenated castor oil, hydroxyethyl cellulose, alkyl styrene/acrylic acid copolymer, citric acid, sodium citrate, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, fragrance

Ingredient highlights

So much good stuff for such a short list! Sake filtrate contains kojic acid, a powerful skin-lightening agent that’s safer than hydroquinone; it’s also a good source of antioxidants. Arbutin is another powerful lightening agent, as is Glycyrrhizic acid (a derivative of licorice root). Arginine has anti-aging and healing properties. Ceramides are critical building blocks of your moisture barrier and crucial for skin health. Placenta might have some anti-aging and moisturizing benefits (and is often derived from plants, cutting down on the ick factor, although I don’t know how Kiku-Masamune sources theirs).

What it’s like in action

It comes out of the bottle as a watery, somewhat milky liquid.


Here’s where I encountered the first problem: the pump on this bottle sucks. It sticks a lot, so you have to press down hard to get it to pump, but then it jumps down suddenly. That, combined with an extremely watery product, means it would take the hands of a surgeon to control the amount of product you dispense. More often than not, my sink counters got more lotion than I did.

When applied, it spreads easily and absorbs somewhat quickly. It doesn’t feel heavy, but it does feel very moisturizing, and doesn’t absorb as fast as other very watery products I’ve used. It doesn’t feel sticky at all and the hydration lasts all day – impressive for such a light product.

My experience

I mentioned strike one above, with the awful pump mechanism. Strike two: that smell. It smells like sake. Not maybe-that’s-sake-in-there-I-can’t-really-tell; this smells like a brewery took up residence in your bathroom. For those of us who have had sake hangovers (which I maintain are the worst kind of hangovers), this smell brings back immediate flashbacks. It’s brought me to the point of gagging when I’ve used it first thing in the morning.

Strike three won’t necessarily apply to anyone else: it broke me out. Out of the dozens and dozens of skincare products I’ve used, exactly three have broken me out: Mizon Snail Recovery Gel, Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair Cream (I don’t fuck with Mizon anymore), and Missha’s FTE. Now I guess that number is up to four. Within a couple days of starting this product, I had several small whiteheads on my forehead. I only ever break out on my chin, and haven’t had any blemishes at all in at least a month or two, so this was a pretty striking reaction.

It’s not all bad; this is easily the most hydrating toner-type product I’ve ever used. The hydration really lasts and kept my skin feeling soft and supple all day, even when I skipped my beloved Scinic Honey All-In-One Ampoule. Plus, there’s just so much of it.


Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion reminds me of a 30 Rock quote (if you don’t want 30 Rock quotes with your skincare, you’ve come to the wrong blog): Liz Lemon’s doctor asks her if she’s eating right, and Liz responds “No, but I am eating a lot.” That’s how I feel about this product. It’s impossible to dispense, smells like liquid hangover, and breaks me out, but there’s just so much of it!

hand bottle

If you have the patience to deal with the pump, don’t mind the smell of sake before breakfast, and don’t react to any of the ingredients, this could actually be a really wonderful product for you. The ingredients list is amazing, and it’s well-formulated. But for me, I’m looking for some schmuck I can unload this giant bottle on. Anyone live in LA and want to take this thing off my hands?

Overall score: 2/5

You can buy Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion on Amazon for $13 with free shipping. It’s also available on Rakuten for $5.50 with variable shipping.


  1. Haha, can I have my grandma come get it? ;P It sucks that this broke you out, any idea which ingredient is a trigger for you? I was going to ask, you mentioned that Mizon Snail Recovery Gel and Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair Cream both break you out, but have you tried snail stuff from other brands? When I first started k-beauty I got those two exact products and thought the same thing about mizon until I tried some snail sheet masks from skinfood and natures republic and they BURNED. Pretty sure I’m allergic to snail, apparently it’s pretty common in people with dust allergies. You’ve probably already thought of that but just in case I thought I’d ask! 🙂

    1. I thought it was maybe a snail allergy, but my Mizon breakouts were just lots of CCs, not a histamine reaction. I haven’t tried other snail products besides the occasional sheet mask, though, so I’m not certain.

  2. OMG! I love reading your reviews!! I just got a sample of this to try but I wish it was a bigger sample so I had enough to try for a good 4-5 days! It does come in a huge ass bottle and I am not able to purchase a full size! Maybe I will ask/post on the reddit exchange if someone would be willing to send me decants!

  3. I’m glad to see a blog with some coverage on Japanese products since I always wanna buy them when I see them at the beauty store, but never do due to lack of reviews.

    The ingredient list for this looked so promising 🙁 Sucks it didn’t live up to its promises. Have you used products with placenta before? If not, do you think it’s the placenta causing break outs? I’m currently using a Japanese sheet mask (40 friggin sheets) with placenta and I think I get red spots every time I use it… I should probably stop but 40 sheets…

  4. This bottle is huge! Holy crap. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. Thanks for the fun review with great quotables… especially: “Kiku-Masamune High Moist Lotion: the product of choice for people stocking up for an apocalypse” HAHA!

  5. Hi! a very informative review on the HIGH kikumasamune moist lotion. 🙁 quite sad it didnt work on you cuz im currently using the original one (yes, it is a huge bottle and will last you for a while). Kikumasamune lotion on my skin has become a holy grail of mine. Im oily sensitive skin, with some dry patches here and there. This lotion has been amazing on my skin! not on the whitening/brightening side, but on hydrating my skin but not been too heavy nor sticky. I guess it works on diferent skinss.

  6. Would you say this product leaves your skin sticky? Also, would you say this is as watery/thin as the Missha FTE? I’ve finally finished my Missha FTE and am looking for a replacement toner. I loved how quickly the Missha FTE absorbed into my skin and how soft it left my skin feeling too. I would love to hear any comparisons you had between the two!

    1. I don’t remember it being sticky, no. I’d say it’s a little thicker than the Missha FTE. Unfortunately, the main comparison I have between the two is that they both broke me out :/ Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

      1. what hydrating toners or essences are good? looking for good ones that dont have a lot of hyaluronic acid in them.

      2. Do you use reddit? Here is a post with a link to a spreadsheet of AB products that don’t have hyaluronic acid in it. There are quite a few essences on there. I was going to suggest Belif Hungarian water essence, but it does have HA in it, but it doesn’t feel like most essences that have HA in it. Here’s the link to the spreadsheet post

  7. Heh, I’m in LA too, and I’ve been debating picking this up off Amazon. I actually like sake-scented toners (I have a couple different Daiso ones, and a Mizon one). Did you get yours off Amazon too?

  8. Hello,
    Thank you for this interesting review, now I use it often and really like it. I’ve found an other product from this brand for bath.
    I didn’t know nothing about japanese skin care but after reading this I find it on this online store “kyoto kitsune shop” and other products too.

  9. This lotion should be used as lotion mask, not to apply directly on your skin. That’s the reason why it’s so watery.

  10. I actually love it! I decanted some of it into a smaller glass spray bottle. I use it on my face and I use it on my curly pixie haircut style as well and it works wonders with a few quick sprays in keeping it hydrated and smooth for second day hair. I use this in place of water to rehydrate curls.

  11. I saw on reddit that a lot of people really like the kikumasamune products, so I decided to do some research and I saw your blog post right away and I absolutely love you, because I am into diy and have read your posts and formulas and I always learn something new! So I had to see what you thought. I am thinking about skipping these products because I recently bought Mizon snail repair cleanser, toner, essence and cream and I started noticing white heads in areas that don’t usually breakout, plus I have been on tret for awhile and I don’t think it was purging because of the location and it wasn’t typical for my skins purging.
    One night after using the cleanser I looked in the mirror and my face was really red, but I didn’t feel any burning. So I put those products aside and my skin has been doing just fine. I am going try them in a patch test later on, just to confirm because I hate wasting products. My good friend is the one who recommended the mizon snail cream because it’s one of her favorites. So I at least have someone to give it to. Have you tried Mizon aha bha daily clean toner? It’s my favorite toner. I don’t know if it’s an issue with snail filtrate or something else because I don’t usually have issues with most ingredients, except for some added fragrances. I have used a couple snail sheet masks and I don’t remember if I had a breakout.

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