Guide to Makeup Applicators

Deciding Which Makeup Applicator to Use

Sometimes, applicator choice depends on personal preference, like which wedge feels better in your hand or which puff fits best in your makeup bag. More often, though, it depends on what it is you're trying to do.

There are several questions you can ask that will point you toward the right tool for job:

Is it a powder, a liquid or a cream? Powder is easy. If you're not using a brush, you're using a puff. For either liquid or cream, you're grabbing a sponge -- typically an open-cell sponge for a liquid, and a closed-cell sponge for a cream.

Is your application space large or small? For large areas, you'll look to the sponge with the largest continuous surface area, like the flat or rounded kind.

Is this an all-over or a precision job? For all-over application, flat or round sponges work best; for precision, you'll go with hard edges (a wedge, typically) and points.

So, to match your makeup to your tool:

  • For liquid foundation, try a flat or rounded, open-cell sponge.
  • For cream foundation, grab a flat or rounded, closed-cell sponge.
  • For cream cover-up, a closed-cell wedge works well.
  • For setting or bronzing powder, use a puff.
  • For blending layers, almost any sponge will work; if you're blending heavy creams, a closed-cell sponge will likely be the better tool, while lighter products respond best to the open-cell kind.
  • For cream eye shadow, sponge swabs are ideal.
  • For applying liquids or creams in tight areas like the eyelids or the sides of the nose, wedges and points are ideal.

It's pretty straightforward once you know the basics, and here's the thing: You do not need to have every one of these tools in your makeup kit. Ideally, you'll have at least one puff and a few sponges: one swab, one open-cell and one closed-cell, with at least one of the latter providing contours, points and/or edges.

Fifteen tools or three, though, a point that bears repeating: Applicators, especially sponges, must be clean -- soap and water after every use or pick a fresh one from a disposable set. If you're blending bacteria onto your face along with your cover-up, you're better off going bare.

For more information on cosmetics, beauty and style, check out the links below.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • "13 Everyday Habits That Are Giving You Acne." Total Beauty. (Aug. 14, 2012)
  • "Brushes and Applicators." Ulta. (Aug. 14, 2012)
  • "Sponges & Applicators." Sephora. (Aug. 14, 2012)
  • "Tools of the Trade." Mehron Theatre Makeup. (Aug. 14, 2012)