The Beauty Sponge

Being an avid makeup user, I decided to explore the beauty sponge. I’ve been deeply interested in and have explored creatively for makeup for about 5 years. Over time, I’ve learned how to use new techniques, products, and tools to further my craft in my makeup looks. A tool I’ve come to use often and know well is the beauty sponge.

Makeup gained popularity for the average woman in the mid-20th century. However, most face makeup consisted of simply powders, which were either meant to be translucent, to lighten the wearer’s skin tone, or to add a light amount of “skin-tone” coverage, despite there being very few shades available. There was also a growing popularity in rouge, now commonly called blush, lipstick, eyebrow pencils, eye liners, and eye shadows. For these products, ideal applicators were brushes or small puffs that would come in the compact your product was packaged in, as shown above. It wasn’t untilthe growth of Hollywood and the film industry that any form of liquid makeup began to be produced, and while brushes were a fairly effective form of application, they often left streaks or patchy areas on the skin.

While makeup companies had began to implement round and flat sponges in powder products for those who wanted more coverage than the average puff would provide, the first true sponges were used for mostly liquid or cream makeup. They were easy to clean, dispersed product evenly, and if desired, were available in packs so users could discard used sponges. The first popularized makeup sponge were white, small, wedge-shaped sponges, and they became popular in the late 20th century to early 2000's.

In more recent years, the now popular BeautyBlender is the favorite of many cosmetic experts. As one of the first mainstream liquid and powder makeup application sponges, it gained popularity in 2012 and ’13 and created huge waves in the makeup industry. The rounded sponge with a pointed tip can cover large areas as well as get into smaller nooks and crannies of the face that can be hard to reach, such as around the nose and eyes. Almost every beauty brand has replicated the original BeautyBlender in some way, and in doing so, many have also created other shapes, sizes, and densities. Many companies are also experimenting with silicone blenders, which claim they don’t absorb product and are easily washed and kept hygenic. Silicone blenders are still a work in progress, however, as they’re known to create streaks, and many agree that the way liquid products are semi-absorbed into sponges allows users to use the perfect amount of product on their skin.

Silicone applicators can be flat (shown above) or mimic the shape of beauty sponges. Some companies are currently developing flat silicone blenders with beauty sponges on the back side to address the issue of streaks left after blending.

While users of these beauty sponges were originally limited to those who are familiar with makeup trends and are passionate about or enjoy makeup, now, just about everyone owns some sort of rounded sponge to apply their makeup. These sponges come at a range of prices; for example, disposable wedge sponges are still readily available, and are fairly cheap. The BeautyBlender, the still-favorite of many makeup users, is $20. Another popular sponge is by Real Techniques, which is around $5–6. This means this product is accessible by just about anyone with a love for makeup.

Makeup sponges are typically made of polyurethane (latex free) or SBR (latex) foam. The shape and size of the typical BeautyBlender shaped sponge — which is the most popular shape of sponge — suggests users can hold the sponge however is most comfortable, or however uses the best part of the sponge for certain parts of the face. For example, if a user wanted to cover their cheek area, they would know to use the fatter end or the surface area on the side, because using a larger sponge area is the same idea as using a larger brush. Also, since many current makeup users are familiar with using puffs and disposable wedge sponges, the bouncing and buffing motion used to work with beauty sponges is something that comes natural to even first time users of the sponges, adding to its affordance.

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