Makeup - January 23, 2017

Beauty tools: the evolution of sponges

There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind are those who wake up in the morning, quickly wash their face with water, get ready really quickly and then rush out the door. The other kind rises early and starts playing around with artist’s tools early in the morning, to work on an Oscar-worthy work. Really. Not everyone might know about the strong connection between the makeup industry and the cinema industry, and you also might not know that Hollywood had a great influence on the beauty industry, making it what it is today. A lot of the products that are in your vanity today are the result of years of makeup artist tradition and work with movie stars. So, did you guess what we are talking about? Makeup sponges, of course.


Sponges started being used for makeup in the 1920s, when Max Factor launched pan-cake makeup – yes, we also smiled and thought of brunch, who wouldn’t? – and there was no better way to apply foundation. The cosmetics in use at the time were solid compacts that used to be applied with a tool that had to be imbued with water when necessary, in order to soften the solid make up, and help it release the formula that contained colored pigment. Applying this kind of makeup required time and patience, because using the small round sponges that were usually stored in the packaging, right underneath the cover, could be quite arduous. Sometimes, when applying an extra layer, the streaks left by the sponge looked so bad that they damaged the entire layer, and it was necessary to correct it, either with fingers or with water, to dilute make up a little, and redistribute it evenly on the skin.

evolutionFor decades, nothing changed in the world of makeup sponges. Literally nothing, other than a few minor changes in production techniques and materials used, of course, but their shape didn’t change, and sponges just kept on being the small spongy triangles that we still find in professional shops nowadays (or at MAC’s stores.) The reason for this is that this shape is the best one to produce spongy material and make it usable, without creating a lot of waste. Practically speaking, though, it wasn’t a very good idea. Makeup artists, especially those that worked on special effects, were perfectly used to cutting the sponges into more useful shapes, while consumers made do with the one-use triangles.

temp-abandonment2010, when tutorials on YouTube started becoming really popular, was also the time we all seemed to collectively have fallen out of love with sponges: for a few years, we did not associate the idea of sponges to the wonderful world of makeup artists and backstages at all – when we thought of that world, brushes became the first thing to came to mind. That was actually the start of a real wave of brush-mania, the kind of obsession that made even those who just apply one eyeshadow color buy entire sets of brushes – to end up using only 2 or 3 of them, naturally.

thebestsellerTo be entirely honest, yes, YouTube and the world of tutorials were behind the demise of sponges a few years ago, but they also brought on the renewed popularity of sponges as the preferred way to apply makeup later on. The only difference here was that it was not the traditional sponges that people used anymore, rather, the beautyblender: a small pink egg-shaped sponge that won the hears of all beauty addicts! Imagine, it’s already turning 15 this year, even though we still seem to consider it somewhat of a novelty. It started as a single piece, but then came a successful product line which comes in multiple limited edition colors, mini-sized – for the under-eye area – or maxi-sized, for your body. The beautyblender is makeup artist Rea Ann Silva’s brainchild, and it not only revolutionized the idea of what a sponge was, but also how long you could use one. Beautyblenders taught users that all you have to do after using the sponge is wash it, and it will be like new. Goodbye, single-use triangles!

thefutureSince it’s never too late to innovate, new ideas on how to improve makeup application seem to pop up online every year. You may recently have come across a small sylicon object that looks slightly like a breast implant. It might seem absurd, but that is a sponge, too! It’s called a SiliSponge, and it was the talk of the internet in late 2016. The main advantage of SiliSponges is that they reduce product waste to the bare-minimum, since they won’t absorb a single drop of your product, leaving it all available for your face. SiliSponges are incredibly successful, so much so that they are currently hard to find, selling out in just a few minutes every time there is a new release.

So, let’s wait and see, then: who knows what wonders the world of sponges has in store for us… In the meantime, have a look at the gallery, to learn more about the history of sponges, and get shopping!

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