Makeup sponges! They were a thing I only remembered from when Mum used them when I was a kid, and then the Beauty Blender appeared on the scene. Since Youtubers have sung its praises a bunch of dupes have cropped up, most recently being Samantha Chapman’s Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. I’ve heard people say their cheap Farmers sponge is just as good; I’ve heard people say that all of them are terrible and to stick to applying foundation with a brush. My solution? To buy one of each and put them to the test. I evaluated them based on first impressions, cost, size, shape, how you use it, how much foundation it uses, and most importantly, the results on your face.
I hope you appreciate my efforts! Read on to see how they fared, and which is my top pick of the three.
Manicare Precision Blending Sponge, $6.99 NZD from Farmers
BB: It’s hot pink. It’s smaller than it looks on Youtube (because it expands when you wet it for use), and very spongy.
RT: Bright orange. It’s denser than the Beauty Blender but still springy, and has a fine texture.
M: Deep purple. This is a much rougher, denser texture than the others. What struck me as soon as I opened the packaging was the smell! This smells very strongly of sulphur (think Rotorua) but after a deep clean it’s mostly gone… sometimes I think I’m picking up whiffs but those may be phantoms.
Size and shape
BB: This has a teardrop shape, with a very rounded base and a pointed tip. The base allows you to get good coverage quickly, and the pointed end allows you to get close around smaller areas like under the eyes and around the nose. The sponge almost doubles in size when it’s wet, which is how you’re supposed to use it.
RT: This is a round oval shape with a point at each end. One end has an angled flat area, which is designed to be used to apply your base, and the pointed end again allows you to get close in to smaller areas. The sponge does increase in size when it is wet, but not to the same degree as the Beauty Blender.
M: This is a teardrop shape with two bulges. It narrows to a point fairly suddenly at the top, which makes it harder to get in close to smaller areas. It does not change in size when wet.
How to use it
BB: Run the sponge under the tap until it is full of water, then squeeze as much water out as possible – it should be damp to the touch. Use the wide end of the sponge to pick up liquid foundation from a palette or the back of your hand, and then ‘bounce’ or stipple the sponge across your face. Their website suggests to stipple and twist the sponge over problem areas like acne to get full coverage. You can also use this end for cream blush, and turn it around to use the pointed end for areas under the eyes.
RT: In Sam’s video about this she doesn’t suggest using this sponge wet. She suggests using the flat edge to sweep foundation across the skin and stipple it in areas where you need more coverage. You can use this sponge for powder as well as cream products. I have tried using this sponge both wet and dry, and this made no difference to the finish; you can’t use it wet to apply powder, though, obviously!
M: This doesn’t come with any instructions for use, but a sponge is a sponge, so I tried it wet and dry, both stippling and wiping/sweeping (swiping??). The rough texture means stippling works better than wiping, as it avoids streaks.
How much foundation it uses
BB: One of these reasons you’re meant to use this sponge wet is so that it soaks up less of your foundation. Unfortunately I find that it still sucks up A LOT of foundation, and I need to use 2-3 times as much as I usually would when applying with fingers or a brush.
RT: This sponge seems to soak up a little less than the Beauty Blender does, but I’m still using a lot more than I usually would.
To counteract this for both the Beauty Blender and the Real Techniques sponge, I’ve been roughly spreading foundation on my face first with my fingers, then blending it with the sponge. I find less gets absorbed that way!
M: This guy is the worst of the three for absorbing foundation. It just sucks it right up almost without transferring any to your face.
(In the photo above I used the Manicare sponge on the left side of the photo, and the Beauty Blender on the right. Do you see how I just couldn’t get coverage with the Manicare sponge?)
BB: Stippling or bouncing this sponge gives you a really fine, ~blurred~ flawless finish. It lasts no more or less time than any other way of applying foundation, so to prolong the wear I recommend using a primer first, then setting with powder, then spraying with finishing spray. To be honest doing all of those things is excessive, but any one or combination will help.
RT: Using wet or dry doesn’t make a lot of difference to the finish you get from this sponge. It gives a fine, smooth finish that is not as “perfecting” as the Beauty Blender but still very nice.
M: This… sucks. It takes a LOT more foundation to get coverage and then it’s rough and patchy. I ended up patting over my skin with my fingers to fix what the sponge did.
(Unfortunately this is the only photo I have from the day I tried the RT sponge. I promise underneath all that overexposure my skin looks nice!)
BB: This guy takes quite a while to dry, and I know many girls have had issue with Beauty Blenders growing mould. Once it’s mouldy, there’s nothing you can do to get it out, so you need to make sure you have a good warm dry place for the sponge to dry quickly.
RT: It takes a lot of washing to get the foundation out of this sponge. It then takes a very long time to dry (longer than the Beauty Blender) and doesn’t spring back into shape like the Beauty Blender does… it kind of looks like a kumara.
M: I hate this thing and can’t wait to stop using it.
I saved this category for last because cost really has to be evaluated against quality.
BB: $20 USD is pretty steep for a sponge, but after comparing it to what else is out there, you’re paying for superior quality. It might pay to wait until Cherry Culture has a sale (which they do fairly regularly) if you’re not prepared to splash out full price. Or, maybe you could keep an eye out on Hyacinth Girl for a giveaway that might be coming soon?
RT: This is an affordable alternative to the Beauty Blender, but it’s not a perfect dupe. It performs differently and is not quite as amazing, but is still a good product and doesn’t let the consistently good Real Techniques brand down.
M: Don’t waste six dollars on this! I didn’t realise a sponge could be so disappointing.