A good foundation can easily make or break your look. It’s in the name!
Most people think that symmetric, winged eyeliner or perhaps contouring is the hardest part of a makeup routine, but getting the foundation layer right is detrimental to your finished look.
But if you’ve been perfecting your makeup routine for a long time, chances are you have a go-to brand and type of foundation and aren’t familiar with cushion foundations. That’s where we come in!
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about cushion foundations, how they can improve your makeup routine and looks, their downsides, how they’re meant to be used, and finally, some of the most popular and well-reviewed brands available online.
What Is Cushion Foundation?
A cushion foundation is a type of foundation that comes in a compact (powder box type), but instead of the pressed powder you’re used to, it has a sponge-like cushion that’s soaked in foundation. This cushion is covered with a little door where an application puff rests.
These bad boys were developed by Amorepacific in 2008 when the cosmetics giant was developing a better way to apply sunscreen. The result? A great cushion foundation that offers sun protection as well as moisturization.
Despite being particularly convenient, cushion foundations aren’t that widely known outside the Korean market. After all, this type of product has only existed for the past 15 years as opposed to the liquid type, which has been around since the ’30s!
So it only makes sense that many people don’t know about it, even though it’s generally quite the step up from conventional types of foundation.
Since this version of sponge applicators was developed, cushion foundations have taken Korea, their home country, and then the rest of the world by storm.
What Makes Cushion Foundations Great?
Cushions foundations are a genuinely great product for everyday use. They’re almost made for portability and ease of application. Liquid foundation bottles don’t stand a chance when compared to cushion foundations, particularly in those aspects.
Cushion compacts have an overall lighter weight as they contain a smaller amount of foundation (often about 15ml) and have considerably lighter packaging.
They’re also very unlikely to leak. So yes, you can breathe easy knowing that your foundation won’t explode in your bag!
Having a cushion foundation means that you have one or two less things to carry since it comes with its own air puff, and most of the time, a cushion compact also includes an adequate size mirror.
Finally, one of cushion foundations’ strongest advantages is how quick and easy its lightweight formula is to use. This makes it ideal for beginners who don’t feel comfortable using liquid foundations, situations where you’re applying your makeup in a rush, or for touch-ups while you’re out and about.
What Are Their Downsides?
While it’s a convenient product, this convenience comes at a cost. These downsides may not apply to everyone or every brand, but they could be deal breakers if you have extra-sensitive skin or need full coverage.
Concerns for Hygiene
The first and biggest concern for most people is hygiene. Unlike liquid makeup, the cushion that carries the foundation isn’t sealed away from the air and is constantly being contaminated by the application of air puff.
This means that harmful bacteria on your skin or surrounding environment can transfer to the cushion over time.
Of course, clean beauty is slowly becoming one of the core factors behind makeup products’ popularity, so major cosmetics companies are put off by how this affects their sales and customer reviews.
Longevity and Sustainability
Out of the main three types of foundation, cushion foundations last the shortest with only six months, compared to 1 year for liquid foundation and 2 years for pressured powder.
This may not be much of a problem, though, since it’s actually not good to use it for too long, given that it comes in direct contact with bacteria from your skin. So the faster you go through a cushion compact, the better.
However, the plastic packaging of cushion foundation doesn’t help its case since it’s relatively easy to break and is bad for the environment. How little time it lasts also means that you’ll be using possibly multiple compacts a year.
Some companies decided to counter that by including and selling refills with the main product, but it’s a limited improvement.
Lack of Diversity in Skin Tone Range
The cushion foundation is largely a Korean makeup favorite and is available from a lot more Asian brands than international ones. This, unfortunately, means that the shade ranges available in this type of product can be frustratingly limited.
And with sustainability and cleanliness concerns, major cosmetics companies are slowly giving up on the product, so a better range of shades isn’t in the cards for cushion compacts.
In fact, this need for cushion foundations in deep skin tones was so big that it made way for brands, such as Dr. Gio Cosmetics, to grow and even get more orders than they could fulfill!
This may be more of a feature than a bug, but it depends on how you intend to use your cushions foundation. Cushion foundations don’t offer as much coverage as liquid foundations. They do, however, offer great buildable coverage that looks stunningly natural and is perfectly capable of concealing blemishes and skin imperfections.
How Is It Different From Liquid Foundation?
A cushion foundation, as we mentioned before, is a cushion soaked in foundation. So does that mean that cushion and liquid foundations are the same things? Well, yes and no.
A cushion foundation is essentially a liquid foundation that has a slightly modified formula to work better with a cushion. It’s thinner and often has an overall different viscosity.
More importantly, cushion foundation has less pigment in it than liquid foundation. However, most of them offer buildable coverage. That means that you can layer it to go from light to medium coverage, but you probably wouldn’t get full coverage.
How to Use Cushion Foundation
Using a cushion foundation is super straightforward and barely requires any makeup experience to get a smooth and dewy finish.
- Press the puff gently against the cushion to soak up a thin layer of foundation. Don’t try to get more coverage by grabbing too much liquid on the puff because that will just result in uneven texture.
- When applying a fresh layer to your skin, do quick pats instead of strokes to keep the puff clean and prevent uneven texture.
- Cover whole sections of your face first instead of focusing on narrow areas to make sure you have a seamless finish. Once you get the right amount of coverage, start blending it with the puff or other blending tools you prefer.
- Since cushion foundations with matte finish tend to set in super quickly, section your face into two or four parts when applying to get the most even texture possible.
- Shape the cushion foundation puff with your fingers to get into difficult angles, such as around the nose.
- Clean the puff regularly to make sure you’re getting a clean and even application.
Best Cushion Foundations
Here’s a list of the most popular and highly-reviewed cushion foundation brands available today.
All of these cushion compact foundations pack great skincare ingredients, including UV protection, moisturization, anti-aging ingredients, and more.
1. Best Overall: AMOREPACIFIC Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+
From the creators of the cushion compact foundation themselves, the AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact foundation is a crowd favorite.
AmorePacficic’s formula is perfect for sensitive skin since it has powerful skincare ingredients. Their potent foundation formula contains botanical extracts, including green tea plant extract, bearberry extract, and antioxidants that keep your skin hydrated and youthful.
This cushion compact is among the most expensive on the market, and that’s not for no reason. AmorePacific has an entire research department dedicated to its cushions alone! They’re also a cruelty-free, environmentally-conscious cosmetics company.
It offers a truly luxurious experience with its unique anti-bacterial fine sponge and breathable formula. You also get a refill with your purchase.
According to this product’s reviews, most people with oily skin found that it doesn’t stay for very long, so it may be better suited for dry skin type.
2. Best Budget Option: MISSHA M Magic Cushion Foundation
One of the most popular cushion compacts available online is the MISSHA Magic Cushion Foundation. It’s also the cheapest on this list, making it a great option to test this product type before investing in the higher-end stuff.
One downside of this product is that it only has two shades, so it’s not suitable for most skin tones. It is, however, suitable for oily and combination skin types. Its formula contains silica, which helps absorb sweat and keep your face looking fresh and crease-free for longer.
According to most online reviews, it accentuates dry patches on your skin, so you may want to apply moisturizer before you use it, especially if you have dry skin.
Unfortunately, the MISSHA brand isn’t cruelty-free, according to Cruelty-Free Kitty.
3. Best Shade Ranges: Em Cosmetics Daydream Cushion Foundation SPF
The Em Cosmetics Daydream Cushion Foundation SPF wins the shade game by a landslide, being one of the rare lines that offer shades for just about every skin tone out there.
It packs some great ingredients for moisturization and protection, such as green tea extract, rice water, green papaya, and goji berry extracts. It also offers sun protection with broad spectrum SPF 50.
The best part? Em Cosmetics is a completely cruelty-free brand.
The list of products above is far from the only good options available in the US. There are dozens of great cushion foundations worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for a different finish, UV protection, or other features.
- Clio Kill Cover Fixer Cushion: This cushion compact offers a long-lasting matte finish and is perfect for combination and oily skin.
- Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion: Sulwhasoo is a cosmetics giant in South Korea, and their Perfecting Cushion is the best proof. This foundation has a thick formula that blurs pores and skin imperfections.
- Dr. Althea Swing Mirror Cushion: This nifty compact has a twist-open compartment that has two shades of color for lips and cheeks, giving you an all-in-one solution for a flawless look while you’re on the go.
Cool Cushion Foundation Makeup Products
While this type of product hasn’t been around for very long, some companies have already started innovating some great applications for this mechanism.
These aren’t the only new products on the market; cushion blush, lip balm, and even eyebrow tools. They’re practical and portable and make great gifts for beauty lovers.
Here are the most highly-reviewed ones we’ve found so far:
- Maybelline New York Age Rewind Concealer: The only problem you’ll face with this concealer is that it’ll run out on you when you need it. Otherwise, it’s perfect; you’ve got a choice for pretty much every skin tone out there, it’s moisturizing, it lasts all day, and it has very good coverage. What’s not to like?
- Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour and Highlighter Wands: This awesome product makes contouring so effortless. All you have to do is use the sculpting wand (the dark shade) to shade the angles, then the highlighter on your cheeks, nose, and chin for a radiant finish.
Cushion foundations are a handy type of foundation that has been gaining popularity since they emerged in South Korea 15 years ago. It’s very close to a liquid foundation but has a lightweight formula that allows for easier use through a sponge.
There are loads of (mostly Korean) brands that make cushion compacts, and most of them do a decent job at it. Almost all of them offer UV protection of SPF 50 and above, and a lot of them are infused with plant extracts that moisturize and protect the skin.
However, there are some downsides to cushion compacts. For example, they don’t last half as long as liquid foundations, and even if they do, using them for that long wouldn’t be very hygienic. Most brands don’t offer a very good variety of shades and only have light to medium coverage.
Nonetheless, this product is superior because of its natural finish and dewy consistency. Some new makeup products that use the cushion applicator are also being created, which are very popular among women.