You could be using the best foundation in the world, but without the right tools to put it on, it could still end up looking too cakey, too streaky, or just plain meh. That’s where makeup sponges come in. What originated in triangle form back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth (or sometime just after that), have now taken on rounded curvy new shapes and colors. But what the heck is the difference between all of them? We asked makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci to break down it down. Here’s your shorthand guide for which sponges to use when and how.
1. Avon Triangle Makeup Sponge
The triangle sponge was part of the first generation of makeup sponges from way back when. They’re disposable, so they’re great for the lazy girl on the go (or the lazy girl not going anywhere but who just doesn’t want to be bothered cleaning her makeup sponges). They get the job done, but the rigid lines and points can make it hard to distribute product evenly, as compared to curvier options. While these are the least expensive of the bunch, they can definitely add up when purchased over and over again. “Make sure to wet it for a more controlled application,” adds Ciucci.
2. Earth Therapeutics Precisso Cosmetic Blending Sponge
This curvy over-achiever is made with bamboo charcoal which helps to draw pollutants out of the skin while you dab and blend away. It also has a small divot which can aid in more precise application. “Holding from the round bottom provides a softer application, whereas gripping from the ridge of the sponge, the application will be more intense,” Ciucci says.
3. Jane Iredale Flocked Makeup Sponge
Here’s one that’s great for powder products, especially mineral makeup. “The kabuki-like brushes often used for this type of application can create a heavy finish. This flocked sponge is great for buffing down a powdery finish or dabbing on loose powder in a high-shine situation,” says Ciucci.
4. Beautyblender Micro Mini
Aside from being adorable (it’s about the size of an almond!), this little guy is actually quite functional. It’s like a detailer for the small areas around the eyes and nose. “I tend to use this when going for a full coverage because you’re able to build a flawless finish without any rough edges in these small areas,” says Ciucci. “It’s also really nice to tap on cream highlighter atop the cheekbones, brow bones, and bridge of the nose.” As the rule also goes for the OG Beautyblender, make sure to wet the sponge first then stipple (beauty-speak for “dot”) the product on. “If you don’t wet the sponge before you use it, the product sinks into it like a black hole,” warns Ciucci.
You’ve likely seen the iconic original pink egg-shaped sponge, well, everywhere by now. It’s a favorite among makeup artists, beauty editors, and the general makeup-loving population—and with good reason. The soft latex-free foam ball applies a seamless coat of liquid, gel, and cream formulas leaving skin flawless instead of clumpy and coated. But the rainbow of colored Beautyblenders—now available in nude, black, white, red, and purple— are purely for aesthetic purposes. “Flesh tone products are less visible with a nude sponge, as are darker foundations, bronzers, and cream blush, which tend to stain the lighter sponges,” says Ciucci. Once wet, it doubles in size and the level of wetness can help you control the level of coverage. “If just slightly damp, you’re able to build up medium to full coverage and if very wet, you can get a dewy, sheer finish.”
6. Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge
It looks like someone took a slice out of the side of this latex-free sponge and that’s precisely what makes it such a multi-use tool. “The broad rounded side of the sponge is great for basic application of foundation and bronzer. The tapered end is for detailing and the flat side is great for contouring with creamy products,” says Ciucci. If you’re someone who spends extra time polishing your complexion, this is a great all-in-one tool that helps you do just that.
Now that you’ve got your sponge game down, are you using the right complexion products? Check out our guide to foundation, powders, BB creams, CC creams, and more right here.