KOH GEN DO Aqua Foundation SPF PA++ in #012

HD Aqua Foundation

Koh Gen Do HD Aqua Foundation

I’m on a mission. A foundation mission. And there ain’t going to be any respite until I find the one to rule them all!

Okay, dramatics aside, I’ve been makeup base obsessed these last few weeks and have been hauling foundation and base products like a woman possessed so I’m starting a bunch of posts about my experiences with these new products in my life.

Of course, I’m hoping that something will come from this that could be the start of an intense love affair. Who knows, I might find a base I like as much my beloved Dr G Brightening Balm.

[Image credit: KGD via bglowing.com]

[Image credit: KGD via bglowing.com]

Many women cite finding the right foundation for their skin tone and skin type as one of the most elusive and frustrating parts of the cosmetic purchasing process.

Hey Sister, I can’t agree enough!

I’ve spent years and good money looking for the perfect foundation. More than a decade, when it comes down to it and from the many women I’ve spoken to, I’m certainly not alone in this.

In fact, a recent conversation with some beauty blogging friends led me to believe that it can be easier to find L-O-V-E than that that great foundation of our dreams. Yes, sad but true.

Indeed, it’s one of life’s universal truths that good skin is damn hard to bottle!

Today, I’m getting the ball rolling with a review of a foundation by Japanese cult brand, Koh Gen Do and looking specifically at the Maifanshi Aqua Foundation SPF25 PA++.

Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in #012

Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in #012

The brand name – Koh Gen Do (KGD) – is a curious row of three Japanese words that are alien to me but you know, Japanese beauty products seem to sell themselves pretty well because we all look at the fantastic age-defying skin of Japanese women and sigh our collective sighs amazement and envy. I’ll have what she’s having!

I was initially attracted to the exotic brand name and the way the syllables cluttered around on my tongue each time I said KOH-GEN-DO aloud.

I wasn’t, however, attracted to the price.


Koh Gen Do’s pricing instantly places the brand within the upper end of the spectrum as far as cost is concerned. This is definitely a luxury brand, price-wise.

To give you an idea, the KGD Aqua Foundation that I’m reviewing today is retailing at USD62 on both Koh Gen Do’s official website and Sephora US.

I was genuinely surprised that I only discovered this brand recently because online beauty store Luxola was having one of their grand storewide sales and in looking through their foundations section, the name and the pricing had me intrigued.

And, I couldn’t ignore the history.

It was established way back in 1986 and is almost 30 years old now so no, it’s certainly not a beauty baby but a veteran beauty brand with a cult following worldwide and apparently a staple of many professional makeup artists; especially those in the film and television industry in Hollywood.

On Luxola, the KGD Aqua Foundation is retailing at  RM192 (approximately USD58) but I managed to secure a bottle during a generous Luxola 40% Off sale and only had to pay RM115.20. That, dear babes, is a genuine steal price so if you can, you absolutely must hang out for Luxola’s generous sales.

That really surprises me because it’s very rare for any of us here in Asia to buy something that is that much below Sephora US prices so you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that this luxury foundation was almost half its US retail price *pops open the bubbly* so yes, I admit I had a little schadenfreude chuckle. Sorry for being evil!

Mineral Foundation

Mineral Foundation

KGD Aqua Foundation – A Mineral HD Foundation

The KGD Aqua Foundation is, at heart, a mineral-based foundation. Made apparently with minerals from the deep waters of Bretagne (in France) and other botanical emollients and extracts, the foundation is part of a line of cosmetics under the Koh Gen Do umbrella that takes on the name ‘MAIFANSHI’.

Incidentally, maifan is a special mineral rock that is famed for its special skin healing abilities and is used as ingredient of Chinese Medicine to treat skin tumours and ulcers. I wonder if this product contains any of the maifan as an ingredient. I looked all over the Koh Gen Do site but could not find any confirmation of this product containing this ingredient.

By all means, please do help me clarify if you do know what the KGD reference to Maifanshi here is related to.

Contains Maifan!

Contains MAIFAN? I’m really not sure

Available Shades

Now, it’s hard enough to buy a foundation in person with actual swatches and the help of a beauty advisor but the process of buying a foundation online takes a leap of faith and quite a bit of research and I was running out of time with the deadline looming on a Luxola 40% Off promotion.

Thankfully, this blog post by The Beauty Professor was more than helpful and I think you should really check it out too if you are curious about trying this product but want some insight into the shades. She has swatched almost all of the available shades in the old Koh Gen Do shade chart for this product.

Consequently, it was her comprehensive swatch images that gave me the best idea of my own shade match.The match is better than anything I could have hoped for and I owe The Beauty Professor a debt of gratitude for that post. She’s great!

#012 is the second fairest shade in the range

#012 is the second fairest shade available in the range

Below is the new and current numbering of the shades that are available in the Aqua Foundation. The shade #001 is a recent addition for porcelain complexions. I chose a #012 because although I’m relatively fair, I’m still quite a notch off porcelain pale and, because I tan easily, and don’t want to look like a powder-white geisha in the the wrong part of Asia.

Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation Shades

The NEW Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation Shades & Numbering System [Source: KGD website]

I’m also including their old shade numbering chart below in case you’re more familiar the now obsolete system.

As you can see, Koh Gen Do have actually expanded their shade range quite considerably and added a porcelain option as well as a whole bunch of darker shades to cater for a wider range of skin tones.

This is always good news for a foundation as it means more people of all skin tones will have access to the product, should they wish.

The old Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation Shade & Numbering System

The OLD Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation Shades & Numbering System [Source: KGD website]

To decipher it all between the two numbering systems is this next chart that combines all the overlapping shades of the Old and the New spectrum so that you can translate shades from the old numbering set to the current one.

The chart below is very handy when you’re trying to understand the information in the existing blog reviews posted online about this foundation. It appears that about 90% of all blog reviews available seem to mention the old system. I guess it’s because the Aqua Foundation is a cult classic now among those in the know.

Combining the OLD & NEW Shades & Numbering Systems

Combining the OLD & NEW Shades & Numbering Systems [Source: KGD]

My Verdict

So, how did my date go with the Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation?

In terms of coverage, I found this to be a medium-coverage liquid foundation and it’s just the way I like to wear a foundation.

The coverage is better than my Dr. G BB Cream but still looks natural and I genuinely love how it feels on the skin. There’s no tightening at all once on the skin; no dryness, no stickiness, no greasiness, – just a natural, lightweight and even melding of the product with the skin.

Though the formula is non-greasy, it’s worth noting that I think it doesn’t do anything for oil control so a mattifying, oil-control primer might not only be useful but necessary for oily-skinned folk.

I found that my nose was shiny within around 3 hours from application and blotting was a necessity from that point

Since this was an online purchase, I was hugely relieved that Shade #012 was an excellent tonal match for me but while I really do love this foundation, it really doesn’t leave my skin with the radiance I’ve been used to with my Dr. G Brightening Balm.

Worn on its own, the Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in #012 really didn’t prove as radiant on me as I had hoped but I adore the texture and natural coverage very much and would re-purchase based on these reasons.

That said, I might consider purchasing another unit of the Aqua Foundation in shade #001 to mix with #012 in order to lighten it a little shade-wise but I’m ambivalent about this strategy as RM192 isn’t really cheap to consider buying a second bottle in a lighter shade.

The better alternative might be to buy a bottle of a sister product that is available for highlighting purposes.

The sister highlighter to the Aqua Foundation is the Aqua Foundation Illuminator…sadly, this is also not a cheap option in this luxury line.

The sister product to the Aqua Foundation

The sister product to the Aqua Foundation

While the Illuminator is probably very good, I’m a little annoyed that the Aqua Foundation worn on its own on my skin isn’t really as radiant and glowing as I expected it be and that apparently I’m actually supposed to wear it with an equally pricey Aqua Foundation Illuminator (RM120 on Luxola).

Even then, I’m not sure I want to make this extra purchase at this point in time but I will try and mix the foundation with one of my many BECCA highlighting Skin Perfectors instead and see how that fares.

Pump Dispenser

Pump Dispenser

Here are some images I took of the foundation on my wrist and inner arm to give you an idea of what the product looks like on my skin.




Spread out…

...and Blended!

…and Blended!

A Linear Swatching

KGD Aqua Foundation in #012 – a linear swatch line up

The Aqua Foundation was designed to be worn effectively without a powder for a more lightweight, natural and dewy look and with a finishing powder for a more airbrushed skin effect.

The on-the-skin sensation is really one of my favourite things about this foundation. There is such great elasticity with this formula. My skin still feels like my skin. I feel that it allows my skin to breathe.

It’s a sophisticated liquid formulation that’s smooth, lightweight and moves with the skin in the most natural and comfortable way and blends easily into the skin without settling into any lines or creating cakiness.

This product also makes it possible to achieve a ‘no-makeup’ makeup look that I covet.

Even without the use of a primer, the result of this foundation is a sleek but still naturally lightweight pore-less skin finish that also happens to photograph very well. Yay to HD!

The Koh Gen Do Aqua holds up quite well in our consistently humid weather and a single-layer application lasted me through a solid working day and well into the evening without any discernible oxidisation.

However, my oily T-zone demands a need to ‘powder’ my nose, so I need to use this with something else to control the shine.

As it were, for me, it would be necessary to wear the Aqua Foundation with some oil-control primer and/ or setting powder for best results.

Elegant but expensive

Elegant but expensive

Final Thoughts

One of the things I love about the new Koh Gen Do Aqua shade spectrum is that it caters for milky complexions right through to the darker tones and will mean that more people can now find a match with this product.

I admire this direction because I think that any cosmetics brand worth its salt and wants to be taken seriously at an international level should respect that people come in all colours.

It is also worth noting that Koh Gen Do is taken seriously in the professional beauty industry when people think of High Definition makeup. The product was after all developed by a Japanese actress who was concerned about how the appearance of her skin translated to film.

While it’s not as widely known in the general consumer market as that other HD cosmetic company, Make Up For Ever, Koh Gen Do is a professional cosmetics line to be reckoned with too.

I really like the natural but smooth skin effect I get from this foundation and I took a few selfies on my phone cam to test this and love that the images look pore-less and line free without the use of a filter or other editing. I like!

This is a brand I definitely want to experience more of and I’m lucky that I’ve found such a nice candidate for my affections despite these early days of my new foundation mission.

I leave you with a little background on this Japanese cult brand…

KGD Brand Background

KGD Brand Background


Have you heard of Koh Gen Do? Are there any Koh Gen Do products you are using and could recommend?

I’m actually very excited about this brand discovery and can’t wait to try some of their herbally-based skin care products too. It’s just a shame the products are quite posh and pricey and that it will take more than pennies to haul more.

KGD Logo

Here are the links if you need more information…

In Asia-Pacific, try…

Koh Gen Do on Luxola

In the US, try…

Koh Gen Do Cosmetics

Koh Gen Do Facebook

[Disclaimer: Product was purchased by me for personal use. Commentary is my personal opinion. Consider at your own risk. Images in this post unless where indicated are by me and remain my property. Do not republish without permission and a link back to this blog. Links are all non-affiliate and for informational purposes only.]



  1. I nearly bought this because I was intrigued with the name lol. At 40% off it’s definitely so much worthy than to get retail price 🙂 . I reckon this doesn’t sit well on oily skin. My skin is so dehydrated from sitting in a strong air-conditioning office that my face is sooooo oily. Before this my face is matte 😦 . Now I’m misting hydrating water in all the time.

  2. @ fionastreetlove: Actually, while it does not mattify oily skin, I do love the product’s consistency and appearance on the skin and it does not contribute to my usual levels of oiliness. Anyway, I think any shine can be mitigated with an appropriate primer or powder.
    There is another product called the Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation and that is definitely meant for dry skin so I would avoid that particular variant in the KGD line if you have oily skin like me.

  3. Awesome review! 🙂 I’ve been trying to find my own match in this foundation for ages based on internet swatches, and I’m just like you – very fair, but not really pure porcelain (for example, I’m around NW10-15 in MAC shades). The thing that confuses me is that this particular shade looks much darker on your swatches than it does on Beauty Professor’s (and up until now I was sure it’s my safest bet). Now I’m not so sure, don’t know if it’s the lighting, or monitor deviations or something else. Could you please tell me what foundation shades do you wear from some other brands, that would really help a lot. Thanks!!!! 🙂

  4. @thebrushstash Thank you for enjoying the review. I agree with you, shopping online for a foundation is tough work and given how pricey KGD, you don’t want to be buying the wrong shade. It is difficult to compare the shades between blogger swatches given the highly variable photography and monitor conditions but I’ll tell you what, I’ll try and update this post with a few more swatches and see if that helps you out.
    Unfortunately, I’ve never been matched to the MAC foundations so I can’t offer you my shade number but I’ve recently discovered the Diorskin Nude Air and shade 010 Ivory is perfect on me.

  5. @thebrushstash: You’re welcome! I hope it helps. Just saying though, I may actually prefer the Diorskin Nude Air to the KGD.
    The KGD needs a bit of a lift from a highlighting product otherwise the result isn’t as radiant as I like.
    On the other hand, the KGD does photograph very well.
    Good luck with your skin matching!

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