_Japanese Base Makeup Week

Part 5: My Favorites (& Yours)

(One of my favorites:
Kiss Mat Chiffon Powder)

Some of you who have been reading my blog probably already know some of my favorite Japanese base makeup products, but I thought I’d present them in one round-up post for your future reference. Links to previous posts on products which are still available are provided below.

– Primers

I actually tend not to use primers at all. For my oily skin, I use as few base makeup products as I can after skincare and before point makeup. I used to use primers a long time ago, and I did find a couple of products from Ettusais (a yellow-based color-adjusting primer and a pore-concealing primer) to be quite effective. Among the primers I have talked about so far (that are currently available), I have been relatively pleased with SUQQU’s Makeup Base Creamy and Makeup Base Brightup. If you are interested, please have a look at my post on Coffret D’Or’s Beauty Lasting Veil UV and Lunasol Smoothing Makeup Base as well.

– Powder Foundations

I have been a fan of Shiseido ZA’s Two-Way Foundation for many years. I think the product has been revamped once since I started using it (while the product name remained the same), but the change is (fortunately) minimal. (It has very slightly less coverage and the finish is marginally more luminous.)

Other than ZA Two-Way Foundation, I think one of the best powder foundations I have tried in the last couple of years is Coffret D’Or’s Beauty Lasting Pact UV, which has very good sebum-control efficacy. (The link above will also take you to my thoughts on Lunasol’s Skin Fusing Powder Foundation.) Some of my other posts on Japanese powder foundations include those on SUQQU’s Powder Foundation Glow, Jill Stuart’s Smooth Silk Powder and SUQQU’s Powder Foundation Fresh, and Primavista’s Powder Foundation Moist Touch.

– Pressed/Loose Powder

At the moment, all my favorite pressed powders are from Raycious, and they have been discontinued. In terms of loose powder, my favorite is Lavshuca’s Face Powder (in Lucent). Mat Chiffon Powder from Kiss is almost equally good too. I also enjoy using Coffret D’Or’s Makeup Powder, but it slightly falls short on pore coverage and sebum control compared with the previous two.

(Lavshuca has launched Finish Powder (in two shades) on February 1st. It is replacing Face Powder, but Face Powder might still be available for a little while.)

To finish off the series, I’d like to mention the wave of mineral makeup (particularly foundations) arriving in Japan at the moment.

Since last year, I have started to notice that more and more Japanese beauty blogs are covering mineral foundations from the west. While I like some of the mineral eyeshadows I have tried, I have not yet been a fan of mineral foundations. There is very little doubt that mineral foundations have attractive appeals, as true mineral-based foundations can be saviours for people with very sensitive skin. However, I feel that, compared with some of the best (Japanese) foundations that I have used, they generally lack sebum control and pore coverage and they often lack staying power. For me, purely in terms of the quality of the finish (not of their skincare benefits), mineral foundations are generally mostly about coverage and not much else, as their straightforward ingredients do not seem to provide multi-faceted results.

It seems that many Japanese consumers are very open to trying out new products, so I think the novelty factor will work its magic for a while. But I do wonder, compared with some of the best foundations that one can buy in Japan, whether most of the mineral foundations will continue to hold consumers’ attention in the next few years. I guess this will depend on future product developments from both sectors.

So that’s it from me now, and I hope you enjoy this series. Now I would love to know your favorite Japanese base makeup products. You could simply drop in a short comment with the name of the item(s), and it would be really helpful if you would tell us your skin type as well. Of course, if you have any comment on this series or any question, do please feel free to post a comment here too.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Part 4: Which brands shall I look into?

(IPSA’s new Pore Protect Foundation)
(image from www.ipsa.co.jp)

Today I will briefly mention some of the Japanese beauty brands that are noted for their base makeup lines. Direct links to the base makeup pages of the brands’ official websites are provided if possible. (Some sites are very flash-heavy and don’t have direct URLs for individual pages.) I will also update this post when there is something new and noteworthy on the scene.

Here we go:

– The three “megabrands“/ “superbrands

Currently, in Japanese cosmetics, “megabrand” refers to the main base/point makeup lines of Shiseido, Kanebo, and Kosé. At the moment, they are Maquillage (of Shiseido), Coffret D’Or (of Kanebo), and Esprique Precious (of Kosé). These lines are usually worth looking into because their latest products are often the results of the companies’ latest foundation technologies.

Sofina Primavista

Primavista, Kao Sofina’s main base makeup line and Raycious’ predecessor, is the answer to the megabrands’ base makeup lines. Right now two collections have been released (fall/winter 2008 and spring/summer 2009), and it will be interesting to see how the line develops.

Albion Exage

Various versions of powder foundations from Exage (and Exage White) have been among the best-sellers in Japan for years. Fans often comment on the fine and light texture of the power and the natural finish.


IPSA is particularly strong in skincare and base makeup. All IPSA counters have a consultation area where you can find out which skincare and base makeup items are suitable for you. You can also check which foundation shade goes with your complexion.

Paul & Joe

Paul & Joe has been known for its base makeup for quite a while. The products tend to create a luminous finish, with a low-to-medium coverage for an ultra-natural look. (Even though Paul & Joe is a French fashion line, its beauty line is produced in Japan.)


SUQQU has been very strong in base makeup, and I feel that most of its base makeup products tend to be quite suitable for dry skin (even their powder foundations). Their concealers (Stick Concealers), cream foundation (simply called Foundation) and Clear Veil Powder are particularly popular.


I think Lunasol has been so popular with its gorgeous point makeup collections season after season that some forget that some of its base makeup products are also very well-received. In the February 2008 issue of Biteki, Water Cream Foundation and Micro Finish Powder N are listed among the top five favorite base makeup items (in their own categories) with Biteki readers. In the February 2009 issue, Skin Fusing Powder Foundation is among the top 10 powder foundations.

Sonia Rykiel

Sonia Rykiel is another French fashion brand that features an essentially Japanese beauty line. Among the base makeup products, Water Gel Foundation (which is claimed to contain 80% water) and the primer (currently Treatment Makeup Base S) have been popular for as long as I can remember.


ECM started off as a base makeup brand and has a well-structured range of base makeup items. Please see my brand profile article on ECM here.


Recently, Ex:beaute has been getting quite a lot of Japanese beauty magazine coverage. Their current slogan is to create the luminous and flawless “actress skin”, which is ready for anything hi-definition.

Shu Uemura

Since Shu Uemura is sold internationally, the range of foundation (and loose powder) shades is considerably wider than that of most other Japanese beauty brands (that are sold within East/ Southeast Asia). There are also quite a few different foundation products to choose from.

Other than the brands above, a few cult products deserve a mention. RMK‘s various primers, AYURA‘s Zero Clear Colors (color-adjusting concealers), Chacott‘s (a dancewear brand) Finishing Powder, and Kesalan Patharan‘s Sheer Micro Powder all have their places on the Japanese base makeup map.

In the final post of the series, I will mention some of my favorite Japanese base makeup products and I will finish the series with a few further notes.


Part 3: Which one is my shade?

(Shiseido Maquillage Lasting Powdery UV)
(image from www.shiseido.co.jp/mq)

I am often asked about choosing the right foundation shade from a Japanese brand. One question that comes up the most is “What is the difference between Ochre shades and Beige Ochre shades?” If you have wondered about the same thing, I hope this part of the series will help you a little.

Many major Japanese foundation lines categorize their shades into three groups:

– Neutral Ochre (OC) shades
– Yellow-toned Beige Ochre (BO) shades
– Pink-toned Pink Ochre (PO) shades

(Notice that some brands don’t carry PO shades.)

Sometimes the shade name can vary. (Coffret D’Or’s pink-toned shades are called Soft Ochre shades.) But, on a typical shade chart, neutral shades are usually in the middle, with pink-toned shades on the left and yellow-toned shades on the right. Below is the shade chart for Coffret D’Or’s Lasting Power Pact UV:

(shade chart for Coffret D’Or Lasting Power Pact UV)
(image from www.kanebo-cosmetics.jp/coffretdor)

In the shade chart for all the Sofina Primavista foundations (below), Ochre 05 is marked as the “standard shade”, which is the shade that suits most people of East-Asian descent. This happens to be the shade I would usually go for, as the second lightest Ochre shade usually suits me quite well.

(shade chart for all Primavista foundations)
(image from www.sofina.com/jp/primavista)

If you are of East-Asian descent and you have never tried a foundation from Japanese brand, then I would recommend trying an Ochre shade, which is likely to suit you reasonably well. Also, once you know what an Ochre (neutral) shade looks on you, it is slightly easier to know what to expect if you decide to try a yellow-toned or pink-toned shade.

(Since most Japanese makeup lines are only sold in Japan or in East/ Southeast Asia, the foundation shades are not made to suit a wider range of complexions. If you are of Caucasian descent, then you can probably find Japanese foundation shades that suit you. If you are of Latina or Afro-Caribbean descent, then most Japanese foundations might be too light for you. But I have had good feedback from readers of Afro-Caribbean descent on Japanese loose powder products, which are usually translucent and can work for most complexions.)

However, not all Japanese foundation shades are categorized like what you see above. Other brands use a linear presentation of the shades and the shade names don’t suggest their undertone. Below is Paul & Joe’s Protective Fluid Foundation N:

(Paul & Joe Protective Fluid Foundation N)
(image from www.paul-joe-beaute.com)

Overall it can be a lot trickier to tell which shade would suit you the most. In this case, apart from weeding out shades that might be too light/dark for you, try to compare the swatches in terms of yellow/pink undertones.

(If I have to pick a shade only by looking at the swatches here, I would first eliminate the two lightest shades, 10 and 20. I tend to avoid peachy/pink-toned shades, and 30 looks like a shade that might work for me as it looks slightly more yellow-toned than the neighboring shades.)

Having to choose a foundation shade on-line can be very difficult. (I can occasionally choose the wrong shade even when I can see all the shades in person…) But once you have some experience, things will get a lot easier.

(Sometimes it might be worth learning to recognize the Japanese characters for the three shade groups. Please refer to the Primavista shade chart for the characters (those printed within the color swatches). The names happen to be the same ones used by Maquillage, so you will be able to make more sense of the shades you see for Maquillage’s Lasting Powdery UV at the top of this post.)

Are you ready for some on-line browsing? Tomorrow I will talk about some popular Japanese base makeup lines.

Related posts:

Jill Stuart Moist Silk Foundation

Majolica Majorca Skin Remake Compact

Japanese Base Makeup Week Part 1 & Part 2


Part 2: When are they coming out?

(Sofina Primavista’s spring/summer 2009
base makeup lineup)
(image from www.sofina.co.jp/primavista)

Partly due to the speed of development in Japanese base makeup (and partly due to marketing tactics), the frequency in which a brand’s base makeup products get updated is a lot higher than that of most western brands.

Many major Japanese beauty brands release two base makeup collections a year. Spring/summer releases are usually in March and April, and fall/winter releases are usually in September and October. (They are more or less released two months after the seasonal point makeup collections are available.)

The size of the collection varies. Sometimes there are just a couple of items (perhaps a new foundation and a primer), and sometimes there can be a major collection revamp.

Very often, when a new product is launched, the existing equivelant will be discontinued. This means that a Japanese base makeup product can sometimes only be available for 12 months. (This is especially the case with some department store brands.) For example, during the Raycious era (2000 – 2007), a new powder foundation was released every March and the previous version would be discontinued. Not all the products are updated at this rate, but many do get revamped about every other year.

So, on the whole, every six months, a base makeup collection goes through an update, and possibly a few products are phased out. (One obvious exception would be a new base make range whose lineup is still growing, like Primavista.) My suggestion is that, if you discover a Japanese base makeup product that you can’t live without, consider picking up some extras. (The next version might not suit you equally.)

There are some general differences between spring/summer and fall/winter releases. Spring/summer releases tend to have higher SPF and PA. They are often more sweat-resistant and are better at sebum-control, and the finish is often slightly more matte. Sometimes, the coverage is more on the natural side.

Fall/winter releases usually have a more emollient texture. The foundations sometimes have more coverage, and the finish is more luminous. The primers tend to be for further moisturizing the skin.

It can be quite useful to know in which season a product (particularly a foundation) is released. In Japan, there is quite a big temperature difference between summer and winter. If you have combination or oily skin and you happen to live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate, you probably don’t need a very emollient cream foundation (even though it might be a best seller in Japan.)

(Though the choice of a powder foundation or a liquid/cream foundation is often a matter of preference, I tend to suggest powder foundations for people with combination or oily skin. I think those with normal or drier skin do have more choices. Liquid/cream foundations would generally work fine, and there are some powder foundations with a very smooth and velvety texture that can work very well on dry skin even without a primer.)

Apart from regularly checking the official websites of Japanese beauty brands, Japanese beauty magazines offer great editorial content on new base makeup releases. Biteki runs a major base makeup feature twice a year (usually in the May and October issues). Voce’s popular monthly feature, “Voce Experiment” regularly tests out the latest foundations. Even if you don’t read Japanese, these features are usually abundant in photos of new products.

Tomorrow, I will touch upon the choice of foundation shade.

Related posts:

SUQQU Base Makeup Kit

Esprique Precious Spring/Summer 2009 Base Makeup Collection

Japanese Base Makeup Week (Part 1)


Part 1: Why Japanese?

(from Kanebo Coffret d’Or via YouTube)

Many years ago, I read an article on Japanese base makeup, which mentioned that the technologies in Japan involved in producing base makeup were about a decade ahead of those of most western brands. While it is not easy to prove this (and whether it is still true today), I do feel that Japanese base makeup items are constantly out-doing their western counterparts.

It seems that we can draw inferences from the cultural side of things. I have often heard that, if one can only choose to wear one makeup item for the day, a western consumer is likely to choose a mascara (or an eyeliner). On the other hand, a Japanese consumer would go for a foundation. (It can be a sweeping generalization, but I do find some truth in it.)

From the articles written by Kaoru Saito, a Japanese beauty expert, it seems that Japanese people perceive having shine and open pores in public as something impolite. Having a fresh and impeccable complexion, free from shine and open pores, seems to be part of the social etiquette. (Maybe this is why there are a lot more products (mainly primers) that tackle these two issues in Japanese beauty brands.)

In this case, it is the consumers’ needs that drive product research and innovation, and the result is products that work better.

I have oily skin and almost always use a powder foundation, and I think I probably want quite a lot from it. I want it to have a fair amount of coverage but to still look natural. I want it to cancel out mild redness, conceal pores, control sebum and last throughout the day. The powder should have a smooth texture, and the finish should be predominantly matte.

Generally, I find that Japanese foundations cancel out mild redness and conceal pores considerably more effectively than western ones. Also, the foundations I have tried that have a good sebum-control efficacy are all from Japanese lines. So, based on personal experience, I’d say that Japanese base makeup products generally perform a lot better.

(I have less experience with liquid/cream foundations. If you have any observation on how Japanese products fare with western ones, please do let me know your thoughts.)

In the next few days, I will talk briefly about the rhythm of product releases in Japanese base makeup, how to choose the right shade, some Japanese beauty brands that are particularly known for base makeup, and some of my personal favorites and recommendations. Do come back!

(The ad on top of this post is the TV ad for Coffret D’Or’s latest powder foundation, Lasting Power Pact UV. It was officially out on March 1st and is something I am interested in trying.)


Continue reading the series:

Part 2: When are they coming out?

Part 3: Which one is my shade?

Part 4: Which brand shall I look into?

Part 5: My Favorites (& Yours)


Related posts:

Western vs. Japanese…Who’s Winning?

All About Japanese Cosmetics

“Japanese Brand Profile” Series