Sunday, March 5, 2017

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ a.k.a. Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++

Hello... It's me...
Is there anyone still reading this blog?

I am back and hopefully, this time, I will stay back. I mean, I will stay here. Blogging.


What was I doing when I wasn't here? Many things. Mainly working.
Cleansing. Applying toners and serums. And creams.

And, of course, sunblock.

I am one of these super annoying women who apply sunscreen rain or shine. Go ahead, hate me. I can take it.

Contrary to what many, maaaany beauty bloggers think, UV protection is important even on cloudy days. Even in winter. Even when you are at home or in your car, but your windows are not covered by UV blocking coating or curtains.

Paradoxically, clouds can even enhance UV exposure. Scientists figured it out back in the 1960s and it's really surprising that this fact is not more widely known. It's also surprising that UV forecasts do not take the cloud enhancement of UV (as it is scientifically known) into account when well... forecasting UV stuff.

The American Scientist did a whole write up on this paradox here - Sunshine on a Cloudy Day. Don't worry, they used easy English and avoided long, scientific words whenever possible.

So yes, there you have it. Even on a cloudy day it's important to slather on that sunblock.

But don't stop reading just yet.
Guess what?
It gets worse.

You think you are safe sitting under a beach umbrella, or carrying a UV parasol? Nope. You're not. The sun's rays are reflected off other surfaces, like sand for example, and still get to you. I told you, keep slathering on that sunblock.

Empty beach in Antigua - my favorite kind

You think you are safe in winter and can skip UV protection then? Unless you live above the Arctic Circle and spend your winter months in total darkness, you can't. If it snows a lot where you live, you are shit out of luck and should be using sunscreen daily. Why? Because snow and ice bounce back about 80% of the rays. But it's cloudy, I hear you say... OK, then click on the link above, the one about what clouds do to UV rays, and read it one more time.

And don't give me those lame excuses that clueless beauty bloggers are so fond of. That using sunscreen will give you vitamin D deficiency. Oh please...

This is a common misconception. First, most people don’t apply sunscreen well enough to prevent skin from producing vitamin D. Second, you need much less time in the sun to make adequate levels than you might think. If your skin just kept making vitamin D in response to sunlight, it would reach toxic levels, explains Day. After 15 minutes or so, the system overloads and production stops. Being tan isn’t a good indicator of healthy vitamin D levels, says Ronnie Klein, MD, assistant professor, Yale Dermatology. One classic study of Hawaiian surfers found that although all participants were tanned, many were still vitamin D deficient. “You can get enough vitamin D from a mix of diet, supplements, and incidental sun exposure,” says Klein.

Quote from here.

So yeah, you will not get rickets if you use sunscreen. What you will get if you DON'T use sunscreen is skin cancer. And that's a fact.
And oh yeah, you will also look aged, wrinkled and splotchy.
Your choice.

Obviously, with all that in mind, choosing a proper sunscreen is a big deal. A very, very big deal. And yes, I know that theoretically "sunscreen" and "sunblock" are two different things, but who cares? For the sake of clarity, I will use both words interchangeably. Because even "sunblock" may not do what you've been told it does, but that's a topic for another post, another time...

Anyway, where were we?

Ah yes, choosing sunscreen.

Because good UV protection is very important, choosing a good sunscreen is also important.
Unfortunately, today's contestant is not one of them.

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF 50+ PA++++

Or Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++, or whatever the fack the official name of this damn thing is. I wish Japanese companies would get their shit together when it comes to naming their products. Sometimes it can be surprisingly difficult to figure out what the official name is.

First things first.
I'm a HUGE Koh Gen Do fangirl. I love their stuff. Because 99% of the time their stuff is awesome. This is, unfortunately, that remaining 1%.

I bought my tube of Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ last summer. And threw in the Koh Gen Do UV Cut Spa Lip Treatment you can see above. Mercifully that abomination has been discontinued as of this year. It was vile and horrible, and if by "treatment" Koh Gen Do meant "we're going to dry out and destroy your lips", then they definitely did their job.

Anyway, back to the sunscreen.

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ a.k.a. Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ has been raved about on the Asian Beauty subreddit, proclaimed to be a "holy grail" of sunscreens and all sorts of other wonderful things.

The company was waxing poetic about it on their website, too.
Here you have the mangled google chrome translation of the Japanese page:

source: KohGenDo Japanese website

Waterproof, they said.
No white cast, they claimed.
Magical onsen water from Izumo in it, they proudly announced.
The next generation sunscreen, they boasted.

The next generation? They went from zero straight to warp 9 with this stuff.

The bar has been set very high.

And what?

And well...
Nothing really.

It felt nice on the skin. It was very cosmetically elegant with just the slightest hint of whiteness. It moisturized. It felt like a serum.
As you can see below, it's indeed very watery upon application. They didn't lie.
But that's about it.

As a sunblock it was woefully inadequate. Inadequate to the point of sunburn.

I'm not a sunscreen virgin. I do know how to use them. I take my sun protection very seriously. I've been applying sunscreen for more years than some of my readers have been alive. I know when a sunscreen does what it was formulated to do, and when a sunscreen just looks awesome in a tube and does nothing on the skin.

In all fairness, I should have stopped using it when I first had a nagging suspicion that it did nothing. But... it was Koh Gen Do,and I love Koh Gen Do!
So I stupidly stuck with it until my face was tanned and discolored.
It took a blunt comment from an assertive friend to finally face the reality.

And the reality right now is such that I will need laser treatment to remove the discoloration. I've already booked my appointment for the first round of laser therapy. At least it's an excuse to go to Tokyo...

So yes, this is my story with the Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF 50+ PA++++, which turned out to be a costly and totally ineffective dud.

Use at your own risk.

What? No airless pump? For that kind of money, I expected better.

I still love Koh Gen Do, but I am going to give their sun protection a wide pass from now on. Once burned (literally in this case), twice shy.

You want to see what's inside this thing?
My pleasure (and my translation).

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ ingredients:
Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ ingredients:

This "spa water" is something that is worth taking a closer look at. It's listed as "onsensui" above, translated to "onsen water".
Onsens are Japanese natural hot springs. They are everywhere here. You can literally poke the ground with a stick and hot water will come out. You don't even need to be named Moses.

Proof - hot water shooting up from the ground right in the middle of my favorite onsen town - Kusatsu in Gunma prefecture. The water is bloody hot, reeks of sulphur and makes the whole town smell like the gates of hell. Yet they still use it their local skincare products.

A certain skincare brand from Singapore that has "onsen" in its name will try to tell you that only THEIR products contain the only hot spring water approved for use in cosmetics by the Japanese government. That, of course, is utter bullshit. Onsens are regulated by individual prefectures, and quite a few popular hot springs have their own skincare lines as well.

Yep, that's where Izumo is.

I haven't been to Izumo (but I want to! Izumo Taisha is calling my name!) and I don't know anything about the hot spring where Koh Gen Do sources its water from. But I'm sure it's suitably fancy for a fancy brand like Koh Gen Do. However, here's something interesting about "onsensui" in general - regardless of its chemical composition, it's still water. After talking with a cosmetic chemist about the naming rules for hot spring water, I realized that no matter how unique the brand's PR materials make it sound, water is still water. And in the EU, it's still listed as "Aqua", possibly with a side explanation that it came from a hot spring.

But what does Koh Gen Do do?

It lists "normal" water as the first ingredient, and then down the line, between hydrogen dimethicone and birch sap, there's our onsensui. So basically, they list "water" twice in their ingredient list. How special!

Also, maybe I am blind (very possible, I do need new contacts ASAP), but I could not find anywhere the chemical composition of this magical hot spring water from Izumo. Without that, I don't give two shits about where that water is from. I want a printed and confirmed analysis. All licensed onsens are required to make the chemical composition of their water public and post it in a place where their clients can easily see it.
Otherwise, this water might have come from the tap at Koh Gen Do's very own swanky Azabu Juban salon and we'd be none the wiser.

So yeah, my dear favorite brand, if you're claiming magical hot spring water in your Spa line, I want to see the chemical analysis. Receipts, or it didn't happen.

My final opinion about Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ a.k.a. Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++?

Hahaha! You gotta be kidding me, KohGenDo! What is this nonsense and why is it so expensive?

You had enough common sense to discontinue the abomination known as Koh Gen Do UV Cut Spa Lip Treatment, so now do something about this damn sunscreen!!!

Ok, speaking of Koh Gen Do UV Cut Spa Lip Treatment (it can still be found in some stores)...
This is probably, hands down, the most horrible UV lip protector I own. Fancl comes in as a close second, but KohGenDo definitely claims the top prize.

And it was supposed to be so lovely...

It's horribly drying. Horribly, intensely drying. It sucks the life out of your lips. But with a hint of color.

Looks nice, doesn't it? Sadly, looks can be deceiving.

And here a swatch:

See? Just a hint of color.
No ingredients for you, because it's a discontinued product anyway. But if you see it somewhere and decide to buy it, don't complain later on. You've been warned.

As for the sunblock, meh... There are better choices out there.


  1. :D doczekałam się nowego wpisu :)))

  2. Yay !!! Jestes z powrotem :D !!!
    Nigdy bym nie pomyslala, ze Koh Gen Do taki lipny filtr wypusci.
    I wciaz widze zachwyty blogerek nad SPF 20 podkladu, rece opadaja, poczytalyby troche....

  3. Finally! Finally! Finally! (już myślałam, że się nie doczekam powrotu) :)

  4. Dzięki, dzięki, dzięki.., że wróciłaś - Ewa (rubieże RP dla przypomnienia); włączam wujka Google Translator i swoją wyobraźnie i zaczynam czytanie, ach, jeszcze kieliszek gruzińskiego wina; że co, że za wcześnie? przecież u Ciebie jest już 19.30. A tak serio - to bardzo się cieszę!!!!! Jak widać wyżej nie tylko ja.

  5. No i fajnie, wujek Google dał radę, zrozumiałam, nie musiałam też sięgać do słownika wyrazów bliskoznacznych, a najważniejsze jest zdanie 3. tekstu, że wróciłaś i będziesz!!! Ewa

  6. i am from Singapore and love reading yr reviews and witty sarcasm. please keep updating your blog cos there are loyal readers out there!

  7. Welcome back!! I really love your blog & reviews so I'm hapoy to see you're back. Keep up the good work and looking forward to your next posts ;-)

  8. First time reading your blog. Thank you for the review. I will check your other reviews as well.
    I wonder how come an SPF 50+ PA++++ sunblock could give you sun tan. I thought that the SPF number and PA rating are strictly regulated in Japan. Am I missing something?

    1. As strictly regulated in Japan as in the US where independent studies confirmed that most available sunblocks overestimate their SPF ratings. Unfortunately, there are no such independent studies in Japan.
      Other than that, it could be a bad batch, poor formulation (remember what happened with the Honest sunblock in the US?), or a combination of all of the above.

      Bottom line - if it feels too good to be true, then it probably is. And this sunblock definitely felt amazing.

    2. Thank you. I will be more careful when trying new sunscreens.

  9. I appreciate reviews like this that show even a product from a beloved brand can be a dud. I'm sorry it got to the point that you'll need to address it with a derm though. I think I might be coming to a similar realization with the reformulated Hada Labo that I've been using these last couple winter months...sadness. Will be hunting for another one shortly but glad to know I can strike this one off the list!

    1. I am heartbroken that this turned out to be a dud. I read so many raves about it. Granted, they were either sponsored raves, or by someone with limited sunblock experience on the Asian Beauty subreddit. That alone should have raised a number of red flags, but because it was Koh Gen Do, I blindly bought it.
      I still love the brand, after this sunblock disaster I already got a bunch of other things.
      I also got a brand new sunblock from an unheard of before brand, so I am very excited to see that that will pan out. First trials - tomorrow! Yay!

    2. I'm going to be looking for that review!! I find sunscreen hunting incredibly frustrating >.< I've found tolerable ones that work for the cold, dry winter but still trying to find one that works for the summer months in my country. Doesn't help that my skin changes between seasons either :P [Man I sound cranky! lol]


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