• Amy Arfi

Evolution of Makeup Tools: What Really Works Best?

Forget makeup, forget skincare. Let’s discuss the main man when it comes to application: the tools, utensils, gadgets and gizmos that we’ve all knowingly purchased in a bid to make our makeup look Beyoncé flawless. Whilst we can all admit the makeup game has expanded drastically thanks to the help of the world wide web, I’m curious as to the particularly inventive effect this has had on the experimentation of makeup tools. We’ve seen a vast number of trendy products, cult items and a few one-hit-wonders but ultimately, some have undeniably changed the beauty game forever. Here’s your invitation to this one-woman investigation on the evolution of makeup tools over the last twenty or so years.

It’s All In The Hands

If we’re going back to the basics, why use any tools at all? Hands, fingers and palms are all you technically need. Whilst I can assume this only works with foundations or face products with liquid or balm-like textures – powder foundation users, don’t hold me to that – we’ve been watching our mums do it forever. A guaranteed natural finish, completely streak-free and as our body temperature heats up the product, a smooth blend too. There’s also the no product wastage factor. Downside? Quite messy.

Blushes For Brushes

A firm and founding member of the fan club for makeup brushes, I think there is little in life more satisfying or effective than the use of multiple kinds of brushes when applying your makeup. Flat, tapered foundation brushes are the OGs of this movement, but with the addition of brands such as Morphe, MAC or Zooeva, just to name a few, enabling brush sets to be so accessible physically and technically, there’s now a brush designed for every nook and cranny of your face. The great thing about using makeup brushes is that depending on the type, you can vary the application and texture of your base makeup. Bigger, rounder buffing brushes do a sublime job of replicating that au natural finish that your fingers can create, but in half the time with no clean-up job necessary. The god-awful worst part about brushes? Cleaning them. But now there’s even spinning gadgets for that too.

SpongeBob Could Never

In 2003, somewhere amongst the sea of ultra-thin brows and frosted eyeshadows was born the beloved Beauty Blender. It would be unfair to not acknowledge the age-old use of sponges within makeup by MUAs and drag culture, but also untrue not to crown this product as the most cult, game-changing product to hit the mainstream beauty industry of the 21st century. There, I said it – but this is proved entirely by the spin-off dupes that are still replicated time and time again by brands. The water-absorbent, egg-like sponge has made waves mostly for its easy but more importantly, even layering of makeup. Almost any face product can be applied with this tool and it’s oh but so easy to clean. It will not fail you. And now? A velvet equivalent in the Juno & Co. Microfibre Rosé Sponge claiming to produce the benefits of a brush and a blender all in one.

A One-Hit Wonder To End All Others

Oval paddle brushes, remember them? Original brand Artis sell them accompanied by quite the luxury price tag, with one set costing you a hefty near £300. Their slogan, ‘better beauty, by design’ had us all fixated and obsessed, but only for a short while. Formed to mimic the pad of your finger but with more compact fibres than a standard brush, it really did sell a dream in a makeup application tool world. Whether or not it was the high-street, more affordable replicas that let the side down when it came to delivering those promising results, we’ll never know, but I think there was something to be said about the innovative and seriousness considered surrounding these tools. However, when it came to the smaller eyeshadow paddle brushes, highly pigmented eyeshadows could be slightly unpredictable when using a tool with little flexibility and movement.

Honourable Mentions

Oh, where to begin. They’ve come… and subsequently gone. First up, the silicon pad. Although at first glance it could be mistaken for one of those gel comforts pads great for cushioning a heel, we were all taken by surprise by this wonder tool. Essentially everything a beauty blender promised, without the downfalls of it absorbing half the product. In summary, great for applying and sitting foundation on top of your skin, unfortunately, no way as near effective as the sponge original, nor did it have its blending superpowers. There was also that spray-on foundation Dior released in 2015, Backstage Airflash. Whilst this appeared to be a one-spray-keeps-the-doctor-away product, despite its shocking shade range, I’m just not sure it was as practical as it set out to be. Dior even advise going in afterwards with a buffing brush which does lead one to wonder, is it really just a gimmick and only a gimmick? Shoutout to the magnetic false eyelashes and wheel-on eyeliners too – makeup application innovation at its finest.