Some people prefer to apply foundation with their fingers, a brush, or those little white triangle sponges. But for those of us who prefer to use a blending sponge, the Beauty Blender is the gold standard. I have one, and I love it.
This is how it works: you wet the Beauty Blender, squeeze out the excess water, and use the sponge to apply your cream or liquid makeup by bouncing it on your skin. It provides even coverage with an "airbrushed" finish. It's great.
HOWEVER. For those of us who want a Beauty Blender but do not have one, the number one reason is the price. The standard price for a Beauty Blender at Sephora is $20. That's right, $20 for a little sponge that fits in the palm of your hand and needs to be replaced approximately every 6 months. In other countries it can be even more expensive. Sometimes you can find a deal where you pay a bit less, but overall this is very expensive for essentially a 3g piece of foam.
So, what are our alternatives? There are so many so-called Beauty Blender "dupes" out there. How do you know which ones work well and which ones are garbage, unless you buy every one to try them?
I decided to do some tests. Along with my Original Beauty Blender, I purchased four other purported dupes to decide for myself.
1. Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge- This sponge is reported to be the closest in quality and performance to the Beauty Blender. It has a slightly different shape, in that instead of a round bottom, it has an angled flat side as well.
2. The Crème Shop Precision Blending Sponge- I found this sponge at TJMaxx, but it appears to be for sale at several online shops. The Crème Shop website seems to be under construction at the moment. As far as the shape goes, it is similar to the Beauty Blender, but it is wider and shorter.
3. Revive Makeup Blending Sponge- Another TJMaxx find. This one is very similar in shape to the Beauty Blender, but it is slightly larger. Before you click on that link, let me tell you, the only place I could find this for sale online is on eBay. It seems like TJMaxx and Marshall's carry a very wide selection of makeup sponges that don't appear to be sold anywhere else.
4. Precision Beauty Blending Sponge by Swissco- Once again, a TJMaxx find. This company sells two different sponges; one in an hourglass shape, which I have not tried, and one in the egg shape like the Beauty Blender. The only difference in shape between this sponge and the Beauty Blender is that there is a slight ridge around the widest part of the Precision Beauty sponge that you will see in the photos below. I plan to buy one of the hourglass shaped ones to test in the near future to see if they are the same material, and if so, the hourglass shape will be easier to find.
Now for the sciency stuff! Here are the tests I performed:
- Size (damp)
- Weight (dry, damp, and saturated)
- Drying time
- Ease of washing
Preliminary Results and Observations
The Beauty Blender is the smallest and lightest of the sponges tested. It retains the least amount of water when wrung out, and dries the fastest. It is the only sponge that bleeds color the first few times it is washed. This does not affect it's performance and doesn't transfer to skin. It is the most delicate and tears easily.
The Real Techniques sponge is the only sponge tested that deforms when squeezed and does not immediately bounce back to its original shape. See resiliency section for more information.
The Revive and Crème Shop sponges took the longest to dry; nearly 3 times as long as the Beauty Blender. The Real Techniques sponge took just two hours less than Revive and Crème Shop. See the drying time section for more information.
The Beauty Blender and Precision Beauty sponges are similar in texture and density, with the Real Techniques sponge being a little stiffer and finer in texture. The Revive and Crème Shop sponges are much more dense and have a stiff, more rubbery feeling. See the compressibility section for more information.
I was able to get a similar result with all of the sponges when applying makeup. It was the texture, drying time, and the ease of use that were the biggest factors. Also, it seemed subjectively that the softer sponges gave a more "airbrushed" finish than the firmer, denser sponges. The denser sponges subjectively seemed to make dry patches on my skin more visible. These differences were ultimately unnoticeable in photos.
SizeThe size of each sponge was measured while damp, as this is the state in which they are most often used. You can compare size of dry vs. damp. vs. saturated in the photo comparison section.
Summary: The Beauty Blender is the smallest overall. The Crème Shop sponge is the largest in circumference and width, and the Real Techniques sponge is the longest. The Precision Beauty sponge is the same length as the Beauty Blender, and the same circumference and width as the Real Techniques sponge. The Revive sponge is similar in length and width to The Crème Shop sponge, and a bit smaller in circumference.
Size Comparison Photos
Weight- Dry vs. Damp vs. Saturated
Summary: The Beauty Blender is feather light when dry, 50% lighter than the next heaviest sponge (Precision Beauty), and The Crème Shop Sponge is nearly 4x as heavy as the BB. The Beauty Blender is also the lightest while damp, although the Precision Beauty sponge and the Real Techniques sponge are also quite light when damp. The Revive sponge and The Crème Shop Sponge retain more of their weight while damp. Interestingly, the Precision Beauty Sponge seems to hold the most water of all 5 sponges.
To perform this test, I used a container filled with water to make it weigh exactly 2 pounds. I then placed the damp sponge on a hard, flat surface, and set the weight on top of the sponge. I then took a picture of each one to show how dense and compressible each sponge is. Here are the results:
The Crème Shop
Summary: Under 2 pounds of weight, the Beauty Blender compressed the most. The Real Techniques and Precision Beauty sponges compressed about the same amount, somewhat less than the Beauty Blender. The Revive sponge compressed very little, and The Crème Shop sponge hardly compressed at all.
I performed this test by fully saturating each sponge, then giving it one hard squeeze. I measured the moisture released by percentage of weight as well as by volume.
Beauty Blender- Lost 85% of its weight, 50ml of water.
Precision Beauty- Lost 79% of its weight, 60ml of water.
Real Techniques- Lost 77% of its weight, 57ml of water.
Revive- Lost 65% of its weight, 50ml of water.
The Crème Shop- Lost 66% of its weight, 60ml of water.
Summary: The Beauty Blender and Precision Beauty sponges absorb and release water readily. On the other end of the spectrum, the Revive and Crème Shop sponges absorb readily, but to not release their water easily. This is probably why there is such a large difference in drying time.
To perform this test, I fully saturated each sponge, wrung as much water as possible out, and then let them dry on a flat surface in a well ventilated area. I checked them every 2 hours, and measured the time it took for them to return to their dry weight. Here are the results:
Summary: The Beauty Blender dries really fast. The Precision Beauty sponge dries in about a day. The other three sponges take nearly two full days to completely dry. My concern here is if you use your blending sponge every day, and it never gets a chance to dry, that creates a pretty tasty environment for mold and other nasties.
* One tip to avoid this problem- throw your freshly washed blending sponge into the dryer for 15 minutes, and it will definitely be dry the next time you need to use it. I did this multiple times with all 5 sponges during testing, because I couldn't wait 2 days between all my tests, and sometimes I needed the sponges to be dry fast. It worked great.
Ease of Washing
In order of easiest to wash to hardest to wash:
1. Revive (clean in one wash)
2. Precision Beauty (mostly clean in one wash, completely clean after two washes)
3. Beauty Blender (clean after two washes)
4. Real Techniques (two small stains remain after three thorough washings)
5. The Crème Shop (stains remain after three thorough washings)
Here are all the sponges after washing with Sonia Kashuk Brush and Sponge Cleanser:
Clockwise from top: Real Techniques, Revive, Precision Beauty, Beauty Blender, The Crème Shop.
*Note- the color of the sponge may come into play here.
The Crème Shop
Summary: The Beauty Blender and the Precision Beauty sponge are extremely resilient, and bounce back to their normal shape pretty much instantly. The Revive and Crème Shop sponges take a second or two to bounce back. The Real Techniques sponge deforms easily and does not bounce back quickly at all. In fact, I had to kind of bounce it around and push and pull on it to get it to look normal again. These tests were performed damp.
The duration of these tests was not sufficient to test the long term durability of the sponges, but two sponges sustained injury during testing. The Beauty Blender tore during washing, and The Crème Shop Sponge got a split from my fingernail while wringing it out. None of the other sponges have any damage.
After conducting all my tests and analyzing the results, I believe that the best dupe for the Beauty Blender is the Precision Beauty sponge. It is the closest in texture, size, resiliency, and ease of use.
- The Real Techniques sponge is the runner up, but the poor resiliency, drying time, and the staining are real cons for me.
- The Revive sponge, while being the easiest to clean, is too dense and stiff and does not "bounce" the way the three softer sponges do. It's more of a rubbery stamping feeling rather than a bouncy blending feeling. It also takes much too long to dry.
- The Crème Shop sponge really did not perform well in my tests. It's very dense and stiff, almost impossible to clean, and takes much too long to dry.
Do you have other sponges you'd like me to test? Other tests on these sponges you'd like to see? Please leave your feedback in the comments!