As you can see from the post title, this isn’t going to be an overly positive post. One could say it almost doesn’t matter which cushion foundation was my first
victim choice, but it just so happened to be one that isn’t widely known:
The Donginbi Red Ginseng Radiance Cushion BB SPF 50 PA+++ in #23 Calm Beige. This compact cost me $45 and includes the case, an applicator sponge, and 2 cushion refills (at 18ml each). I bought this last year during a K-Beauty haul. I’ve been using this cushion compact on and off for the past 5 months – I’m going to use this product as a reference, but my rant is for the overall concept of cushion compacts.
Cushion compact foundation was the “it” thing from Korean beauty trends peaking probably late last year. Like all things Asian beauty, I first see the trend making waves in their local markets, then migrating to Western markets (in the original brands / form), and then Western markets adapting as their own (reincarnations under Western brands). See: BB cream, sleeping masks, gradient lips, etc.
When I first heard about liquid foundations housed inside a compact, I thought: surely there’s got to be more than a sponge soaked in foundation? There’s got to be something special about the delivery system and/or the formula? It turns out NOPE! There’s NOTHING about the sponge or the formula that makes cushion compact foundations anything unique.
Let’s dissect this. Most cushion compacts follow this format. The compact itself is fairly standard – it’s a somewhat bulky plastic case with a bottom compartment for the foundation-soaked sponge, and a top compartment lid that swings down to house the flocked sponge applicator and keeps the sponge from drying out. The sponge / “cushion” portion that is used to soak the foundation is your garden variety cleaning sponge:
Most cushion compacts are refillable with a cartridge type system, which means it’s a higher investment initially but cheaper in the long run if you decide to stick with one particular brand / system (some brands can be interchanged, I’ve learned).
The Donginbi case design is on the boring side – most brands have learned that in order to grab even MORE of your money, all they need to do is release limited edition / collaboration compact designs!
I almost bought a Gudetama cushion compact from Holika Holika when I hauled from the store earlier this year, but I knew I would only be buying it for the cute design. I mean, who buys makeup just to collect? XD 😉
I find the whole idea of having liquid foundation embedded in a sponge quite unsanitary. I don’t store the provide applicator in the compact once it’s been used – I wash it after each use and only store it in the top compartment after the cleaned sponge is dry. There’s nothing to be done with the foundation-soaked sponge since you can’t very well wash it.
I also tested the foundation using a dampened Beauty Blender type sponge (the Quo Sponge is shown) and I actually prefer that application method better – it provides a more even and smooth application. I found the one included gives a streaky finish. But imagine this, I’m bouncing a sponge onto another sponge to pick up the product – it’s so silly!
I also think the idea of a cushion compact foundation gives the impression that it’s super quick application – no, it still needs to be applied and blended just like any other foundation / BB cream.
The finish of this foundation is quite dewy, which I’ve learned is the case with most cushion type foundations. The coverage is a buildable medium and has an SPF of 50 (as with most BB creams, the SPF is fantastic). For me, this is more of a winter foundation – during the cold dry weather, it does not settle into fine lines or cling to dry patches. If you’re oily or combination skin, you’re out of luck.
You’re also out of luck if your skin tone is anything darker than NC25. Similar to BB creams, since the majority of brands offering cushion foundations originate from Korea, they mainly focus on shades ranges common to the Korean population. The #23 Calm Beige shade I got is the darkest colour this is offered (the other being #21 Bright Beige which is more pink toned). But here’s where having the Western brands pick up on this trend comes in handy. Lots of Western brands now offer cushion compact foundations, including MAC, Estee Lauder, Clinique. L’Oreal, Maybelline, etc. – their shade range offering is much wider.
Once a product reaches peak maturity level, what do brands do? Line extensions, of course! 😀 Now we have cushion blushes, cushion highlighters, cushion bronzers, cushion correctors, and even cushion eye shadows. Seriously?!!
There is NO reason why a bronzer or a highlighter or a blush needs to come soaked in a sponge! But dang, that packaging is so CUTE. 😉
I honestly don’t understand why someone felt that liquid makeup needs to be stored in a sponge? Just imagine pouring foundation into a shallow container, sticking a sponge inside. Remember those old-school damper sponge things to help secretaries count stacks of paper / money?
Just fill that with foundation instead of water! 😆
The only benefit is that a compact is slightly more portable compared to traditional foundation bottle / tube. But you can’t tell me it saves that much space:
And I’ve never had any leaking mishaps with any of my foundation bottles.
Another argument I hear often for cushion compact is that it’s so handy for the purse. Who is routinely touching up their makeup during the day with liquid foundation? Most people blot and touch up with powder.
Lastly, has anyone noticed how little product you actually get in a cushion compact? Mine was decent at 18ml per sponge (most are 15ml or less) but compare to the typical foundation amount which is 30ml. And, one can never truly use up all of product since a large portion is trapped inside the sponge (unless you’re super frugal and wring out the sponge!) At least with a bottle of foundation, you can squeeze or pump out most of the product inside. This is why brands are so “generous” in usually providing 2 sponges with every starter set of a cushion compact system.
I also found that the foundation tended to settled into the bottom of the cushion sponge fairly quickly, with the surface of the sponge nearly dry to the touch.
So I had to actually FLIP the sponge over after the tenth time I used the cushion compact. Which is as messy as you’d imagine – grab that foundation-soaked sponge with your (clean) fingers…
…and smoosh it back into place. 🙄
The cushion compact foundation trend reminds me a lot of the “airbrush makeup” trend a few years ago.
They weren’t airbrush makeup in the true sense using a compressed air gun, but rather, aerosol cans dispensing a fine mist of foundation. That sounds wonderful, right? But it wasn’t like you sprayed it onto your face and called it a day, you still need to blend it and apply it like any other foundation. In fact, with the aerosol foundation, I preferred spraying it onto my hand and then using a brush to apply to my face, rather than spraying directly to my face. The delivery system didn’t make one lick of difference. What was the point of the aerosol can at all? And so I ask this: what is the point of the sponge in a cushion compact?!
• Easier to transport, reduces risk of spillage
• High SPF
• Unsanitary delivery system
• Limited colour range (non-Western brands)
• Suitable for limited skin types
• Less product than typical foundation
• Can’t use up the product entirely (wasteful)
Bottom line: Gimmicky!
I get ranty about trends / fads that just don’t make any practical sense. But, I still try it for the sake of exploration and the experience. 😛 Don’t just listen to me rant, read Hoe.Hoi.Peng’s post on the subject. 😉
What say you? Are you a fan of cushion compact foundations? Needless to say, I’m not likely going to buy another cushion compact foundation any time soon. If I want a foundation or a BB cream, I’ll just buy them in the traditional formats.