Foundation application

We love liquid foundation, but knowing how to apply it can be kind of confusing; sponge, fingers or brush? While there’s no right or wrong way to apply it, each method has its pros and cons. Check out our breakdown of the benefits and disadvantages of each–it might just help determine which method is best for you. To see even more of the best ways to apply foundation, check out our gallery Foundation Applications: Sponges, Fingers, Brushes, AND MORE.

Sephora foundation sponge smooth delivery sponge set

Sponges: Sponges come in lots of different shapes and densities. There are wedges, teardrops, acorns and, of course, a bunch of beauty blenders, just to name a few. Some people love ’em, some people hate ’em.


  • You have more control with a sponge than your fingers.
  • Foundation will go on sheer and lightweight.
  • You can dampen the sponge giving a fuller-coverage foundation a more natural effect, which is perfect for a dewy, natural glow.
  • They are inexpensive.
  • They can get into hard-to-reach nooks and crannies.


  • Sponges absorb a lot of product, so you’ll go through your foundation faster (they are “sponges” after all!)
  • If skin isn’t prepped properly (moisturized and primed) they can catch and lift dry skin.
  • They need to be replaced often, so they’re not very environmentally-friendly.

foundation application fingers

Fingers: Lots of people swear by their fingers to apply foundation and others would never dream of it!


  • They’re free! You don’t have to buy and carry around an extra tool.
  • You won’t waste as much product as using a sponge, so you’ll save money.
  • Your hands will warm up the foundation helping it blend nicely.


  • Using your fingers can get pretty messy.
  • You don’t have as much control as with a sponge or brush, which can result in streaky or uneven application.
  • Your fingers and hands have to be freshly washed before application otherwise you will spread bacteria and cause breakouts.
  • Sometimes, oily complexions get even oilier with finger application.
  • It can be hard to control how much foundation you use so application can be heavy or cakey.

sephora foundation brush 92 pro featherweight fan

Brushes: Most professional makeup artists, including myself, use at least one (if not more) makeup brushes to apply foundation. With so many brushes to choose from there’s something for everyone. Remember: bristles should be synthetic for liquid or cream-based products.


  • When used properly, a brush is one of the fastest ways to apply foundation.
  • They blend foundation seamlessly giving skin an even, airbrushed finish.
  • They provide great coverage.
  • Hygienic
  • You can layer easily, giving you more control over coverage.
  • They are good for getting into hard to reach nooks and crannies
  • They buff foundation into the skin for natural-looking results.


  • Many brushes are expensive.
  • They don’t travel as well as sponges or fingers–if you don’t store them properly the bristles can bend and break.
  • Poorly made brushes can leave streaks and stray hairs on the skin.

Professional makeup artists use a combination of two or all of these application methods depending on the formulation of foundation they’re using and the finish they want. I regularly apply foundation with a brush and then dab areas with the pads of my fingers to blend and layer. There’s no right or wrong method, it’s what works best for you; try all three and decide for yourself.

Image credit: Sephora Canada


Louise Griew is a Toronto-based makeup artist and writer. She’s a regular contributor to’s Beauty and Travel sections and runs the blog Beauty Drifter. When she’s not writing or making people look pretty she’s planning her next travel adventure or lounging in the sunshine with a good book. Read her beauty posts every Tuesday and Friday and follow her on Twitter @LouiseGriew