Skip to main content

If you’ve never tried a cosmetic sponge, allow me to introduce you—it may just become your new go-to beauty tool. That’s what happened to me.

After several years of applying foundation with my fingertips, I tried some disposable cosmetic wedges my mom had left in the guest bathroom for me when I went to visit. Immediately, I was hooked. My foundation looked so natural, and it went on more smoothly and evenly than I was used to. At 31 years old, I hit a turning point in my makeup routine.

You’ve probably seen all manner of brightly colored, oddly shaped sponges as you stroll through the makeup section of the drug store. The variety can seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re new to this beauty tool. The good news is, you don’t have to be a makeup expert to make sense of the options. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started.

The basics

There are a few things that most cosmetic sponges have in common. One is the basic makeup application technique. Simply dab the product you’re using onto your face, as if you’re covering your face with polka dots. Then, grab your sponge, and blend the makeup using a bouncing, patting motion—not a dragging or rubbing motion.

Many sponges can be used either wet or dry, depending on your personal preference. Dry sponges provide a thicker application of makeup, while wet sponges create a more sheer, natural look. However, it’s important to note that some sponges, such as the Beautyblender, are specifically designed to be used wet, so be sure to read the directions.

Unless you’re using a disposable sponge, you’ll need to clean your sponge after using it. In general, you can give it a good rinse every day, to get out any excess product. And you’ll need to give it a thorough washing at least once a week—you can use a mild soap, baby shampoo, or a cleanser made for makeup sponges. Specific sponges may have more detailed care guidelines, and it’s important to follow them, both for the life of the sponge and the well-being of your skin.

Even with proper care, you’ll need to replace reusable applicators every three months or so.

Disposable cosmetic wedges

If the part about cleaning your sponge made you rethink your interest in makeup sponges, disposable may be the option for you. They’re not the most eco-friendly, but they are time-friendly, since there’s no cleaning involved. They’re also incredibly budget-friendly; you can buy a month’s worth for under $2.

In terms of shape, the flat surfaces are great for blending liquid or cream makeup across large portions of your face, like your cheeks, while the corners are helpful for small, hard-to-get areas, like under your eyes and around your nose. They are a bit flimsy, but they get the job done well—you can do your whole face (minus the eyes) with this one inexpensive tool.

Reusable sponges

This category of sponges has the most variety, in terms of shape. Each sponge will have its own unique directions, depending on the design and purpose, but there are some overarching similarities. In general, the rounded parts of sponges are intended for blending liquids and creams on large, smooth areas. Narrow or pointed parts of sponges are great for hard-to-reach spots. Flat, angled surfaces are helpful for contouring, as well as for setting powder. That being said, it’s your sponge and your makeup, so don’t feel like you have to be bound by what the package says—experiment a little to figure out what works for you.

At the moment, the biggest name in reusable makeup sponges is the Beautyblender, a bright pink teardrop-shaped sponge. At $20, it’s more expensive than some of the other options, but in comparisons with other sponges, it tends to head up the list. Another popular option is the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. This teardrop-shaped sponge also has a flat side, and a pack of two costs $10.

Of course, there are myriad other options out there, all at differing price points (some as low as $2.99) and different shapes. Some even come in variety packs, so you can try lots of different shapes and sizes at once.

Reusable silicone applicators

Silicone applicators are flat, and they tend to be oblong or teardrop-shaped. Though they’re often called “sponges,” silicone applicators aren’t porous. Since they don’t soak up any of your makeup, you only need to use a minimal amount of product. That lack of absorption also results in a thicker layer of makeup, rather than a sheer one, so you’ll end up with a slightly different look than you’d get with a sponge. This tool also calls for a different technique, using small circular motions instead of bouncing motions. Overall, silicone applicators are inexpensive, with many options under $10.

With any of the reusable tools, the good news about that three-month replacement window is that you don’t have to be committed to just one type of sponge. Try experimenting until you find something that works for you and your personal makeup routine.