3LAB's Aqua BB is Almost the Perfect Cushion Compact

Sheer buildable coverage with added skincare benefits.
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Michelle Villett
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Sheer buildable coverage with added skincare benefits.

Cushion compacts are about to go mainstream! 

You've probably been hearing a lot these days about Korea's latest take on foundation. What's a cushion compact? Think of it as a BB cream in compact form, with the makeup dispensed through a bouncy sponge and applied with a pressed sponge applicator.

Lancôme is about to introduce one next month (stay tuned on that!), but so far, the brands offering cushion compacts have been Korean imports. Think Holika Holika, whose cushion I already shared my thoughts on here, or AmorePacific, whose cushion I'm about to get my hot little hands on (review coming shortly!).

Today, I bring you my thoughts on 3LAB—an American brand created by a Korean-born entrepreneur. (So it still kinda counts as Korean, right?) 

This is their Aqua BB:

3LAB Cushion Compact (packaging)

The outer packaging of 3LAB's Aqua BB.

Inside, you get the compact plus an extra refill. Which certainly makes the $95 price tag a bit easier to digest! Essentially, you're getting two foundations in one package.

3LAB Cushion Compact and refill

Each 3LAB Aqua BB package contains an extra refill.

Right, now let's examine the compact itself:

3LAB Cushion Compact

The 3LAB Aqua BB cushion compact.

3LAB Cushion Compact (back)

The back of the 3LAB Aqua BB cushion compact.

When you open it up, it's the same deal as with other cushion compacts. You get a flat, circular sponge applicator... and if you're a clean freak, it may bother you that it starts to get all grungey-looking as soon as you use it. Like this:

3LAB Cushion Compact (sponge)

The sponge applicator inside the 3LAB cushion compact.

When you lift up the little sponge-holder part, this is what's inside and where the actual makeup comes out of:

3LAB Cushion Compact (inside)

Inside the 3LAB Aqua BB cushion compact.

When you first open it, the sponge (or "cushion") won't be saturated with makeup... it only gets like this after you press on it with the applicator, fingers or a brush.

3LAB Cushion Compact (cushion)

The makeup-saturated "cushion" of the 3LAB Aqua BB.

Swatch time! This 3LAB cushion comes in three shades—Light, Medium and Dark—and this here is the Medium.

3LAB Aqua BB in Medium (swatch)

Swatch of the 3LAB Aqua BB in Medium.

As you can see, it's not an ideal match to my skin tone. Medium—no matter what the makeup brand—is never my best shade. I'd probably do better in the Light shade, although I hear that it's a very light Light (hehe), i.e. on the ghostly, whitening side. That seems to be a common theme with Korean makeup—for example, it was a big complaint I had about the Holika Holika cushion

So I very much wish 3LAB had a colour option in between Medium (too dark) and Light (probably too light?). This is my main problem with what is, otherwise, a very good cushion compact.

As far as texture goes, it is GREAT. I'm not understanding how some people are describing it as "too dewy," because for me the dry-down is excellent—you can't even feel this stuff on your skin. Despite that, it does seem to give you some nice hydration, along the same lines as what I feel like I get from my trusty HydrExtreme (probably from the rose water and glycerin in this). It also contains a whack load of peptides, so you get an anti-aging benefit as well. Oh, and it's a mineral SPF 40, too!

3LAB Cushion Compact (ingredients)

The ingredients in 3LAB Aqua BB.

Here's the full ingredients list:

Cyclopentasiloxane, Rosa Centifolia Flower Water, Water, Butylene Glycol, Butyloctyl Salicylate, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Lactobacillus Ferment, Dimethicone, Sodium PCA, Glycerin, Alumina, Trisiloxane, Glycereth-26, Sodium Hyaluronate, Adenosine, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Alteromonas Ferment Extract, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Allantoin, Beta-Glucan, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Tocopheryl Acetate, Carbomer, Methicone, PEG/PPG-20/15 Dimethicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PVP Crosspolymer, Polysorbate 20, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil - See more at: http://www.murale.ca/13374-3LAB_3Lab-Aqua-BB.aspx#sthash.TXYHDv8z.dpuf

The coverage is sheer. For any random imperfections or blemishes, you'll definitely need to use a concealer—which doesn't bother me, as I always prefer a sheer-ish skin base. It is slightly buildable, but I find it much easier to work with a domed foundation brush instead of the awkward/clumsy flat sponge.

Here's a comparison of the 3LAB cushion on its own and then with other makeup. 

3LAB Cushion Compact (alone and with other makeup)

The 3LAB Cushion Compact worn alone (left) and with other makeup (right).

On the left, without even any concealer, the Medium doesn't do a great job of covering my redness—especially notable in the chin area. I find that's usually the case whenever I try foundations that are a fraction too dark. 

But then on the right, when I add concealer plus eye makeup, blush and lip colour, you don't really notice the chin colour discrepancy anymore. I think come summertime, when I have a bit more colour, this will probably be okay.

The Bottom Line

Honestly, the colour match is the only thing "wrong" with the 3LAB Aqua BB, as far as I'm concerned. It's a beautiful feel and finish, has fab ingredients and I love that the sunscreen isn't a chemical one.

If your skin is either lighter or darker than mine, then this could really work for you!

Where To Buy

Find the 3LAB Aqua BB at:

Have Your Say

Have you tried the 3LAB Aqua BB? What's your favourite cushion compact?