Thursday, March 22, 2018

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++

A couple of years ago, while reading various blogs written by foreigners living in Japan, I found one authored by a young woman from Eastern Europe. One day she posted something about her massive collection of Kanebo lipsticks. Her readers, mainly young, impressionable women in her home country, were suitably awed and amazed, and treated the blogger with all the reverence and respect that someone with a whole collection of Kanebo lipsticks deserved.

What the crafty blogger did not explain was that while Kanebo, her lipsticks were not from the global, high end department store brand. That part was conveniently left unsaid, or rather, unwritten. What she failed to mention was that her lipsticks came from the Media sub-brand, which is Kanebo’s super budget drugstore line. So while the readers assumed fancy, high end products with equally fancy, high end price tags, the blogger in fact had a collection of lipsticks that cost less than 8 dollars per piece.

That was not the first, and not the last time, when foreigners, either living in Japan, or shopping in Japan, intentionally misrepresented Media products on the internet. Heck, entire online stores based in Eastern Europe do the same. They know Kanebo has an immediate name recognition. They also know that it’s easy to trick the unsuspecting masses into believing that all Kanebo products are high end and expensive. The same has been happening to Shiseido. The number of Asian beauty fans that are unaware that both Kanebo and Shiseido carry a multitude of budget and drugstore brands is truly astounding. Google much? Apparently not.

Kanebo Media is a very hit or miss brand. I have some Media products, and while I am pleased with some, others are utter junk.

Kanebo Media misses - lipsticks! They are dreadful, old grandma formulas with horrible wear and feel. Lip glosses aren’t any better.

Budget Kanebo Media hits in my possession are: eyebrow pencils and loose powder. Ridiculously cheap and quite good.

What I remember fondly are Kanebo Media color bases. They were my very first foray into color base territory and while currently I use products that suit me better, I remember them as good, budget starter cosmetics.

So it was with great interest that I read that Kanebo Media was releasing an SPF50+ PA++++ makeup base. I went and bought it and have been using it for nearly all of March.

Yes, there is a bell taped to the package. Most drugstore cosmetics are equipped with this super low tech method of theft prevention. Because, yes, even in honorable Nippon people do shoplift. Imagine that! 

Here is my story.

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ (a.k.a. Media UV Protect Makeup Base, according to the English name on the back of the package) is a non-color type makeup base with high sun protection.

In case you are new here, I have dry skin (not dehydrated, just dry) that is prone to redness, outbreaks, zits and all sorts of horrible stuff. Rosacea with sensitive skin is no fun. Some in my shoes would avoid all products with alcohol, but in my experience, alcohol in a well formulated product does not bother me. What bothers me is the smell of alcohol. If a sunscreen reeks of ethanol, that is an automatic “no” from me.

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ does have ethanol pretty high on the list, it’s the third ingredient, but based on my previous experiences with Media base products, I wasn’t overly concerned about what ethanol might do to my skin. Most likely it would do nothing, and I was correct in this assumption. It did nothing.

What I was concerned about was the stench of alcohol. Luckily, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ passed the smell test. Despite the claim that it's fragrance free, it does have a faint scent of something, but it’s not the full-on “here comes the booze” stench of so many cheap sunscreens. The scent does not linger, which is a big plus in my book.

So far, so good.

And here is where it all gets very convoluted. You see, as a makeup base Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is a total disaster. I know I should not compare it to more expensive products, like Albion, or Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE, both of which have magnificent makeup bases with SPF50+ PA++++. I know that Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is a budget product, but c’mon now. If Kanebo is going to market it as a makeup base, at the very least they should attempt to make it act like a makeup base.

Unfortunately, as it is now, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ fails miserably at being a base.

First, the consistency. It is not very gel-like. It’s quite tacky to the touch, and that is the feeling you get when you apply it to the face. It feels like a layer of glue. Is this what cheap makeup bases are like these days? I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t want to know.

Usually, when applying a makeup base first, and then foundation, you expect your pores to be minimized and the foundation adhering nicely and evenly to your face. Not in this case. The pores stay huge and very visible, and the foundation just kind of smudges and sits awkwardly on top.

The overall effect is quite disgusting, to be honest. Both visually and when it comes to wear comfort. Despite the manufacturer's claim that it's comfortable to wear, in reality it's not. At least not as a base.

The only way I could make Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ work as a makeup base was to use powder foundation on top. Then the gel’s glue-like properties showed what they could do. I also tried it with just a setting powder and the results were decent enough, as well. But that is not enough for a makeup base in my book. I want it to work with anything and everything else I might wish to apply to my face.

As a sunscreen, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ has an impressive list of UV blockers and absorbers:

  • zinc oxide, 
  • Octinoxate, 
  • Uvinul T150, 
  • Tinosorb S 
  • and Uvinul A Plus. 
The formula gives full UVA and UVB protection.

Ratzilla has the ingredients here - Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ ingredient list - link.

I entered them into cosDNA for your convenience - cosDNA analysis - link.

The highly touted pearl protein (hydrolyzed conchiolin protein) is so far down the list that it’s there just for vanity purposes. Similarly with collagen. These two ingredients are third and fourth respectively - from the bottom of the list.

So, that’s what we have here. 30 grams of affordable, decent Japanese sunscreen and pretty crappy base.
The list price for Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is 900 yen plus tax, but it can usually be found for less. I bought mine for 720 yen, tax included.

Swatch of Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ dries to a transparent, but slightly tacky and gluey finish. You can definitely feel a layer of “something” on your skin. Personally, I don’t really like it, but I know many people are not bothered by it.

Final verdict?

  • good UVA and UVB protection 
  • affordable 
  • easily available 
  • minimal fragrance

  • crappy makeup base
  • poor wearing comfort
  • minimal skincare benefits
  • alcohol (if you care about stuff like that)

I’ll stick with more cosmetically elegant makeup bases with high SPF protection, even if they cost more. For me, the overall results are worth spending more money for a better product. A good base can make even a crappy foundation look good. But a crappy base… Well… you know what I mean…

In conclusion, it seems I grew up to be a base snob. But I will always remember Media fondly.


  1. huh, in a certain eastern-european country (i.e. Poland :) ) the only one Kanebo's brand that is available is Sensai. Not that I like all of Sensai's products, but most of them seem to be decent, and some of them are quite exceptionally good, though overpriced horribly. The price range is significantly higher than Shiseido's one. Thus a concept of "Kanebo’s super budget drugstore line" was foreign for me.

    1. It seems the concept is foreign to many people. Which only proves that you can't take at face value ANYTHING that marketing pushes your way. Or anything that online sellers tell you.

  2. Hi Anna, this is somewhat unrelated, but I was wondering if Vitamin D deficiency is ever a concern in Japan? It's pretty widely talked about in the West - many people I know have been prescribed Vitamin D tablets, even those who never use any sun protection. Japanese people are pretty well-known for their comparatively diligent sun protection, do they compensate Vitamin D through diet/supplements? Or is this mainly a Western phenomenon?

    1. Hi Laura,
      Actually, as studies in Australia and New Zealand show, the use of sunscreen has very little effect. "...sunscreen is applied so as to have a negligible effect on vitamin D status.[31] The vitamin D status of those in Australia and New Zealand is unlikely to have been affected by campaigns advocating sunscreen.[32]"

      Hence the deficiency even in those that never use any sun protection.

      I think in Japan, diet plays the biggest part. Some of the best sources of Vit D are fatty fish, such as tuna, mackarel and salmon. And these are some of the fish that are eaten daily in Japan. Daily. Frequently for breakfast, lunch AND dinner. 3 ounces of salmon provides you with 100% of your daily required amount of vitamin D. It's easy to meet this requirement when you have a slab of fish three times a day. Add to that other food sources and the incidental sun exposure and unless you are genetically predisposed to Vit D deficiency, you should be fine.

  3. hi Anna, unrelated as well, but could you please name your best products from Uriage and Lierac? i have almost the same skin type as yours, dry and sensitive sometimes.

  4. Now I want to try their brow pencil (I have been eyeballing their duo brow powder for a while)! I haven't tried a lot of their product but I really like their cream foundation! I just wish it's a pump bottle instead of the heavy jar that I have to dig out. I reckon the formula between budget brand and high end differ by quite a bit (lavshuca and coffret d'or are less even moisturizing compared to rmk/Lunasol/ suqqu so I am not tempted by those).


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