The Ultimate in Japanese Foundations

By Cynthia Popper
November 28, 2014
Health & Beauty

Japanese cosmetics. The phrase alone conjures the formidable reputation this country holds in the beauty industry, and for good reason. Innovative, stylish, and high quality, Japan’s insistence for real results makes for some of the most sought-after products by both makeup pros everyday consumers alike. And arguably, no makeup category is scrutinized more closely than foundation. Here’s a roundup of some of the absolute best foundation products in Japan, and, by definition, the world.

Cle de Peau

Shiseido’s upscale brand holds a seat next to the biggest names in luxury cosmetics, and its face products live up to the prestige. French for “the key to skin,” Cle de Peau was launched in 1982, marrying the finest in Japanese beauty science with simple French elegance.

Sheer Fluid Veil

A silky, pinkish base moisturizes as it preps your skin for foundation. The subtle botanical scent and even absorption leaves skin supple and gives a slight sheen: think soft and glowy, not Tin Man highlighter. Tip: For areas with large pores or divots, don’t layer with a silicone-based primer, lest you end up with a streaky mess.

Radiant Fluid Foundation

With a retail price of ¥12,000, this is without question, one the spendiest foundations around, but like most things, you definitely get what you pay for. This highly pigmented foundation delivers full, blendable coverage that lays down effortlessly. Plainly put: it’s like a magic eraser. Though the name claims “radiance” I wouldn’t call this a luminous makeup. Comes in a generous, 30 mL bottle. Verdict: Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Definitely. Tip: A little goes a long way. Just a single pump gave me full face coverage with a damp blender brush.

Maquilliage True Powdery UV

The Maquilliage brand is Shiseido’s mid-line, available at most Tokyo drugstores. Well-priced and good quality, the True Powdery UV is the least expensive find in our review (coming in at around ¥3000). But don’t let the low cost fool you: this is a powder foundation that delivers.

A micro-fine pressed powder foundation comes in six shades and can be used wet or dry with seriously full coverage and true pore concealment. Tip: Resist the temptation to lay it on thick. Though finely spun, this powder will cake if you go too far with it. A powder brush is a good way to go for a lighter finish.


Addiction by Ayako

Celebrity makeup artist and Nars’ former Creative Director fronts the Addiction brand, known for its sleek packaging and chic color palettes, an aesthetic Ayako calls “refined minimalism.” Established in 2009, Addiction is a heavy hitter in the upscale cosme lineup in Japan, with products that are as effective as they are cool.

Tinted Skin Protector

This SPF 50+/ PA+++ cream is highly pigmented to be deemed a tinted moisturizer, but offers medium coverage that blends like a dream.  Formulated with rose hip oil and centifolia flower extract, Skin Protector slips on evenly for real coverage and still keeps a fresh finish. A perfect choice for the “no-makeup look” days. Available in five shades. Tip: Keep it simple. Use pearl-sized dabs where you need it most, and buff in with a blunt-tipped blender brush.

Koh Gen Do

Originally developed by Japanese actress Ai Saotome 25 years ago, Koh Gen Do has become a cult favorite in Hollywood’s makeup artist scene. Simple, all-natural, and luxe, Koh Gen Do has taken off in the global consumer market thanks to placement in Sephora and JP beauty aficionados. The Azabu flagship store is a mecca for cosme enthusiasts worldwide.

Maifanshi Makeup Color Bases

Infused with moisture-gripping hyaluronic acid and coix lacryma-jobi ma-yuen seed extract (a Chinese medicinal herb used for ages in Asian skincare for its anti-inflammatory properties), Koh Gen Do offers three color correctors for specific areas of concern. The green base is designed to neutralize redness and conceal blemishes, yellow is for undereye circles and overall discoloration, and lavender-pink is especially formulated to counteract sallow or dull complexions. Tip: The yellow color base is one the most effective under-eye prep products around, a must-have for faking a full night’s sleep.

Moisture Foundation

This is a sheer, lightweight water-based mineral foundation- not as much pigment as a full coverage foundation, so it’s perfect if you’re not a foundation fan or just want a cleaner look. After a week of wearing no makeup (a.k.a. a “skin fast”), easing into Koh Gen Doh felt like I was doing something really good for my skin. Just enough coverage in most areas, and a breathable, moisturized finish. Tip: If you’re hyperpigmented, prep with the yellow base corrector, then slowly build up on dark spots with a concealer brush.

Face Powder

This finespun translucent powder was the gem discovery. Lesser quality loose powders contain a lot of talc, which knocks down shine, but often to the point of looking chalky. Koh Gen Do’s delivers in that it does so little. No settling into fine lines, no weird creasing, just a subtle finish to set your foundation without flattening out freshness and dimension. Tip: No need for a powder brush– dust a bit onto a big puff and gently press in as needed.

Brand Information and Where to Buy

Shiseido the Ginza


Koh Gen Do


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