Guide to choosing a cushion compact foundation

Cushion compact foundations are taking the beauty world by storm. Having originated as one of the top “K-beauty” products, many of the top beauty brands are coming out or already have a cushion foundation available. This guide will give you tips on how to choose the right cushion foundation for you!

Cushion compact foundations differ from traditional liquid foundations in a variety of ways. A cushion foundation is an offshoot of BB and CC creams. Most, not all, cushion foundations have SPF in the formula. Then there is the compact itself—the cushion compact has a “well” that holds a foundation-saturated sponge, and a sponge applicator.

These are the differences to consider when choosing a cushion compact foundation:

  • Coverage: Most cushion compacts offer light, buildable, breatheable coverage.
  • Finish: Dewy coverage is the norm; oily skins may need a mattifying powder to set.
  • Longevity: Most cushion compact foundations will not provide all-day coverage; YMMV.
  • Price:  Some cushion foundations include a refill, others don’t, or have one available as a separate purchase. In general, expect to pay as much or in some cases more, than a traditional liquid foundation.
  • Shade selection: Since cushion compact foundations are fairly new in the U.S., shade selection tends to be limited, especially for darker skins. Getting the right shade is a process of trial and error. For reference, I have a light-medium, NC25 with neutral undertone complexion.
  • The best tip for application is to “stipple” or “stamp” the foundation onto your skin.

Some of my favorite cushion compact foundations and how they compare, as well as the shade differences I encountered: (presented in alphabetical order)

Clinique City Block Cushion Compact Foundations

Clinique Super City Block CC Cushion Compact SPF 50 ($35): The newest cushion compact foundation I’ve tried, there are 4 available shades. This one offers slightly more coverage and a matte finish. Refills available ($25). There is no fragrance. I tried Moderately Fair (above, left) and Medium (right) shades; the Moderately Fair worked best for me.


Iope Air Cushion Foundation-N21 Natural Vanilla

Iope Air Cushion XP SPF 50 ($38):  Two shades make this cushion foundation limiting for some; you pick between N (natural) or C (more coverage). The N21 shade worked best. The finish is slightly dewy with a light-medium, buildable coverage. Comes with refill.


IT Cosmetics Cushion Foundation

IT Cosmetics CC+ Veil Beauty Fluid SPF 50+ ($38): Of the 5 available shades, the Medium shade turned out to be the best for my NC25 skin. Dewy coverage, refill included, glowy coverage. With antioxidants and brighteners, this hydrating formula is good for all skin types, including mature. (Full review)


Lancome Miracle Cushion Foundation shades

Lancome Miracle Cushion Compact Foundation ($47): Great shade selection (11) makes this a top pick. Medium coverage; I tried 250 Bisque W (left) and 220 Buff C (right). The 220 Buff C was the best shade for me. The hydrating formula feels “cooling” on the skin; there is no sunscreen, there is fragrance. Refills available ($39).


L'Oreal Lumi Cushion Foundation comparison

L’Oreal True Match Lumi Cushion Foundation ($16.99) Another nice addition to the True Match line. One of the best range of shades (12!) in warm, cool and neutral tones. Medium coverage, no sunscreen, formula does have fragrance in it. I tried two shades: N2 and N3.5, and to be honest, I’m probably somewhere more in the range of a 3. The 3.5 was a bit dark; I could wear it in the summer when I had more color.


MAC Matchmaster Shade Intelligence Compact

MAC Matchmaster Foundation ($36) (Full review) As you’d expect from MAC, great shade selection (12). Buildable coverage with nice pigmentation. No sunscreen in the formula; refills available ($28). I found this foundation to run a little dark; I tried 2.0 and probably needed to step back to the 1.5.


Physicians Formula All in 1 Cushion Foundation

Physician’s Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free All-In-1 Cushion Foundation ($16.99) Three available shades, this is a good pick for sensitive skins. Very nice-wearing with light coverage, the formula is fragrance-free, has SPF 50 (Titanium Dioxide/Zinc Oxide), has hydrating, skin-conditioning vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. The Light/Medium shade worked for me.


PUR Cosmetics Cushion Foundations

PUR Air Perfection CC Cushion Compact Foundation ($43) has four available shades and includes a refill. One of the cushion compacts I tried that had a physical sunscreen (Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide) making this my top pick for summer wear! Goes on smoothly and blends well; light to medium buildable coverage. I tried Light and Medium, with Medium (right) being the better choice for me.


Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion - Deep Beige

Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion ($60) is my favorite of all of the cushion compact foundations I tried. The formula is chock full of hydrating, anti-aging, skin-loving ingredients, along with titanium dioxide sunscreen. There is a refill included, beautiful dewy coverage, no oxidation, a slight fragrance. Of the three shades, the No. 25 Deep Beige shade was the best match.

philosophy take a deep breath cushion foundation

Philosophy’s Take a Deep Breath Cushion Foundation SPF 20 ($40) is my pick if you need medium to full coverage. If you’re looking to cover sun spots or acne scars, out of all the cushions I’ve tried, this cushion compact is for you. The mesh screen is ingenius, pigmentation is excellent, and it feels weightless on the skin…the closest I’ve found to a true liquid foundation with a cushion delivery. Six shades, I tried Shade 3; a nice match for me. No refills available. One of my favorites!

As you can see, there are many brands and factors to consider when choosing a cushion compact foundation. Have you tried a cushion compact foundation yet? If you have, what is your favorite?

Disclosure: A press sample has been provided by the brand/PR for editorial consideration, product testing and review. Affiliate links have been used in the post; see Disclosure Policy for additional information.


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