As a beauty editor, proud woman of color, and longtime international beauty enthusiast, I've always been drawn to non-Western products that rewrite the 'rules' of what you can expect from makeup. The Korean beauty industry has undoubtedly transformed expectations, leaning into the energy of innovation while finding smart and unique ways to share Korea's cultural heritage and knowledge with the rest of the world. Beauty trends come and go, especially on major social platforms like TikTok, which appeal to audiences of all backgrounds. Often, K-beauty is positioned as the driving force behind many of these trends. The popularity of glass skin, caramel blush, and the seven-skin method, for example, can all be credited to industry giants helmed by K-beauty moguls.
If you're ready to get your hands on a cushion foundation or two from some of the top brands in K-beauty, we recommend you keep reading. Get ready to transform your makeup routine.
What Are Cushion Foundations?
Inspired by Korean rubber-stamp pads, cushion foundations use sponges to delicately apply the lightweight foundation onto the skin. The compact is easy to transport, allows for easy application (or re-application), and creates an airbrushed look.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Charlotte Cho, co-founder of Soko Glam, about the influence of K-beauty and the popularity of cushion foundations. According to Cho, cushion foundations are trending because they offer three great benefits: hydration, protection, and flawless light-to-medium coverage. "The formula is sheer, buildable, and typically contains SPF protection, which means you can touch it up easily over your makeup and protect your skin from harmful UV rays," explains Cho. "There are many cushion foundations marketed to both men and women because of its ability to give you flawless, light coverage that effectively hides pores and hydrates your skin."
Shop Cho’s Favorite Cushion Foundations
Cho says Soko Glam's IOPE Air Cushion SPF 50+ has been her favorite cushion foundation for over 13 years. It also happens to be one of the brand's best-selling products. It offers light, airbrushed-looking coverage, goes on smoothly, and delivers an unparalleled glow. It's also a great example of why K-beauty cushion foundations are so appealing—they work well on dry, normal, and dehydrated skin types because they double down on hydration.
"All skin types can get in on the fun by trying out a blush or bronzer cushion, which borrows the convenient packaging from their predecessor, the cushion foundation," Cho says. Brands like Soko Glam are leading the charge toward diversifying the K-beauty industry by committing to curating a wider shade range as they become available in the US.
While it's not a K-beauty brand, Cho also recommends EM Cosmetics' Daydream Cushion Foundation Tinted SPF. Not only does its unique formula include skin-loving ingredients like mineral sunscreens, rice extract, and niacinamide, but it also offers a deeper shade range, something that's rare with many East Asian-based product lines. "Shade matching a cushion foundation is the same as matching a foundation stick or classic foundation bottle to your skin," Cho says. "Because cushion foundations are newer to the U.S. beauty market, their shade ranges aren't as expansive. However, brands are quickly expanding their shade offerings." As accessible as K-beauty products have become, their increased popularity has prompted a much-needed industry-wide push toward inclusivity.
Shop More K-Beauty Cushion Foundations
While many of the K-beauty cushion foundations that have taken the industry by storm have yet to land stateside, there are a few available online and in stores that have won us over, including Juńg Saem Mool Beauty, Miisha, and Sulwahsoo, to name only a few. I've scoured the internet to round up 12 cushion foundation products I can't stop gushing over. You can thank me later.