Don’t Throw Away Those Applicators!

What’s the first thing you do when you get a new eyeshadow and it has one of those little sponge tipped applicators? Toss it in the trash, right? Well, stop it, those things serve a purpose. They’re not worthless. Unless, they’re cheaply made and feel like sandpaper on the skin. I give you full permission to ditch those, because they are worthless, at least for eyeshadow application. If you find another use for them, let me know.

Sponge tipped applicators are a great tool, they do things that brushes can’t do. Well, brushes can, but sometimes it’s more work than what it’s worth. Think about the last time you tried to apply a glittery or overly powdery shadow and ended up with fallout all over your face. More than likely it was caused by your brush. I’m not saying using the sponge applicators will eliminate all fallout, but they can greatly reduce the chance. They will also give your shadows a different finish,  depth and density. This allows you to use both the applicator and brushes with one shadow to achieve a look that appears to be multiple shadows. You can also use another of my favorite tools, you fingers, but those deserve a post of their own.

Here’s how I utilize my sponge applicators.

Think about how sponges work for other makeup, such as foundation. You sweep and pat, it’s the same technique for eyeshadow.

This type of applicator gives me more control, most of them are small and allow you to work in small areas. Placement is key in achieving most looks and a sponge applicator allows you to place—or press—the shadow into the exact spot you want, then go back and blend the edges with your brush.

Left to right: brush, sponge tip, finger swatch

Left to right:
brush, sponge tip, finger swatchAll three swatches are applied dry, without a base. You can see the most fallout comes from using the brush (yes, this is the same shadow in all three swatches) it also applies the least amount of pigment. The sponge tip appears to apply the most, while a finger swatch comes in third. In reality the sponge and finger are pretty much tied, blame it on my lighting and poor photography skills.


The main thing I use them for is glittery shadows. This type of shadow clings to the sponge much better than a brush. It gives me the ability to ‘pat’ the shadow over my base with little to no fallout. Even better, I can use the sponge damp to intensify the shadow and give it lasting power.

To test this, dampen your brush and pick up some shadow. See all the little particles just sitting on the brush hairs? Now dampen a sponge applicator and pick up your shadow. See how it melds against the surface? There is less likelihood of that shadow falling off onto other areas of the face.

In both cases I use a wiggle method to pick up the shadow. Place your tool against the shadow with a bit of pressure, then wiggle it back and forth to get the product onto your tool. You can also use the technique you use when swatching with your finger. Rub the tool into the product. Both work equally as well, it just depends on how much product you want on your choice of applicator.

I also use the sponge applicators to bring out the finish in a shadow. I’m sure you have some of those shadows that appear matte, but in reality they have a sheen. When you use a brush you can see this sheen, but by using a sponge it is intensified, and more so when you use the ‘sweeping’ technique. Think about how a shadow looks when you swatch it on your hand with your finger, how vibrant and smooth the color looks. When you try it with a brush it never looks the same. It’s the act of pressing and sweeping your finger across the skin that gives this look. You can achieve the same effect with a sponge.

You can also use sponge applicators for things like nail polish cleanup if you get a little overzealous and paint more than your nails. Hey, maybe that’s how I should be using those nasty scratchy ones.

So even if you’re a brush snob, don’t toss them, re-purpose them.

I hope you found this mildly helpful, or at least interesting.

My challenge to you is experiment with your applicators—snap a picture if you want—and share with me how you used them and your thoughts on using them in the future.