Style & Beauty

The Difference Between A $20 Beautyblender And A $5 Makeup Sponge

We spoke to makeup artists to find out if Beautyblenders are worth their price.

Since hitting store shelves in 2003, Beautyblender makeup sponges have become a staple in makeup bags everywhere. But they don’t come cheap.

Twenty dollars a pop seems steep, especially when you consider that you’re supposed to replace them every three months. On top of that, you can find much cheaper knockoffs everywhere from Forever 21 to Ulta to CVS and Walgreens. So what exactly sets the original Beautyblender apart from its lower-priced competition?

According to the Beautyblender website, the sponges are made with an “exclusive aqua-activated foam with insanely soft texture for an airbrushed finish” and “flawless coverage every time.” HuffPost reached out to the brand for more information, but they did not immediately respond. Off-brand makeup sponges, whose materials are not always listed on their packaging, are often described as “latex-free foam.”

We wanted to know more about that. So we spoke to professional makeup artists to find out if Beautyblenders are really so different from every other makeup sponge out there.

Some makeup artists swear the Beautyblender creates a more poreless finish.

Ashley Readings, a professional makeup artist based in Toronto, is a devotee of the original Beautyblender. “I feel lost without them,” she said.

In her opinion, the brand name Beautyblenders “are that special and that different from a traditional latex sponge. They are so different that I don’t like doing makeup without them.”

In Readings’ experience, Beautyblenders, which are meant to be used wet, help to create a “poreless finish” on the skin. The off-brand versions, she said, don’t hold water the same way and can leave makeup with a spongey texture. (Readings labeled those old-school triangle makeup sponges as “the worst” in that sense.)

With a wet Beautyblender, she said, a product like liquid foundation, which people commonly apply with sponges, “just kind of sits on top ... and you can just tap it onto skin.”

Allure has pointed out that Beautyblender’s sponge is hydrophilic, which means it’s designed to absorb water. All that water leaves less room for the sponge to absorb your foundation, so theoretically it should reduce product waste.

Amanda Shackleton, a New York-based bridal makeup artist, is also a fan, although she admitted she was initially “super skeptical about the Beautyblender, with its tag lines ‘revolutionary foam technology’ and ‘airbrushed finish.’”

“Until one fell in my lap, I had no plans to buy one,” she said. But once Shackleton tried it, she liked it. “The more expensive versions are super soft on clients’ skin and less likely to cause irritation. They are consistent in quality and that’s important to me.”

Another factor in the Beautyblender’s favor, Readings said, is that it holds up well to washing. (Just to be clear, you should be washing your applicator sponge after every use.) As a professional, she needs to wash and sanitize her blenders constantly, and in her experience, the cheaper ones aren’t always as resilient.

As with everything else, marketing is involved.

While she agreed that makeup sponges like the Beautyblender can be great for applying liquid foundation and preventing product waste, Shawnelle Prestidge, a New York-based celebrity makeup artist and founder of Prestidge Beauté, suggested that marketing plays a huge role in determining their price tag.

“You can try things that are really inexpensive and get a great quality product. It just so happens their markup or margins might not be as high,” Prestidge said. She also noted that some suppliers may sell the same (or very similar) sponges to be marketed as different brands.

You should be able to tell some differences in material just by feeling the sponge. Readings said Beautyblenders are “a little less dense” than the knockoffs, while Shackleton finds the cheaper ones can be scratchy and hard.

“Everyone with a new product relies heavily on marketing, which adds to the cost of what you’re buying, so marketing does play a part,” Shackleton said. In her opinion, though, the Beautyblender provides good results beyond the hype.

“I’m lucky to be given many different kinds of makeup to try out and that includes sponges as well,” she said. “I’m not a makeup snob so if a cheaper product works better, I stick to it.”

Readings falls somewhere in the middle. “I think they’re that worth it,” she said, “but I think a lot of it is hype and marketing for sure.”

So is the Beautyblender worth its $20 price tag?

The makeup artists we spoke to generally agreed that the average consumer doesn’t necessarily need to spend $20 on a makeup sponge. They also agreed that you can achieve good results with a more budget-friendly option.

“For personal use, I think [cheaper ones] are definitely in the ‘good enough’ realm. Not everything has to be up to my standards all the time,” Readings said. “The average woman, can she buy a sponge at [the drugstore] for $5? Absolutely she can.”

“I would love if they were cheaper so much,” Readings added, before stating that she’ll continue buying Beautyblenders “even though I do think they’re a little overpriced.”

That said, buying sponges at the dollar store wasn’t recommended either. Prestidge said a sponge from Ulta ― where you can buy the e.l.f. Cosmetics version for $4 ― is going to be more trustworthy than something from most 99-cent stores.

Leslie-Ann Thomson, a Montreal-based makeup artist who’s worked with actress Priyanka Chopra and singer Grimes, said the really cheap sponges “will probably disintegrate faster than the Beautyblender.” She recommended more affordable options like Sephora’s dual coverage makeup sponge, which sells for $12, and the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion sponge, which sells for $6.

“It’s a give-and-take situation,” Shackleton said. “In the end, [cheap ones] fall apart and you end up buying more, so in this case I say spend the extra few dollars and know what you are getting.”

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