The difference between brush, sponge, and fingertips, and when you should use what for your makeup

For some of us, putting on makeup is almost second nature. We have our routines down and can even step away from the mirror in 5 minutes flat. But for others, the application process can pose more questions than productivity. When there are so many ways to apply your makeup, it’s easy to get confused on which way is the correct way to go about it. Which brings me to my latest Primp Tip… Today I will be debunking the brush vs. sponge vs. fingertip debacle.

While there are pros and cons to each tool, it all comes down to personal preference. In order to find out which technique works for you, I recommend experimenting to see which applicator you feel most comfortable using. While trial and error is always a good way to determine the winner, below I’ve broken down each applicator and it’s specific benefits. So if you’re still deciding between a brush, sponge or your fingertips, keep reading…


Using a brush to apply your makeup is a great way to give your skin an airbrushed finish. Brushes are known for their precision and also for their blendability. Whether you’re using powder or cream, brushes are versatile enough to get the job done. Tip: It’s important to start with a small amount of product and build up to your desired look. With a brush you tend to get a more concentrated amount of product and color, so blending it all out is essential.

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Similar to using a brush, sponges are known for their blended out, flawless finish. For an even distribution of product, wet the sponge before using a liquid foundation. By doing this you should get a sheer and lightweight look that is easily buildable. Like brushes, there are a variety of sponges used for different makeup techniques (highlighting, contouring, etc.). The only thing to be mindful of when using a sponge is that they soak up more product than a brush or your fingertips does.

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Last but not least, using your fingers to apply makeup is just as effective as using a brush or sponge. The warmth of your fingertips makes for more blendability—but be careful because you’re going to get more of a concentrated application. For colorful eye shadow and cream blushes, your fingertips will give you the best color payoff. If you’re going to use your fingers, be gentle! Always use a tapping motion with your ring finger and don’t use too much pressure.

While there isn’t a dramatic difference between each technique, the end results should be similar as long as your product is blended into your skin. You never want a harsh line! It ultimately comes down to practice and preference. I find that I use my fingers when I’m in a rush as opposed to a brush or sponge when I want a more done-up look.

So, which method do you prefer?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

XO Lauren

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Photos: Jessi Burrone for
  • Hannah Roberts

    It so depends! I think I love the finish I get from a sponge the best – but sometimes my fingers or brushes are quicker. If my skin is starting to breakout, I stick to my fingers because I can get them cleaner.

  • Helen Harm

    This is so helpful because I have been trying to figure out recently what I should do when.

    XO Helen |

    • LaurenConradOnline

      Sounds like this came at the perfect time then! Hopefully you picked up some good tips. 🙂

  • I have a mineral foundation so I 100% prefer a brush (I don’t even think there’s any other way with mineral foundations???) but I like sponges for everything liquid (concealer…), I find it just blends nicely and gives a natural finish!
    Lucie, xx

  • I’ve used all three depending on the day and probably will continue to do so! haha

  • Whenever I try to use the sponge, I look like I painted on 6 layers of makeup! I can not seem to perfect the dabbing that makes it look so flawless. Brushes seem to be best for me, although I do use my ring finger to apply under eye creme!


  • A blending sponge is my all-time favourite way to apply makeup!

    xo, Liz

  • kate_winford

    I really like applying my foundation with a foundation brush (the Sigma F80 is my favorite) and then going over it with a Beauty Blender. I just learned that tip from Jaclyn Hill and I love the way it looks!

    Kate |

    • LaurenConradOnline

      What a great idea! A little beauty combo never hurt. 😉

  • I have always been a brush girl, but have recently considered moving to the sponge. things to ponder…

  • I have been wanting to try the sponge technique, but I definitely love my brushes! Fan brushes are my fave for sure when using a highlighter.

  • I tend to use brushes only when I wear foundation, but I find that BB creams apply a lot better and look way more natural when using the fingers or an air puff <3 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing these great tips!

    XO, Elizabeth

  • Erika Young

    I find that I can never get the sponge clean like I can with brushes. With the sponge my skin ends up breaking out.

    • I wash it properly with soap after each use and let it dry out. I am not used to wash my brushes often. I have only good experience with applying my foundation with sponge, never really used brush (just fingers and I wasn’t satisfied with the application)… but I am thinking about buying some, because I don’t like throwing stuff out – the sponge started to crumble after half a year (I don’t use foundation daily)

  • Kayleigh Xu

    I definitely prefer the sponge application over all the others as I love the natural, dewy look it gives. For an everyday make up look I always choose to apply a thin layer of low to medium coverage foundation with my Beauty Blender! x

    Kayleigh |

  • I prefer a brush or the sponge that comes with my foundation depending on the type of foundation. I haven’t tried a beauty blender yet.

    the golden days |

  • Anna

    I always apply my foundation with a good sponge. But I prefer brushes to blend eyeshadows, lipsticks, powders ecc. Great post, BTW. 🙂
    Anna From Italy

  • Abigail Silvester

    I have been trying different methods recently. With my Bobbi Brown foundation stick I always use a brush but when using a fuller coverage liquid foundation I like to use a beauty blender and they give such a good even finish.
    Just Abigail

  • Mika Brust

    I love using sponges to blend out my foundation! It creates a really nice, natural, sheer finish to the skin. Love the post! Check out my blog for more fashion, beauty, fitness, and more.

  • Nadine Amanda Ortega

    Hi! I just started this new beauty blog. I hope you guys can Check it out ?

  • beautysorted

    such a great article! For more information on sponges and brushes by trending bloggers, check out this link!!/?s1=47&s2=1112&s3=0&sort=relevant

  • Patricia

    Brush is the way to go for me! I could never get good coverage with my fingertips using quality foundation (Bobbi) then I was taught how to use the brush and it makes my face look flawless without sacrificing natural glowy skin.