22 September 2017Last updated

Beauty | Grooming

Cushion cosmetics

It’s time to get your hands on a cushion or two – and we’re not talking about accessorising your sofa. Louise Emma Clarke finds out about the latest trend to make waves in the beauty industry: cushion cosmetics

Louise Emma Clarke
14 Aug 2016 | 04:35 pm
  • Cushion cosmetics provide coverage, yet feel light on the skin – perfect for hot and humid UAE summers.

    Source:Getty Images

In a country as warm as the UAE is during the summer months, we are all for cosmetics that are lightweight, allow our skin to breath, and are easily transportable for reapplications throughout the day. After all, nobody wants to cake on make-up when they are sweating in 45°C and see it melt off before they’ve even reached their work desks. We want it light, we want it natural, and we want it to be easy to apply when we are on the run.

If this sounds like your dream cosmetic wish list, let us introduce you to your new best friend in beauty. We’re talking about cushion cosmetics; another import from the Korean beauty scene that has already hit the mainstream. And (just like the story with BB and CC Creams a few years ago) we can expect to see more and more products appearing on shelves as brands sit up and take notice. Remember; you heard it here first…

Where do they come from?

First launched in South Korea by AmorePacific, cushion cosmetics were the result of years of research into foundation that could offer SPF protection and lightweight coverage. The brand called the product Air Cushion and launched it into the Korean market in 2008 – and it quickly became a game changer in the Korean beauty scene.

Euromonitor research analyst Minji Kim says: ‘Although it was first launched in 2008, Air Cushion has recently become the biggest trend in facial make-up in South Korea after the huge sensation created by BB creams.’

So just how popular is it in South Korea? The simple answer is that cushion cosmetics have become nothing less than a beauty sensation. In fact, statistics gathered in 2014 (six years after the launch of that first compact by AmorePacific), revealed that brands were selling one cushion compact every 1.2 seconds.

With sales like that, it’s little surprise that mass market cosmetic brands sat up and listened – and the result is launch after launch, with speed about to pick up very noticeably throughout the latter half of 2016 as products launch on to shelves in quick succession.

What exactly do they do?

Co-founder of South Korean company, Charlotte Cho explains: ‘The product is considered a fusion of skincare and make-up because it doesn’t just cover your skin, it also improves its feel and health.’

Cushion cosmetics are essentially liquid foundation, but the product is soaked in a sponge together with sun protection, make-up base and moisturisers. The idea comes from a stamp that can be patted and pressed on your face, so the packaging is more like a compact powder case instead of a tube or bottle.

You simply open the lid and press the enclosed applicator on to the sponge. A thin, liquid foundation will then be dispensed through the sponge for immediate application to your skin.

‘It’s basically everything people love about a BB and CC cream, but with more perks,’ says beauty insider Pauline Maynard from L’Oréal. ‘It doesn’t cake because it’s super-thin and light – and as you don’t swipe the product on traditionally, it reinforces that the cushion compact has a cooling effect that’s more breathable than other foundations. Plus, most of them have really high SPF – 50 or higher – while most BBs only have 30.’

And what about the cushion itself? Is it really necessary? Yes, says Nathalie Paiva, director of marketing at AmorePacific, who insists the cushion is vital to the product’s performance.

‘It transforms the liquid formula into a lighter emulsion,’ she explains. ‘The cushion is made with the same base material that was once used in ancient Asian stamp and seal practices, which maintain and preserve liquid emulsion in its optimal state.’

In fact, the sponge of the original Air Cushion has a whopping 800,000 ‘pores’, through which the foundation seeps out when pressure is applied. And it isn’t just the sponge that is impressive, with the applicator receiving just as much thought in the development stages, being made from antimicrobial material that is densely woven for the finest application and promises to hold a staggering nine times its own weight in water.

In less scientific terms, it is the sponge and applicator that make the formula of the foundation lighter and deliver less product with each dab – the result being that it’s almost impossible to cake it on.

Why has it become so popular?

There are three main reasons why cushion cosmetics became so popular in South Korea, says Minji from Euromonitor. ‘First, they are multifunctional.

‘Second, they provide coverage, yet still feel light on the skin. That is important, as summer can be very hot and humid in South Korea. Finally, 
they give a natural make-up look, which is in line with the current trends in the country.’

Charlotte from adds: ‘In Korea, women carry their compacts around in their bag and use it for touch-ups throughout the day. They’re usually formulated with sunscreen, so you can reapply it over your make-up and can get sun protection all day long.’

But it isn’t just the public snapping them up in their droves, but make-up artists too.

‘I love it because the liquid formula looks natural and it is easier to travel with a compact than heavy glass bottles,’ says celebrity make-up artist Nick Barose. ‘But that doesn’t mean you should reserve it for weekend trips and long flights, as it’s perfect for everyday use too.’

How do you use them?

‘Cushion compacts allow for a very sheer, natural application, which means it goes on lighter than your typical foundation,’ says Charlotte. ‘The formula is build-able, but if you’re trying to hide blemishes, you’re probably going to need to add a bit of concealer in those areas after you apply the cushion.

‘The applicator sponge wicks off just the right amount of foundation for airbrush-like coverage,’ she continues. ‘It just won’t have the same seamless effect if you jab your brush in there. If you’re not used to the sponge applicator, try folding it to fit different areas.’

Nick Barose adds: ‘Gently pat the applicator while it’s flat to smooth over wide areas, like your cheeks. Then, fold in half and use the pointy part to get hard-to-reach areas like the inner corners, under the eyes, and the sides of nose.’

So where can we buy them?

The UAE is not yet awash with cushion cosmetics, but they are slowly filtering on to cosmetic counters and online stores.


One of the most popular is Lancôme Miracle Cushion (Dh270,, which comes in an array of colours to match every skin tone and is praised for its long-lasting formula and lightweight, dewy finish. It’s a good place to start if you haven’t tried cushion formulas before, with make-up artists raving about both its formula and coverage.




One of the most exciting launches in 2016, however, is at Sephora – where a varied collection of cushion cosmetics has just hit shelves. Wonderful Cushion Foundation (Dh115) promises a glowy, natural finish. The new collection also includes Natural Glow Face Luminizer (Dh75) for highlighting skin, Healthy Glow Cream Blush (Dh85) for adding colour to cheeks, and Matte Lip Cream, (Dh69) for tinting and hydrating lips.

Another stockist that has also ventured further than just foundations is Dubai-based online store, which imports cosmetics directly from South Korea (and deliver to doors across the UAE). Not only are the products carefully selected for their effectiveness, but the website is the perfect place to head for an insight into the way cushion cosmetics are evolving in Korea.



Take, for example, the sun protection products, such as Nature Republic Love You Baby Sun Cushion SPF32 (Dh122), which allow you to apply sunscreen quickly and effortlessly through the cushion – and the evolution of cushion foundations to include colour correction, such as Tony Moly CC Cushion in Blooming Mint (Dh120), which will correct redness in complexions with just a few dabs.



Finally, for cushion foundations that fuse skincare and make-up very successfully, look no further than Korean beauty brand TheFaceShop, with branches across the UAE ( Here you can pick cushion foundations to perfectly suit your skin type. Mature skin can choose the Therapy Anti-Aging Cushion, while dry skin will get a welcome boost of moisture from the CC Ultra Moist Cushion, and oily skin types will achieve all-day matte results from the Oil Control Water Cushion, and finally, those looking for heavier coverage and longer-lasting results can pick CC Intense Cover Foundation (from Dh170 each).

All things considered, it looks like this is one beauty trend that will be going the distance – and with the product perfectly suited to the UAE climate (especially during these long, steamy summers), we can see only benefits as the choice expands.

Louise Emma Clarke

Louise Emma Clarke