After trying cushion foundations from both Western and Korean brands in recent times, I thought I’d share some quick thoughts on how I feel about how they stack up against each other. They are by no means comprehensive, as the market is quite saturated with cushion foundations and I do not claim to have tried all the brands out there. However, I believe what I’ve tried represents a reasonable cross-section of what’s on offer out there.
For a more detailed insight into the brands I tried, I’d suggest you run through Cushion Foundation Week 1 (Western brand cushions) and Week 2 (Korean brand cushions). I’ve shared in there my thoughts on each of them in greater depth and how they compare to each other.
But for those of you wondering just how similar or different the Western brands have recently approached cushion foundations, which were made popular by the Korean brands, this is what I think.
Western Brand Cushion Foundations cost more
The most glaring thing I noticed is that the cushion foundation from Western brands cost significantly more than their Korean counterparts. This I have measured in 2 ways:-
- Most Western brands do not sell their cushions in a set with refills – This bugs me because for the most part, they charge quite a high price to get your “starter” set of case + refill. Most of the brands I tried were in the mid-high end range, so prices were very high for very little product. This bugged the hell out of me and made me think that these Western brands weren’t serious about keeping cushion foundations in their line-up, but more to capitalise on what’s trending. Once you factor in the spare refill (which are brand-centric and unable to be shared between the cases of different brands), your price skyrockets through the roof. The Korean brands I tried who did not sell in a set with refills were in the mid-low end range and it was easier to forgive. Most of the mid-high end cushion foundation brands come with a refill – it just makes economical sense and gives perceived value.
- Western brands who sell in a set with refills cost significantly more than their Korean counterparts – The only Western brand I know that sells their cushion foundation with refills is Dior (feel free to let me know which other brands does). Yet, the price of 1 Dior cushion foundation set (US$82!!! at Sephora) far exceeds their Korean luxury counterparts of Sulwhasoo (US$65 at Nieman Marcus) or even History of Whoo (Approx US$75 or a little less). How do they justify it, when their product falls so far short of their Korean counterparts?! UPDATE TO ADD: I’ve been told that Biotherm too sells their cushions in sets and it costs less than Sulwhasoo but not having tried it I cannot say how I like it. I have been told that it’s sheer.
It is for this reason that I feel that most Western brands either are paying a premium for developing their cushion foundations, or they aren’t taking it seriously. Dior for example, uses Amore Pacific to produce their cushion foundation (which explains why they have a more traditional Korean brand approach to packaging, texture and even how their refills fit) but I am convinced that this comes with a premium attached that is being transferred to customers.
Amore Pacific, as I’ve showed you, makes many Korean brands and even within the Korean brands, the quality is fairly different. Yet, their higher end brands and ranges are quite faultless (the ones I tried were Iope, Laneige, Sulwhasoo and Hera all of which I enjoyed using. I’d like to try History of Whoo one day when I strike the lottery LOL! :D ). In the case of Dior’s Diorsnow cushion, I felt that it was just about as good as, or maybe just a little better than Innisfree or Laneige BB Cushion Whitening in terms of quality, texture and coverage. Not by very much though. Dior has a new Dreamskin Perfect Skin Cushion available globally, which I have not tried, but based on what I’ve seen online, I’m not missing anything.
Korean brand cushions have a lighter texture
While this is a generalisation, since within the Korean brands I tried, there were some I found to feel heavier on skin than others, the better ones that I liked, felt very light on skin, even when they offered coverage.
By contrast, when I wear a Korean cushion and a Western brand cushion side by side, I can feel the weight on my skin with a Western brand cushion. Clinique felt better in many ways (coverage and texture) but the others I tested felt heavier. Even Dior felt heavier on skin, despite being formulated by a Korean brand (I look like I’m picking on Dior, but I’m not – it’s because I know they are formulated by Amore Pacific, and that’s why it makes a reasonable comparison to the other brands formulated by AP as well)
In many ways, I felt that what the Western brands did was to take their lightest liquid foundation, and put it into a cushion. With Korean brands, the texture appears to be developed independently from liquid foundation.
Western brand cushions feel more like wearing foundation
For the most part, I found that the texture and coverage for most Western brands I tried, felt more like I was wearing foundation. The difference was in the way it was being delivered to my skin. For those who prefer something with coverage therefore, Western brands might be something you’d want to investigate further, because the slightly heavier texture does usually translate to a slightly better coverage.
With Korean brands, I felt that the texture was very much lighter, and it resulted in a very light evening out of skintone, without offering very much coverage in some. But the lightweight texture meant that it was easier to layer on product for coverage, while still feeling comfortable.
This has a lot to do with the philosophy behind why people wear makeup. The Korean style goes for a dewy, glowy, transparent natural skin and a lightweight, transparent base is the way to go to achieve this look. Do note that while I enjoyed the coverage offered by Hera and Sulwhasoo, there was a transparency to the base that still allowed my skin to look like skin. I never achieved 100% coverage but it was good coverage, and not once did it look fake nor cakey nor heavy.
By contrast, I find that if you adopt a philosophy that makeup is there to conceal or alter e.g. contouring, then a heavier foundation is something that you will be looking for. The Western brands offer a better result when taking this approach. However, when you use the Western brand compact for touch ups, you risk making your makeup look heavy. With the Korean brand cushions, touch ups don’t look like very much, and in fact, seem to make you look better. Which you prefer depends on what your personal style is.
There is more variety in Korean brand cushion foundation
I noticed that many Korean brands offered a wider selection of cushion foundation types e.g. long wearing formula, moisture formula, skin brightening formula etc. This is unsurprising, as they have been doing it longer.
Western brands, being newer in the game, have just the one. The exception again, is Dior who has a Diorsnow cushion foundation (possibly Asia only) and a Dreamskin Perfect cushion foundation (global markets) However, knowing where Dior gets their cushions from (Korea, if you weren’t paying attention) I’m not surprised.
If the Western brands take this cushion foundation thing seriously, then we might see more innovations as time progresses. But if they choose to just treat it as a trend, and keep their cushion foundation line small and expensive then, I think the market will eventually give up on them. With the internet making the world a smaller place, it’s not hard to buy Korean brand cushions online, where they are more affordable.
Western brand cushions have better shade selection
The one thing that the Western brands have going for them is their shade selection. Most of the brands have a slightly wider shade selection, as they have a more global market to serve. Bobbi Brown kicked off with 6 shades and I’m told they may expand it, as they do their regular foundations.
Korean brands however tend to have the 2 most basic shades – #21 and #23 with the occasional #13 which is an even lighter shade. Rarely do they provide for medium to deep skintones, simply because their market is more localised, and deeper skintone isn’t the norm in Korea, nor in Asia. Sure, those of us in South East Asia complain about the lack of shade selection, but really, our market is tiny compared to the North Asian market of Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan etc where skintone diversity is narrow and generally lighter in tone. The 2 brands that do cater for a wider variety of skin tones – Sulwhasoo and Laneige – have only expanded their shade selection in recent years. Even then, it doesn’t go beyond a medium skintone simply due to demand.
However, I appreciate how the Korean brands keep their numbering system fairly consistent. So, I know that a #21 will be a light and a #23 will be a light medium shade, even if the tonal differences will be apparent in a side by side swatch. I know I can safely buy a cushion in shade #21 in any Korean brand and just about get it right. With the Western brands, who have different numbering/naming conventions it’s hard.
Korean or Western brands: Which do I prefer?
My personal preference lies with the Korean brand cushions, but only specific ones because not all Korean brands are made equal. My preference does lie towards the higher end of the price scale with brands like Hera and Sulwhasoo being more than welcome to take my money because my experience with their cushion foundations totally changed my mind about how I feel about cushion foundations. I did not try many brands from the lower end of the price scale e.g. Missha, Etude House, The Face Shop, Tony Moly etc for the simple reason, there are too many to try (Variety in Korean cosmetics brands come mostly in the lower-end of the price scale), and I did not want to waste my money. I tested one from Innisfree and that felt to me like a waste of a perfectly good RM90 that I could have done so much more with – cute cases can only get you so far. But please feel free to let me know how you like them, or if you want me to try them, throw them at me and I will LOL! :P
As to which brand’s cushion foundations make my cut, based on the ones I’ve tried and featured here on MWS, here are some categories to give you an idea of where my tastes lie :)
The cushion foundations I’d be happy to repurchase or recommend a purchase are these:-
- Hera UV Mist – Cover or similar
- Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion or similar
- Iope Air XP or similar
- Clinique Super City Block BB Cushion Compact
- Laneige BB Cushion Pore Control or similar
The cushion foundations I’d not repurchase but will use if they’re on hand are these:-
- Bobbi Brown Cushion Foundation (subject to a more accurate shade match) – good coverage and wider shade selection
- Mamonde Cover Powder Cushion – if I need coverage and am on a budget but has small shade selection
- April Skin Magic Snow Cushion – if I need coverage but the slightly tacky texture and pink base may be challenging to some
The cushion foundations I’d not purchase at all given the chance, nor recommend (based on my preference)
- Innisfree Water Glow (Water Fit) Cushion – too tacky in texture and too sheer
- Laneige BB Cushion Whitening – Too tacky in texture and too sheer
- Diorsnow Bloom Perfect Cushion Foundation – Too expensive, sheer and tacky
- Shu Uemura Blanc Chroma Cushion – Just weird
But I don’t have access to Korean brands!
Well, the internet is a large place, and there are many websites you can use, that sell Korean cosmetics (legit ones) Otherwise, there are always holidays to Korea or Asia and family and friends who travel :) That said, to be honest, while they’re nice to try, cushion foundations aren’t a must-have. If you really want to, grab a Western brand just to assuage your curiosity. Sometimes, scratching that itch helps. They aren’t awful, they just don’t measure up to what I like but you might like them!
However, if you are used to using a liquid or cream foundation, most of these cushion foundations will feel lighter on skin anyway! Just think of them like powder foundation – just not :D I personally prefer using liquid foundation myself as a matter of course :) Cushion foundations for me are my “casual bases”, not my go-to for day-to-day or special occasion wear.
And this ends my Cushion Foundation series! :D Aren’t you relieved? I’m also taking a break for the rest of the week – burn out from so much blogging LOL! I’m sure you’re burnt out too from reading :P So, I’ll be back next week… where we won’t mention cushion foundations again :P
Your turn: Do you use cushion foundations and which one are you using? Do you like it?
Have you tried any of the ones I’ve featured on MWS to date (12 so far – whew!) and if you did, did you like any of them or were they duds for you? What’s your current cushion foundation and what do you like or hate about it? Share! Share! :D