We Want to Believe: The Beauty Blender

scarier than it looks

Welcome back to We Want to Believe: A Column About Beauty & Money. To recap, Audrey Ference is a complete caveman and cheapskate who cuts her own bangs and washes her face with shower soap. She is also lazy and a disgusting human. Meghan Nesmith has tested every serum in your airport’s duty-free cosmetics department. She believes whole-heartedly in the healing power of a facial spray, and currently has a terrible case of adult acne.

One of us is a skeptic, and one of us just spent over $100 on a custom blended face oil. The world is full of beauty treatments, and we’re just two girls trying to separate the chum from the moisturizer that will return our faces to their fetal states. Together, we’re here to tell you what’s worth it.

Meghan: Hi! The subject of today’s chat is trauma!

Audrey: I was very intimidated by this sponge and I don’t know why. There’s something very contraceptive/sex toy-ish about it, which should have been comforting? I am not Good at Makeup.

Meghan: Yeah, let’s start there. This week is our first reader request: we were experimenting with the beautyblender®, which is a blending sponge for face makeup. It’s the most “makeup-y” product we’ve used so far, I think, and it was weirdly triggering??? It brought up some junk around our relationship to makeup, so let’s explore that. What IS your relationship to makeup?

this woman has a lot of feelings about the beautyblender

Audrey: Ha ha, triggering migggght be overstating it a little, more like just…a bummer, I guess. I’m not good at makeup things. And right now I feel like everything femme is very cool in feminist circles, which is really great. I present very femme! I love femme things. But I’m just not good at makeup or nail care and I don’t like to do it and I feel this pressure (totally self-applied) to pretend to enjoy playing around with it so I can be a cool YouTube tutorial feminist instead of some dour second-wave-looking grump. No offense to second-wavers, though I guess some offense because that’s not a very nice way to describe someone.

Meghan: It does seem like we are in this unique cultural moment where self-care and beauty and makeup are no longer regarded as regressive, which is great overall because why shouldn’t we be able to play around with our appearances and with how we present without it being coded as a way to attract sexual attention or be more acceptable to men/the masses. I see that in like, Leandra Medine and Arabelle Sicardi, both of whom are unique goddesses.

Did you wear makeup when you were younger? Did your mom?

Audrey: And let me just say that a. I would NEVER EVER want to take away from how rad it is that people are reclaiming beauty, and they are all such lovely glittering jewels. And b. beauty/sexual attractiveness is, like all things, complicated by race, and I come at this from the perspective of kind of a lifelong ugly bug white girl. But yes, I have and do wear makeup sometimes though my mom was kind of strict about what I could wear growing up. I don’t think out of any kind of slut shaming? I’m not sure why. She claimed it could make your skin really sensitive to be exposed to that stuff early on? She wears little-to-no makeup and does have very reactive skin when she tries to. She is also just a low-maintenance human, beauty-wise. What about you? I think it’s only fair at some point to share that amazing photo of your NYC dark lipstick, to give the readers some perspective on your skills.

Meghan: I take deep, deep offense to your description of self as an ugly bug, but to continue: my mom has only recently started to wear a little bit of makeup, and she still asks me to do hers when we are together, which is very sweet. I have a very vivid memory a woman coming to the house at one point when I was really young — like an Avon lady? But the Canadian version? — who gave my mom a few products, including two eyeshadow palettes that I appropriated. One was blue, pink, and white, and the other was black, brown, and gold. So, you know, it must have been the early 90s. She NEVER used them. I have no idea why she did this, although I wonder now if someone at work said something to her — like, it would be nice if you tried harder, or something equally abhorrent. I’m currently watching “American Crime Story” though and so all the focus on Marcia Clark’s appearance is seeping into my psyche. I would go rogue on anyone who suggested my mother needed to spend more time thinking about how she looks.

As a result of all of that, I think I careened wildly in the opposite direction and wanted to wear all the makeup all the time, which I wasn’t allowed to do because I went to a private school and because my mom felt it was sexualizing. I also had a lot of insecurity and self-disgust, physically, and eventually realized it was better not to try, as then I couldn’t be accused of failing to look “pretty.” So I also never learned how to do makeup, and am just now, in my 30s, experimenting.

Which brings us back to the sponge, I guess — I had no idea what it was for. I had never used a sponge until we received ours.

Audrey: I too had never used a sponge. Obviously. I expected it to have the texture of a gymnastics floor, but instead once you got it wet it felt like the crumb of the softest cake. Also it grew like one of those dinosaur sponge pills. Aesthetically I really liked it.

I don’t wear foundation, just this Clinique powder foundation stuff (Clinique Almost Makeup, $27), so I don’t really think I was using it right? But it was nice. It got the powder into my nose cracks, which is always a challenge. I did not “stipple (bounce)” as the instructions suggested. I just lightly smeared. I also accidentally bought the wrong color powder last time because I didn’t realize they even made a color lighter than mine. So usually I wear “death mask” but this is me in “winter goth”:

“As you can tell from my expression, this is my party look.”

Meghan: I’ve also never worn face makeup, which I like to think is because of my “beauty philosophy” but I think is actually just laziness and intimidation? I have in the last year started wearing concealer (MAC Select Moisturecover, $19) due to my adorable adult acne, and I previously just blended it with my finger. The beautyblender® did a MUCH better job of that. I loved bouncing it against my face because how cute is that? It was a very pleasant experience and really did smooth out the edges of the concealer far better than anything else I’ve tried. I think it has other uses too? Like, you can use it with blush? I haven’t attempted that yet, but I was very impressed with its concealing properties.

watch to hear me say “blooty blender”

Audrey: I feel like we should mention that this sponge retails for $20 but some nice people sent us ones to try for free. So like, I would definitely never spend $20 on it. But if you were the kind of person who knows sponges and loves sponges, then it probably would be worth your $20? It’s a very nice thing and bright pink and the container it comes in can be used as a little drying rack after you wash it off.

Meghan: Oh yeah, full disclosure: NO MONEY WAS SPENT ON THESE SPONGES. We became official beauty bloggers this week. I would certainly recommend it over all the other sponges I have never tried, and actually over the fancy MAC brush I bought that doesn’t do as good of a job as this sponge does.

Audrey: In terms of maintenance, I did wash it with soap but there was still some powder residue left, so I’m not entirely sure what the lifespan of this guy is, cleanliness-wise. Probably it carries some bacterial load, eventually? Maybe you could boil it? I don’t know. Just FYI.

Meghan: beautyblender® sells some horrifically-priced “cleanser” but I’d just give it a quick shampoo, the same way I totally do with my makeup brushes every week, absolutely, 100% always do that, certainly have never waited at least a year before remembering.

I might go so far as to say that were I to get to a point with this sponge where it seemed kinda stank, I would buy another one. I don’t know that I will ever be a human who wears real makeup on the daily, but I also appreciate having a nice thing for times when I want to make my face look a little less human.


Meghan: Worth It

Audrey: Worth It for the Sponge-Enamored

Thanks to the lovely people at beautyblender® for the adorable sponges.