CUSHION FOR THE PUSHIN'

Michelle Phan Is Betting on Cushion Foundation

The convenient K-beauty makeup staple often comes with limited shade ranges and a cast-y formula due to the high SPF. With Em Cosmetics’s first complexion product, Phan aims to change all that. 
hand of someone holding the em cosmetics daydream cushion compact
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Michelle Phan's Em Cosmetics just took a big step in the beauty game. On October 20, the brand launched its very first complexion product, the Daydream Cushion

"After cushion launched in the Western world, it didn't really take off, which was unfortunate. It died off and everyone went back to [their regular] foundation," Phan tells Allure over Zoom. But these days, with so many people homebound due to COVID-19 restrictions, she's seeing people embrace a more natural look. "People are wearing less foundation," she explains. "They're wearing masks, they're staying at home more. They don't really feel there's a need to do a full beat makeup look."

The $48 Daydream Cushion foundation gives you a light amount of coverage and some skin-care benefits to boot. The range boasts only six hues, but given the product's sheer-but-buildable nature and skinlike finish, it doesn't necessarily have to be spot-on. (Though we do hope in the future more shades become available.) As Phan tells us, her brand is small so it's a little harder for her to create super robust shade options. "But, if we do six shades, we're going to make sure that it has an incredible range," she assures. And to be completely fair — even though it is just six shades, the difference between the lightest and the darkest is quite substantial, which hasn't been the case with a few brands. It doesn't go from porcelain to beige — the darket hue is a rich, deep brown.

The foundation formula contains SPF 50, which, I am happy to report, doesn't leave an ashy cast on my medium-dark skin tone. I used the Tan/Dark hue and as I blended it in, the color just melted in with my complexion and provided a decent amount of coverage to the dark spots on the side of my face. But what I noticed most is that the overall effect just looked like my own skin. 

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I typically don't wear foundation, preferring to just apply concealer underneath my eyes and over whichever spots on my face aren't looking the way I'd like. What I don't love about foundation is that it typically does not look like my skin, but I don't have that problem with Em's Daydream Cushion. It truly gives you that coveted "your skin but better" look, and with the added benefit of SPF, it's really making a case for me to wear foundation again — even if I'm not really venturing out in public very much these days.

To learn more about Em Cosmetics' newest products, I chatted with Phan, who told me why she chose this particular kind of foundation, how she likes to use it, and how she got that sunscreen to work just right, even on deeper complexions.

ALLURE: What made you choose a cushion foundation as opposed to the more traditional liquid in a bottle?

MICHELLE PHAN: It's actually a personal choice. I stopped using foundation four years ago — completely stopped, cold turkey. I wanted to focus more on skin care and if I just needed any touch-ups or cover-up, I would use concealer. That taught me to fall in love with and accept my natural skin texture. 

For so long, I lived in this filtered world where I believed that everyone's skin should look airbrushed like FaceTune. At one point, I developed face dysmorphia, I didn't feel like I looked like myself without foundation. And I just knew — that's so unhealthy. So, I ditched foundation years ago, went foundation-free, and never looked back. 

But there are days where I wish I had more coverage than just concealer. This is why I believe cushion is such a great compromise for those who don't really want a full-coverage foundation, but want something more than just a tinted moisturizer. 

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Cushion has been around in Korea [for a while]. When Amorepacific launched it with Iope, I was one of the first to use it, too because I just love everything Iope creates. I instantly fell in love with the format. And I'm a huge fan of refreshing my SPF every four hours. It's something that I feel a lot of people don't even know that they should be doing if they're out in the sun. 

Cushion is something you can carry with you. It's your touch-up and it's compact, it's portable and the sponge, is antimicrobial. 

People are taking care of their skin more, and so cushion is an incredible compromise because it has a lot of skin-care benefits. Ours, in particular, has niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and of course, sunscreen. I'm hoping now maybe the timing is better to launch a cushion.

ALLURE: It's interesting that you mentioned COVID because I was thinking a lot about how in the States, our makeup culture is very full beat, full coverage. COVID has made it so that we don't really have many places to go with so much makeup on, and when you add the mask factor — it can get messy. I really feel like we're moving to more natural-looking skin.

MP: That's true. And we have filters now that can give you a full face of foundation if you want. That being said, I don't think [a heavy beat is] going to go away. I still sometimes will indulge — you can't do a full glam eye without a beat face. It just doesn't look right. But, I think for day-to-day, and that's something that Em Cosmetics we focus mostly on is, we're creating products that are essentials that you reach for daily, that you can wear comfortably.

I think maybe with COVID, there is this reset button with a lot of people with their routines. It doesn't have to be in regards to makeup — it's life in general. They're taking a step back, like Marie Kondo, getting rid of a lot of things they don't need and keeping the things that bring them joy. 

ALLURE: All of these products have a sunscreen component. I know sometimes when you're infusing sunscreen into a complexion product, it can get a little tricky for darker shades to get the tone right without making the product look ashy. How did you guys approach that, so that the darker shades wouldn't leave a gray cast?

MP: We did a combination of both physical and chemical [sunscreens]. I actually like them both. I know some people, especially those with sensitive skin, can't use chemical, which is unfortunate. It's actually the physical sunscreen that [tends to] give that purple, white, ashy after-effect on deeper complexions. We were pretty adamant about creating a sunscreen that looked invisible. We did extensive testing on multiple shades and undertones. We just had to make sure that even though it's sheer and buildable, each shade can stretch.

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That was really important because we didn't launch 50 shades. I mean, we can't because I'm a small brand. I can't launch 50 shades because I bootstrapped this whole brand myself. But, if we do six shades, we're going to make sure that it has an incredible range. And it's a beautiful gradient from light to deep. That was something I was really adamant about — our team taking up that challenge.

ALLURE: What's your favorite way to use the Daydream Cushion? I know everyone has their own little techniques for application.

MP: When people get products, the first thing they do is throw away their sponge. This is something you do not do with Daydream Cushion or most cushions in general. But, especially for our cushion, do not throw away the sponge. You get two [anti-microbial] sponges that you can wash in a Ziploc bag. You put dishwasher soap or makeup remover in the bag and then swish it around before you let it air-dry. 


What I like to do is insert my three fingers [between the loop and the pad]. That way, I can push down with my middle finger and I can use the pointed edge to get into the crevices of my face. I start around any areas where you need most of the coverage. I have a lot of redness around my cheeks. Then, whatever's left over on the tip, I use it around my nose in the crevices and then also under my eyes and the rest on my chin.

I leave my forehead untouched because it's your forehead, unless you actually need coverage, you can just leave it as is. After that, if you need powder, powder away, but this has a more of a natural skin-like finish. But, that's how I use it! The best part is because it's refillable, all you have to do is pop it from the back. So, in here you just press and it comes right out and then you have the refill, it pops back in.

Em Cosmetics' Daydream Foundation is available now for $48 at emcosmetics.com.


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