Smooth and shade like a pro with this time-saving tool.

By Nykia Spradley
April 28, 2020
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

Ask any makeup novice or aficionado what their tool preference is for applying foundation or concealer and you’ll likely find that there’s a divide between team sponge and team brush. Personally, I toe the line between the two, depending on how much time I have to pull myself together, which as a mom and beauty editor, is often very little. 

Both tools can give you a professional, airbrushed finish, depending on how you use them.

Celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman’s rule of thumb is to use a blender for liquid makeup and a brush for dry products like powders. Due to its natural porosity, a sponge will absorb some of the liquid makeup that you put on it, the result is a lighter application on your face. 

Whereas, a brush and powder duo is the better option if you need more coverage or want to mattify oily skin. Overall, the versatility and simplicity of a sponge is way more my speed and I've learned a few tricks for using a makeup sponge. 

Wet It First

“Run the sponge under tap water and wring out the excess water. A damp or wet sponge allows the product to blend and spread seamlessly,” says celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek. A dry sponge will suck up a liquid or cream so you end up wasting product. The exception to this rule: If you are applying a product that doesn’t mix with water, like a powder or wax or silicone-based product (like cream blush or highlighter), leave the sponge dry. Otherwise, you can end up with a blotchy, uneven application, says Dorman. 

Learn the “Bounce” Technique 

Use the sponge to tap the product into your skin, rather than swipe on the product. “You have to find your finesse or you can actually take off all the makeup. It’s like learning how to dance,” says makeup artist Jamie Greenberg. It took me a few tries to get into the groove, but now I lightly pat the makeup into my face instead of rubbing it on. I’m mindful of blending the perimeter of my face too so that it all looks seamless. I noticed a difference right away with this method. The product goes on more evenly and although I’m not applying as much product as I would if I wiped it on, I still got just the right coverage I wanted. 

Use It As a Final Step or a Touchup

A sponge can also be used at the end of your routine. “I always blend with a sponge after the makeup is complete; I find it’s almost equivalent to buffing with a brush. It pushes the makeup into the skin and gives the perfect softness to the makeup. If you feel that after several hours the makeup is breaking down or looking worn out, I’ll take a little moisturizer, place it on the fuller side of the sponge and bounce it into the skin. It refreshes the foundation or makeup and brings the skin back to life,” Sesnek adds.

Store It Carefully

“Don’t store a wet sponge in a plastic, airtight bag or container if you don’t plan on washing it before the next use; this can cause bacteria to grow in the sponge,” says Dorman. Instead, she recommends placing it in a mesh pouch so it can dry while being protected inside your makeup bag. 

After learning how to properly use a sponge, I put some to the test. These were my favorites:

Credit: Courtesy of Beauty Blender

1

I’d never heard of wetting a sponge before applying the product until this blender came out. This seemed like it would just ruin my makeup, but it did the exact opposite. The lightweight, fluffy texture that you get after dousing in water is meant to help bounce your product into an airbrushed finish. Don’t forget to clean it after every two to three uses. This one comes with a flower-shaped cleansing bar to make purifying easy. 

Buy It: $45, Sephora

Credit: Courtesy of Dose of Colors

2

You can use the three shapes on this sponge for different parts of your face. The slanted flat edge is ideal for a setting powder finish. The rounding bottom makes for easy blending of your liquid base, and the precisely pointed tip can get into hard to reach areas like the corners of your eyes or around your nose. When wet, it puffs up to double its original size making for a larger surface area to blend with. 

Buy It: $17, Dose of Colors

Credit: Courtesy of ColourPop

3

There’s a silicone core at the center of this one that prevents it from soaking up all your wet makeup (foundation, concealer, blush) before it gets onto your face. This is ideal on days when I’m breaking out or tired and need to keep a flawless look.

Buy It: $7, ColourPop

Credit: Courtesy of Quick Beauty

4

I like this precise tip for detail work, like covering up dark spots with concealer or spackling a pimple with a lighter touch that my fingers give. This type of detailer is also great for correcting mistakes. Dip the tip into a bit of makeup remover and gently tap on the area that needs a redo. 

Buy It: $8, Quick Beauty

Credit: Courtesy of Flower Beauty

5

I found that a slightly more elongated sponge lets you comfortably focus on different areas of your face. I don’t contour often, but when I do, a brush can be tricky and often doles out too much product at once. The flat curved edge on this sponge is easier to maneuver if you want to try a cheekbone contour without any harsh lines.  

Buy It: $10, Flower Beauty

Credit: Courtesy of HipDot

6

“Triangular or egg-shaped sponges both have a narrow tip or edge that is great for blending foundation or concealer into hard to reach areas like around the nose and around the eyes. The wider, fuller side works great to blend everything, foundations, cream blush, cream contour, and cream highlighter,” says Sesnek. This one also expands to double its size when wet for better coverage range. 

Buy It: $8, HipDot

Credit: Courtesy of Miss A

7

Go for a less pointed blender when softening is the goal, particularly around the hairline and perimeter of the face. Dorman uses a wider or more rounded edge like this to apply bronzer or contour. “After placing blush, contour, and highlighter on, use the sponge to soften the edges and make all three products blend seamlessly into each other,” she suggests. 

Buy It: $2, Miss A

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