Cushion compacts are the next big beauty innovation out of South Korea! But what are they, exactly, and what makes them different? How do you use cushion compacts? Once I tell you all about cushion compacts, don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to purchase one! That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the best cushion compacts, so you can decide for yourself which one to buy.
For those of us in the West, it usually takes a few years before we catch on to Asian beauty trends – sometimes, by the time we learn about them, the South Koreans have already forgotten! Only half of this is true for cushion compacts.
While they have been around in South Korea since 2008, and we’ve only learned about them recently, they are still just as popular there as they were at the start. In fact, one of the first brands to make cushion compacts, IOPE, boasts of the fact that since they launched the product, on average they have been selling a cushion compact every 6 seconds.
What Are Cushion Compacts?
At first glance, cushion compacts look like fatter pressed powder compacts. However, instead of powder, they contain a cushion saturated with BB cream, CC cream, or foundation. On top of that there is another sponge for the product application. Unlike the cheap and useless applicator sponges that usually come with compact foundations and pressed powders, the applicator sponges in the cushion compacts are excellent quality, anti-bacterial(!!!) and easy to use.
Thanks to the makeup-saturated cushion, the foundation is aerated, so the application can be much lighter, smoother, and more natural looking. The compact container is much more purse-friendly, as well – there is no risk of foundation spilling everywhere. Applying from the compact is much easier to do on the go, which is another benefit.
For the eco conscious types, another huge benefit is that cushion compact foundations create a lot less waste! Instead of buying a whole new container when you run out, you can buy a sponge refill. It’s much more environmentally friendly.
Another thing worth knowing is that cushion compact containers are air-tight so you don’t have to worry about the product drying out. Couple that with an anti-bacterial sponge, and you can rest assured that your cushion foundation is super clean, and not likely to spoil or transfer bacteria to your skin.
Speaking of BBs
A quick reminder: alphabet creams are a magical combination of skincare and makeup. BB & CC creams provide anywhere from light to medium coverage, and they often contain a plethora of excellent skincare ingredients to hydrate and protect the skin. Normally the specific cream used in cushion foundations also contains a buttload of sunscreen (my favorite anti-aging ingredient), making them a 3-in-one product.
How to Use Cushion Compact Foundations?
• Always start your makeup routine with gently cleansed skin. If your skin is on the oily side, you might be able to skip moisturizer, since cushion compact foundations tend to have exceptional hydrating properties.
• Most companies recommend applying their cushion cream specifically with the special applicator sponge, seeing as it was specifically crafted to go with the light, dewy formula of the cushion compact foundation.
• If you’re a huge fan of a specific brush, or the beauty blender, I don’t see a reason why you should feel restricted.
• Whatever applicator you choose, simply lift the lid covering the cushion, and press that applicator into it. Since the product in the cushion compact is both skincare and makeup, there is no reason not to apply it all over the skin.
• Start at the center of your face, and gently blend the product outwards. Make sure to use downward motions, as to not disturb the tiny, invisible hairs that grow on your face.
• For harder to reach areas, like the sides of the nose and underneath the eyes, simply fold the sponge in half or bend it around your finger, so it fits into the creases more easily.
• Once you’ve finished applying the first layer of product, you can add another swoop of cushion compact foundation over the specific areas that require more coverage, like any blemishes, red spots, or dark under eyes. If you need a fuller coverage, you can also go over those spots with your favorite concealer.
• You can leave it at that if you like a really dewy finish, but if you want your makeup to last longer, or look more matte, set your makeup with a translucent powder. If you want a touch more coverage, use a powder foundation instead.
Choosing the Right Cushion Compact
Unlike most other foundations and alphabet creams on the market, the selection of cushion compact foundations available is relatively small. Despite that, I managed to compile a list of some of the best cushion compacts on the market, along with a review that should make choosing the right cushion compact foundation a total breeze.
There are three important things to keep in mind when searching for the perfect cushion compact:
Skin Type: If your pores are on the larger side, and your skin becomes oily not long after you’ve washed your face, then you have an oily skin type. On the other hand, if your pores are nearly invisible, and your skin stays dry, then you have a dry skin type. Many people fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, or they might have a combination skin type where some parts of their face are oily while others are dry.
While most cushion compacts are made for normal and dry skin types, there are also some matte and semi-matte options. As you read through my list of the best cushion compact foundations, I’ll let you know what the finish of the cushion compact foundation is, as well as which skin type it is recommended for.
Many oily skin types can actually get away with using a more dewy cushion compact foundation, as long as they skip moisturizer and set everything with a mattifying powder.
Skin Tone: Unfortunately, most cushion compacts are only available in 3-5 shades. Since the coverage is normally lighter, one shade would fit a larger spectrum of skin tones.
However, those with darker skin or the extremely pale won’t be able to find a match for their skin from most brands. Some brands, especially Western ones, make their cushion compacts in larger color varieties, which I think is definitely worth commending!
Coverage Level: Cushion compact foundations are made to be light and airy. If you like flawless high coverage, you might want to look elsewhere, since cushion compacts are made for foundation haters that want their complexion lightly perfected.
The one exception is Lancome’s Teint Idole Ultra Longwear, which can be built up to full coverage. If you do have the occasional blemish or spot that needs covering, you can always pair you cushion compact foundation with concealer.
Best Cushion Compacts For Dry and Normal Skin
1. Laneige BB Cushion SPF 50+
Laneige is one of the very first companies to introduce cushion compacts to the South Korean market, which gives it a very important place on the list. While in Asia they also have cushion compacts available for oily skin, the one sold in the West is best for dry and normal skin types.
Its coverage is very long lasting, yet light and dewy, and it provides a healthy glow to the skin. A high SPF will protect your skin from the sun very well, and a variety of plant extract cool and calm the skin.
This BB cushion compact is available in 6 different shades, including a dark shade that’s suitable for many women of color – certainly a rarity amongst Asian beauty brands.
2. AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact SPF 50+
Another cushion compact that’s excellent for dry and normal skin types! The coverage is light, initially, but can be built up to medium. Customers rave about how smooth and healthy it makes their skin appear, and they love how lightweight it feels on the skin.
The formula features skin-brightening arbutin, and hydrating Japanese timber bamboo juice, as well as a commendably high SPF. Immediate upon application, the skin feels soothed and cooled.
This CC cushion compact is available 5 different shades, that are named based on how light or dark they are, as well as by their undertone, which should make buying the correct shade a breeze.
3. Pur Cosmetics Air Perfection Cushion Foundation SPF 50
This is a favorite Western cushion compact for dry, mature, and sensitive skin types! Personally, I am thrilled that the sun protection in this product comes strictly from mineral sunscreen ingredients, since chemical sunscreens have a higher chance of irritating the skin.
The texture is light as air, and the coverage is light-medium. A dose of babassu oil makes for a creamy, emollient cushion foundation that is great if your skin is dry, but oily skin types will want to stay away. There’s also a heavy dose of niacinamide, an incredible anti-aging ingredient.
While this formula is not likely to cause breakouts, it might make your skin look very greasy after a few hours of wear. The finish is dewy and luminous, and yet the product tends to stay put on the skin for a long time.
This cushion compact foundation is available from Ulta in 4 different shades.
4. It Cosmetics CC+ Veil Beauty Fluid Foundation SPF 50
The first American cushion compact offering is definitely a godsend for those with dry and mature skin! It has medium buildable coverage that is especially excellent for concealing redness, and a dewy finish that will give your skin a healthy glow.
A collection of skin healing oils and anti-aging vitamins will also help strengthen your skin over time, making it look younger and fresher. This formula is easy to blend, and won’t settle fine lines.
It Cosmetics really proved here that when you focus on making a product specifically for one skin type, you can really excel and create something incredible. This formula is available in 5 shades, from Ulta.
5. Physician’s Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free All-in-1 ABC Cushion Foundation SPF 50
For the most part, drugstore cosmetic brands haven’t jumped on the cushion compact trend yet (I won’t name the French company that tried but didn’t do a great job), but Physician’s Formula was brave enough to try, and boy did they knock it out of the park.
The formula is firming and hydrating, and well loved by all skin types – especially highly reactive acne-prone and sensitive skin types. The finish is luminous and slightly dewy, so oily skin types should skip moisturizing.
The coverage, like with most cushion compacts, is quite light. The only drawback is the color selection. I wish this cushion compact that sells at Ulta were available in more than 3 colors.
Best Cushion Compacts for Combination and Oily Skin Types
1. Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion Foundation Compact SPF 50+
This cushion compact breaks the mold a little bit, especially compared to other Asian cushion companies. What makes it stand out is a more foundation-esque formula.
The coverage is heavier than most cushion compacts, and the finish is less dewy than normal, although I would not go so far as to say mattifying. This cushion foundation would be best for normal and combination skin types.
This cushion compact has a strong herbal scent, thanks to a bouquet of Asian plant extracts that have a variety of anti-aging and skin soothing capabilities. It’s worth mention that Sulwhasoo also offer a Brightening Cushion compact, which is a lot more similar to the other Asian cushion compacts on this list.
The Perfecting Cushion Compact is available in 3 different shades, at Nordstrom.
2. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Cushion Foundation SPF 50
This is our first Western cushion compact foundation entry, and boy is it a good one. It might be a reflection on Western standards of beauty, because this product is hella buildable – you can achieve a full coverage with this foundation.
Instead of a sponge, the foundation here is suspended in a cushion made of a network of fibers, which is why Lancome was able to make the foundation more pigmented than its Asian counterparts. Despite the high coverage, this cushion compact is still really blendable, and feels very lightweight on the skin.
The formula is moisturizing, but has a matte finish, making it very long lasting, and excellent for all but the extremely dry skin types. If you like the portability of a cushion compact, but want a Western-style foundation, then this is the way to go.
The selection of colors is highly impressive, with 14 shades available, and 4 more soon to come.
Best Cushion Compacts for All Skin Types
1. Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Perfect Skin Cushion SPF 50
Dior’s cushion compact attempt strikes a balance between East and West. The formula has a light-medium coverage, a semi-matte yet luminous finish, and some really lovely ingredients.
To target fines lines, sallowness, and pigmentation, Dior included the extracts of Opilia and Longoza, two highly nutritious plants that grow in their garden. The dedication to great skincare ingredients doesn’t stop here, since the SPF 50 is sure to protect you from sun exposure, which causes premature aging. This formula is available in 3 shades.
2. Clinique Super City Block BB Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Clinique has made a cushion compact foundation that is a real contender against the South Korean offerings. It has a lovely natural finish, that is not too matte, nor too dewy, and a coverage that can be built up to medium.
What’s incredible about this product is that seemingly all skin types, including the extremely sensitive, seem to love it! It keeps oily skin from becoming greasy, but it doesn’t catch on dry patches. It just evens out the skin tone, and blends into invisibility.
Its formula is quite nourishing, with a lovely selection of antioxidants. If you want to introduce a friend to the magical world of cushion compacts, I think this is the safest compact to buy as a gift. This cushion compact is available in 4 shades.
3. Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Cushion Compact SPF 35
I always give a brand that releases their foundation type products in a lot of colors extra bonus points. Women with light to medium skin normally have no problem finding a color match, but anyone that falls outside that range has a lot fewer options.
Bobbi Brown gets credit here for making an excellent cushion compact foundation, with colors available for almost all women! The coverage is light, yet buildable, and the finish is semi-matte. While it’s normally recommended for those with normal and oily skin types, even dry skin types find that it makes their skin look fantastic!
The formula contains lychee extract and caffeine, which brighten the skin and provide antioxidant protection. With 9 colors available, this definitely deserved a place on the best cushion compacts list!
Do you dig the cushion compact trend, or do you prefer higher coverage foundations? Do you have a favorite cushion compact foundation? Comment, and let us know!
Photos courtesy of @diormakeup, @mrbobbibrownpro