Koh Gen Do – Cruelty-Free High Quality Japanese Brand *updated 4.16.2012

Koh Ken Do Moisture Foundation. Photo Credit © 2011 KohGenDo High Definition Cosmetics

Just when I was convinced that I will not be able to use Japanese makeup again due to my anti-animal testing stance, I was overjoyed when I spotted Koh Gen Do on Sephora.com!

While Koh Gen Do isn’t as well known as say Shiseido, Kanebo or Kose, the reviews of its products had largely been overwhelmingly positive. Though Sephora only carries this brand on their website and will be carrying them in just one store location in New York, the small handful of Koh Gen Do products available on Sephora.com had my heart pumping.

Late Japanese Ai Saotome (1958-2010)
Late Japanese actress Ai Saotome (1958-2010)

If you didn’t know Koh Gen Do, this is more of a professional makeup artist brand (used by not only Japanese makeup artists but also Hollywood ones!) and aims at the high definition resolution finish in front of a camera, yet still uses safe ingredients. Created by the late Japanese actress Ai Saotome (1958-2010) 25 years ago, Koh Gen Do began as a skincare collection based on traditional Asian botanicals and homeopathy. The results and responses were so positive that she decided to integrate this innovative concept into a glamorous, eco-friendly makeup line. Sadly, Ms. Saotome didn’t live to see Koh Gen Do flagship stores open in New York (Barneys) in 2011 (she passed away in Seattle of multiple organ failure in 2010, a few months shy of her 52nd birthday). Koh Gen Do celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

I had the unexpected opportunity while vacationing in Japan in 2003 and purchased a red tube of Moisture Foundation in a retail store in Tokyo (not knowing about this brand). At that time, I just started Joseibi.com as an online store and was learning all the different brands, but I had never heard of Koh Gen Do. It was the best foundation I had used at the time, but I could not find it anywhere online or a wholesaler for it, so after that tube was used up, it would be 8 years for me to have the chance (now) to use Koh Gen Do again.

Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Face Powder, 12g, US$42.00
Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Face Powder, 12g, US$42.00, a really nice silky loose powder superior to almost every other brand I have used.

If you had used Shu Uemura, which is a Japanese makeup brand (now owned by longstanding animal testing offender L’Oreal) for professional makeup artists, I can only tell you that Koh Gen Do’s quality beats Shu Uemura about a million to one (the only advantage Shu Uemura has is the number of shades available). While Shiseido, Kanebo and Kose’s base makeup products are very good, Koh Gen Do’s base makeup is really high definition and feels very smooth on the skin. Considering how natural, eco-friendly and animal cruelty free this brand is, it’s no small feat to beat out the big guys!

Speaking of animal testing, very very few, if any, Japanese (or Korean for that matter) brands will even make a claim that their products or ingredients are not animal tested. The ones that do (e.g. DHC) may have one line saying that their products (finished products) are not tested on animals, but it could be their way of getting around the issue because the ingredients could have been tested on animals. But Koh Gen Do is very upfront about animal testing:

Our products are not tested on animals and do not contain chemicals whose safety cannot be determined.

Koh Gen Do employs the In Vitro safety testing method. It has been accepted as a substitute for animal testing and is used worldwide as a scientifically reliable method to test the safety of a product.  Still, many cosmetics manufacturers continue to use animals for testing despite the availability of the In Vitro method.  Generally speaking, several hundred animals are used for one test.  By the time a product reaches the retail level, some tens of thousands of animals have been sacrificed.  Why then, does animal testing continue?

There are about three thousand raw ingredients approved for domestic use in cosmetics.  These ingredients alone can form superior cosmetics products.

Koh Gen Do does just that. We use plant extracts and other ingredients from nature whose safety has been proven throughout history to create cosmetics products.

Out of respect for our skin, we do not use artificial fragrances, petroleum-based mineral oil or synthetic pigments.

We believe that animals shouldn’t have to sacrifice their lives for our pursuit of beauty.  It is time to end this sad chapter in cosmetics history.”

Source: http://www.kohgendocosmetics.com/promise.asp

Not only did they declare their products cruelty free, it’s the first time I actually see a Japanese brand take a strong stance against animal testing. Koh Gen Do shows that the highest quality skincare and cosmetics can be formulated and produced without animal testing.

Kudos to Sephora for bringing this great brand aboard! I hope that they will add more of Koh Gen Do’s lineup to Sephora.com because it’s the only way I can get it in Canada!

Koh Gen Do has its own website that sells and ships within the USA: http://www.kohgendocosmetics.com/

Updated to add the following information one of my lovely readers, KaraValentine, provided in her comments:

I recently remembered your excellent blog after deciding to re-commit to some Asian skincare products for a change…and recalled your detailed, informative reviews on skincare and such. (I’m Eurasian, with very thin, light skin, and neither American/European products or Korean products fit the bill for me exactly – I’ve found that mixing and matching is the best option.) I really liked your post on Koh Gen Do…I just wanted to add that on the advice of another blogger, I called their customer service line (listed on their website) and spoke to a lovely lady who understood my concerns about having a hard-to-match hapa skintone (too warm-toned for most Caucasian foundations – as my photography instructor said, ‘ivory with gold’), and upon learning I had dry skin, offered to send me a test kit of their skincare items as well…a week later, I found an envelope with foundation samples, powder samples, makeup remover cloths and thick cotton pads, plus lots of skincare samples all packed with instructions and guidance! getting to test their line on my allergy-prone skin has only made me more amenable to purchasing their products that worked for me. if you haven’t already, I’d suggest giving them a call – I know you’re in Canada, but i think they’d probably ship samples of their line (inc. items not avail on Sephora) there too. I wasn’t charged any fee – to be honest i only called for shade matching guidance (since Sephora’s online swatches weren’t very informative, as usual) but the customer rep/artist offered to send me samples to get a perfect match, and she was super kind!). they’re truly a wonderful, dedicated company :)


4 comments on Koh Gen Do – Cruelty-Free High Quality Japanese Brand *updated 4.16.2012

  1. Jen
    September 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm (6 years ago)

    Hi Joseibi

    I came across your website while I was researching Korean skincare products. I found your product reviews to be quite informative but more importantly, thought provoking. While I initially became interested in high-end Korean products that you reviewed quite favorably (Sulwhasoo, the Whoo and Su:m37), I found your latest reviews of cruelty free skin care products to be quite enlightening. I had believed–hoped–that animal testing consisted of topical application only but I know better now.

    I truly enjoyed your latest reviews of Koh Gen Do and Josie Maran products and I look forward to more reviews of other animal-friendly products.

    The only other question I have is on the efficacy of the Korean/Japanese 5-step skin care system vs. the Western style wash–moisturize–spot correct style. As you simplify your routine and switch out skin-care products (by giving up animal tested items), do you find the simplified routine to be just as effective?

    As a full-time working mother of two kids (and a dog), I really don’t have the luxury of layering product after product. 🙂


    • Joseibi
      September 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm (6 years ago)

      Dear Jen,

      Welcome and thank you! If this blog can promote cruelty free products successfully with even one person I am happy enough!! Gotta hit the animal tested brands where it hurts–sales. And as I have discovered there are plenty of cruelty free products that work just as well or even better too!!!!

      My daughter is sick a lot since starting montessori school and as a working mom I know how hard it is to find time for yourself–I don’t know how you do it with two kids!! You are supermom!! Anyway I simplified my routine about 3 months ago–just cleanse, serum plus cream at night(some nights I use Laneige Water Sleeping Pack–too lazy/tired to do wash-off masks). For daytime, cleanse+moisturizer with spf30.

      Surprisingly, my skin is now in better shape than when I used the 5+ steps. I have read Chizu Saeki’s book(available in English on Amazon.com) and I agree with her minimal approach–the less you use sometimes encourages your skin to repair itself.

      Toner and emulsion are not necessary products if you must keep a tight budget. My skin isn’t any different after not using a toner or emulsion. With the money you save from those two items, you can invest in a good serum/essence and a cream.

      At my age(36), the best thing I need is a retinol serum plus a cream with peptides and antioxidants. I have been using Peter Thomas Roth’s Retinol Fusion PM and a rich night cream like Leaf & Rusher TX Night DNAResolve and my skin is clear(not even a bump around my period) and glowing.

      Also, a few days before and 3 days into your period your skin is often at its worst! ( due to hormones) so be careful not to wax or use anything new to minimize irritations. The most nutritious skincare treatments are best avoided during those days or your skin just won’t benefit from them as much.

      I forgot to say that I do use an eye cream, it’s Yonka Phyto Contour, it works great to depuff on the eyelid or undereyes.

      All the products I mentioned are all cruelty free by the way. 🙂 The Josie Maran eyeshadow quad is really beautiful if you want to pamper yourself!! 🙂

  2. Mars
    February 17, 2014 at 8:24 pm (3 years ago)

    Hi! Thanks for posting this. I had never heard of the brand before. I did e-mail JAVA and they gave me 3 brands that did not test products or ingredients- Canmake, Koji, and Taiyo. However, they said they were unsure if they sold in China. I contacted them and Canmake replied that they do not sell in China.
    While I am here- I should ask if you know of a dark circle concealer or treatment- or both! that works and is cruelty free?

    • Joseibi
      March 6, 2014 at 11:33 am (3 years ago)

      Hi Mars…as of today, no luck with any dark circle treatment or concealer that completely works yet…I am using the Hourglass one (cruelty free) which still doesn’t completely cover the dark circles, but close.


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