Makeup sponges provide a quick, easy way to apply many kinds of base makeup. We tested makeup sponges by Beautyblender, NYX, Real Techniques, Milk Makeup, Fenty, e.l.f. Cosmetics, L’Oréal Paris and Juno & Co. to find the right sponge that will work across applications.
After testing many foundation applications with multiple makeup sponges, used both wet and dry, we found these to be our ultimate top two:
Heralded by beauty editors and makeup artists alike as the GOAT, the Beautyblender Original Makeup Sponge has, in our opinion, lived up to its hype. While it’s more expensive than others we tested, its quality (it didn’t disintegrate like others did over time) and effectiveness (it led to the cleanest application of the bunch) make it worth the money.
The NYX Teardrop Blending Sponge was our favorite budget sponge. Many of the other budget sponges are overly stiff, but this sponge is as flexible as some prestige brands, and its unique shape lets you manipulate it easily and blend your foundation in any crevice of your face.
We see these two as complementary products and think each one is worthy of a spot on your makeup vanity. We applied cream and liquid products by dabbing with the Beautyblender and then set them with powders applied with the flat NYX sponge using a pressing motion. This is a useful technique if you prefer not to mix different shades and formulas on the same sponge, cutting down on the amount of time you spend cleaning your makeup tools.
The Beautyblender claimed our top spot, thanks to its versatility, effectiveness and overall comfortable feel. It’s a rounded sponge with a teardrop shape, designed to be used while moist. The brand claims in this video that it should “bounce” on your makeup, if you use a springy dabbing motion as opposed to dragging on your foundation. And bounce it does. Because of its flexible form and quality material, it increases 30% in size when wet; it truly does feel like you can effortlessly pop on your base makeup swiftly as opposed to using some of the firmer sponges that don’t feel as soft or flexible (sorry, L’Oréal). It also applied our foundation the quickest and easiest of all the makeup sponges we tested.
When used moist as directed, the Beautyblender swells up, making it easier to quickly cover a large area with foundation. You can even use a moist Beautyblender to go over your base makeup after you’ve applied everything (including powder) to set it and get that coveted flawless finish. Because of its flexible form, the Beautyblender worked better with this technique than the other, stiffer sponges, which smeared our makeup. (The Real Techniques sponge, which is a bit firmer than the Beautyblender, pressed lines into the finish of our base makeup when we used the slanted side.) We also like that the Beautyblender stayed moist during the application process, unlike Juno & Co.’s velvet sponge, which dried out a little too quickly.
The Beautyblender is also the most versatile sponge we tested; it let us apply multiple forms of makeup with ease. It’s commonly used to apply foundation, but if you want to cover a large area with powder, concealer or even highlighter, this tool can easily be used to do so. (It’s also a good tool to use for “baking” your powder if you choose to.) You can also use the pointed tip of the sponge to apply powder eye shadows (wet for a more intense look or dry for more of the traditional powder finish).
Cleaning the Beautyblender might have been our least favorite aspect of it, as it’s not terribly easy to clean to where it looks like new. But it is possible, especially if you use the specialized cleaning solutions the brand offers.
We love when a product is both effective and affordable. The NYX Teardrop Blending Sponge is teardrop-shaped but flat, so we recommend this one more for powder products, but it can also blend creams and foundations effectively. While we found it easier and faster to do a quick full-face foundation application by dabbing with the Beautyblender (due to its rounded form), if you’re more comfortable using pressing or dragging techniques for your makeup (like you might be familiar with from using old-school flat-wedge sponges you stole from your mom’s makeup stash), then you might prefer the flat shape. This sponge is also latex-free, making it a great option for people who might have allergies (or who just prefer the texture of a latex-free sponge).
The shape also works well to reach smaller, hard-to-blend places (like right under the eyes). You can bend or roll it, or even use the very tip to dot on tiny details (like shimmer powder in the inner corners of your eyes).
Compared to the Beautyblender, it did leave us wanting in certain areas. For example, the shape and form of the NYX sponge, while effective for certain aspects of more detailed makeup application, didn’t lend as well to a quick allover application. Ultimately, we preferred the thicker, rounded teardrop shape of the Beautyblender, especially for cream and liquid products; the larger circumference made for quicker, easier application.
While not quite as versatile and effective as the Beautyblender in terms of application, at $7 for a two-pack, it is also extremely affordable. It’s also easy to clean, maybe even slightly easier than the Beautyblender, especially since it isn’t as thick as that one and most others we tested. If we had to choose one sponge, it’d be the Beautyblender. But if that’s not in your budget (or you just prefer an old-school flat sponge), then the NYX sponge is a solid choice.
There are many factors that go into creating a quality makeup sponge. We focused on the following categories and subcategories to investigate the best makeup sponges:
- Effectiveness: First and foremost, a makeup sponge should be able to dab, stipple or “bounce” onto the skin to apply your foundation. It should also help you blend different makeup products (like blush or contour products, for example) effectively.
- Versatility: Can it effectively handle applying and blending all types of foundation formulas, including creams, liquids and powders?
- Resulting finish: Does the finish look flawless and streak-free, or are you left with blotchy skin?
- Performance when wet/dry: Many sponges are actually designed to be used wet (or damp). Does the sponge work both wet and dry? Is one way more effective?
- Texture: Does it feel soft against the skin?
- Cleanability: How easy is it to clean?
- Form: Was it too stiff? Did the structure lend well to overall application?
- Shape: Is the shape conducive to both finer application uses (under eye, for instance) and larger application areas like the cheeks?
Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge ($6.98; amazon.com or $5.99; ulta.com)
The affordable, effective Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge came in close behind the NYX sponge in our testing. It has a similar shape to the Beautyblender, but with a slanted slide, making it a multifunctional tool that both blends and dabs easily. This one is best for liquid foundation, but you can also use it to apply creams and powders. We preferred the texture and versatility of the NYX sponge, but the Real Techniques sponge is still a great option.
Milk Makeup Dab + Blend Applicator ($22; amazon.com)
Gen Z (and TikTok aficionados of all ages), listen up. This is not your mother’s makeup sponge. A flat, nonporous silicone pad rather than a typical sponge, the Milk Makeup Dab + Blend Applicator is unique among the products we tested. It doesn’t absorb the product as much as other sponges, so it is less wasteful and easier to clean. It can be a bit of a shock in the texture department if you’re accustomed to the “spongy” feel of traditional makeup sponges, but if you’re down to try something new, this is a great choice, as it applies foundation similarly to the sponges you’ve tried before. Aside from the different texture, the only slight downside here is similar to the only thing we didn’t absolutely love about the NYX applicator, which is the flatter shape. (We found that the larger rounded teardrop shape of the Bleautyblender allowed for a quicker application.) It also has glitter embedded within, which does nothing for its effectiveness but everything for aesthetic purposes (and looks super cute sitting on our vanity).
Fenty Beauty Precision Makeup Sponge ($16; sephora.com)
The Fenty Beauty Precision Makeup Sponge is another great product from Rihanna’s line. It is similar in size and texture to the Beautyblender, though it features a flat edge on one side. This makes it especially great for dabbing on a concealer or highlighter in the under-eye area to add dimension to your face. It’s also relatively easy to clean. One drawback is that the edges can increase the likelihood of streakiness if used by less experienced beauty enthusiasts, so it’s important to blend properly and check your finish with this one.
e.l.f. Cosmetics Total Face Sponge ($6; ulta.com)
The inexpensive e.l.f. Cosmetics Total Face Sponge is very similar in shape to the Beautyblender, though one side features a flat edge. We love the versatility of this one and the low price. It’s slightly stiffer than our favorites, but if that isn’t a problem for you, then this is a great option. It’s also relatively easy to clean, similar to most others in the same price point.
L’Oréal Paris Makeup Infallible Blend Artist Makeup Sponge ($5.29, originally $7.99; amazon.com)
L’Oréal Paris consistently creates quality products at a low price. This makeup sponge features a unique hourglass shape, with a pointed tip to apply the product and a round base to bounce and blend. It’s easy to clean, and therefore very similar to other traditional sponges in terms of how easy it is to clean. It was a bit more rigid than the others we tested, but overall, this is still a solid choice that will get the job done.
Juno & Co. Microfiber Velvet Sponge ($5.99; target.com)
The texture of the Juno & Co. sponge is unique. It truly feels like soft velvet against your skin, which can be good for some, but might not be everyone’s preference. The shape is great, as it offers a pointed tip with a flat edge on one side. The flat edge is relatively small, which is good because it doesn’t get in the way if you prefer the other rounded side. The Juno & Co. sponge dried out very quickly when used wet (compared to the other sponges), which can be an issue unless you prefer a dry sponge. It’s also not super easy to clean, as the product we applied really permeated this sponge.
Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: