Pros Teach Us How to Actually Use Those Tiny Shadow Sponge Brushes

Amber Katz

sponge tip applicator makeup brushes

Seasoned makeup mavens know that investing in your own collection of brushes is vital and most of us tend to toss the little sponge-tip applicators that are standard-issue in eyeshadows and blushes. Skin-care flatware is a more polarizing topic: Should you toss that small spatula that comes with your La Mer, even if it is comprised of hematite? Or do you hang on to it? And are there benefits to using those tiny shadow shading mechanisms? We talked to makeup artists Ricky Wilson and Ashleigh Ciucci for their thoughts on product applicator paraphernalia.

Get Your Glitter On
If you don’t want to be the unwitting recipient of this heinous crime of your own doing, try Wilson’s tip: Use sponge-tip applicators for glitter. “I’m a glitterphobe: If I use my brushes for any glitter application, I will have to throw them out or only use them for glitter going forward. Glitter seems to lurk in the brush hairs even after a deep cleaning.” We feel him and will certainly adopt this tip.

“I have successfully blended with a sponge tip applicator; it just takes a while,” says Wilson, who remembers using one on a client who didn’t use natural hair brushes. He advises using the flat side of the applicator and blending in a single direction, as opposed to the usual back and forth blending motion you’d do with a brush. “This works best starting from the inside of the lid/crease and working your way out,” he says. He likes using them to pack color on the lid and or in the inner corners of the eye. “They also are good for applying shadow under the eyes,  just load up the shadow on the tip and work your way from the outside in.”

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Skin Care
Wilson believes in keeping skin-care spatulas from a hygiene standpoint. “Most of them are like little spoons and have built in measuring abilities, so you don’t overuse the product,” he points out. “Many women feel like the more product you use the better it works, but the sad truth is the more you use the faster it runs out,” he cautions. Ciucci agrees: “Sticking your grubby fingers into a tub of La Mer can transfer bacteria which can then grow in the creamy environment,” she says. She tends to toss hers along with the paperwork, she admits. “But for those who have sensitive skin, it’s a good way to ensure that the product doesn’t get contaminated,” she says. She also agrees with Wilson: “The spatula can be good for those who have a habit of glopping on too much.”

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And Of Course, For Emergency Use
As for all applicators that come with your makeup, Wilson advises keeping those around for emergency use only. “They’re almost like sitting in the exit row on a plane,” he notes. “Although they have come a long way they still don’t give the same results as a pro quality brush.” Notes Ciucci, “While wands can substitute for brushes or fingertips for creamy and liquid products, they’re sub-par when it comes to applying powder products.” Ciucci tends to use her fingers rather than a sponge-tip applicator for powders. “I find that the applicators are usually flimsy, tiny and hard to control and almost always apply product unevenly,” she explains. If you find yourself in a situation where it’s sponge-tip applicator or nothing, Ciucci suggests dipping into your powder product and tapping off the excess. “Don’t blow, as some of your spit can fly out and stick to the powder making it even harder to blend out,” she notes. She says to apply the powder to the area you want the most concentration of color, wipe off the excess product on the applicator with a tissue and then feather out the edges with the bare sponge-tip. “Finish off any blending with your ring finger-tip, the digit with the weakest (therefore softest) touch,” she says.