I don't want to assume anything, but I'm going to take a guess and say that if you're reading this, you probably have your foundation routine set. You know which product(s) you like, which formulations you prefer, which finishes look flattering on you, and how you like to apply your foundation. If all of the above is true, that's great—congrats! While I'm in the same boat as you, being the beauty editor that I am, I'm always exploring new and new-to-me formulas.
One type of new-to-me product that's been intriguing me? Cushion foundation. I don't know where I've been, but I'm glad I've finally discovered it. Cushion foundations originated in Korea, which also blessed us with BB creams, so you already know this product is going to be a game changer. "Cushion compacts are inspired by rubber stamps in that you use a sponge to tap lightweight hydrating foundation formulas onto the skin," explains Charlotte Cho, co-founder of Soko Glam and founder of Then I Met You. "They're convenient to carry around and great for reapplication because [they create] an airbrushed look of even, glowing skin tone." And beauty influencer and content creator Sandy Lin loves using a cushion foundation for natural, dewy skin looks, aka, the skincare-and-makeup look of the moment.
If you need more convincing, I asked the experts for their favorite things about cushion foundations, so consider these reasons below.
1. They're lightweight: "In terms of pros, a cushion foundation is more easily absorbed and tends to feel very light on the skin," celebrity makeup artist Valeria Ferreira says.
2. They're convenient: Lin says they're good to bring with you on the go for touch-ups.
3. They have buildable coverage: Cushion foundations are sheer, so they don't feel too cakey or heavy. "Another added bonus of cushion compacts is their ability to provide buildable coverage. Simply apply however many layers you're feeling that day," Cho says.
4. They have skincare properties: "A lot of cushion foundations I've used also double up as a skincare product and have ingredients that are hydrating and good for your skin," Lin says.
5. They're easy to apply: Lin adds that they're easy to apply, and you don't have to worry so much about blending.
6. They're gentle on the skin: "The formula and application process [are] so gentle on the skin," Lin says. "Even the nicest bristle brushes can be a little rough on my skin sometimes, but I don't have that issue with the sponge applicators."
7. It's beneficial for dry skin: "It is a great foundation for mature skin types, as it is extremely moisturizing and light," Ferreira says. The formulation also makes it perfect for people with dry and dehydrated skin.
How to Shop for a Cushion Foundation and How to Apply It
When it comes to shopping for a cushion foundation, it's important to note that some of the shade ranges are not extensive. This is because they're fairly new to the U.S. beauty market, but Cho says that brands are quickly expanding their shade offerings.
To find your perfect shade match, Ferreira recommends trying the product on the jawline near the neck. "As the finish is quite sheer, you will often find that a shade can cater to quite a few tones," she says. "The shades are much more adaptable than full-coverage foundations."
And as for application, there are a couple of ways to do it. Ferreira likes using her fingertips or a sponge. "You can easily work the product into the skin, achieving a flawless and ultra-natural look," she explains. "The fingers warm up the product, helping the texture to become airbrushed."
Cho recommends stippling and stamping the foundation on the face with the pre-soaked cushion. And don't forget to wash the sponge. "Although their packaging makes them a great option for a quick and simple application, you should take time and care to wash the sponge every week with an oil cleanser and water, and then air-dry before using it again," Cho says. "Although this is additional work, any makeup tools like sponges or brushes are recommended to be washed and air-dried before use."
The Best Cushion Foundations
1. EM Cosmetics Daydream Cushion Tinted SPF
This one is Lin's favorite. "It has a serum-infused formula that helps hydrate and refine skin texture. It also has UVA/UVB broad-spectrum SPF 50 PA+++," she explains. "It's lightweight, but the coverage is amazing and buildable. The applicator is in this petal/teardrop shape that makes it easy to apply all over your face but also right under your eye. I always get the most beautiful glow and dewy skin look."
2. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Cushion Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 50
The actual compact has cushion technology that dispenses just the right amount of formula for every application. It's buildable, hydrating, and long-lasting.
3. Iope Air Cushion Cover
"I love the Iope Air Cushion. They were the original innovators of the cushion compact, which is part of the AmorePacific group," Cho says.
4. Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Cushion Foundation
Here's another drugstore option that provides smooth, buildable coverage. The gentle mineral formula also minimizes any breakouts and won't irritate the skin.
5. La Mer The Luminous Lifting Cushion Foundation SPF 20 + Refill
"It's super luxurious, hydrating, and offers great coverage. The finish is velvety and flawless," Ferreira says.
6. Clé de Peau Beauté Radiant Cushion Foundation
Ferreira says this foundation has great quality and leaves a lovely finish on the skin, making it look fresh and healthy.
7. Maybelline Dream Cushion Fresh Face Liquid Foundation
If you're looking for a drugstore option, this is it. The coverage is a buildable medium-to-full finish. One reviewer wrote, "I had tried to find something to kind of help cover up my rosacea and nothing else works as good as this does! You can't tell I have rosacea at all. And you can't tell I have foundation on. It's not too powdery and it's not too flakey or too shiny or oily. It's long-lasting, too."
8. Chantecaille Future Skin Cushion Skincare Foundation
Because this foundation is water-based, it's so refreshing, lightweight, and easy to apply. It also contains antipollution skincare ingredients for protection.
9. AmorePacific Color Control Cushion Compact Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Weightless coverage? Check. SPF protection? Check. Brightens and moisturizes? Check. What more can you ask for with this cushion foundation?
10. Estée Lauder Double Wear Cushion BB Foundation Compact SPF 50
This one has staying power—it won't budge for up to eight hours. It's also a BB formula if you prefer that instead of a traditional foundation.
11. Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Cushion Compact Foundation
Shiseido's cushion foundation has ActiveForce technology that adapts to the needs of your skin and self-refreshes for up to 16 hours.
12. Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion SPF 50+ Foundation
This foundation has Sulwhasoo's Slim Fit High Coverage Formula, which conceals discoloration and unevenness. It leaves a smooth and seamless finish.
13. Dior Dreamskin Fresh & Perfect Cushion Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Refill
Dior's cushion foundation can target dark spots, pores, redness, an uneven complexion, and wrinkles. It's formulated with longoza flower, which is known for its anti-aging benefits.
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Hi, everyone. I’m Sarah! I was born and raised in Los Angeles, spent 12 years going to school and working in New York City (got my BA in journalism from NYU), and made the move back to L.A. to work at THE/THIRTY. I’ve had 10 years of experience covering lifestyle and wellness, with editor roles at Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, and The Bump (sister site of The Knot). Most of my days are spent writing and editing stories about eating healthy, the latest wellness and self-care trends, the newest (and coolest) workouts, and the best fitness gear that will actually make you want to exercise. I love all the topics we cover at THE/THIRTY, but I especially love writing about mental health—I think that’s one of the most important topics right now and something I am passionate about (and also continuously working on myself!). As for self-care, I stick to these five things: a good workout, “me” time on the regular, a good book/podcast/playlist to unwind after a long day, naps, and decorating my apartment. When I’m not working, I love trying new restaurants with friends, listening to history and true crime podcasts, and enjoying an occasional Netflix binge.