My First Cushion Compact Foundation: A Rant

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 admit, some are adorable! Source.

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 provided 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.

See how shiny the swatch is even after 15 minutes?

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. There’s no oil control so if you’re oily or combination skin, you’re out of luck.

Etude House shown, offering whopping 3 shades.

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.

MAC Matchmaster Shade Intelligence Compact comes in 11 shades.

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?!!

That dripping image disturbs me.

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:

Compare against Shisiedo Sheer and Perfect (left) and Illamasqua Skin Base (right).

I suppose the cushion compact is spill-proof, but I’ve never had any leaking mishaps with any of my foundation bottles / tubes.

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.

The extra refill included in the box.

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 that 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 of 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.

85 thoughts on “My First Cushion Compact Foundation: A Rant

    1. Don’t waste your money on this! Yes, it’s a magnet for bacteria. I’m going to toss that sponge soon and open the refill. Once I’m done that, then I’m through with cushion compacts!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I never understood the cushion hype at all! Overpriced and unsanitary and it kinda gives me the heebie jeebies just by thinking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ew. I think it does seem gross – I guess it doesn’t last a long time but one would really just packing bacteria in there with each use. I was going to try one some time ago but realized how little product you get! And all of that packaging is just silly – cool dissection pics though 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m trying to have a more critical view when it comes to makeup. I know so many people just latched onto cushion compacts without thinking it through – it’s a sponge soaked with foundation. Why?!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, curiosity could kill the cat! Well, at least there are lots of options now from affordable brands – why not give it a whirl? The included applicator is useful though – serious, it’s so streaky!


  3. I really wanted to try one of the Missha cushion compacts but the LE packaging I was eyeing was sold out. So I’m waiting for a new set…LOL.

    I agree, it really doesn’t seem like this is the best thought-out product design! I do want to try one just cuz, though. Sigh. Thanks for the thorough review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re such suckers for LE packaging, aren’t we? 😆

      Actually, I think the formula of a typical cushion compact would work really well for your skin type. Go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just ordered TWO with fancy packaging (including the Missha Frida Kahlo that I wanted and is back in stock). 😂 Too easy to order a lot of Korean stuff. Sigh. Well, I eventually need a compact for each handbag, right?


    1. For some reason, I thought the cushion foundation was supposed to be super fast to apply. Not sure what gave me that impression. I just imagine how cakey it would be to apply on top with liquid…


  4. I am with you. I never fully understood the existence of this cushion foundations and I truly feel that they’re just really gimmicky–like you said. Plus yes! The shade range!! It’s just so disappointing. I’m NC40 and of course, I’m not going to get a shade that matches my tone because apparently, only light-skinned people wear foundation. *roll eyes*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so obnoxious about the shade selection. The worse culprits are high end brands which infuriates me! You’re not missing out with the cushion foundations though.


  5. I hardly ever use foundation though I’ll admit I was curious about these just because I think it would be so satisfying to just poke the thing with my finger but do I really want to spend $10 to do that? Nah, probably not lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I felt similarly with those gel bouncy memory foam type makeup that were popular a little while ago. I bought a couple of blushes and had fun poking at them until they dried out and cracked. 😛


      1. Oh no! For some reason I thought they’d never dry up lol! Yeah, I’m kinda glad I resisted the temptation to buy any for that reason alone. Maybe if they’re on sale or something lol


  6. Thank you thank you thank you!!

    I have combination/oily skin so one can say I have no chance anyway. But never been a fan and truly don’t think I’m missing out on much. Like you say, who the hell touches up on their foundation on-the-go?! lol!

    I tried the L’Oreal one after all the hype and honestly, I just don’t get it. NO re-fill, very little product and therefore expensive for what you even get. Come to think of it, it’s just extremely unhygienic. When you pump out foundation, it’s always going to be new to the environment, but once the cushion is exposed…just…ewwww! XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think maybe some of the Western cushion compacts may offer less shiny / dewy finishes. But just overall, it’s not a great concept!

      Oh I didn’t know that the L’Oreal one has no refill. What a rip-off. Exactly, when you’re pumping out foundation, only the pumped out foundation is exposed, not the whole thing! ICK!


  7. Cushion compacts aren’t for everyone. I use Laneige and thankfully the shade I purchased matches my skin tone. I stir away from the other brands because majority of them are lighter (I’m NC30). I wouldn’t throw it in my purse, but it does come in handy for travel because I don’t have to worry about spills. I basically tossed aside the applicator for hygienic reasons and I also use my reusable makeup sponges to apply it. When I flip the cushion over after a few uses, I use clean tweezers to grab the edge of it. Less mess that way. It’s nice that it’s pre-filled and comes with one extra refill. But once that’s all finished, I’ll have to purchase a complete set again, compact and all, since they don’t sell refills separately. That’s the only gripe I have with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get that it’s handy for people who travel. I travel too but just bring my bottle / tube of foundation… not a big deal. And since you need to carry a separate applicator anyway, it’s not really saving that much space?
      I was worried about tearing / ripping the sponge if I used tweezers. Now I’m thinking: maybe instead of flipping the sponge – could I just flip the compact over and let gravity do its job? Hmm! 💡
      Oh I didn’t know they don’t sell JUST the refills – how silly! (and wasteful!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My thoughts exactly. All the more reason to have to invest, which I refuse. Luckily I don’t plan on experimenting with them. I’ll have to try flipping over the compact. Should work.


  8. Wait, what? I’ve never looked into cushion foundations so I had no idea what the actual product entailed. I didn’t know it was just liquid foundation sitting in a sponge. Whatever I thought it was, it wasn’t that. Wtf, WHY. Those last two pics where you’re holding the sponge look so messy (I also like your nail colour, by the way). I’ve also used those flat applicators WAY back when I first started wearing makeup and I hated them.

    I do like the dewy finish though, although like you said that is dependent on skin type. I also like the packaging, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, it’s just liquid foundation soaked in a sponge. No magic! I originally thought they were like those gel memory foam type of makeup. But then I realized it was such a rudimentary thing – like did someone one day in a makeup lab thought, Oh hey what if I used a sponge to hold liquid foundation, wonder if that would sell? And I’m imagining the product development team having a meeting with their marketing team trying to explain this concept! 😆 I think the dewy finish would be suitable for your skin, actually! But you’re just better off getting a dewy type of BB cream instead of a cushion.
      Thanks – my nail polish is Revlon Angelic! I should include a note in the post. 😛


  9. These just don’t appeal to me because they provide lighter coverage. I’m a full coverage or nothing girl. Plus I’m oily/combo skinned and look like a greaseball if I use any kind of dewey finish foundation. Hard pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That seems really needlessly complicated and yeah, unsanitary. The soaked sponge dealie kind of reminds me of those stamping pads you get at the craft store. I suppose you could use the cushion eyeshadow shades in that way – to “stamp” a design onto your face or hands or whatever. But just as foundation? Ew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the sponge is like those stamping pads! Haha… let’s stamp our makeup on. Oh wait, we just invented something. How about a stamp on face? Like stamp on eye shadow and blush… just blend out the edges. I need to create my Kickstarter… brb.


      1. Still makes 90 percent more sense than any other Kickstarter out there! At least there’s a product involved instead of just “Gimme.” We just might be on to something here… 🙂


  11. I don’t think I’ve tried any cushion foundations, but I have tried those bronzers/highlighters/color correctors haha! I’m not even ashamed. They are cute as heck and I kinda like them. But you do make a lot of great points. I do see how unsanitary it is and how it can be wasteful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember seeing the cute WnW compacts on your blog – they ARE super cute! Sometimes I need to let my brain take the lead on certain things, instead of always listening to my heart! 😉


  12. Thank you so much for doing this. What an eye opener! I was very curious about these cushion compact foundations and wanted to try one. What attracted me was the high SPF and, from what I initially thought, it would be a time saver. I figured it would save time in application of sunscreen and blending of foundation. But if you have to blend it anyway as in application of liquid foundation, it makes no sense. For whatever reason I thought the foundation was a creamier version of liquid foundation and the sponge was more similar to a beauty blender. Mostly what has stopped me from purchasing these before was the lack of shade range for most as I am a NC40-42.

    I am not a big fan of fancy packaging or cute limited editions but will invest if a product itself is worth it. This is just not it. No doubt you have saved me a few dollars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found this helpful! I know there are tons and tons of rave reviews for cushion foundations and I felt a bit odd being that voice of dissent. If you want something with good SPF, give good ol’ tube of BB Cream a try. There’s no time savings unfortunately, but at least you’ll be able to use most of the product up rather than have it stuck inside a sponge. I was surprised the foundation wasn’t anything different – it’s actually rather liquidy, not creamy. When I first learned of cushion foundation, I thought it would be like a gel. Glad you were able to save few dollars!


  13. I’m laughing so hard. I love how you passionately hate this thing.

    I do buy makeup for the purpose of collecting. Have it in my box / drawer makes me happy. I haven’t fallen victim to the Sailor Moon one yet haha.

    Yes, the quantity of foundation is significantly less than regular foundation; 40%+ less. Rip off in a sense. The thing is if I don’t re-apply during the course of the day, there will be no coverage left. Cushion foundations are not exactly the long lasting type. Will someone please call me out? I haven’t found one that have coverage in tact by 4th hour.

    Cushion is the best thing because I can do my face in the bus/metro! Before, I had to do my foundation/base before I leave the house. Now, I can do it anywhere hahaha. Yes, I have no shame 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was being a little sarcastic about the collecting makeup thing. I definitely fall into that category! I am trying to not do that as much as I used to… old habits die hard.

      My question to you is why would you put up with foundation with such poor performance? It last only 4 hours? What! Ditch that and get something that lasts you longer.

      Oh yes, you’re one of THOSE people. I find the puff provided doesn’t give a nice coverage though. Why do you need to use liquid foundation then… why not a mineral powder press compact? Not messy and provides better coverage / lasting power.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😂🤣 I know that you have collection impulse more often than me 😋

        Well, liquid foundation can’t be done on the bus. I have press power and BM foundation, both ways are not as radiant. Plus, it’s a new toy! Cushion is fun 😂🤣


  14. I must admit when L’oreal came out with their cushion foundation I was intrigued but not enough to buy it and give it a go! After reading your post I’m kind of glad I didn’t, it does sound like a waste of product and the sponge sounds very unhygienic. Thanks for alerting me not to try this type of product 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even after trying this cushion foundation, I’m STILL curious about the Western brand’s interpretation of them. When MAC released theirs, I was really tempted! But yes, it’s very unhygienic!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought they were like the damper sponges! XD So unnecessary. May I ask what foundation you use? Your skin always look so good. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I do like the cushion foundation to be honest. I have combo skin so I do get that dewy look, but topped with a little bit of powder works wonders. I do not use the sponge provided for application though as I agree, it’s not sanitary. I use a stippling brush to apply and then wash.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s just that the surface of the cushion / sponge is all exposed and wet… there’s no way to keep that portion sanitary.
      I’m glad you like the finish – I bet you could get the same look with a tube of BB cream though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. And turning it over is a huge mess. :/
        Yes I get the same finish from a tube but I don’t know- there’s still something a little extra from the cushion that I like, application wise. It’s weird, lol.


  16. Man that case is not compact at all..
    I witnessed my best friend making her own cushion compact (bought the casing set onLine), and somehow after mixing the desired ingredients we Lost the originaL sponge.. and she just repLaced it with a -new, unopened, still sanitary- cLeaning sponge from her kitchen. Last time I checked, it stiLL works.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha that’s so awesome your best friend made her own cushion foundation! I’m laughing at how the sponge could have disappeared and you used a kitchen sponge instead!! XD This is the most amazing thing that I’ve read! Thank you for sharing!


  17. GOD! I hate beauty stereotypes that think people come in two shades! Ivory and tanned! And most people in Asia think they are fairer than they are anyway!
    Now I want to rant!!! Hahahaha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so true – I see lots of Asian girls walking around with foundations 2 shades too light for them! It’s deliberate though. In Japan, they asked me if I wanted “brighten” colour (lighter) or to match my skin tone. I’m like wtf, of COURSEI want to match my skin tone.
      Yes, rant away! It’s so cathartic! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m totally with you when it comes to the amount of product you get and that it’s not sanitary at all. Though I have to admit that I really enjoy the cushion highlight I have from wet n wild because it applies really sheer (unlike most “liquid” highlights I’ve tried which are so thick they often move my makeup or I overdo it)! Plus, unlike a foundation I’d only have to dip a clean finger or two in to get the product I need so it’s much more sanitary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But why couldn’t that WnW highlighter just come in a little dropper bottle? Why embedded in a sponge? Doesn’t make sense! 😛 I hope this trend dies… a horrible death… 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Hehe love your rant! I’ve never tried cushion-anything. At first I was intrigued by the cushion foundations but many of the reviews I saw stated that they didn’t last on your skin and I have trouble enough with that as is. I agree with you that the design can’t possibly be sanitary either.

    Thanks for sharing your honest review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Curiosity got the better of me. One of my friends loves the Amorepacific one which is like $70 – she complains that it gets used up really quickly though. What a rip-off!
      Sometimes hating on a products is more challenging than glowing reviews… 😛


  20. I hear ya!! 😆 I haven’t been using my cushion compact collection for some of the same reasons you listed here – they’re pricier when considering the quantity given, they are gross when you consider the fact that you can’t wash them… and yet I do still use them on mornings when I literally can’t think straight, like the mornings before clinical, because they truly are much easier/faster to apply when I can’t function yet – all I have to do is open the compact and start smashing the product onto my face! Hah!! I don’t have to find my sponge, soak it, dry it, then find my foundation, dispense it, and distribute it with the sponge. The cushion compact consolidates all that preparation into one ready-to-use thing. So despite it being totally gross and pricier than regular foundation, I still use it when I need it on days like that.

    My usage has definitely decreased significantly since it started getting popular in Western cosmetic brands. I’ve gotten tired of having to buy refills by now, lol, and I get grumpy thinking about the lower-quality Western copycat cushions. I’ve pretty much converted back to foundation.

    I have to say though, that the sponges used by Korean companies like Etude House and Sulwhasoo for example are MUCH better quality than the gross kitchen sponges used by Western companies like Maybelline and even Lancome. It’s like they didn’t even try to make it good quality… ew!! They just wanted to cash in on the trend. My favorite blog post ever is probably a review on the Lancome cushion over by My Asian Skincare Story:

    Have you read any of her posts before? She has some great, brutally honest reviews! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand how handy cushion compact would be if one uses the applicator provided and gets the desired appearance / finish! I just couldn’t make the applicator apply the foundation streak-free. This particular one I got is a Korean branded product at a higher price point too… I’d likely not venture into the Western brands since they seem to have bastardized the whole concept! And yikes on the Lancome one!

      I’ve read some Asian Skincare Blog’s posts! My favourite being this one:
      She’s AWESOME for calling out the BS that is Tatcha! When I was in Japan, I didn’t see that brand there at ALL.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. How gross is this?
    Today they give us a cushion foundation, tomorrow they’re giving us an anti-macrobial face wash – which we’d need because of those cushion foundations!

    Seriously, this is disgusting and messy stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I give whoever invented cushion foundations a pat on the back for actually getting this idea off the ground and selling the heck out of it. I wouldn’t actually be surprised to see skincare like moisturizer and serums being sold in a cushion compact in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. My gut instinct kept me away, purely for sanitary reasons but now I have all your rants too!! This really makes application harder, because as you said (a lot) you have to blend anyway with the added steps of cleaning the applicator and flipping the cushion. Eww, reminds me of flipping a couch cushion when it’s dirty….yuck.
    Great post….I love honesty and you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kristy! ❤
      Before I actually saw a cushion compact, I thought it was made of a special material… not just some kitchen sponge! I'm just surprised how this product has gotten so popular. I wonder in a few years' time when it dies down, people will shake their head that they ever used sponge compacts…

      Liked by 1 person

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