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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.
Shade-matching was a bit hard at first because, even though there are only six shades to choose from, there are also only a few models on the site to use as references. But somehow it worked out fairly well for all three of us. Editorial assistant Talia Gutierrez was a bit worried, so she chose two shades, DG-02 Ijeoma and DG-03 Ella, and combined them for a spot-on match.
Talia before and after applying the foundation
I, on the other hand, only needed to use DG-04 Funmi, which was basically a perfect match. Before applying, I used Beauty Bakerie The Butter HydraSilk Primer. Then, I rubbed L'Oréal Paris's True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer in the Deep shade for an extra-glowy complexion. For a streak-free application, Quynh recommends using the provided applicator, instead of a foundation brush or makeup sponge, in a pressing and rolling motion. Unlike the typical circle-shaped sponges, this brand's puff has an angled tip at the top that can be used for a more precise application.
I dipped the rounded side of the puff into the cushion and used the pressing and rolling technique, as suggested by Quynh, to apply the formula. Honestly, I was a bit afraid that the foundation wouldn't blend out well because I'm so used to buffing with a brush, but I was very wrong. The liquid formula set and practically melted into my skin, leaving a gorgeous, luminous finish. I looked very good.
Me before and after applying the foundation
I hardly ever wear just foundation, but because I had a virtual meeting I just couldn't miss, I wore this one with no other makeup. Usually, I don't really care how I look on a webcam, seeing as the quality is trash, but this time I was struggling not to stare at myself. I truly was amazed at how flawless and glowy my skin looked.
Though my face with the foundation alone did look great, I concealed and did with the rest of my makeup routine following my meeting. I didn't want to do my usual full beat, so I focused my concealer directly underneath my eye for a little extra coverage and didn't bother with contouring. Then, I blended some bronzer and blush on my cheeks and added the finish touches — mascara, shimmery eye shadow in the inner corner, and brown lip liner layered with a shimmery lip gloss. Voilà, my beat was complete.
Nykia before and after applying the foundation
Allure commerce editor Nykia Spradley was also impressed by the foundation's your-skin-but-better finish. She applied equal parts of the shades DG-03 Ella and DG-04 Funmi with a brush — and skipped concealer and contour. "Although the consistency is light, it covers up my uneven, blotchy skin really well, leaving a nice, dewy finish behind," she says. "My skin feels hydrated but not greasy." The lightweight formula truly makes it feel like you're barely wearing anything at all.
All in all, even though this formula doesn't have the usual medium- or full-coverage formula I love, it's pretty phenomenal. The natural-looking finish is perfect, and the lightweight-but-buildable coverage feels great on the skin. Besides the glorious finish, this foundation has an impressive list of skin-care ingredients — hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, centella asiatica, collagen, tea tree oil, shea butter, adenosine, and niacinamide, to be exact — plus the added bonus of SPF 50, but don't forget to apply sunscreen before the foundation. You get amazing moisturizing and brightening benefits from the cocktail of ingredients packed in the small cushion compact. It's no wonder it looks and feels so damn good.
When selecting these ingredients, Okafor wanted to include ones that help soothe and moisturize the skin, especially with the rise in maskne. She looked to the popular ingredients from Korea, of course, but also her home country Nigeria to incorporate her heritage. Users get some serious skin-care benefits even while wearing makeup. Seriously, what's not to love about this compact?
The best part might honestly be the fact that more shades of the cushion foundation are on their way. By the end of April, Okafor plans to expand to 20 shades with more options for neutral, olive, and golden undertones in that medium-to-deep range.
"With this [brand], Black women and people of color living in Korea and outside Korea who are very interested in K-beauty can look forward to finding their shades and cosmetics made for them, too," Okafor shares. The only thing left to do is wait.
Just to recap, this cushion foundation offers a gorgeous glowy finish with a buildable formula packed with SPF and a bunch of powerhouse ingredients that would make skin-care enthusiasts swoon. So if you want to get your hands on your own Ultra 7 Brightening Foundation Cushion, head over to www.drgiocosmetics.com, where it retails for $35.
Dr. Gio Cosmetics Ultra 7 Brightening Foundation Cushion
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