Unless you’ve been living in a digital-less world in the last decade, the term “cushion compacts” shouldn’t sound unfamiliar to any seasoned beauty devotee.  

In fact, cushion compacts are hardly a new phenomenon – they have broken the beauty internet since its emergence back in 2008. In Korea, these genius creations from K-beauty brands make up more than 40% of the foundation market.

If you are wondering why these cushion compacts have become a huge beauty staple in every Korean beauty junkie’s beauty bag, they are essentially cushions soaked in BB cream housed inside a compact which come with a wide range of perks such as sheer finish, multiple reapplications and strong SPF.

Despite their rampant popularity in Korea and around the globe, we have so many questions – what sets them apart from foundation and BB cream? How do we clean it? Which brand should we go for?

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To help guide through the confusion in this beauty creation, we consulted renowned makeup artists May Sum and Kalam Chu on the commandments when handling this genius beauty creation.

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Always apply loose powder as a final touch up 

While cushion compacts are known for delivering a “natural glowing effect”, users shouldn’t skip the vital step of applying loose powder after using cushion compact, advised May. Seasoned beauty junkies should be fully aware of the powerful effects of loose powder in terms of longevity and oil control by now.

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Pick the right shade  

If there’s one core beauty tip we should bear in mind, it’s to always make sure your foundation shade is on point. “Most Korean brands are geared towards Asian skin tones, meaning a lot of beige with yellow undertones,” says May.

Essentially, it’s your undertone that determines which exact shade will be the best match for your skin. “I find that the shades offered by western brands often lean towards the red hue, which don’t always work on Asian complexions,” adds May.  

Noted Korean brand Sulwhasoo for example, features 5 shades which are designed to brighten your skintone with a natural fresh glow, resulting as that desired bare-face look as seen in popular Korean TV shows

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Excellent in sun protection  

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with sunscreen. First there’s the hassle of applying an extra layer before our foundation / BB cream, not to mention the irritatingly heavy and greasy texture which “suffocates” our skin under the humid climate. 

Good news: Compared to the SPF 30 offered by the BB / CC cream in the mass market, cushion compacts offer much higher levels of SPF, often up to 50. Users can now enjoy great sun protection from incredibly lightweight and non-sticky foundations.

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A touchup no-brainer

Unlike the heavy compact foundations from decades gone by, cushion compacts boast a luminous texture and buildable coverage, thanks to the airy formula and pioneering re-layering technology. “Their buildable formula prevents caking, smearing and fading, which allow easy creation of a flawless and dewy look,” remarks Kalam.

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Clean the sponge regularly

Ever since the compact exploded on the beauty scene, the pestering question has been how to keep the sponge clean. “Personally, when I use the cushions, I either go for one-off sponges or clean the sponge with water and oil cleanser after every application,” points out May. This way, you can prevent the formation of bacteria on the skin surface that may eventually cause a breakout or other skin irritations.

To keep the compact container in a hygienic state, Kalam also suggests users to use tissue paper or alcohol wipes to clean the container where the sponge is located, in order to prevent any remaining foundation from building up. 

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Do it right

Okay, cushion compacts offer plenty of perks – they cut down on makeup application time and they’re easy to touch up with. But good techniques still play a big part in achieving that “dewy coverage” that these products claim to deliver.

“Before using cushion compacts, be sure to apply a lightweight moisturiser or a primer,” says Kalam. “Press the sponge into the cushion to soak in the foundation. Instead of dragging or swiping the sponge on your skin, apply with a dapping motion all over your complexion to achieve a long-lasting effect.”

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Makeup artists’ go-to brands

Both May and Kalam highlight on the feather-like texture and flawless coverage offered by YSL Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation, one of the most-talked about (and Instagrammed) cushion compacts on the scene right now. Aside from its weightless quality, the product is also celebrated for its excellent oil control, hydrating functions and matte finish. Another plus point is its buildable nature, plus matte and luminous finish, which is perfect for a day-to-night touch up.

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Photo courtesy of Bobbi Brown

Boasting SPF50and PA+++, the Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Cushion Compact offers very high sun protection and broad-spectrum, and it also features a versatile range of six shades, which caters to the needs of those with different skin tones, says Kalam. One of the main highlights of this compact is its caffeine-containing foundation formula, which is reflected in its espresso-pod-inspired packaging. Good for de-puffing and tightening facial contours, this product acts as a great perk-up in the morning if you are feeling slightly puffy.

In terms of Korean brands, Sum shed light on the high coverage, moisturising but non-sticky perks by Belif. For Chu, Laneige’s anti-ageing and pore control formula and Hera’s ultra moisture and long stay matte formula appeals to her the most.