The beautyblender, the original egg-shaped makeup sponge ideal for applying foundation, concealer and more, is nothing short of a classic. Most brands that offer beauty tools have a similar sponge designed to do a similar thing: blend product seamlessly into the skin. We already love the beautyblender but we wanted to see if the innovative Super Sponge and budget friendly Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge could battle the OG for a place in our makeup bags.
Price: beautyblender $20, Super Sponge $19.99, Real Techniques $6
Tested May 2020
I remember the first time I tried a beautyblender. I got one in a monthly subscription box years ago and immediately wondered how I had ever done without it. According to the brand, the beautyblender is “the award-winning, premier edgeless, reusable, high-definition cosmetic sponge applicator.” Wet the sponge (it’s designed to be used damp, not dry), squeeze out the excess water and lightly tap and bounce foundations, creams, even powders onto the skin for a smooth, seamless finish without the streaks other makeup tools can leave behind.
Although it comes in many different colors, I have the beautyblender Nude, which I like because foundation and concealer stains left behind on the sponge are less noticeable. With cushy sides, a round base and precision tip, this sponge can be turned different ways for different purposes. The pointed tip is ideal for applying concealer under the eyes and getting right into that inner corner. The sides cover more surface area on the face, and I often use the rounded portion on the cheeks and top of the nose.
Although using the sponge damp does provide absorbency protection, the beautyblender absolutely picks up some of the product you use with it. It is a sponge after all. Some people hate this, but I have no problem with it because it’s so minimal. In fact, sometimes it’s preferred. If a foundation is thicker or more full coverage than I like, I use the beautyblender to pick up a little excess product that might otherwise sit mask-like on my face.
I primarily use the beautyblender to apply liquid foundation and concealer, but I also like to use it to press everything into the skin after I spritz on some setting spray (check out this post for more on my favorite setting spray).
The only thing I don’t love about the beautyblender is cleaning it. In Makeup Utopia, we all clean our brushes and sponges after each use to minimize bacteria growth and prevent product buildup. I wish I lived in Makeup Utopia. The dirty reality is that I clean my sponges maybe once a week, or worse, when they start to look super stained. I have both the Liquid Blendercleanser and Blendercleanser Solid, but I prefer the Solid formula. I rub the sponge against the round soap and then work out the product buildup with my fingers under running water. Some stains can be stubborn and never really come out, but I can get it reasonably clean after spending a few minutes washing.
Unfortunately, after washing the beautyblender multiple times, it starts to create little tears in the surface. This will also happen if you accidentally stab the sponge with your nail, and I once broke the tip off of one by rubbing a little too vigorously when I was cleaning it. But then again, in Makeup Utopia, we all toss our sponges after three months max, right?
Here is where the Super Sponge comes to give the beautyblender a run for its money.
According to the brand, this is “the world’s first sponge with silicone infused barrier so your makeup can last up to 4X longer while being stain resistant and marshmallow soft!” The sponge, which comes in rose, violet or turquoise colors, is still egg-shaped like the beautyblender, but the top three-quarters is coated in a thin layer of silicone to prevent the sponge from absorbing product. This is also supposed to make the sponge more hygienic and germ resistant. The round base of the sponge is uncoated, which allows water to be squeezed out, and provides a traditional sponge texture that can also be used during product application.
The Super Sponge really is marshmallow soft with a gel-like bounce back when you squeeze it. Looking at the exposed sponge portion, it’s actually less porous than the surface of the beautyblender. The silicone coating is surprisingly smooth and soft, and it doesn’t impair the “bounciness” of the sponge. It is nothing like those flat silicone blenders, which I happen to think are useless tools. While I’m tapping product onto the skin, it does make a unique sound that the beautyblender doesn’t, a kind of “pat, pat, pat” as the silicone layer touches the face.
The silicone layer makes a huge difference in the amount of coverage I get from the same amount of product I use with a beautyblender. Because it doesn’t absorb anything on most of the sponge’s surface area, my foundation goes a lot further, but I can also use the uncoated portion of the sponge to pick up excess product where I might not want it. It takes a few seconds longer to apply my foundation with the Super Sponge because there is more product to blend, but I am really impressed with how smooth my makeup looks using this. The only areas this sponge doesn’t perform well on are the creases around the sides of my nose. I have to do a quick tap with my finger to blend the foundation into this area properly.
Cleaning the Super Sponge is SO MUCH EASIER than the beautyblender. So much easier that I’m actually cleaning it after every use (really!). Each Super Sponge comes in a plastic case with a base that serves as both a scrubber and a drying stand.
Super Sponge is pretty specific about only using a bar of soap to clean the sponge (their website says “Do not use liquid soap” in bold letters). I have been using my Neutrogena bar soap and it works perfectly. I wet the sponge, rub a little soap on the surface and use my fingers to rub product off the silicone. I haven’t used the scrubber that it comes with because I haven’t really needed to. Rubbing soapy water on the surface with my fingers removes everything really well.
There is a trick to wringing the water out of this sponge, however. If you just squeeze at the center, it will balloon out, which is probably not good for the sponge. Water only escapes from the uncoated section at the bottom, so squeeze the water out from the top first and press it down toward the bottom making sure your hand isn’t covering the uncoated area.
After it’s clean, I just pop it on the stand to dry. I love that this little scrubber/stand comes with each Super Sponge; it is much, much better than the plastic package the beautyblender comes in. My pet peeve is a wet makeup sponge languishing loose in a makeup bag or sitting out on a countertop collecting dust. This stand has a small footprint so I can easily put it on a shelf in my medicine cabinet; the sponge stands upright on it, so it doesn’t touch anything else that might be dirty and gravity can help draw water out from the center.
I am slightly concerned that because most of the sponge is coated, the middle may never dry fully. I also noticed that I’m unable put the plastic lid back over the Super Sponge now that it’s been used. I let the sponge sit for over 24 hours to dry and still had this problem. Not a big issue, but it would be nice if it was modified to fit the sponge after use and outfitted with a few venting holes.
In my opinion, the Super Sponge is just as wonderful as the beautyblender, although each sponge has its strengths and weaknesses. They’re the same price and both create a seamless, smooth finish while applying complexion products. For my purposes, the beautyblender is more multi-purpose (I don’t do it often, but it can also be used to apply cream blush, bronzer or highlighter) and good to have on hand with foundation I might want to sheer out or add a kick of hydration. Mixing those formulas with the moisture from the sponge can make everything more hydrating and dewy on my dry skin.
The ease of cleaning the Super Sponge is a much better fit for my daily routine than the effort required to wash a beautyblender. Using the Super Sponge is also great for any product where you want the finish or texture to remain just as it is. For example, the Super Sponge is perfect for a sheer foundation because the coverage won’t be diluted in any way. If you are curious about the Super Sponge, I highly recommend it.
Liz’s Verdict: It’s a tie! The beautyblender and Super Sponge are both excellent.
I typically use my fingers to apply foundation and a small brush for concealer, mostly because it’s quick and easy. For special events, however, I pull out the beautyblender since I have found that it gives the most flawless, full coverage base. The only thing I don’t love about the beautyblender is the price; at $20 with a shelf life of 90 days or less, it seems excessive. I had heard good things about the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge so when I saw it near the register at Ulta I decided to give it a shot.
Here’s what happened:
For the sake of this review I dotted on both foundation and concealer, unfortunately ending up with way too much product. Silver lining-I was able to see how each sponge absorbed and/or redistributed the excess.
I used both sponges wet, squeezing them once in a towel before using so they weren’t drenched. I was surprised by how much the Miracle Complexion Sponge grew! The beautyblender became a lot softer once it was damp but the Miracle sponge stayed fairly stiff.
I found the egg-shaped beautyblender easier to fold and roll/maneuver, whereas the Miracle sponge with its significant slant is quite large and lacks a defined point. Neither did a great job of blending foundation around my inner eye so I ended up tapping concealer in using my ring finger on both sides (and missed the brush I typically use). I will say that for the flatter part of my under eye area, the Miracle sponge with its stiffness did a better job of diffusing but not moving the concealer. This resulted in better coverage and a lighter under eye area overall.
Both the beautyblender and the Miracle Complexion Sponge left me with a fairly thick layer of foundation initially. On one hand this is a good thing because it means neither is absorbing much (expensive) product. At the same time it felt a bit like a mask and badly settled into the lines on my forehead. I rolled each sponge over to a clean side and was able to blot away some of the excess.
After seeing how well the Miracle sponge patted on concealer, I decided to try using it to blend out my contour as well. When I take the time to contour my face I typically use a brush to buff in Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Skinstick (in shade Amber). This stick is on the drier side, so it’s been my experience that I have to pounce and roll a beautyblender too many times in order to diffuse the edges. After all that, the product is basically blended away. Surprisingly, I’m happy with the way the Miracle sponge blended contour! Not happy enough that I’d dampen and use an additional sponge just for this purpose…but if it were the only tool I had, it works.
In terms of cleaning, I was able to wash more product out of the beautyblender than the Miracle sponge. In order to remove most of the foundation, I had to let it sit in a glass of warm soapy water and ring it out several times, and that’s after using the solid cleanser beautyblender recommends. Both sponges retained several stubborn stains, so much so that I’d have a hard time calling either one “clean” after even one use (a makeup artist would definitely not be able to use the same blender on multiple clients). It seemed like both sponges absorbed a significant amount of product. After experiencing just how difficult it was to clean them, I decided to cut each open to see just how far product had really penetrated.
Much to my surprise both sponges looked brand new inside! This makes me feel a lot better about the hygiene of a sponge in general. I was also surprised to see that despite it’s “exclusive aqua-activated™ material” the beautyblender absorbed the same amount as its $6 counterpart. Did we really just fall in love with the beautyblender because it was the first of its kind?
At the end of the day, after I was completely done with application I couldn’t really tell a difference between the two sides of my face. Both sponges adequately blended all the cream products I applied. The beautyblender is still my favorite because of its texture. Being the softer, smaller and more pointed, it’s much easier to fold and bounce. For someone not willing or able to spend $20 on an applicator though, The Miracle Complexion Sponge gave me the same results, just with a little more finesse and time in general.