left Original Beauty Blender™, right Graftobian GlamourGrip™ makeup blending sponge
NOTE: This may sound like it, but this is NOT a placed post. Beauty Blender™ does not know I am writing this, this is my own independent comparison out of my own curiosity. I was given a Graftobian sponge, but I purchased everything else including my Beauty Blender™ sponges. This review is based on my actual usage in the field on my jobs and is just my subjective opinion. 🙂
CORRECTION: As I said above, my post below is based on *my*experiences with the Beauty Blender™. However, I’ve received feedback from other fellow pro artists that actually the Pink Beauty Blender™ sponges can in fact have dye run. Also artists who purchased the first run of Beauty Blender™ experienced some ripping/tearing. The ripping/tearing has not been an issue with later versions of the Pink, and no one reported any problems at all (dye run, ripping, etc.) with the Black sponges. No word on the White sponge or the Micro.mini..
When the Beauty Blender™ sponge first entered the marketplace to say that it took the makeup artist community by storm would be an understatement. The excitement went from zero to sixty in seemingly minutes and next thing I knew every makeup artist I knew owned and LOVED a Beauty Blender™. I was That Makeup Artist who actually was not immediately WOW-d. I thought it was fine, but it was a tool like any other and it certainly was not a “must have” in any way. Why was my reaction so lukewarm when so many of my artists friends raved? Probably because the first makeup blending sponge I tried was a knockoff, not a real Beauty Blender™. Truth be told – now that I own and use several real Beauty Blenders™ – I still kind of feel that way; it is not a must-have, use on every job item for me. Now that I am working with the real deal, however, I can appreciate what an excellent tool is really is.
So this got me thinking: How do the numerous makeup blending sponge knockoffs stack up to the original Beauty Blender™?
The first knockoff makeup blending sponge I used was so bad it was comical. It came from an overseas company who claimed to be the manufactures for the real Beauty Blender™ sponge. The claim was dubious at best as I already knew Beauty Blender™ is an American based company, and the sample sponge they sent was the wrong shade of pink, and not quite the right size and shape (they attempted to explain this away in their literature by calling what they sent a “prototype” 😐 ). It worked OK, but honestly no differently from a run-of-the-mill wedge sponge. But then the truth came out – literally – the first time I washed it. Upon washing this fakey blender sponge, an odd blue dye emerged from the core of the sponge to the surface. And no matter what I used to wash it, how often I washed it, etc., the weird blue dye would not go away. NOPE. Not using that on people’s faces. Owners of true Beauty Blender™ sponges know that when washed there is no dye run, no change in shape, no crumbling (until they get very old at which point you probably should have long replaced it), etc. I do not know what that thing was, but it was not a Beauty Blender™.
This was about 4 or so years ago. Nowadays the Beauty Blender™ is well established for both makeup pros and makeup fans alike. As such there are even more knockoff sponges, or shall I say, Beauty Blender™ “inspired” sponges ;-). Generally speaking the quality of these dupes has improved significantly from my overseas friend. Since my testing on this began about 6 months ago, none of the makeup blending sponges I tried have changed shape, lost color, or started falling apart on me. But when it comes down to it, do any of them compare to the actual Beauty Blender™? Here are my thoughts on a few of the Beauty Blender™ inspired sponges I have tried.
1 ) Graftobian HD GlamourGrip™ Sponge
If you know Makeup to Go/Tania Russell, you know I am a large fan of Graftobian’s HD Creme foundation and I also use their Wet Dry Dual Finish Powder Foundation. A couple of trade shows ago, I brought so many of my friends & students to the Graftobian booth to buy the HD Creme that the gentleman at the booth gave me a GlamourGrip™ to try. I like it.
Grip: The shape is supposed to make it easier to grip, but I find I prefer the egg shape of the Beauty Blender™. Also the GlamourGrip does not have enough of a “tip” at the top end to get into crevices like around the nose and the inner eye corners.
Texture: Texture is where everyone fell short of the goal line although I would say that the Graftobian sponge came the closest. It has a similar velvety exterior to really give that buffed, polished skin finish for which the Beauty Blender™ is known. Also the GlamourGrip™ is softer and more squishy like the Beauty Blender™, making it easier to hold and control.
Maneuverability: I found it a bit clunky feeling in-hand. I would not call it “bad” because of the grip-ability due to the softer texture, but the shape could be more streamlined.
Finish: The GlamourGrip™ left a very nice finish on the skin. It took a bit more work to get all the lines and demarcations out of my finished applications than the Beauty Blender™, but ultimately the finish was very nice. Worked well with both cream and liquid foundations and with Graftobian’s own Dual Finish Powder Foundation.
OVERALL: Not a bad dupe.
2 ) Real Technique Miracle Complexion Sponge
Grip: The Real Technique sponge pays homage to the original egg shape of the Beauty Blender™ but then adds their own spin of having one side blunted. This blunt side is for buffing/smoothing/blending out edges/etc. I like the shape. The problem, however…
Texture:…is in the texture. The Miracle Complexion Sponge is too dense and not at all springy like the Beauty Blender™. Also it has larger, more visible pores which in my opinion affected the final outcome of the finish.
Maneuverability: Good. In addition to the blunt edge for buffing, it has the “traditional” tip end for reaching into the crevices.
Finish: Okay. The finish was – again, in my opinion – no different than a wedge sponge. NOW artists have used wedge sponges since forever and you can get a good finish off of a wedge sponge. I was able to get a good finish off of the Real Technique sponge, but I would not call the final outcome a ‘miraculous complexion’ by any stretch.
OVERALL: Nice, basic sponge. No less, but no more.
3 ) Ulta Super Blender Sponge
Grip: Again, I do not care for these contoured shaped sponges. I like the egg better. The Ulta sponge does have more of a definitive point than the Graftobian, however, so it is better at getting into the crevices.
Texture: Hard. Not dense, not firm, straight out hard. Not comfortable on the model’s skin and also didn’t move/manipulate product well.
Maneuverability: Clunky shape plus hard texture = not comfortable in hand.
Finish: Has visible “pores”. Gave a foundation finish like that of an ordinary wedge sponge.
OVERALL: Of all of the sponges tested, this was definitely the weakest. I still use all of the other sponges mentioned in some capacity, but as of this writing I do not know where my Ulta sponge is.
4 ) Sonia Kashuk Blending Sponge (NOTE: this version of the product has been discontinued)
Grip: The Sonia Kashuk (SK) sponge has a more streamlined version of the sculpted shape like the Ulta and Graftobian sponges. It’s less “fat” and has a nice tip at the end. It is a bit dense, comparable to the Real Techniques sponge. It is not hard like Ulta, but it is not as soft as Graftobian or certainly the original Beauty Blender™.
Texture: Small pore size and slightly “velvety” exterior texture. Feels nice to the touch.
Maneuverability: I still prefer the egg, but the SK sponge came in a solid second place in terms of hand-feel and maneuverability. Due to the shape, I had to pick it up and put it back down on the face multiple times which makes it more cumbersome to use. However I was able to stipple, blend, buff and reach all of the crevices just as I would with an original Beauty Blender™.
Finish: Very nice. Again, I wouldn’t say Beauty Blender™, but it gave me a nicely even and smooth finish with both cream and liquid foundations.
OVERALL: Nice sponge. Sonia Kashuk makes quality products overall and this is another in her excellent collection. As good as a Beauty Blender™? Nope.
What it is exactly about the Beauty Blender™? Well in my opinion it is a few things. Firstly, it is my understanding that the exact composition of the materials used in the original Beauty Blender™ are proprietary. Therefore other companies may approximate and get close, but they will never look or feel exactly the same as a Beauty Blender™, and you really can see and feel the difference. Secondly, the shape of the Beauty Blender™ is really key. That egg shape allows for a perfect “press and roll” motion with the surface area of the sponge making contact with the face at all times. That coupled with the smaller pore size is what makes for the super smooth, “airbrush” finish that the Beauty Blender™ is famous and beloved for. Used properly, there are NO lines, streaks, or demarcation of any kind with the Beauty Blender™. With almost all of the other sponges, the odd shape not only has a gap where the sponge is not making contact with the skin but it also makes it more difficult to do a continuous press and roll motion. I had to keep picking those sponges up and putting them back down on the face, making it more difficult to get rid of all demarcations. The Real Technique sponge would have been great shape-wise, but the overly dense texture and larger pores prevented it from giving me that flawless finish. It is also worth noting that my two contenders were also the more expensive dupes of the ones I tried. The Graftobian sells for about $14.99 and the Sonia Kashuk retails for $10.49. Bear in mind I chose to compare the better of the knockoffs that exist. I have seen some real, real doozey Cheapy McCheapersons out there. My favorite being this bag of assorted shaped/sized/colored blending sponges which one of my former students had. They felt terrible, and worked about as well. Some manufacturers have lost track of the concept of function over form. LOL!
If you’ve used one of the knockoffs and been disappointed I would encourage you to try the real deal. Until you have used an authentic Beauty Blender™, you have not actually used a Beauty Blender™ sponge. That said, not everyone needs to spend $20 on a single sponge, and I get that. Therefore, if you would like a lower cost alternative that will give you a very nice finish to your makeup applications, I found the Graftobian and the Sonia Kashuk to be quality substitutes.
EDITOR’S NOTE 2/11/18 – In the spirit of disclosure: This post was written back in 2014 and at that time all of my Original Beauty Blender™ sponges were purchased by me. Since that time I have been graciously invited to several Original Beauty Blender™ PR events wherein I have been gifted many Beauty Blender™ sponges and other products by the brand. In the 4 years since I originally wrote this article my opinion remains unchanged; I still prefer the Original over the dupes, but there are some dupes in the marketplace that are pretty good. Look for a #REMIX update article soon!