Are Cushion Compacts Making You Break Out?

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
When the cushion-compact trend made its way stateside by way of South Korea a few years ago, I happily jumped on the train. Since then, I've tried almost every type of cushion makeup — liners, correctors, foundations, you name it — and the spongy variations quickly replaced many of their non-cushion counterparts in my makeup bag. Why? Because of their portability, tactility, and sheer, dewy finish.

But recently, I've heard whisperings of cushion compacts gone bad (read: growing mold). If they are harboring bacteria, could it be that one of my favorite forms of makeup is bad for my skin? I decided to investigate.

Cushion compacts contain water, which makes them more prone to bacteria than cream compacts, which do not, explains cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat. But he still believes you can use them without worry, as most have been through rigorous testing and contain adequate preservatives that make them safe for use.

Once raw materials pass our internal standards, they undergo tests for skin irritation, photo toxicity, and skin allergies.

Amorepacific
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"We make sure...our cushion puffs pass the antibacterial activity test to ensure [they] inhibit any contamination upon customer usage," says Laura Chen, marketing manager at Sulwhasoo. Amorepacific (which owns several other brands, including Sulwhasoo, Iope, and Laneige) details its product-testing procedure on its website. "Once raw materials pass our internal standards, they undergo tests for skin irritation, photo toxicity, and skin allergies as a final process," it says. Today, Amorepacific has over 18 registered patents for its cushion-compact technology and 148 pending.

Despite all the measures brands go through, other factors can impact product safety. Have you ever forgotten to screw the cap back on a jar of food, and revisited it later only to find that it had grown a forest of mold? Well, the same can happen with your makeup. So always keep your cushion compact's lid closed tightly, warns Robinson. To further prevent the growth of bacteria, he suggests always keeping your products in a cool, dry environment.

After a few weeks (or months) of use, you may be tempted to give your cushion compact a cleaning like you do your makeup brushes, but Robinson advises against this. (More good news!) "You may [end up] contaminating the product," he says. Instead, he recommends replacing your cushion compact every six months. When applying the makeup, be sure to use clean hands and to wash your brushes and replace your applicator sponges regularly.

According to the FDA, cosmetic companies are responsible for the safety of their products and ingredients, but it's still up to you to do your due diligence. Keep a watchful eye on your makeup. If your products are starting to smell funky, separate, or grow mold, throw them out. Your wallet may take a hit, but you'll avoid a face full of zits (or worse) come morning.
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