This One Tool Is The Secret To Perfect Makeup

For something as simple as a makeup sponge, people really lose their minds over the Beautyblender. It's pink, bouncy, and adorable — and some fans have even gone so far as to dress up theirs or incorporate it into a Halloween costume. (We can't make this stuff up.)

But aside from accessorizing it to look like the Easter bunny, are you actually using the Beautyblender to its full potential? More importantly, are you wetting it before use? "If you use it dry, it doesn't work the same way; the magic is when you wet the sponge," says Rea Ann Silva, who invented it in 2007. "When it's wet, it becomes bigger, softer, and less thirsty. Instead of sucking up the makeup, it pushes it out onto the face." Run it under water and squeeze out the excess — it should be damp, but not sopping wet.

The tool is beloved for its ability to dab on foundation seamlessly, but makeup artists praise it for its versatility on eyes, cheeks, and lips — and manicurists like using it, too. We partnered with makeup artist Nick Barose and manicurist Miss Pop to break down how to get the most out of this happy, pink sponge — and to dream up four gorgeous looks you can create with it. It's part of our new series Tool Time, in which we unpack common hair, makeup, and nail tools and introduce you to new ways of using them.

Read on to find out how you can maximize your Beautyblender.
Photo: Courtesy of Beautyblender.
Designed by Ly Ngo.
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About That Egg Shape
Sure, the shape is cute — but there's a lot more to it than its looks. "For years, makeup artists had been cutting off the edges of triangle sponges to create a less defined line of demarcation," says Silva. But hours of tired hands (and many discarded sponges later), she knew there had to be a better way. So, while working on the set of Girlfriends, she began to research shapes and landed on the egg. The idea came from a combination of two popular sponge-cutting techniques: making a pointy sponge to reach small areas and making a wide, round-bottomed sponge to cover big areas fast. Fun fact: The corner-less shape is so difficult to mass-produce that the Beautyblender is still cut by hand in the factory.
The Material
While the exact makeup of the hydrophilic foam material is part of the brand's secret sauce, its most important quality is the ability to absorb water. "Sponges were always meant to be used wet, but the standard wedge sponges repel water," says Silva. When damp, this foam material draws in water and allows a tiny bit of makeup to penetrate the top layer of the sponge for a cushion effect. With proper care, the Beautyblender should last about three months; Barose recommends washing it after every few uses with gentle cleanser or the brand's Solid soap.

The Technique
Finally, the technique. While people use the Beautyblender in a variety of ways, the most effective is to tap, tap, tap it over the skin — rather than sweeping, dragging, or rolling, which changes the effect.
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
For Airbrushed Skin
It wouldn't be a proper Beautyblender tutorial without a lesson in flawless foundation application — and Barose is the perfect man for the job. Known for giving his clients glowy, gorgeous skin (see here, here, and here), Barose relies on the Beautyblender more than on brushes or fingers. "I use a good amount of foundation, but the Beautyblender makes it undetectable," he says. "It lets the skin show through while giving more opaque coverage in other areas."

His method here included mixing a few bottles of MAC Matchmaster foundation to get a custom shade, and tapping it from the center of the model's face outward with a damp (again, we really can't stress this enough) sponge. "If you use it dry, it will make the foundation look cakey," he says. Once he finished applying a sheer layer, he went back and added more foundation over problem areas. He also tapped it along the jawline to blur any lines, without taking the base color down the neck. "Wearing foundation on the neck can look tacky, and that's a lot of dry-cleaning bills."

Then, Barose pulled out another Beautyblender (he recommends owning two — one for base, and one for colored makeup) to tap on highlighter. Using the pointy edge, he blotted it up and down the cheekbones and blended it. "You don't want [highlighter] to look stripey or greasy from your fingers changing the texture," he says.

COS Sheer Stripe Top, $49.

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
For Flushed Cheeks & Lips
Matchy-matchy cheeks and lips were one of the hottest trends on recent runways, and the Beautyblender is the ideal tool for this look. Barose started by sweeping a bright-fuchsia lip pencil (NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Jardin de Plantes) over the lips, and used the tip of the sponge to carefully dab it outward toward the edges. "That gives it a rose-petal effect, so it's less of a lipstick look and just a pretty stain," says Barose. (Bonus: Manipulating the edges of the lipline makes your lips appear fuller.)

Next, he took that same fuchsia lipstick and swirled it right onto the cheeks — Raggedy Ann style. "Add a bit more than you think you need and start blending with the pointy edge of the sponge, keeping the color to the apples of the cheeks," he says. Then, he used the fat part of the sponge to blend the edges until they were seamless. "This gives you a bright color in a way that's pretty and diffused, whereas using your fingers could make it look blotchy."

COS Dress.

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
For Watercolor Eyes
The quickest way to make your cream shadow look as beautiful and soft as a watercolor painting? You guessed it: Get a sponge involved. Barose started by sweeping a thick layer of pink cream shadow (like Make Up For Ever Waterproof Cream Color in Fresh Pink) all over the lid. Then, he took the tip of the Beautyblender and carefully dabbed the cream up toward the browbone.

"This is a form of colorblocking that's not so aggressive," he says. "It's just one color, but it's so interesting and doesn't require any shading." Try it with pink, orange, light aqua, or even green cream shades, and finish with a tiny flick of black liquid liner and a couple coats of mascara for definition.

Tanya Taylor Dash Red Sim Knit Tank, $295; Maya Brenner Yellow Gold Diamond Disc Bracelet, $360; Maya Brenner Yellow Gold Diamond Cut Bracelet, $460.

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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
For Oh-So-Subtle Ombré Nails
Yes, you can use the Beautyblender on your nails. In fact, manicurists love it for its shape and soft texture. "Because it's so fine, you can really get a nice, even distribution of polish as you do the ombré," says Miss Pop. (Two caveats: You can't use it on your face after using it on your nails. And you'll need to replace it after about five manicures, since the polish doesn't wash out of the material.)

She started by painting on two coats of a pretty, peach shade (Essie in Peach Side Babe) and allowing it to dry fully. Then, she dotted an antique gold (like Orly in Luxe) on the tip of the Beautyblender and tapped it from the center of the nail to the edge, working through all 10 fingers before going back and pressing on another coat slightly above the other one to create the ombré effect. She repeated this a third time, so the glitter would be most concentrated on the tips. While this look is on the subtle side, she's also used it for rainbow art (just paint three or four nail-polish colors in a row on the edge of the sponge and stamp it on your nails, she says). Always finish with a clear topcoat.

Other off-hand uses for the Beautyblender: Getting deodorant out of clothes, brushing it along your hairline to gently stir up flyaways (the good kind!), as a de-puffing cold compress when dipped in freezing water, and even as a stress ball. If you've found any other uses for it, share them with us in the comments.

WWAKE Solitaire Ring, $1,650; WWAKE Double Sapphire Solitaire Ring, $1,320; WWAKE Two Step Ring, $313.

The Beautyblender, $20, is available at Sephora.

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