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Some Thoughts on Korean Air Cushion Foundation Compacts

Some Thoughts on Korean Air Cushion Foundation Compacts

I‘ve been playing around with Korean cushion foundation compacts for the past year or so, and I’ve come to the conclusion that (1) they’re very travel-friendly, (2) they’re brilliant for touch-ups but very unsanitary, and (3) Korean cosmetics companies have their marketing strategy down pat!

Koreans didn’t invent BB creams (the Germans did) and they certainly did not invent cushion foundation compacts. Does anyone else remember Almay’s Nearly Naked Touch-Pad line that was around nearly 15 years ago?

Almay Nearly Naked Touch-Pad

The Nearly Naked Touch-Pad was essentially identical. It was a round liquid makeup-soaked sponge packaged in a simple, mirrorless clear compact — you use your own tool to apply. The line-up had a foundation, blush, and bronzer, and it disappeared off the market rather quickly as the people absolutely hated the sponge (a.k.a. “cushion”) concept and the oily ultra glowy finish. Anyway, fast forward more than a decade and the concept is resurfaced by AmourPacific with resounding success, albeit slightly reinvented — the aesthetically pleasing mirrored compact and included puff applicator make the whole concept much easier to embrace! (Actually, adding a mirrored compact isn’t an entirely new idea either! Stila Pivotal Skin Liquid Makeup SPF8 — released more than a decade ago — housed their foundation-soaked sponge in a round mirrored compact that looks almost identical to these “new” cushion foundations!)

Some Thoughts on Korean Air Cushion Foundation Compacts (Laneige opened)

I have a love-hate relationship these Korean cushion foundation compacts. I find they’re indispensable as they’re so user-friendly and great for tossing in the bag to touch-up (or apply) SPF and makeup while on-the-go — no caps to twist open, no brush needed, no dirty fingers. IOPE Air Cushion XP Cover (in shade C23) and Laneige BB Cushion Pore Control (in shade 21) are the ones I reach for the most as they give my combination-slightly dry skin a “lit from within” kind of finish without settling into any pores or creases as the day goes on. What I have noticed, though, is that they lack longevity. Priming with a mattifying base and setting it with powder are a bit of a necessity, otherwise, the glowy finish just look like greasy skin after a few hours. The both claim that they’re water, sweat, and sebum-resistant — none of this is true in the slightest! They also feel much heavier on the skin than regular BB and CC.

I just can’t get over how incredibly unsanitary the whole concept is. As the puff applicator cannot dry completely between use when stored in the dark, closed space of the compact, it’s a perfect breeding ground for bacteria! Dipping it into the foundation-soaked sponge and applying it on your (unclean) face, then repeat the process over and over… just the thought of it gives me the shudders! Why some people find it gross to use fingers to scoop out moisturiser, but has no qualms repeatedly dipping a dirty puff into the sponge is quite frankly beyond me. (You can wash the puff, but it’s impossible to sanitise the foundation-soaked sponge!) I know I don’t have to use the included puff, but if I had to use fingers or my own tool to apply then I wouldn’t bother with these cushion compacts, period. (Daiso Puff & Sponge Detergent I featured in my Best Pick review is brilliant for cleaning the puff and BeautyBlender. It removes every trace!)

Some Thoughts on Korean Air Cushion Foundation Compacts (sponges)
Quality control issue, the cushion sponge deflated and disintegrated after using it just twice even though it was no where near the expiration date!

To be honest, I’m quite glad Japan hasn’t jump on board of the cushion foundation compact train! The Korean ones that are popular worldwide failed to make much impact in Japan beyond Koreatown — Korean makeup trend of fair, dewy glowing skin goes against Japanese women’s preference for ultra-natural, baby-like skin. The small handful of cushions released by Japanese brands didn’t fare better either — they suffered abysmal sales! It seems that Japanese women in general echo my sentiments — interesting concept, but ultimately a passing beauty fad. Essentially, they’re just moisturising sheer liquid foundation in a convenient but unsanitary delivery system.

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24 Comments on Some Thoughts on Korean Air Cushion Foundation Compacts

  1. I’m super curious though, what do the Japanese ladies use to create the ultra natural baby skin?

    • Regular foundations are still the most popular (Powder is 2nd best selling formula after liquid). The main focus of a lot of Japanese foundations is covering imperfect skin texture (e.g. visible pores). A lot of them have light but buildable coverage with a semi-matte finish.

      • Ah gotcha! I’ve been having problems with the cushions because I have pitted scarring from acne and found that they actually make my scars look worse.

        • Hi Nina, same here. I have pitted scarring too and I bought the ihope? <— spelling?) cushion and it totally make them stand out more. It sucks that no one in the beauty industry caters to our skin issues

  2. Some sale staff told me that the sponge is actually part of the tool of creating that dewy Korean skin look. They said if you use the cushion compact with any other vehicle (brush, fingers..etc.), the finish won’t come out the same way. I don’t wear foundation everyday so for me, any there could be a chance that I won’t use the compact in over a week’s time. And it freaks me out thinking what bacteria can be brewing in there while the lid is closed. I haven’t jump on this trend either and certainly don’t plan to.

    Funny how people get so defensive about…foundations? (saw your Twitter feed)

    • I’m not sure why Korean pop culture in particular seem to attract so many rabid fans, whether be it K-pop or Korean beauty. Between traffic send over by Korean blogs and Asianbeauty subreddit, I got bombarded with hate mails! Still better than my friend who blogs… he got death threats (!) because he said K-pop idols in general can’t sing!

      • Oh my god, are you serious?! Death threats? Hate mails? Is that really necessary? Jesus… I think the Koreans think that all Japanese are jealous by their “power” (economical and technological) and popularity in the world these days. After all, Japan used to be just that back in the 90’s. But still, making personal attacks are totally uncalled for, extremely tasteless and ill mannered!

        • Really? Your comment is repulsive. Yeah its wrong to make threats to people but are you any better when your basically trash talking Koreans? Why can’t people just respect the positive and negative of both sides. Im not Korean nor Japanese so I am not biased toward either and I think the threat part is horrible but to make an assumption like that based on a few bloggers for a whole country of people isn’t right either. I get that this was like 2 months ago but seriously its infuriating to see people just state really thoughtless opinions like that.

      • I don’t think “cushions” are that innovative anyway.. I mean, we’ve been having makeup sponges around for YEARS. It’s just this time it’s shaped like a puff and stored inside the compact. How is that different to owning a foundation and a beautyblender?
        Personally, I’m not interested in cushions since I don’t think I can use the product until the very last drop. Perfect for touch ups and travel friendly, yes, but not worth the hassle for me.

        I feel bad for the hate mail, and for your friend 🙁 I’m speechless here.

  3. You can buy puffs and cushions separately, which makes it more sanitary. A pack of puffs are really really cheap, too. Is there any literature suggesting that bacteria grows on these cushions? I would think the preservatives would keep that from happening. The cushions are as sanitary as you want them to be, you just have to switch out the puff (and/or wash them) frequently.

    I consider a cushion more of a tool than makeup. I can’t get the perfect coverage (imo) I get with my cushion, with anything else.

    • Base on my experience, the puff applicator looks and feels damp after use. Storing that in the compact breeds bacteria (as most people know, damp, dark, closed space is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria). If you’re using the puff to touch-up during the day, it’ll also pick up some of the sebum, grime, bacteria, etc. on your face.

      The puff is supposedly antibacterial as it is treated with silver ion+, but like I said to twocatsinjapan below, that claim is not recognised or legal on labelling worldwide.

      I wash brushes for liquid/cream and Beautyblender after every use, and I wash my hands before dipping my fingers in jars. I personally don’t feel comfortable reusing a puff without washing it first.

  4. I actually bought a few cushion and on my first time, it was quite nasty cause the puff was so dirty. I researched more into it and theres a puff called Skinria dust remover cushion puff that doesn’t absorb the product and can be wiped off with a tissue to be cleaned. It’s so much more sanitary buying continuously using the same puff that comes with the packaging. 🙂

      • I actually really wanted to try but I was unable to order it on Gmarket because it didnt ship to my county (US). I think Rakuten sells the product as well but the product also doesn’t ship to my country. If you have the chance to try please tell me how it pans out.

  5. I couldn`t agree more. I mean it`s just plain common sense, those cushions are just cesspools for bacteria. Now Lancome`s gotten on the bandwagon, too. Anything to make a buck, I guess. Last month I was flying from Kansai Airport and they had a whole new section for Korean cosmetics. I picked up one of these foundation cushions, Laneige, I think, and the damn thing looked and smelled so awful I can`t imagine who`d be stupid enough to shell out hard earned yen on this trash.

  6. Not quite what I see in ShinOkubo where the stores do such brisk business they can’t keep the most popular shades in stock. From what I see, it’s Japanese women who buy them.
    And for what it’s worth, Amore Pacific claims that its applicators are bacteria resistant. Reading up on the Rubycell technology (of Japanese origin, no less) that is indeed true. So while I agree that the whole concept is unsanitary, it might not be as bad as we think. To address that some brands from LG now feature a metal plate with the foundation being squeezed onto the plate. Which while cool, kind of defeats the whole idea of a cushion.

    • Shin-Okubo is Japan’s biggest Koreantown, so those who are into Korean pop culture will naturally flock there. Elsewhere in Japan, tells a a different story.

      Their anti-bacterial claim holds no ground outside of Asia though as it is not recognised internationally though. Canada, for example, doesn’t permit such claim on labelling — that goes for all porous materials treated with silver ion+.

      • I’m not into Korean pop culture and neither are the women I know, yet they own cushions (purchased in Korea, as they complained Japan hasn’t made a product of comparable quality).
        Also, Etude House magic any cushion (or whatever the name) seems to be an “underground hit” among high school girls, who love it precisely for the very reasons you stated. But that might be the Kpop influence in that particular demographic.
        What is disappointing in your blog post is that you make sweeping generalizations about “Japanese women” and the situation is simply not as clear as you present it.
        Also, how much of the cushion foundation were you putting on your face that it felt heavier than regular BB or CC cream??? That is the most common complaint of Western women who are used to bulletproof layers of foundation on the face and don’t realize that with cushions a little goes a long way.

        • Yes, I made a generalisation… hence the clear “in general” in the paragraph. There’re many who follow or pay attention or Korean beauty trend, but that is simply not the general market trend in Japan shown in mainstream fashion magazines, marketing reports, new beauty releases, and consumer surveys/polls. Japan embraced the BB trend with open arms — it’s been a couple of years already but that hasn’t happened yet with the cushions. We can agree to disagree…

          All 4 cushion foundations I have tried all felt sticky and much heavier than the Korean BB creams I have tried (and still using). I dip half the puff applicator into the sponge twice, once for each side of the face (same way demonstrated on the Get It Beauty show).

  7. I completely agree with you and that’s the reason why I haven’t even thought about getting one even to review. Thanks for researching and sharing your honest opinion. I very much enjoy following you. XO’s Eli.

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