The No-Makeup Foundation Is A Makeup Artist's Secret

Certain beauty products — think NARS blush in Orgasm and Clinique's Black Honey lipstick — are so good, they're practically famous. While we love so many of them, we've been wondering why others have been quietly flying under the radar. With that in mind, meet our series Cult Classics, in which we'll introduce you to the products you really, truly should know about (and try, like, right now). They're not brand-new, but trust us: They've got staying power.

If only I were as selective about the men I date as I am about my foundation.

You see, for a beauty editor, I don’t actually play with all that much makeup. Don’t get me wrong — I’ll swatch and test the textures of lipsticks, play with eyeshadows, and paint my nails with a polish or two. But, it’s not like you’ll catch me out in public in a bright red lip and a winged liner. (Though, I’ve been known to experiment, if the timing is right.)

Instead, I’ve become quite the collector of foundations. I first started about five years ago, when I swapped out my NARS Tinted Moisturizer (which, by the way, is still my favorite tinted) for a pump and a half of Armani Luminous Silk. Let’s just say that my life has been forever changed since — rare is the day that I go without foundation. I find it an indispensable part of my routine.

The thing about foundation, though, is that it can go seriously wrong. Formulas vary widely — some settle into fine lines, pronouncing your wrinkles, while others make you look too greasy, and others still can cake and look too heavy. Consistency, I’ve found, is everything…and finding the right formula is like discovering your favorite bottle of wine. Nothing can compare, and nothing makes you feel as good.

When I discovered Koh Gen Do’s Maifanshi Moisture Foundation, which comes housed in a bright red tube, it was love at first sight. I had first spotted the product on makeup artists’ stations backstage. And, it came recommended to be by Nick Barose, who once compared it to the consistency of a tinted moisturizer, but noted that it was easy to build for added coverage. Stevie Martin, the makeup department head for Lila & Eve (starring Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez), says it’s “the best for both male and female talent” because “it translates as real skin for filming.” A rep for the brand confirmed that Jessica Alba requested multiple samples while she was filming Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Sharon Stone’s makeup artist, Eldo Ray Estes, also notes that it’s a go-to for an “unprecedented flawless finish.”

So, what’s the secret? Apparently, the foundation’s formula has two types of light reflecting powder particles: one is flat-shaped, which helps to minimize shadows caused by uneven surface of the skin, and one is round, which reduces the appearance of pores. It’s also comprised of 60% purified water, so it has a super-natural, sheer-looking finish. The ingredient list includes things like glycerin, jojoba seed oil, and squalane, so it is insanely hydrating.

Following a bit of advice from Lea Michele’s go-to artist, Melanie Inglessis, I put a little bit of the product on the back of my hand. Then, I spray a Beautyblender with rosewater until it’s damp, and get a little on the sponge. From there, I simply bounce the sponge onto the face, starting on both corners of the nose and working out, dipping again in product, then doing the same for the center of the forehead and the slightest bit on the chin.

Instead of settling, it actually feels like it plumps the skin. There is the slightest, dewy finish to the formula that makes you look like you just woke up. The best part, though, is that unlike other sheer formulas, it stays in place all day. I don’t feel the need for primer or even for setting it with tons of powder — I just let it live, blotting in the middle of the day if necessary. 

My only complaint about the product is that its shade range is extremely limited — I’m on the darker end of the spectrum when I have just a kiss of sun, which is ridiculous. I’m hoping the brand is working toward a wider shade variation so more people can share in the wonder of this product.

The best thing I can say it is it's like tinted moisturizer on steroids: It’s lightweight enough to wear for every day, or you can buff it into the skin with a flat foundation brush and do a light veil of powder over it for a going-out look. (I’ll sometimes switch to a more matte formula for events and things during the warmer weather, because I want to avoid looking too shiny.) But, since it’s dewy on tops of the cheeks and the forehead, you can go super light on illuminating products and just allow your perfected skin to shine.

I’ve been through three tubes of this stuff in the past year and a half. This product is definitely here to stay. 

Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation, $62, available at Koh Gen Do


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