How to Apply Foundation With a Sponge, Brush, or Your Fingers

Learn the best ways to apply foundation for a flawless finish.

woman with bare makeup touching her face


Over the years, I’ve heard it all—this makeup artist loves to use her fingers while that celebrity prefers a brush. Another expert will swear by Beautyblender. Kylie Jenner even applies her moisturizer with a brush. The advice is helpful, but often it leaves me with even more questions. What is the best way? And which products call for what tools? I’ve been applying my foundation with a sponge, my eye shadow with a brush, and blending on my concealer with my fingers. But I’m curious if I’ve got it all wrong and often wonder: Is there a "right" way to apply makeup? Could it not just be to each their own?

To find definitive answers, I tapped Blushington’s makeup and beauty lounge expert, Samantha Freda, and MUAs at Alima Pure. Not only did they dispel my doubts, explaining when and how to apply foundation with a sponge versus other makeup application tools, but they also recommended a few of their favorite products to keep me (and now, you!) covered.

Keep reading to find out how to apply foundation with a sponge and all the other tools at your disposal.

The Best Ways to Apply Makeup original illustration

Byrdie / Emily Roberts

How to Apply Foundation With a Sponge

If a flawless finish is what you're after, look no further than a sponge. Freda says, “A sponge is ideal for a flawless natural foundation application"—and perhaps, everything else, too. Keep in mind, however, that the finish you get from applying foundation with a sponge can change depending on what type of foundation you're using. Sponges work best, for instance, with lightweight liquid formulas or stick foundations. Creamy, thick foundations would be better served with a brush (so you can buff out the edges for a more natural finish).

Wet Before Use

To get the most out of your sponge, always wet it before use, squeezing the moisture out so it's damp, but not sopping wet. This will ensure that the foundation is applied and distributed evenly.

Build Coverage

Rather than slathering on lots of foundation, try a little at first, and build, which will yield a more natural look. As Freda explains, “If I had to choose my favorite [makeup application] method, it would be using a sponge for everything. The coverage is buildable, the result is practically flawless, and the makeup will last you all day.”

Coverage-building is also dependent on what type of foundation product you use. If you're using a stick foundation, you can apply the stick directly to the skin for thicker coverage, or dot it directly onto the moist sponge for a more natural look.


While we can't help but like what we like, sometimes a little trial-and-error can go a long way; meaning, it's worth exploring other tool-product combos to determine what works best for you. The Alima Pure team agrees: “Using different methods of application and mixing up your tools is a great way of experimenting and customizing your routine."


While personal preference certainly plays a role in what makeup application tool you use to apply foundation, the strategy should also be a deciding factor. Freda explains, “The difference between brushes, sponges, and using your fingers is all about the product being used at the time." For instance, "Fingers are great for products that need to be warmed up a bit to blend." (Think: cream eye shadows, makeup primer, and concealer, to name a few). "My favorite product to apply with my fingers is Stila’s Convertible Color ($25) because I have complete control over the amount of product and blendability," adds Freda.

If you opt to use your fingers, it's best to use your ring finger to apply the product since it uses the least amount of pressure. Also, always tap and never rub.

For pressed eye shadow, the Alima Pure team suggests using your fingers, as it gives the greatest color payoff and most controlled application. Alima Pure’s Pressed Eyeshadow ($30) is formulated with avocado oil (read: they’re super silky), so the texture blends well without a brush. “It’s also a great highlighter,” they dish. “Apply a lighter, pearlescent shade like Isla with your ring finger along the brow bone, cheekbones, and Cupid’s bow. It instantly brightens your whole complexion in seconds.” Just keep in mind that before applying any makeup with your fingers, you wash your hands first. The last thing you want is an instant breakout courtesy of dirt-, bacteria-, and oil-ridden fingers.


Similar to using your fingers, brushes allow for a concentrated application—but even more so. This makes them ideal for applying shadows and powder, notes Freda. However, when using a brush, she warns: "Don’t be too heavy-handed—you want everything to blend. Build up to the amount of product you’d like to apply instead of brushing it on all at once. The Large Tapered Brush ($12) by Bdellium Tools yields the perfect contour.”

And if you're unsure of which brush to use for what, you're not alone. There are so many brushes out there that finding the right one(s) can be overwhelming. However, after talking to experts and testing out brushes of our own, we've narrowed down our picks to just five essentials: powder, blush, foundation, flat eye brush, and eyeshadow crease brush. Our complete brush guide will let you in on when or how to use each one—plus a few bonus options for all of your other makeup application needs. A sheer lip tint, for example, doubles as a creamy blush to add just a touch of color on the go. As such, it’s great to apply with your fingers because it practically melts into the skin. Whereas a handcrafted antibacterial blending brush from Bdellium’s studio line is eco-friendly and great for blending and sculpting contouring products. We can't talk sponges without mentioning Beautyblender. This simple yet miraculous egg-shaped sponge seamlessly blends makeup into the skin to give you an airbrush effect.

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