The first time I landed in Seoul, South Korea, I felt like I had come home. Never mind the fact that I'm 100% Chinese and definitely not Korean. Never mind the fact that I didn't speak the language or know anything about how to get around. Something about the city just resonated inside of me and left me feeling the most inspired I had felt in a long time.
A lot of this I credit to its incredible beauty scene. Korean skincare crossed over to the U.S. a few years ago and has been growing steadily since the first time "sheet masking" became a part of our common vernacular. I love a good essence, ampoule and sleeping mask as much as the next person, but personally, I feel emotionally affected by Korean makeup.
I love the entire ethos behind the Korean makeup philosophy of looking as youthful as possible (versus sexy or mature), and I'm blown away by the textures of Korean makeup. They're mind-blowingly bouncy, squishy, mousse-y, silky-smooth, and light as air. They're light-years ahead of where we are in the U.S., and it's only a matter of time before Korean makeup makes as big of a splash here as Korean skincare has.
Which brings me to the fact that I've basically solely worn Korean makeup since I left my second trip to Seoul a few weeks ago. And more specifically, cushion makeup. What is cushion makeup? Well, you may have heard of cushion compacts. Nowadays, everyone from drugstore brands to the most luxe prestige brands have their own version of a cushion compact, but they originated from Korea, and in my opinion, Korean brands still do it best.
Korean makeup artist Cat Koh said cushion compacts changed the way Korean women do their foundation; they've whittled away the time it takes to achieve dewy skin. What exactly are cushion compacts? They're a type of foundation (usually with built-in SPF) that comes in a compact with an antibacterial puff you press into a netted cushion. Then you pat the puff all over your face. The effect is a natural finish that never looks cakey, no matter how many layers you apply.
Cushion makeup basically takes the philosophy of a cushion compact and applies it to all different makeup forms, from brow gels to blushes. I've been using a slew of makeup products in cushion form since I left Korea, and I've honestly never felt more akin to a Korean university student (an actual compliment someone paid me during my time there). Also, my beauty routine feels exponentially more hygienic since I'm not longer touching my face with my fingers.
Keep scrolling to shop all the cushion makeup products I'm wearing in the photo above.
So this isn't the exact cushion I've been using from Sulwhasoo—that one is only available in Korea for now (sorry!). But I've tried this one from Sulwhasoo, and it gives a similar effect: namely, like you're not wearing foundation. I will say that if you're having a bad skin day, a cushion compact might not give you the coverage you want. But if your skin is happy and you just want to channel your inner glass-skinned K-pop star, you can't go wrong with a cushion compact. Scroll below for another cushion I love that's more budget-friendly…
Koh used this cushion blush on a model during a master class, and I knew immediately I had to buy it. You dab the cushion applicator into the compact and then pat it onto your cheeks. It gives the most natural flush of color without even trying or needing to be super precise with your technique—basically, it's like blush for dummies. I like to apply it directly on the apples of my cheeks instead of the outside, a trick I learned Koh. Supposedly Korean women apply it this way to look more youthful, which I'm all for.
This cushion brow has probably been the biggest game changer for my beauty routine. I got my (formerly nonexistent) eyebrows microbladed two years ago, and they've faded a lot since then. Thus I've had to use more than my standard tinted brow gel to get any sort of definition. I'm horrible with a brow pencil, which is why this cushion brow product from Laneige has changed everything and helped me fake the fluffy brows of my dreams. I take the angled brush and press it into the darker shade of the cushion; then I use it to trace along my natural brow shape. Afterward, I'll take the lighter shade and fill in any gaps. I use the spoolie on the other side to brush it out, and the final effect is a light, natural-looking brow that looks like it could be the real thing.
Koh used this cushion eye shadow from Missha on the model during her presentation and somehow crafted a perfect subtle smoky eye with just a few swipes. I love that this product is double-ended with a darker shade for adding shadow and a lighter one for highlighting. Plus, the cushion tip makes it easy to apply: Just dip and glide along your eye, patting it in to blend if necessary. It's great for an everyday makeup look, and it makes adding subtle definition along your eyes so easy.
I'll admit that this isn't my go-to concealer for when I have a massive zit to hide. It is, however, great for brightening up your under-eyes and adding a bit of extra coverage to smooth out discoloration where you need it. Plus, I love that the sponge-tipped applicator disperses just the right amount: Just dab it on; then blend. Scroll below for another cushion-tipped concealer I love…
This concealer from Laura Geller acts like Spanx for your skin, magically blurring out pores and discoloration.
Surprisingly, I wasn't able to find too many cushion-tipped Korean lip products. But this launch from Burberry fits the bill and has been on heavy rotation, so I'm including it in this roundup. Enticingly dubbed "Lip Velvet Crush," this innovative lip color feels light-as-air and gives the nicest rosy tint to my lips. The finish is velvety matte, but unlike matte lipsticks, it feels like air and isn't drying at all. I've been using it every morning to give my dried-out lips a healthy flush of color, and it's become a new fall favorite.
Click here for eight youth-boosting makeup tips I learned in Korea.