Well, well, well. Here I am, staring at K beauty secrets like it’s a Lost Ark and I’m Indiana Jones who has to unravel its mysteries. There are so many moving parts to this cultural phenomenon that’s collectively called K beauty, and all I can do is try one thing at a time. One thing I discovered recently, though, truly floored me. It was as groundbreaking as that incredibly luxurious French eye cream I now can’t live without. And I believe this is 100% responsible for the even-toned and radiant complexion of the vast majority of Korean women in Seoul. Sheet mask, it is not!!
The secret to flawless skin is… cushion foundation. Now, before I launch into how I discovered this, watch this riveting video.
In what I think is an advertisement of IOPE, the brand behind the first-ever cushion foundation, a gaggle of spacesuit-wearing men and women ride on an airplane and drop down dangerously (without seat belts) in order to simulate zero-gravity to see if one of them can apply foundation in such an “extreme situation.” I gotta admit I could watch this woman freewheeling around while powering her face for a long time without getting bored—it’s somehow fascinating, like ASMR 2.0. When the plane lands, everyone thuds to the floor stomach-first and laughs and high fives. Not that anyone really needs foundation that works in space, but who cares!!
Cushion foundation was pioneered around 2013 by IOPE, followed by a slew of other major K beauty brands. It’s essentially a cream foundation but with a spongey “cushion” that the foundation is pushed through—resulting in a dreamy, smooth, and matte-but-not-dry coverage when applied with a makeup puff. I first noticed my cousin using it in 2019. She always looked like she had perfect skin—I had no idea that she struggled with acne until I saw her makeup-free. That flawlessly natural coverage should’ve been a clue, but it was only last year when someone gifted me an IOPE Super Vital Cushion Foundation SPF 50++ that I realized what I’d been missing out on. Before, my base makeup routine after skincare consisted of the following.
- Apply a liquid makeup primer only where I need coverage.
- Apply liquid concealer under the eyes and around the nose.
- Blend with fingertips, resulting in smudgy finish that’s never quite flawless.
- Dust a veil of loose finishing powder, focusing on under the eyes and the T zone.
This did the job in the sense that my skin looked more even-toned than before. But my under eyes always looked crepe-y—or if I skipped finishing powder, the oiliness of the concealer emphasized the under-eye bags especially in photos. I thought that this is just the way it is—and I accepted my fate like a beauty martyr. But no! I realized something far better exists. Here’s my routine now:
- Apply a liquid makeup primer only where I need coverage. I use Lune+Aster RealGlow Primer and enjoy the slightly shimmery, radiant effect it gives. I also think it does make coverage last longer.
- Apply cushion foundation with a puff wherever needed, including under eyes.
And then that’s it! It gives me a perfectly even, porcelain, and luxurious finish with only a very thin layer of a single product. It perfectly matches my complexion even though this was a gift from someone who didn’t know my skin color very well at all! (I always had trouble finding the right shade before.) I don’t know what sorcery this is, but they really figured this out for the benefit of womankind. And I never want to use another kind of foundation again—and I’ve tried everything from liquid, mineral (hi BareMinerals circa 2005), BB cream, concealer, and more.
I went over whether K beauty is generally vegan-friendly in this article. Basically, Korean companies typically don’t conduct animal testing for products that are sold domestically, even if it doesn’t have an explicit cruelty-free label. However, many of these brands do sell in China, which means they conduct animal testing for those products. Unfortunately, IOPE sells in China.
I don’t like to waste something that was gifted to me, so I will use the IOPE cushion foundation ($69.99 on Amazon) until it runs out. But afterwards, I would like to try a cushion foundation from a brand that’s definitely cruelty-free. After extensive research I found only ONE cushion foundation by a brand that’s definitely cruelty-free and doesn’t sell in China. It’s Future Skin Cushion Foundation ($139) by Chantecaille, which is quickly turning into my all-time favorite beauty brand for skincare and makeup.
This luxurious and cruelty-free brand donates a portion of their proceeds to various conservation partners. This cushion foundation in particular benefits Sheldrick Trust, an African elephant rescue and conservation NGO. It also is a great deal considering that it comes with a refill! The foundation is also parabens-free, phthalates-free, and vegan.
Would you try a cushion foundation?
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Photo: Ara Cho via Unsplash; Chantecaille