Currently, the two most enduring Japanese hair tonic brands are Kaminomoto (since 1908) and Yohmo (since the 1970s).
Many experience hair issues in the course of their lives some people who have not seen results from shampoo and conditioner alone maybe considering targeted treatment for the scalp.
In this review, a comparison is done between Kaminomoto (Silver & Gold) and Yohmo (Original).
Brand history (Kaminomoto Wins )
Kaminomoto started in 1908 in Kobe, Japan and Kaminomoto is a brand that deals solely with hair alone. They mainly manufacture hair products which are 80% of their product line. Kaminomoto has a line for shampoo and conditioner but they are most famous for their hair tonic.
Yohmo began in the 1970s under the big pharmaceutical company called Sankyo. Yohmo is developed after 5 years of research and development.
These two brands are more well-known and reputable in the mainstream market due to the years of exposure they had. I remember when I was young, I saw a bottle of Yohmo in my parent's cupboard.
Kaminomoto has an antiseptic, woody, and herbal scent as a top note reflecting the ingredients and alcohol content. It gradually lightens and fades out a few hours after application.
Yohmo has a stronger herbal fragrance plus an alcoholic note, making it a little musky. It smells slightly stronger than Kaminomoto and needs more time for the scent to disappear.
Some people feel uncomfortable to wear strong fragrance out of the house, for those concerned with scent, applying before bedtime would resolve the issue as the smell usually disappears by morning. Alternatively, try Kaminomoto Ladies or Yohmo Bloom for a milder tonic.
Both brands contain alcohol so there is menthol or cooling effect after application. The viscosity is basically like water and spreads easily on the scalp.
The most common Kaminomoto packaging is a 150 ml flat glass bottle with a plastic thimble at the opening for the user to decant the right amount. Kaminomoto Ladies is in a plastic bottle with a pointier nozzle.
The usual packaging for Yohmo (Original) is also a glass bottle holding 200 ml of liquid. Smaller bottles of 120 ml are made of plastic attached with a spray nozzle.
Key ingredients (Depends)
Both brands have a similar base for their formula, water, alcohol, castor oil, and Vitamin E.
Castor oil is extracted from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant and is a medicinal herb. It is used to treat skin lesions and decrease inflammation.
Vitamin E can help to reduce oxidative stress and form a protective barrier on the surface. A deficiency in this fat-soluble vitamin can lead to dry and irritated skin and scalp and lackluster hair.
Kaminomoto’s formula adds in hinoki (Japanese cypress) and thyme. Hinoki is said to heal damaged hair cells and improves blood circulation. Thyme is an edible herb and is said to be able to neutralize certain bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections.
Yohmo’s formula adds hyamine (benzethonium chloride) acting as a topical antiseptic. Hyamine is shown to have a broad spectrum of microbiocidal activity against bacteria, fungi, mold, and viruses. Also, due to the structure of its atoms making it positively charged, hyamine can make skin and hair feel soft and powdery after application.
There isn't much research on hair tonics. Fans of hair tonic swear by it but skeptics dismissed it. Scientifically, the gold standard for a clinical trial is a randomized controlled trial. However, there’s no research on hair tonic using such trials. We can only look at research for the individual ingredient included in the formula.
While some of the ingredients are shown to be good or necessary for healthy hair growth, there is not enough scientific proof for the efficacy of the products.
Having said this, the western world is not very exposed to traditional eastern healing techniques or wisdom, few doctors or researchers have delved into hair problems from the perspective of eastern herbs or traditional proprietary formulas.
The only two hair loss drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia). However, these aren’t considered hair tonics and potentially have side effects with possible interactions with other drugs. Minoxidil is reputed to have an unpleasant withdrawal symptom of hair loss. Essentially, the hair growth supported by minoxidil will fall out once usage is stopped.
It is difficult to compare the true effectiveness and pit Kaminomoto against Yohmo. There is no clinical trial and the claim of efficacy is based on user reviews largely. This is the subjective part of the evaluation.
Hair tonics have fans because of anecdotal evidence. Similar to traditional Chinese medicine, many people claim to have benefited from ancient knowledge of natural medicinal herbs. The idea also applies to hair tonics, some people have seen significant results from continuous usage. Personally, I have seen new growth of baby hair along the hairline of my forehead. The growth is not very visible unless scrutinized.
A variety of factors affect hair growth. Poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, stressful lifestyle, age, genes, environmental toxins (heavy metals, mold, and chemicals), autoimmune diseases (e.g.: alopecia areata and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), hormonal changes (pregnancy, menopause, and andropause) can have a significant impact on the body’s ability to grow hair.
Some people swear by hair tonics as they see results. But others don’t see the growth even with prolonged usage. They may have unaddressed underlying conditions. Therefore, they will see minimal or no results. Hair tonic is simply a Band-Aid in this case. Of course, this is one way of explaining why some don’t benefit from hair tonics. The other idea is that hair tonic is merely a profitable gimmick.
The price for a bottle of hair tonic is about SGD 20-30, if other options have failed you and you’re open to new ideas, hair tonic could be a worthwhile purchase. You never know if you’d be the one with the positive response to traditional Japanese wisdom combined with 21st-century technology contained in a glass bottle.