Cushion compacts aren’t exactly a new novelty these days—the spongy foundation compacts have pretty much single-handedly opened the floodgates of K-beauty to the previously unenlightened rest of the world struggling to streakily apply foundation with brushes, blenders or fingers. Once word got out that this cushion system pretty much made foundation idiot-proof, beauty-lovers rejoiced everywhere… that is if they were able to find their shade match.
Nearly all Korean brands generally offer foundation in shades ranging from fair to pale, leaving out a whole margin of humans with skin tones deeper than “beige sand.” Granted, Asian beauty ideals prize a fair complexion undamaged by the sun or other environmental aggressors and a homogenous nation of fairly pale-skinned folks makes those two to three light shades enough to cover most faces in Korea. But since K-beauty is fast becoming more and more established in the global beauty market, suddenly the audience and their skin tones are broadening.
There’s pretty much no bigger bummer for a beauty junkie than to be excluded from an entire range of products that don’t serve them. Luckily, since cushion compacts have not only proven to be a hit, more and more brands are catching on and filling those gaps, tweaking their own formulas to offer a cocktail of makeup coverage, hydration, sun protection and sometimes even skincare benefits. For those of us existing in the spectrum further than fair, here are a few options to check out that come in a broad range of people shades.
With SPF 50 and four shades ranging from “Ivory” to “Golden,” Clinique took a wholesale approach to shading this product—a bit different than their many other liquid foundations that mostly come in a range of at least a dozen shades. Maybe they weren’t sure how well a cushion compact would do for them, but it’s totally possible that they will start offering more shades if there’s enough demand (this is a new product for the brand). The coverage is lightweight and “breathable” with a natural-matte finish, making this kind of like a foundation and powder in one. If you’re anywhere from a Kirsten Dunst to Eva Mendes, you can most likely find your shade with Clinique’s Super City Block cushion compact.
It Cosmetics is one of those brands whose M.O. involves combining makeup and skincare, so naturally a cushion compact makes total sense for them. Their cushion foundation comes in five shades, from a pale-sheet-of-paper fair to a warm golden brown “rich.” Not totally encompassing of the deepest end of the spectrum, but as the name implies, the fluid formula feels like a serum with buildable coverage from super sheer to medium. For the sunscreen-picky, this compact has strictly physical broad spectrum sunscreen so there’s less likelihood of chemical sunscreen irritating your skin.
One drugstore options that’s ruling the cushion compact game is from L’Oreal. Its Lumi Cushion (named for its luminizing effect) offers a dozen shades from light ivory to deep cocoa. It does however have a less sophisticated formula than its Korean counterparts, lacking SPF for one—that’s a biggie. It seems that this cushion is strictly supposed to serve as a lightweight form of coverage with a slightly dewy finish. Throughout the day the formula feels like it sits on top of the skin rather than sinking in, so it has a tendency to travel, especially if you’re a heavy face-toucher. If you just want to blur away imperfections, this cushion isn’t a bad buy for less than $20.
Lancome consistently makes amazing foundation formulas, so its take on the cushion compact is legit as far as a travel-friendly way to tote around foundation goes. The 11 shades range conveniently with warm and cool options down the line for each shade from super pale to super deep. After all, with Lupita Nyong’o as Lancome’s spokesmodel, they’ve got to be able to match her skin tone, right? The coverage has a really nice, slightly dewy light to medium coverage and it sinks into your skin nicely—no greasy feeling. The only con I can think of: no SPF! Breaks my heart, because with the really flexible shade range and comfortable feel, it would’ve been a perfect all-around cushion foundation if there was protection too.
This is one of the OG cushion compacts from Korean brand, Laneige. Recently the brand expanded its shade range for its star product, now offering six shades from fair to dark, all with fairly neutral tones that don’t veer too warm or cool. With the buildable coverage, every shade is fairly versatile with a half-satin, half-dewy finish. You can really build this formula to be medium-to-heavy if you want to and considering that this also offers the requisite SPF 50, hydration and flexible coverage, it’s a holy grail cushion compact for good reason. Plus at $38 AND a free refill, it’s one of the most cost-efficient cushion compacts in the Western market.
Who doesn’t love makeup with a concept? Philosophy’s cushion compact is more of a “net” situation which honestly isn’t too different—there’s just a net over the cushion. It gives it more of a pushy marshmallow feel than a cushion, per se. This foundation formula is meant to be super light and breathable while also hydrating your skin, so you can almost think of it like a tinted moisturizer that you just tap on with the puff. The eight shades in the range span light beige to dark brown, so it covers a lot of bases—generous considering the super sheer formula. My only wish is that it would come with sunscreen protection higher than SPF 20.
A “natural” beauty option for your cushiony desires comes from PUR Minerals with its mousse-y consistency and sheer to light coverage that has Babassu oil and vitamin E for extra skin conditioning as it protects with SPF 50. It even comes with a refill—finally! There are only four shades that are super pale to “dark” (which is more like a warm Beyonce-bronze shade). With super sheer formulas like this one it’s easier to get away with a near match as long as the tone matches, these ones steering towards the neutral/yellow rather than a cool pink.