Base Makeup

Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in OC-2

September 26, 2011

In the past few months I’ve been testing out new skincare, powders and foundations from Koh Gen Do, Le Metier de Beaute, Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana. Even though I’ve been getting regular use out of Guerlain’s Lingerie de Peau, Chanel’s Vitalumiere Aqua and Chanel’s discontinued Teint Innocence, I’ve still been on the hunt for new foundations to try. I’ll be writing a review on each item in the upcoming weeks. First up is my experience with Koh Gen Do’s Aqua Foundation in OC-2 ($62) from Barneys New York.


I first read about Koh Gen Do’s Aqua Foundation ($62 for 1.01 fl oz.30 ml) on Into The Gloss earlier this year and noticed it was featured again on her Top Shelf series this past July. When she described it as “foundation heaven” I knew I had to try it. I’ve heard nothing but raves about Koh Gen Do and having fallen in love with their face masks, cleansing water and natural light loose powder, I had the Koh Gen Do foundation on my list of things to check out.

Back in August, I was in LA and stopped by Barneys Beverly Hills. The Koh Gen Do artists recommended that I try the Aqua Foundation for my skin type (normal, fairly clear, slightly oily in the T-zone in warm weather, but overall normal). They swatched OC-1 and OC-2 on my jawline and after seeing them side-by-side I was shocked at the difference. There’s quite a big jump in between shades. OC-1 was definitely too pale, OC-2 looked like it would be too dark but on the skin blended well with my skin. Ideally I would have liked something right in between the two colors and at $62 a bottle I wasn’t really keen on buying both to custom mix my own shade. OC-2 was a pretty good match and with the combination of the Moisture Milk, Aqua Foundation and Natural Finish Powder, my skin never looked so naturally flawless I was sold.

The Koh Gen Do Aqua foundation is a liquid formula and comes with a pump. It’s rather pricey at $62 but the finish is naturally beautiful. It evens out the skin and has a slightly dewy finish but it’s not too dewy like some tinted moisturizers. If you read the details on Koh Gen Do you will learn that they designed this with something they call “the golden ratio” which consists of 45% water, 35% emollients, and 20% powder to balance perfectly with one’s skin. The finish is sheer to medium and slightly transparent so the skin shows through. It’s not a pearly finish foundation but not completely matte either. I would say it’s somewhere in between the texture and finish of Chanel’s Teint Innocence Liquid foundation and Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer.

Here is OC-2 pumped next to Edward Bess Beige, Guerlain Lingerie de Peau 03 and Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua in B20 and B30. I was initially matched to Chanel B20 but is now clearly too light for me (will have to save for winter). I did not blend these out because I could not photograph them fast enough before the liquids dried and then darkened on my arm. Two things to take into consideration: 1) the inside of my arm is lighter than my face and 2) my skin is weird because so many different colors of foundation work on my skin (as long as it doesn’t have a pinkish base).

Here on the back of my hand (which is closer in color to my face) you can see it blends out to disappear but give a dewy finish. This was the sharpest photograph I could get while still showing the slight sheen. Clearer photos make the hand look like it’s nothing but bare skin.

I’ve been using this foundation for a month and a half now and have overall been pleased with the results.  No irritation, no break outs, no streaking or darkening. It lasts all day but I found that it works best when layered of the Macro Vintage Royal Massage Milk (see more on I received a small sample that lasted me about 1 week of daily morning use. It’s an amazing product and made my skin look and feel like baby’s skin. I haven’t caved to purchase this since I just bought a cream from Le Metier but it is definitely on my watch list for the future.

For use right now I apply over Le Metier’s day cream and then use Cle de Peau’s concealer in Beige on areas that need more coverage. Sometimes I will finish with Koh Gen Do’s powder, other days I will finish with Chanel or D&G’s powder foundations.

My only wish is that the foundation came in more shades. Since it is a sheer formula, the colors are slightly more forgiving if you can’t find an exact match. Since I am a bit more tanned right now OC-2 works well for me, but just barely. If I become even 1/2 a shade lighter I know this will be too dark, yet OC-1 will definitely be too pale. For more information, a list of ingredients and list of shades, I highly recommend you check out Koh Gen Do’s Website. They have detailed diagrams and descriptions of each product (all of which I find extremely informative, useful and non-gimmicky).

Have you tried Koh Gen Do’s foundations? Which formula did you try and what were your thoughts?

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  • Lovely review, this sounds like an amazing foundation. I'm trying to venture into japanese makeup, this brand might be a good place to start?

  • Rei

    This foundation definitely sounds heavenly! I haven't tried this brand yet but I always have a fondness for Japanese base products. CdP, Suqqu, Lunasol, RMK all make beautiful foundations.

  • Anonymous

    Hi! I love your blog very much. Your swatches of a very high quality help me a lot. I am from Sweden but I come from Central Europe originally. My skin tone is similar to Yours and your rewiews bring plenty of new cosmetics to my little toilete. Congrats from windy Sweden!

  • Thank you for the review and shade comparisons! Now that Sephora carries the line I've really wanted to order this, but had no idea what shade to try. Looks lovely!

  • I also started using Koh Gen Do due to Emily Weiss' rave and it is fantastic! It is a shame that the colors are so limited, but I think you are supposed to mix them with some color-adjusting tints they have in the line. It is kind of a complex line and I see they are starting to launch in Sephora, but I don't know how well trained the sales reps there will be. I work with Maya, the Koh Gen Do person at Barney's NY. This is definitely one of the best foundations out there.

  • Thanks a lot about this review. I've been wondering about Koh Gen Do, haven't tried anything from the brand yet though.

  • ooo thanks for the review. i'm dying to try this foundation as I saw it used on youtube and was super excited to see sephora carrying it. i didn't kno other places carried it but it's still a little out of budget for me >_< i do wish they have a better color selection

  • It does look very light and sheer. But the shade is lovely.

  • What a coincidence Sabrina, I just bought the Koh Gen Do moisture foundation (in the red tube ) this past weekend, it is amazing!!! I have very dry skin and it's the perfect comfortable texture & can be applied in thin layers for added coverage. I actually find that I don't need concealer with this foundation. I was also very impressed with the gel moisture cream and cleansing water. My holy grail cleansing water is Bioderma but I might get a small bottle of their spa water for some novelty.

  • I use this one, too, in PK-01. Like you, I appreciate how it allows your skin to shine through, and it's not the least bit irritating.

  • I bought the Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture foundation recently. I tried on both the Aqua and Moisture foundations, one on each side of my face. I liked the finish of the Moisture foundation better. It made my skin look flawless:)

  • I hope it isn't impertinent to leave a link to my blog. But I personally found finding a match in the Aqua Foundation slightly tricky, and there aren't too many places where people can test the colors, so here is PK-01 worn on me. I cannot better her excellent review, but I am obviously much paler and cooler than Sabrina. I can also wear OC-01β€”since it's sheer, the colors are forgivingβ€”it's good for cancelling ruddiness, while PK-01 adds liveliness and brightens sallow discoloration with its peachy tone.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for reviewing this! Ever since this became available at Sephora I've been dying to try it!
    Did you ever review the Edward Bess foundation? I am really curious about that one! thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for reviewing this foundation.

    I am a Chinese girl from Singapore and bought the Aqua foundation in OC-1 (perfect match!) during my trip to Tokyo in July 2011, which I have not opened till now. This morning, inspired by your post, I tried it on and topped it with the Maifanshi Natural Lighting powder which came in a limited edition (small) size in a round sturdy paper box with Japanese designs that I also bought in Tokyo, and the finish is really as natural looking as you mentioned. Well, I have combi skin and it is hot & humid in Singapore, so of course I still have to blot my face every 3 hours or so. Hence, in the oil control aspect, it is not that outstanding (as with other brands of foundation which I have tried before e.g. Guerlain Lingerie de Peau, Cle de Peau silky cream foundation etc).

    Fyi, I wouldn't have tried them if you had not created awareness of this brand in your earlier posts on KGD (skincare), so thanks again!

    – Rain

  • I don't know if you've heard of putting Benefit's some kinda gorgeous in medium lightly on your face before putting on Koh Gen Do aqua foundation. It's very popular around Korean bloggers. I heard it provides a dewy finish that looks like it's glowing from within. I hope you try it someday! :]

  • Thanks for the review! I've been thinking of getting this as my Christmas gift-to-self. I really hope it's worth it! πŸ™‚

  • I love the Moisture Foundation in color 123. I have not tried this foundation but will but it on my list. I am looking forward to getting the Macro Vintage Royal Massage Milk.

  • Bonnie

    Would you say OC2 is okay for NC30 skin? Or compared to Guerlain LDP 03, how would you say it is blended out? I'm currently in between LDP 02 and 03, but when summer starts hitting, I might just be 03. Thanks! Oh, and would say it's okay as a summer foundation for normal/combination skin, with some dry patches although these will hopefully be gone by then!

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone know if this foundation is sold in Denmark or at least somewhere in the EU ?