I’ve really been obsessed with cushions for awhile now, and no I’m not talking about the ones that decorate your couch or sofa. I’m talking about cushion compacts – the makeup product that has been taking the Korean beauty industry by storm for the last couple of years (although was first introduced around 2008) and is steadily gaining worldwide attention.
The start of 2016 has seen cushion compacts really gain traction in the West with more Western cosmetic brands like YSL, Estee Lauder, Dior, Lancome, L’oreal etc, releasing their own versions. In the UK market however, I feel that cushions are still relatively unknown, and I’ve personally only seen the Lancome cushions available at their counters. Since I think that’s about to change soon, here’s the lowdown on cushion compacts.
(Note: This post mainly refers to Korean cushion compacts only as they began the cushion trend, have a larger and more established market, and Amore Pacific holds a lot of the patents for the current cushion technology. A lot of the specifics I refer to, predominantly apply for cushion brands that fall under the Amore Pacific umbrella – which you will see examples of further below.)
What is a cushion compact?
A cushion compact is essentially a cushion soaked in liquid foundation or BB/CC cream that is housed in a portable compact case with a mirror. It comes with a special puff applicator that you press into the sponge and then pat and dab the product onto your skin. The fact it uses a liquid product makes it different from other compacts on the market already that are powder, cream etc.
While it is often generally referred to as a BB cushion, or cushion foundation, that is not strictly accurate. There is a wide variety of cushions on the market that can be either foundation, BB cream or a CC cream. The term ‘cushion compact’ encompasses all of these types that can vary in consistency, coverage, finish etc.
(Note: will refer to it as foundation from here on so as to not be repetitive).
What is unique about the cushion compacts?
Firstly, the puff applicator is made with rubycell technology that is antibacterial – very beneficial as you are constantly dipping in and out of the product to apply on your skin. Its special material means less product gets absorbed into it and wasted, and picks up just enough foundation to ensure a thin, even application that won’t cake up and is easily buildable. Using a non-rubycell puff will not give you the same finish with a cushion compact. It is usually recognised by being blue but some brands sometimes use different colours. I.e Hera is purple and Sulwhasoo is brown.
The cushion itself is made from specially-designed urethane foam that is able to safely contain and preserve the liquid foundation. (You can tip the case upside down, sideways, throw it around and the liquid will never spill out). Looking closely, you can see it is made up of thousands of fine pores and it is this that helps the cushion retain moisture longer, prevents quick evaporation and combined with the rubycell puff, doesn’t pick up too much foundation that would be absorbed, but a good even amount for application.
Cushion compacts are also great because they combine the benefits of both skincare and makeup. Not only does it conceal, create an even skin tone, and provide coverage, it also functions to moisturise and provide high protection against harmful UV rays. Various cushions also have additional skincare benefits that can range from whitening, brightening, anti-aging, removing dead skin cells, promote clearer and smoother skin and balance the skin temperature. It’s like getting two products in one as some of these ingredients would usually only be found in skincare products.
Benefits of cushion compacts
All the reasons above combine to make cushion compacts a game-changer in your makeup routine. This method is quick, and easy to apply. It can cut down on the number of steps in your makeup routine, as well as products you need to use (do away with brushes and beauty blenders). This all leads to reducing the overall time spent doing makeup, especially when you’re in a rush in the mornings. No more need for blending out your foundation, it’s literally pat pat and go.
As these generally have a thinner consistency than regular foundations and BB creams, and the fact you pat them on (rather than swiping or spreading), they provide a natural, yet flawless and airbrushed look. It also helps you achieve that beautiful dewy, glowing-from-within look that Koreans in particular, prefer over a matte finish. It isn’t cakey and doesn’t crease or crack when using with the puff. It applies so evenly and looks like you have naturally nice even skin tone – as if you aren’t wearing any makeup.
This is also very portable and compact for travelling and taking on the go. You are able to easily reapply both makeup AND sunscreen with a single cushion compact which is very convenient for more hot and humid climates. This helps solve the dilemma most women have with not wanting to top up sunscreen over makeup.
Downside of cushion compacts
Despite the ease and convenience of using cushion compacts, the cushion itself can only carry so much liquid within it and will not last as long as a regular bottle of liquid foundation or BB cream. Some cushions dry out faster than others making it harder to press product out of it. Moreover, the cost of some high-end cushions may seem like it’s not worth the value for a product that can only last a few months. However, most Korean brands provide a free refill which does make it slightly more worth it – 30g in total. Also, once you have the compact case, you can just buy the refills which work out cheaper.
Korean base makeup doesn’t normally come in a wide range of shades and cushions are no exception. There are usually between 2-5 shades to choose from so if you’re darker or more tanned than the average Korean person than it’s likely you’ll struggle to find the right match.
Those who like full and heavy coverage in their base makeup might not suit cushion compacts. As their consistency is thinner, the majority of them offer medium coverage at most (a couple have high coverage). Though some cushions are foundations, I find their coverage to be more similar to BB creams. However, Korean beauty companies are constantly innovating and new cushions are regularly released into the market so there are more higher coverage ones appearing to cater to those that prefer it.
Many cushions help create a dewy look so you need to be aware that some might be overly so. Some, when applied on the face, don’t dry down completely and thus leave a tacky feeling and can transfer easily. This disappears if you apply a finishing powder, but then you may lose the dewy look. Korean brands over the past year have come out with more matte or semi-dewy finishes so it shouldn’t be a problem if you research your cushion well.
Popular cushion brands:
I’ve only mentioned a few of the most popular cushions from a handful of the most well known Korean brands but there is a far more extensive list of cushions. Usually a brand will have a cushion that is more for dry skin/winter season and another cushion for normal-combo skin/summer season.
SULWHASOO (high end)
- Evenflair Perfecting Cushion
- Perfecting Cushion Brightening
- Age Reverse Cushion
- UV Mist Cushion
- UV Mist Cushion Ultra Moisture
- UV Mist Cushion Long Stay Matte
- Air Cushion XP
- Air Cushion XP Matte Finish
- BB Cushion
- BB Cushion Pore Control
- BB Cushion Anti-Ageing
- Long Wear Cushion
- Ampoule Intense Cushion
- Water Glow Cushion
- M Magic Cushion
- M Magic Moisture Cushion
ETUDE HOUSE (low-end)
- Precious Mineral Any Cushion
- Precious Mineral Any Cushion Pearl Aura
- Precious Mineral Moist Any Cushion
- Precious Mineral Pearl Bright Any Cushion (pink, mint, peach)
The cushion concept is so popular it has now spread to other types of makeup and you can find cushion blushers, highlighters, concealers, eyeliners etc.
Top left to right: Iope Cushion Blusher, Laneige Cushion Highlighter
Bottom left to right: Laneige Watery Cushion Concealer, Banila Co. Cushion Gel Eyeliner, Peripera Cushion Blusher
My view on cushions
I love cushion compacts! I rarely use foundation or even other BB creams since I discovered them. I like that these comprise a formula consisting of foundation, sunscreen and skincare. I prefer wearing these on a day to day basis because it’s a nice light and natural coverage, doesn’t feel heavy and I feel my skin is able to breathe and stay hydrated. My skin doesn’t have much blemishes and my main problem is just correcting my uneven skin tone and redness. Cushion compacts are able to solve this problem without making me feel caked up and I like the dewy/ semi-matte finish it gives me.
I can now apply my makeup in less than half the time & without getting my hands messy, which is truly the best thing about it and I do get quite a sense of enjoyment when patting this on my face. It’s actually quite fun.
Where to buy:
Finally, if you’d like to purchase your own cushion compact, check out IBBI. I highly recommend them. Other than in Korea, I get most of mine online from here. They have an extensive range of all the most popular cushions for the best price and they usually stock newly released cushions in Korea, fairly quickly.