It’s no secret that K-beauty makeup staples, such as lip tints and BB creams, have caught the eyes of many Americans for years now. Unfortunately, though, some of these products don’t always have shade options for darker skin tones. Thankfully, when there’s a hole in the beauty industry, oftentimes there’s someone trying to fill it — and Grace Ijeoma Okafor has arrived to shake things up in the K-beauty world with her brand, Dr. GIO Cosmetics.
Okafor knows all too well how hard it can be to find cosmetics for dark skin, especially as a Black woman living in Korea. In fact, it’s the impetus behind her own beauty brand. “Currently K-beauty is widely known for its scientific approach to skin care and use of nature in producing very effective beauty products,” Okafor tells Allure. “So I felt there was a need to make it an inclusive beauty industry and create K-beauty products targeting dark skin tones and people of color.”
The brand’s first and only product is the Ultra 7 Brightening Foundation Cushion with a weightless finish that looks like the best airbrushed skin. Okafor started with a cushion foundation because she felt it was “the number-one” K-beauty product “lacking in inclusivity.” It’s a popular product category because of the usually lightweight formula and natural-looking finish, but there aren’t too many brands that offer dark shades based on our research.
First things first, what makes cushion foundations different from other formulas? “Basically, a [cushion foundation] is a liquid foundation is packaged in a portable compact form,” makeup artist Mai Quynh says. “The liquid foundation is stored in a spongey cushion that is distributed when you press down on the sponge with an applicator.” That makes it a convenient way to apply foundation, especially for someone on the go, she adds.
Cosmetic chemist Ginger King agrees, but adds that “[cushion foundations] are more of skin-care formulas with color.” Bottled foundation formulas sometimes have more polymers for longer wear or higher pigment loads for thicker coverage, she explains. Cushion foundation formulas, on the other hand, typically have a lighter coverage with a luminous, satin finish.
Each Ultra 7 Brightening Foundation Cushion comes with a buildable liquid formula and a tan-colored puff with Dr. GIO printed in all caps on a beige sash. So, Okafor started out with six shades focusing on the medium-to-dark range, exclusively. I, along with two other Allure editors, was able to get our hands on the foundation to test it out. Because I’ve never actually used a cushion foundation, I asked Quynh for a few application tips. Here’s how it went.