Oct 072011

I’ve begun experimenting with foundations by Koh Gen Do based on their stellar reputation. Up until now, they’ve been carried online on Koh Gen Do at at Barney’s New York’s. Recently, they’ve been added to Sephora’s online store. I’m hoping that they’ll also reach Sephora brick & mortar stores although I honestly don’t know. Liz and I have been flirting with the counter testers at Barney’s location in San Francisco for a few months, so finally I took the plunge.

Since Chanel has now discontinued the Pro Lumiere line, Chanel’s only “glowy” foundation is Vitalumiere fluid (which feels heavy on my skin) and Tient Innocence Compact (which has too much coverage for my skin type). There are reports that Chanel will release new Vitalumiere compact products in Spring 2012, although I’m not certain how those products will be formulated. Right now, my glowiest foundation is Guerlain’s Parure Gold (reviewed here), which is a very elegant foundation with medium coverage. When I wear Parure Gold, I sometimes cut it with a good moisturizer to make it slightly more sheer.

As background, Koh Gen Do has been formulating high definition foundations designed for makeup artists for use in film. The science relies on the use of deep sea waters which include minerals and nutrients that are easily absorbed into the skin. These foundations are blended with a perfect ratio (or “golden ratio,” as the company says) of pigment, deep sea water and emolients/oil) to give lustrous, moisturized coverage. If you love a soft glow, you will want to take a look. Both have a lightweight feel.

I’ve been trying two–the first is Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation ($62/ 1.0 oz). This has been featured at Into the Gloss and The Beauty Look Book, and given favorable reviews on both. The Aqua comes in a glass pump bottle. This foundation feels lightweight and moisturizing on the skin. The color range is insanely small–only four colors. Four!! OC-1 is a bit light for my NC15/20 Chanel B20/Cameo/Ivoire skintone.

So far, my impression is that Koh Gen Do Aqua is a very, very sheer foundation in my opinion. It’s probably the sheerest foundation that I’ve tried–if my memory is correct, it’s sheerer than some tinted moisturizers that I’ve used (Tarte’s Smooth Operator, for example, seems more pigmented). If you are looking for a soft, moisturizing veil of color over relatively unmarred skin, this will work beautifully. If you have imperfections, a good concealer will be necessary.

Ingredient list (click to enlarge):

Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation ($62/.071 oz/ Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation), comes in a red squeeze tube that holds about 1/3 less than most foundations. It’s extremely packable, and comes if a far greater range of colors:

The Barney’s sales associate matched me to 123, which is the last time in my entire life I’ll ever let a sales associate match me. It’s a bit dark. I would have wanted to get 023. I’m sorry to say that I do not have swatches, but I’m hoping to persuade Karlasugar to do a set.

Ken Gen Do Moisture Foundation is 60% water, which is twice that of most foundations and even more than the Ken Gen Do Aqua Foundation. Although the sales associate thought that Aqua foundation would be heavier coverage (and based on the math, she’d be right), I found that Ken Gen Do Moisture Foundation was noticeably higher coverage. In other words, in my opinion Ken Gen Do Moisture foundation is a medium coverage (similar to Chanel Perfection Lumiere, but the Ken Gen Do had a softer, glowy texture), and Ken Gen Do Aqua Foundation is light/sheer.

Ingredient list (click to enlarge):

When I wore Ken Gen Do Moisture Foundation to dinner last night, DH gave a favorable review. He far prefers this look to Chanel’s Perfection Lumiere on me. Honestly I loved the look of the Ken Gen Do Moisture myself. It gives a very soft and glowy look, very natural looking, and felt extremely lightweight. It absolutely looked like “my skin but better.” It uses two differently shaped powders to smooth over imperfections, give an airbrushed finish and feels both lightweight and nurturing.

Here are some swatches of Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in B20, next to Chanel Perfection Lumiere in BR 32. This swatch also includes the too-dark Ken Gen Do Moisture Foundation in 123 and the sheer Ken Gen Do Aqua Foundation in OC-1.

Ken Gen Do also makes some lovely primers. I got some samples of the Yellow (meant to diffuse redness) and Pearl White. These feel very moisturizing without being too oily when applied:

Here are swatches of the sample packets in the late day sun–Koh Gen Do Makeup Color Base in Yellow on the left (light and heavy swatch), and Koh Gen Dow Makeup Color Base in Pearl White (heavy and light swatch) on the right:


I’ve purchased Makeup For Ever’s HD Foundation recently, and my plan is to do a comparison with the Ken Gen Do high definition foundations. I’ll continue playing with these and report back soon. In the meantime, let us know if you’ve tried these and your impressions? Also, if you see these at your local Sephora, would you kindly tell us that as well?

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  25 Responses to “An Introduction to Koh Gen Do Foundations”

  1. Wow !!! Thanks for this review , you are wonderfull.

  2. I’d like to try both of the KGD foundations after reading your and others’ reviews. As for the MUFE HD foundation, I’ve been wearing it for 3 weeks but I returned it to Sephora this week for two reasons: it mostly fell off of my combination skin by the end of the workday, and there was a noticable oranginess after a few hours. However, when it worked, it had a nice level of sheer to medium coverage, which I liked, and did not make my skin oily or too dry.

  3. Hi Amy,

    I noticed this too when Sephora started carrying the line. They currently only stock it at the NYC Meatpacking District store, so my hopes are that if it sells well, they will be planning to expand it to other stores too.

    I haven’t had a chance to venture over to that location and try them out though. I currently love my new D&G cream foundation and might look into the KGD Maifanshi Moisture foundation for winter when my skin gets drier. Glad to hear you liked this one!

  4. Amy, thank you for great detailed review!
    I was given Koh Gen Do yellow primer by my dermatologist ater laser resurfacing to cover redness and it worked so great, I always had in the back of my head to try their foundations. Especially now when I am mourning Pro Lumiere….
    I hope to be @Barney’s in Beverly Hills soon and will try it in person. I am very intrigued especially about Moisture Foundation, I need more coverage.

    • Катя, а тебе попадались русскоязычные отзывы об этой марке ? Что-то я заинтригована. Сегодня прочитала про 3х цветный консилер у Даши – time4beauty. Ты упоминала про пудры. Скоро еду в Сеул, посоветуй на какие средства обратить внимание?

  5. I’ve been lemming the KGD moisture foundation for a while, but absolutely need to see swatches before taking the plunge (as I’ll be ordering online). I hope you can persuade KS to do it!

  6. I have been using the Moisture Foundation this week with different primers. I got a sample of it from Barneys in Seattle – they just started carrying the line in this location! I have the shade in 112 and it is a good match but my only issue was that it wasn’t long lasting on me 🙁 It doesn’t help that my skin is somewhat oily. I have it it on today but mixed w/the Chanel Perfection Lumiere foundation along w/a primer. So far it seems to be holding up. I want to try the Aqua Foundation next. The SA at Barneys told me the Moisture foundation was better for coverage and also because it provides more shades.

    I also suggest using their cleansing water. I have the one in the bottle and the cloths. I love them!! I also got the face mask after reading Sabrina’s review 🙂

  7. Hey Amy,
    I got the Maifanshi moisture foundation a couple of weeks ago from Barney’s in NYC, I had heard of it before and seeing it on Sephora’s website is actually what reminded me to check it out. I really like the moisture foundation for my dry skin and am pleased with how it can be built up in very thin layers for added coverage where required. Additionally I was also impressed with their cleansing spa water which could be an alternative to my trusty Bioderma.
    Also have you tried the Edward Bess cream compact foundation? I’ve fallen back in love with it after some neglect and highly recommend it, the color range is a bit limited but the finish is beautiful: airbrushed but slightly glowey, LOVE!

  8. These look interesting. I’m fascinated by the yellow primer too as one that suffers with redness. I suspect we don’t have the line over here but it warrants investigation. My new task for this evening!

  9. I was at Barney’s in NYC a few weeks ago and one of the reps from this line sat me down and did a huge makeover on me. I have to say, I was not only impressed with the entire line of products but I loved them. I got the foundation in the red tube in 112- I am very fair with roscea. I own a ton of Chanel and wound up buying everything he put on me and wearing it to the fashion week event under the tents I was at later that night. I got tons of compliments on “my look.” This really, really evened out my skin tone unlike any other foundation I’ve ever used. The VP for Koh Gen Do was at Barneys and remarked about how porcelain the foundation made my skin- as she said, it was almost a beautiful translucent shade. The artist used the Koh Gen Do powders and color correctors on me as well. I seriously cannot say enough about this line. I got home and read into the technology behind the product and was really blown away. Everything about it just seems right. I even bought a ton of the skin care products as well. I truly believe this will develop a cult following in no time and eventually become an extremely popular line. On the downside, the colors are limited and since the line was developed in Japan, I felt the colors really geared towards Asian women. i.e. A lot of fair shades and then warm, paler shades. However, 2 women came up to the counter when I was there and they both had olive skin and could not stop raving about the foundation. I seriously am on my way to acquiring just about everything in the entire line. It is makeup for true makeup lovers. Also, it is the makeup they use on Mad Men. Enough said.

    • Was it Bobby Wells who did your makeover? He is fantastic – did a really quick makeup on me with great color choices and application techniques.

      • I think it was! He gave me his card which I can’t find at the moment. He is from Texas so it has a Texan theme. He made me look amazing. After really making my skin look translucent and hauntingly beautiful he added the eyeshadow quad from Serge Lutens on my eyes. (Very dark purple) The lips were also a super dark, almost black purple. And a hint of flush on the cheeks. I could not stop looking at myself in the mirror. He is the best.

  10. Hi Amy, SO excited to see the attention this fabulous line is getting from bloggers! Thank you for the wonderful review and “intro” to the brand. After reading Emily’s reviews on Into The Gloss, I had to check the line out for myself. The Barney’s flagship on Madison Ave. was the closest for me, and the Koh Gen Do/Euoko counter manager there is just great – her name is Maya. It is a shame that the Aqua foundation is so limited in color selection, but if you are fair, this foundation can be HG material. I wear PK-I in the Aqua, and was matched to either 012 or 002 in the Moisture foundation. I do what Emily recommends, which is to use the Aqua foundation all over and then use the Moisture foundation as a “concealer” where I need more coverage. The finish is absolutely amazing – like you have perfect. glowy skin! And, nothing I have used from the line has caused any adverse reactions – breakouts, itching, etc… I have tried the MUFE HD foundation and did not like it at all – it was like glue!

  11. I currently use KGD aqua foundation in OC-1. Love it for natural look and very minimal blending needed. Yes it’s very sheer, but you can layer on for more coverage.

    For more coverage, I pat on the foundation rather than spread it out and it still looks flawless. I actually like it better than tinted moisturizer because of the deep sea water ingredients. It’s great for summer light coverage.

    The moisture foundation is better for winter when you need for moisturizing. Summer it seems more shiny than I want to be.

    • Hmm thank you. Maybe I will try the Aqua foundation with the Shiseido foundation brush. That combination may give me a bit more coverage. Thanks!

  12. Hi! Thanks for the great review. I’m in the market for a new foundation and have thought about giving Aqua foundation a whirl – provided I can find my color. I understand it’s sheer but is it Peau Vierge sheer? Or Ellis Faas foundation sheer? I hate putting lots of gunk on my face even if I do have occasional breakouts so that kind of sheerness is not necessarily a bad thing 🙂

  13. I would love to try this but alas, I am Beyonce colored so it’s a no go for me.

    I get that the brand was made in Japan therefore the color is specific for that skin tone but I wish that when brands (and its not just Koh Gen Do who does this this) expand to outside Asia they expand the color range! It’s so frustrating at times.

    • I hear you! However, the Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation comes in darker colors, so maybe they’ll expand the Aqua Foundation range. I got a sample last weekend, and though I haven’t tried on my entire face yet, it looks like a good color match.

    • I’m in the Beyonce range myself and when I emailed Koh Gen Do about their potential color matches, their beauty adviser mentioned they’re coming out with a darker shade of Aqua Foundation around December. Finger crossed that it matches one of us because it sounds fab.

  14. Thanks for the great reviews and especially for the ingredient lists. So very helpful for us sensitive skin types. 🙂

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  16. Thanks for the thorough review! I got a Moisture Foundation sample last weekend at the San Francisco Barneys. I was impressed by the color bases the SA swatched on my hand and wished I thought to ask for samples of those. According to the Sephora site, Koh Gen Do products are only available online at the New York Meat Packing District store. I hope they expand.

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