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An Introduction to Cushion Foundations & Why We Love Them

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Nope, cushion foundation is not a quirky interior design trend. Cushion foundations are one of the most common pieces of base makeup found in every cosmetic bag in Korea. Heard of them before? IOPE Air Cushion, Hera UV Mist Cushion, Laneige BB Cushion…just to name a small selection of the most well-known cushion products on the Asian beauty market. These are the products that transformed the Korean makeup industry. Although they’ve now been emulated on a global scale by the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and L’Oreal Paris, they’re arguably still a mysterious foundation product to the average consumer in the UK. Today we’re learning more about these beautiful pieces of makeup, and why they may be your new go-to.  

So, what on earth is a cushion foundation? And how do I use it?!

A cushion foundation is a compact makeup product. Compacts are typically associated with powder or cream foundation formulas, but a cushion foundation combines liquid formula foundation or BB cream with the convenience of compact packaging.

When opened, there is a tray with a “puff” applicator. You remove this applicator, then lift the tray to reveal a cushion sponge soaked in liquid foundation/ BB cream. The cushion is specifically designed to safely contain and preserve the liquid. You simply press the applicator into the sponge and pat the foundation over your face. You can do a single layer, or multiple layers for more full coverage.

The purpose of the cushion is the way in which it delivers the product. It enables the foundation to be applied in a very sheer and natural layer. As you press the applicator into the cushion, it picks up only a small amount of product and allows for the natural building of coverage as you pat the foundation into skin. Ultimately, this method produces a flawless, airbrushed finish.

The background of the cushion…it’s all about the skin. 

The focus on skin and complexion is a common concept in K-beauty, and it’s really no surprise that the cushion product was created with a focus on this. While lip colour and eyeshadow trends in Korea are ever-changing, dewy, luminous skin is a constant not only in the beauty sphere, but also in the realms of K-Pop, K-drama, celebrities, advertising and general popular culture. Amore Pacific, Korean beauty powerhouse, fully embraced this desire for a flawless, healthy glow by creating their game-changing IOPE Air Cushion in 2008. The cushion has gone through numerous upgrades since then, and, according to Amore Pacific, one cushion was sold every 1.2 seconds in 2014, showing the extent of its success. That focus on creating a beautiful complexion is ultimately what made the cushion so popular in Korea.

Skincare + Makeup

Cushions usually include an element of skincare for a variety of purposes, from hydration to sun protection. This again ties in with the importance of skincare and complexion on a cultural level. It’s a huge part of life in Korea and therefore makeup combined with skincare makes complete sense. For example, the Hera UV Mist Cushion Ultra Moisture contains concentrated hyaluronic acid, known to help skin retain moisture. The Hera Age Reverse Cushion contains SEPINBINOLTM- a wine extract containing polyphenols as a powerful anti-oxidant to help treat the signs of premature aging. Tackling skin concerns through a makeup product falls completely inline with the Korean ideals of flawless skin. As skincare transcends age and gender in Korea, it is easy to see why cushion makeup has not only been popular among young, female twenty-somethings, but is also used by more mature consumers, and men too! Having that skincare element means that we know our makeup is helping with the condition of our skin while also looking gorgeous on the outside. What’s not to love about that? 

Quick Application + Handbag-friendly

One of the major attractions to the cushion foundation is the travel-friendly compact and easy application. The application method is incredibly quick, with just a brief “pat-pat” to cover face, and the ease of topping up during the day is comparable to none.  A cushion can fit into any handbag and can be carried around day and night. With the mirror inside, and the sleek appearance of the compact, they are extremely useful for a morning tube commute makeup application or a post-work pre-date top-up. They certainly embody everything the modern-day makeup wearer needs in terms of practicality, compared to the likes of a makeup brush and glass bottle of foundation.


A particularly attractive aspect of the cushion is the refills. With every cushion you purchase, you receive the cushion already inside the compact, and a packaged refill. Once your cushion is dry, you simple pop out the centre piece and replace it with your refill. It’s super easy to do. (Pro-tip: try flipping the cushion inside your compact first, to ensure you get every drop of liquid left in the existing cushion before switching). The refills also mean if you find your dream cushion, you only ever need to repurchase those refills and not the entire compact. Genius, no? 

Which cushion?

Which cushion you go for is completely up to you and your personal preferences. If you’re looking for the dewy finish we would suggest Hera UV Mist Cushion. This cushion will keep your skin hydrated and glowing. For more coverage, you could try the Iope Air Cushion Cover. Doing a little research about a cushion will help you see if it will fulfil what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, the shade ranges of Korean brands are still very limited, but we hope to see more extensive shade ranges available soon, as the brands become more globally responsive. 


We hope this has given you a solid understanding and introduction to cushion foundations. They’re an exciting piece of makeup that we can see becoming more and more popular here in the UK. Do these innovative compacts appeal to you? Have you tried them yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts below! 

Katherine Spowart from

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