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When a new innovation gets people buzzing, we pay close attention. One of the latest to hit the mainstream is cushion compact foundation, a technology from South Korea that fuses liquid foundation, sun protection and skin-improving ingredients into a soft sponge. Many beauty insiders say cushion compacts will forever change the way you think about foundation. So what exactly are they and how do they compare to the beloved BB and CC creams we’re already using?
It all started in 2007 when AmorePacific, a prestige Korean skin care company, began R&D for a multifunctional product that would be easy to carry and apply throughout the day. Traditionally in Asia, when a signature was required, a family's surname would be carved into stone and then pressed into a pre-saturated ink pad. This was the inspiration behind the cushion compact, the brand tells us. After over 3,600 tests on 200 different types of sponges, they introduced the IOPE Air Cushion in the form of a compact. The compact holds specially-designed urethane foam that safely preserves a pigmented liquid with added SPF and skin-boosting ingredients.
In 2014, AmorePacific launched its first Cushion in the US, Color Control Cushion Compact SPF 50 ($60). "This product is part of our patented Fluid Capture Technology, which basically transforms a low-viscosity liquid into a refined emulsion via cushion delivery. This allows for a uniquely weightless and buildable coverage," Nathalie Paiva, senior manager of marketing and public relations, explained to Teen Vogue. The cushion delivers less product with each dab for careful application and the soluble formula ensures color sets evenly for smooth coverage.
Cushion compacts seem choice for mature skin, as the fluid doesn’t get cakey or settle into lines and creases as you layer on more. The more you buff on, the more coverage you receive and the suppler skin appears. But cushion foundation doesn’t just cover the skin — it actually improves the look and feel. A hydrating bamboo sap in AmorePacific’s Color Control Cushion Compact replaces the traditional water-in-oil base to mimic the moisturizing factors found naturally in skin. Other helpful ingredients include brightening arbutin and fatty acids that hydrate and plump. However, it is important to note that this product is not for purists. It contains a number of undesirable ingredients in the form of silicones and preservatives, as well as an unidentified fragrance.
AmorePacific’s Cushion technology was the first of its kind and quickly changed the way South Korean women approached makeup. Cushion compacts are said to make up more than 40 percent of the foundation market in Korea. AmorePacific now offers a total of 19 Cushion products from its 13 brands (including IOPE, Laneige and Etude House) and is sold in more than 10 countries. According to Forbes, combined sales in Korea and abroad in 2014 increased 105 percent, accounting for 26 million units — that's one Cushion product sold every 1.2 seconds. This was enough to land the company at the 28th spot on Forbes’ annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies last year.
With the success of Cushion technology, other beauty brands were quick to follow suit. AmorePacific signed a formal agreement offering its Cushion technology to Christian Dior products. Big Beauty brand L’Oréal Group debuted a similarly-packaged product under Lancôme called Miracle Cushion ($47). The first to be designed by an American brand was IT Cosmetics CC+ Veil Beauty Fluid Foundation SPF 50+ ($38). And others to join the party include PUR Minerals Air Perfection CC Cushion Foundation SPF 50 ($78) and Dr. Jart Bounce Beauty Balm SPF 30 ($48).