Beauty Files: All you need to know about cushion foundations

Dec 19 2017, 8:24 pm

A couple of years ago, we all went gaga over BB creams, the Korean import that’s now a mainstay of many women’s makeup collections. Now, it’s the turn of the cushion compact.

What it is

A compact that contains a sponge (the ‘cushion’) soaked in liquid foundation or BB/CC cream. Press down on the cushion with a puff to release a small amount of product, which you can then dab over your face to get coverage. It means you get the dewy, flawless coverage of a liquid foundation, but in portable form so you don’t need to lug a bottle around with you and risk it breaking all over the inside of your bag. “The formulations also do not dry out easily, which allows better play time to blend the foundation upon skin,” says makeup artist Larry Yeo. “Cushion foundations work amazingly well in drier climates, because you do not need a powder to set them. Most formulations also give a natural skin-like glow.”

Where it comes from

Stila was the first brand to come up with a cushion foundation – its Sport Color was launched in 2002. But the US brand couldn’t make it a sales success, and the product was discontinued in 2010. A couple of years after that, Korean brand Iope launched its Air Cushion, which really popularised the category. Fast forward to 2016 and they’re everywhere, with Korean brands continuing to dominate the category. The latest trend in Asia is for ’empty’ cushions that you can customize with your own foundation, though, says Yeo: “I think this is nonsense. Not all liquid foundations can fit into a cushion compact – the viscosity affects how well it stays in the cushion, and some aren’t suitable for the format because of the ingredients’ stability.”

How to customize your coverage

Generally, using the puff to sweep the product on gives a sheer finish, while dabbing it gives more coverage. You can add more layers to get higher coverage without looking caked in makeup. To take it to the next level, use a brush. For a flawless finish, Yeo recommends 13Rushes’ Angled Flat Foundation Brush ($22.40, available at “The angle allows better and smoother application,” he says. If you like a translucent finish, he suggests MyKitCo’s My Flawless Foundation Domed brush ($38.33, available at “Lightly dab the brush onto the cushion and buff the product in. The shape of the brush allows foundation to be layered on to give you better coverage.” To add extra coverage in specific areas, he recommends M.A.C’s #193 Angled Foundation Brush ($42, at M.A.C stores and, a slim, slanted brush so you can get precise application.

Who it’s for and how long they last

Cushion products don’t suit every skin type. If you have oily skin or large pores, Yeo says you should give them a miss. “A cushion foundation can rarely be as oil-controlling, matte finishing or even as long-wearing as one in traditional packaging because it has to stay moist in the sponge or you’ll risk patchy makeup.” Most products will last up to three months with daily use, and if the compact is refillable, you can flip over the cushion to get another few weeks’ use out of the product. Cushion products usually offer sun protection, but Health Canada’s guidelines are stricter than other countries’, so you won’t see SPF claims on labels here.

Now, cushion products have reached Canada, at every price point. More brands, including Bobbi Brown, Clinique, YSL, Shu Uemura and Biotherm, have launched in Southeast Asia, and there are also cushion eyeliners from Stila, a primer from Lancôme and blusher from THEFACESHOP. Here are six compacts to try, and what they’re good for.

For anti-ageing: AMOREPACIFIC Color Control Cushion Compact

cushion foundation

Image: Amorepacific

$72 – available at Sephora (in stores and online) and Nordstrom

This is one of the most established products on the market and is made by Korean brand AMOREPACIFIC. Instead of water, it contains bamboo sap, which is rich in antioxidants and amino acids, and delivers extra hydration. There’s also green tea powder, which supposedly fills in lines so they look less prominent while you’re wearing the product. It comes in four shades. Each pack comes with a compact and an extra refill cushion, but refills can’t be purchased separately.

For brightening: Lancôme Miracle Cushion

Image: Lancôme

Image: Lancôme

$49 – available at Lancôme (at counters and online)

Lancôme’s was the first cushion product to be developed by a brand outside Asia. The formulation has pine needle extract, which is said to reduce pigmentation for a more even complexion. There are also hydrating, smoothing and anti-wrinkle ingredients, and the product cools skin on application so it’s great for summer. It comes in an impressive 18 shades and you can buy separate refills at $40 each.

For a dewy look: Laneige BB Cushion

cushion compact

Image: Laneige

$44 – available at Sephora (in stores and online)

Korean brand Laneige is owned by AMOREPACIFIC and arrived in Canada late last year. Its speciality? Moisture – all products contain a special kind of mineral water that can supposedly hydrate skin faster and better than regular H2O. That leads to a dewy, glowing complexion. The product also contains ingredients to tackle pigmentation. It comes in four shades and each pack contains a compact plus extra refill cushion, though refills can’t be bought separately.

For every budget: L’Oreal Paris True Match Lumi Cushion

cushion compact

Image: L’Oreal

$24.99 – available at drugstores and mass market retailers

This is designed to give luminous medium coverage and high hydration. It’s around $20 cheaper than similar products, though it’s worth noting that it doesn’t come with an additional refill and cannot be refilled. It comes in eight shades.

For darker skintones: M.A.C Matchmaster

cushion compact

Image: M.A.C

$43 – available at M.A.C (in stores, at counters and online)

As usual, M.A.C does extremely well at catering to all different skintones. Its Matchmaster comes in 12 shades and uses the brand’s patented Shade Intelligence technology, which perfects your skin while letting its natural shade shine through so foundation doesn’t look flat or mask-like.

For longer-lasting coverage: THEFACESHOP 24 Hour Full Stay CC Cream



$39 – available at THEFACESHOP (in stores and online)

Yeo is not convinced you can get mattifying and long-lasting effects from a cushion product, but THEFACESHOP claims to have done it. This is thanks to polymers that supposedly stick to skin. The formulation also contains moisturizing damask rose extract and brightening Crete sea daffodil extract. The compact has a shield to cover the cushion, which stops it drying out, and also gives more even application onto the puff.