When I was younger, I used to put all kinds of horrible things in my mouth.

There was red and blue Play-Doh, which I swore tasted saltier and more satisfying than yellow. Processed American cheese that I’d put inside two pieces of white bread slathered with mayo (don’t ask, but I remember it being really really enjoyable). But one thing I never did was put actual dirt anywhere near me. That was just disgusting.

Shodai smells exactly like dirt

Unlike other 3-year olds who enjoyed occasionally dipping their feet in mud puddles or going out and scoping out wet terrain for worms, or dousing their skin with ketchup and mustard, I was afraid to get dirty. And let’s not even talk about literal dirt getting on you. Dirt was meant for the ground only and that’s where it should remain.

So you could imagine the irony that I faced one night, layering on a moisturizer that smelled exactly like dirt. I was testing this new brand called Shodai, after being given its face wash and moisturizer. Before using the products, I was warned that it has a “woodsy” smell to it and to not be alarmed. I would realize that was a euphemism for it actually smelling like a mushroom growing on the side of a cedar tree surrounded by wet, muddy, dirt. Yes, there’s no getting around it. Shodai smells exactly like dirt.


Shodai, which means “first generation,” is a grooming brand from Japan. But its founder, Justin Brown, isn’t Japanese. He’s actually British. After foraging for the perfect grooming brand for him, he decided he’d create his own. Having lived in Tokyo for the past five years, he decided to look into Japanese skincare and see what kind of ingredients were best for the skin.


He found the best products from Japan’s own history came from four main ingredients. Hiba oil, from the Aomori Hiba tree, which apparently takes 300 years to mature and is antibacterial, sake, which has kojic acid and brightens the skin, green tea and finally, onsen water. That’s water from natural hot springs, said to sooth and rejuvenate skin.

Being a snob when it comes to packaging, I truly wasn’t impressed with Shodai’s. It looked and felt all so basic. But I realized that packaging isn’t really everything. It’s obviously what’s inside that counts.

First impressions

But why does it smell like dirt, though? I kept asking, as I used the brand’s face wash and moisturizer every day for a week. While some reviewers said they didn’t mind the smell, coming from using brands like Huxley, which smell of fresh, dewy cactus pears, this was quite a departure. I was definitely skeptical at first and was so repulsed from the fragrance (or lack thereof!) that I totally wanted to stop testing the products altogether. Truly, I’m glad I did not.

In a weird way, this product made me feel more masculine, as if I, myself was Bear Grylls, who found his own ingredients to create a moisturizer out in the wild.

The face wash is like any other standard face wash except, it doesn’t leave you feeling dry. It does, however make you feel as if your face is extra clean, almost like a glass cup you finished rinsing soap from. That’s exactly how I felt my face was left feeling. With a mixture of volcanic ash, tanakura clay, silkworm cocoon extract (yes, you heard that correctly), I felt as if I was Bear Grylls for a moment. All I needed was to squeeze elephant dung to hydrate my parched mouth. My face wasn’t soft, like a lot of women’s products, though it wasn’t left with dry patches. It was almost as if it was in its natural state, which was kinda cool, in a rugged kind of way.

Aside from it smelling, well, “earth-y,” the moisturizer was extremely pleasant. It goes on smooth (though sticky just for a few moments before seeping in to pores!), and instantly rehydrated my skin. So much so, that I felt as if I just had a facial. The product lays on thick, which I didn’t mind, and retains moisture for a long period. When I used the moisturizer at night, I felt as if I came out from a spa the next day. It was pleasant, almost as if I, myself, visited a Japanese onsen. My skin felt supple, smooth, soft matte. In a weird way, this product made me feel more masculine, as if I, myself was Bear Grylls, who found his own ingredients to create a moisturizer out in the wild.

On days when I want to smell like a beautiful, blooming flower, I go with my Korean beauty products. But for other days when I’m feeling more down to Earth and want that spa-like feel, Shodai seems to be a good option.


-Smells like dirt but works as an amazing moisturizer. We felt as if we walked out from a spa after use.

-Has a “woodsy,” “earth-y” fragrance that’s definitely not for everyone. An acquired smell.

Buy Shodai’s moisturizer, $24 and face wash for $20 here.

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