l-r: NARS Sheer Glow in Fiji, Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation in 013, Make Up For Ever HD Foundation in 118
The main issue I have with Maifanshi Aqua Foundation is entirely my fault: I picked the wrong shade. As you can see in the above swatch, my two other most frequently used foundations, NARS Sheer Glow and Make Up For Ever HD Foundation, are considerably more yellow-toned. I would say that the MUFE is the best match for my skin tone (it has more neutral/beige undertones), while the NARS is close but sometimes too yellow and slightly dark. The Koh Gen Do in comparison, leans pink which is completely at odds with the natural undertone of my skin. Reading reviews after I'd already purchased the foundation, I think I should have picked 213. I did actually try 213 as well as 113 in the shop, but 113 seemed noticeably too light for me (though apparently it's meant to be the same lightness as 013, but just yellow-toned), and 213, although yellow-leaning, seemed a touch too dark.
Wearing NARS Luster blush
The first few times I tried Maifanshi Aqua Foundation, I applied it with my fingers and used at least 1.5-2 pumps, and I wasn't impressed with the result at all. Maybe it was because I'd just stepped off a plane (though I had washed my face and moisturised with a rich cream to prep), but contrary to claims of it being soft-focus and blurring imperfections, it seemed to accentuate every dry patch I had. The colour was also grotesquely off, much to my deep dismay. My face looked like I'd applied a liberal layer of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light. It was that exact same undesired effect that I complained about when I reviewed Dim Light, in that my whole complexion seemed darker, warmer, more tan and peach/pink-toned. I wanted a foundation that matched my skin colour, gave me good coverage, provided a natural but illuminating finish and that made me look fresher and more alive. This foundation just made me stare in the mirror critically examining what a flop decision I'd made in purchasing it.
The only way I can make Aqua Foundation work is if I apply a very light layer (one pump or less for the whole face) with a fluffy brush like the Real Techniques Multi Task Brush on properly exfoliated/moisturised skin, and then spend time patiently concealing any marks, blemishes or areas of redness with my NARS Creamy Concealer in Custard. This method is a bit of a pain in the ass since I'd much rather have a foundation that already gives me adequate coverage rather than having to go in with a concealer to finish the job, but it's the only way to get around the unwanted pinkness.
The foundation itself has a light, watery texture and is scant on coverage unless built up, which I wouldn't recommend (at least if you're like me and have purchased the wrong shade). Somewhat ironically, a light-handed application gives me a more dewy, softly luminous finish than if I apply the foundation any heavier. Staying power is ordinary (it's definitely considerably faded by the end of the day, especially if not worn with a primer or set with a powder in the morning), and I found nothing of particular note in terms of oil control or how transfer-proof it is.
Another puzzling aspect of this foundation is that I can't seem to find any information about it being SPF25. The Sephora website and other US stockists list it as SPF15 but the packaging seems identical. I don't know if it's some geographical discrepancy or newer formulation, but some clarification on the issue would be helpful.
Overall, I'm not enthused with Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation despite high expectations (i.e. my brain attributing a general elevated quality standard to any cosmetic product made in Japan). I will continue to use it purely because it was expensive and it seems like a waste to neglect it entirely, and because it's an acceptable daily foundation so long as my skin's behaving and I can bothered to conceal afterwards. The whole experience has reinforced to me that buying the wrong shade foundation is akin to throwing your money in the bin.