Beauty Secrets: Should I Use A Brush Or A Sponge?

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“Every tool has a unique purpose,” Fenty Beauty Global Makeup Artist, Priscilla Ono tells ESSENCE. Knowing the specific application tools to use– whether angled brushes or three-sided sponges– can be difficult. “You may be applying a powder foundation, layered with a cream blush, but then a powder highlighter,” Ono says. “In which case you may find yourself using a brush, sponge and your fingertips.” Not just having to match tools with certain formulas, using the wrong tool may result in an undesirable finish– like splotches, caking, and creasing

With over 200 brushes and applicators at Sephora and twice as many at Ulta, you may be in search of a professional guide to find the right application tools for you. But don’t worry– this makeup artist’s advice is right at your fingertips. 

Below, Ono breaks down the best tools and tips to start beating your face like a pro.


“For a cream product, you actually have a lot of options to play with,” Ono says, which all depend on desired finish, coverage, and location. But if you’re in a pinch? “Nothing can beat your fingertips,” she says. “The warmth of your fingertips will warm up the cream formula and allow you to tap the product onto your skin for a subtle wash of color.” Using your fingers is particularly easy and convenient for specific makeup products– cream blushes, bronzers, or highlights. 

Angled brush

If you have the extra time, “my go-to tool for cream makeup products is the Fenty Beauty Face Shaping Brush 125,” she says. The angled brush works into the contours of your face– from cheekbones to jawline and forehead– defining your face with necessary control. “This brush works great with cream products because of its ultra-soft, synthetic bristles that are loosely packed with a medium density,” allowing the brush to pick-up enough pigment in a single swipe. “You have the flexibility to apply to large areas but also to really effortlessly blend in spots to enhance your natural face structure.”  

Foundation brushes 

For powder foundation, your brush depends on coverage.  “If you want light coverage, use a brush like Fenty Beauty Powder Puff Setting Brush 170 that is soft and fluffy and oversized,” she says. “This allows for the powder to be picked up lightly and blend out lightly for a more filtered-like finish.” For medium to full coverage? “Try a more tightly-packed, shorter-bristled brush,” she says. “A dome shape allows you to buff and stipple to lay on more coverage with ease.” 

Bronzer and highlighter brushes

As for powder bronzer or highlighter, “I like to use an angled brush like the Fenty Beauty Cheek-Hugging Bronzer Brush 190 or Fenty Beauty Cheek-Hugging Highlight Brush 120,” she says. The “shark-tooth” shaped brush is among Ono’s favorites, a unique, asymmetrical design on Rihanna’s part. “That way, you’re always looking just the right amount of sun kissed or shimmery where you want to.”

Do not use a loose, larger brush for bronzer or highlighter: “You’ll end up applying it all over your face when these products should be applied in a  really targeted way, based on your facial shape.”

Don’t use a sponge or fingertips for powder

“I don’t ever recommend using a sponge or fingertips for powder-based products because the product sticks to the sponge or your skin and doesn’t lay nicely,” she says, resulting in “finger painting” like splotches. “You want a brush that’s gentle and smooth, just like the qualities of the powder formula.”


If you do use a sponge, “it’s all about knowing your angles.” With a sponge, you have more flexibility with how you create your makeup look. “Sometimes I’ll use the mini-moon edge to blend out concealer underneath the eye, other times I’ll use the slanted edge to control a powder foundation,” she says. “A three-sided sponge delivers fast, easy and seamless results every time, no matter the formula.”

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