This is something that’s been bugging me for a while. I notice that new makeup items often come with an applicator. This is true, whether it comes from the pharmacy, or if it is a department store or luxury brand.
I open a compact holding a powder blush, and out will fall a little, scratchy cheek brush.
Or I open an eyeshadow palette, and out drops sponge-tipped applicators or random, skinny dual-ended little brushes.
More than once, I’d have to scramble around the floor picking up these little projectiles that fly out of my makeup compacts, much to my consternation.
So my question for you today is this – Do you use the applicators included with makeup? Are they good for anything?
Poorly designed makeup applicators
I was most recently reminded of this, when I told you about the By Terry Nude Expert Duo-Stick foundation. On one end is the product, a very nice, glowy camera-ready foundation.
On the other, is a little knob of white spongy rubber that the brand says, helps you blend the product on your skin. It is not detachable, so you cannot remove it to wash. There is no other way to clean it, if you use it.
I stared at it for a while, debating with myself if I should use it. I suppose I should have, for the sake of blogging about it. At the same time however, a part of me went “Eww! It’ll be all icky and gross after 1 use and I can’t clean it!” So I didn’t.
By Terry isn’t the only brand with this packaging. There are other brands too with similar type packaging. Some have a brush at the end, instead of a sponge.
Not for the first time, I wondered what makeup manufacturers were thinking when they designed this product and its packaging, and what the brands were thinking to approve and sell it. Quite clearly, those approving the design are not makeup users.
I think the same thing every time that I pick up a Chanel eyeshadow palette or blush. You’d think that a luxury brand like Chanel would pay a little attention to the accessories included with their makeup product.
If at all an applicator is to be included, I’d appreciate one that is actually usable. For the prices that Chanel charges for their products, I’d expect lovely soft and dense mini eye and cheek brushes that pick up product well, and which you can comfortably and easily use in a pinch. I would like them to be in natural hair – squirrel or goat maybe. But perhaps to be PC, they could opt for synthetic bristles. Synthetic brushes are now of very high quality, and from my understanding, much more affordable.
Instead, what we get in Chanel eyeshadow quads are toothpick-like applicators tipped with a cheap, flimsy sponge. In their blush compacts, we get a sparse, scratchy brush that works best at getting dust off my keyboard.
Neither applicator works well. I don’t know anyone who actually uses a sponge-tipped applicator, do you? Chanel sells a range of makeup brushes that are quite good. A sponge-tipped applicator does not feature in this range. Why then is it suitable to be included in their eyeshadow palette?
The brushes in the blush compacts are hard and scratchy, and you will end up with a streak of colour down your cheek that is almost painful to blend out. They make a beautiful blush brush that they will happily sell to you. What is the need of the included applicator then?
Chanel isn’t the only culprit. Dior makeup is the same. Beautiful packaging, halfway decent products, but marred by the inclusion of cheap, 80’s style applicators. It is almost as if manufacturers of makeup made millions of these useless applicators way back in the 80’s and are still trying to get rid of their stock.
Sometimes, it almost feels like these applicators are toys. They sure feel like toys in my hands, and I don’t even have very large hands or fingers!
The rare exceptions to the rule
I have one caveat in this rant. If you have had the opportunity to try Japanese brand makeup, some of the appplicators included in their palettes are usually quite decent. That is to say, you can actually use them in a pinch, to do your makeup without looking like a throwback to the 80’s. Often, their eye applicators have a soft, dense brush alongside a sponge-tip.
I have some old eye and cheek palettes from brands like Kanebo T’estimo or Lunasol, Shiseido and RMK and the quality of their little brushes and sponges are impressive when compared to Western counterparts. The brushes aren’t flimsy or scratchy, but are soft and fairly dense. Dense enough to allow you to pick up colour, and soft enough to allow you to blend it without scratching yourself. The sponge applicators are soft and thick and do not disintegrate as quickly. I have to hand it to the Japanese for their attention to detail.
There are also exceptions within Western brands. When Urban Decay first launched their Naked palette, they included an eyeliner. But consumers wanted a brush instead (so, it appears that people do actually use these things!). Instead of just throwing in a cheap, flimsy product to appease the masses, Urban Decay included an almost-full sized dual-ended eye brush, that they have included in all other versions of the palette since (except their latest iteration, Naked Reloaded, which now has no brush!).
This brush (which I still own) is less dense than the usual, but is good enough to use to apply and blend eyeshadow if you don’t want to carry your other brushes. The synthetic bristles are soft on the skin, and the dense brush-heads pick up colour and deposit them well. Brushes included in the long Bobbi Brown eyeshadow palettes are also quite decent – dense and soft. However, these are exceptions to the general rule.
Generally, high-end or low-end, I find makeup applicators a nuisance 😛
A changing trend – no more applicators?
I have noticed a slight shift in recent times. Not so much in the mainstream brands, but in the smaller, newer makeup brands.
Many smaller but popular brands, like Zoeva, Huda Beauty, NYX, IT Cosmetics, Hourglass etc. ship their palettes and compacts WITHOUT an applicator. Charlotte Tilbury doesn’t include applicators in her compacts either.
I believe that this is primarily a cost-saving measure, but also in response to two things. First, most makeup enthusiasts now own a basic set of makeup brushes. Makeup brushes have become quite affordable, and there are many brands with high quality, affordable brushes.
Second, people were complaining about the bulk of the palettes. To streamline the packaging and make it flatter and more compact, applicators had to go.
Honestly, I don’t think many people miss it.
Do you? 😛
Do you use the applicators in makeup compacts or palettes?
When I bought my first eyeshadow palette (a Revlon duo) I had no brushes and no inkling of how to use it, so I used the sponge-tipped ones included. I had no skills back then, but the applicator did me no justice either and I was so put off by the result, I stayed away from using eyeshadow for years! 😛 The only included applicators I use are the sponges in powder foundation compacts or cushion foundations! 🙂 You?
30 comments ... Read or JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Jan Kelley says
I never use the little enclosed applicators. In fact, most of the time I usually toss them out. They are totally useless to me. I would prefer the companies just leave them out. Maybe instead they could knock off a little bit from their exorbitantly high priced product. I have gotten so annoyed I rarely buy a product that includes a useless applicator. There plenty of great brands that wisely leave them out.
Paris B says
I agree with you about companies cutting on the cost of product by removing these useless inclusions. However, I think the applicators are just a very minimal fraction of the price that doesn’t quite make a difference 🙁 It’s such a waste of space and resources!
Nope, I don’t use them at all. There was a single exception from a very old Bobbi Brown palette which had a pretty good dual ended brush. Even then, I kept it primarily only for the end that worked for a shadow liner because it worked exceptionally well for me. I hardly use the other end which I guess is meant for application and blending unless I’ve travelling and don’t want to carry too many make up items.
I support the newer trend of not including applicators in compacts since that would play a part in cutting down waste and resources. Besides, in small compacts especially, the length of the applicators included are typically of ridiculous proportions and terribly fiddly to use. I’m guessing that might work as well as or even better than the latest hype about cutting out plastic straws for environmental reasons! While not a total greenie, I feel do bad about such wastage.
Paris B says
I’m 100% with you on this! I remember some tiny little eyeshadow singles from back in the day from Chanel or Dior that came with these ridiculously tiny applicators. I could barely pick them up! Unfortunately, unless we start seeing applicators appear in our seafood, I don’t think it’ll take on as strong a momentum as the straw movement 😛
I don’t use the applicators. The brush bristles are too rough. The only blush applicator I’ve ever kept is from the old Shiseido powder blush – it’s very soft and lasts long.
Paris B says
The Japanese attention to detail is something else! and I agree with you about the bristles being too rough. Sometimes, I honestly wish they’d try some of their own products before selling!
Sponge-tip eyeshadow applicators are good for applying poor quality eyeshadows only. I use them from time to time when I love a color that has a bad quality. The brushes that where in the old Shiseido bronzers and face color powder trios was good also. I feel that companies must exclude those poor quality applicators though, they are a totally waste. Getting dust off from the keyboard never comes to my mind!???
Paris B says
Interesting proposition on how to use sponge-tipped applicators Amalia! Usually, when I come across an eyeshadow texture that is hard or unpigmented, I just get rid of it 😛 So wasteful right? Oh and you know, I notice that sponge tip applicators also tear and disintegrate quickly. I found some old palettes with sponge tip applicators, and the sponge had fallen apart even though I never used it!
You are right about Shiseido’s old brushes. They provided high quality applicators that we could at least use, not scratch ourselves to bits with it. It looks like they’ve gotten rid of applicators with their new rebranding exercise too! Oh little brushes like that are perfect for cleaning up the keyboard! The scratchier the better haha! 😀
Most of my eyeshadow palettes and blushers do not come with a brush. The only brush I find usable is from the Naked Original palette, double ended brush.
Paris B says
Yes the UD Naked brush is quite usable considering it’s a freebie but I saw even they have removed it now in their newest palette. I do think not having applicators is the best option. But there will always be those complaining there are none LOL!
When I started reading the post I remembered the Naked Palette brushes and then you mentioned them too. They are not perfect, but they’re pretty usable, unlike those cotton swab-like thingies that only take up space. I used to use those as a teenager, when I only started wearing makeup and had no idea other brushes existed. I remember poking myself in the eye a few times with that plastic stick, because the sponge would tear after a couple of uses. Not fun at all! LOL
Paris B says
Haha I guess we think alike! At the very least, the Naked brushes were actually usable. I remember poking my lids a few times too when the sponge wears out! They use such thin sponges. I think makeup enthusiasts or anyone starting with makeup these days have a better time. Good brushes are easy to come by and aren’t expensive unlike before. I remember when the only decent brushes available were from MAC. The ones from other brands were horrible! It’s no wonder people just settled with the applicators LOL!
True. With so many good products and information available everything is easier now. But other commenters mentioning they use sponge-tip applicators with poor quality makeup has just made me see them in a different light. They were probably the best applicators for that era. 🙂 Now they are just adding them out of habit.
Paris B says
I swear they add them just because they have this stockpile of little sponge applicators that would otherwise go to waste! haha! 😀
I am with Amalia ….. those sponge tips are good if your eye shadows are not great …. and I have some that were not cheap …. hello certain Chanel 4 palettes I have bought in the past !
Paris B says
Oh my you have reminded me of the awful quality that Chanel quads used to have! I had a few from back then, and I eventually got rid of them all because they were so hard with such poor colour payoff. Thank goodness they reformulated them for the better! Can happily attest that they work with brushes now 😀
I’m glad that you brought this out for discussion. 9 out of 10 times, I wouldn’t use the applicators. Like what you’ve said, they mostly can’t deliver good results, esp the eye sponge applicator. They don’t blend well, do they?
So far, one that I’ve used right from the palette is a cheap Japan-made blusher. Just S$4 if you get it in Japan, by the way. 🙂 They were usable and especially useful when I travel. Of course when I’m back home, I’ll stick to my proper and heavier brush.
As for companies not including applicators in recent trend, I’m happy because I think it’s good for the environment. If most people are not using it, then let’s not create more “plastic garbage” for the poor earth. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Paris B says
Indeed, it’s time the beauty industry took a long hard look at the amount of trash they generate and do something about it! I’d rail against the packaging too but I also understand why excessive packaging is sometimes necessary, especially because soft powders can shatter easily. But tossing out the applicators is a good way to start. After all, decent makeup brushes can be very affordable these days!
Nope I hardly use applicators that come with my makeups. For pressed powder, I prefer fluffy brush than the sponge applicator. But I do use the(flimsy) tiny blusher brush when traveling for a short time. As for eyeshadows, since I dont own many palettes I always, always use my e/s brushes. Plus the palettes I’ve bought these past few years dont come with applicators.
I’ve never paid attention to those flimsy, 80’s-like e/s sponge tip applicators until you point this out in this post. LOL like seriously they still have that? And from luxury brands like Dior and Chanel? They remind me of mom’s makeups back in 1985 ?
Paris B says
Yes the luxury brands still include those weird sponge-tip applicators that no one uses LOL! I don’t even understand why! The only reason I can think of is that they have stock to finish from the 80’s 😛
Hi! Interesting post! I own lots of brushes but also use the applicators for Suqqu, Lunasol and Maquillage eyeshadows. The Maquillage ones are especially handy. Blush brushes are typically useless but for travel, i have found the scratchy Chanel blush ones actually work quite well when I just want to travel light. Some brands like Burberry should just forget about giving applicators. Have never used any of theirs, especially the fiddly ones in the velvet pouch pocket!
Paris B says
Thanks for chipping in Emma! 🙂 Oh yes, I don’t get it when brands provide a separate applicator in a pouch, but it isn’t up to mark either! Such a waste of resources!
I only use those applicators for eyeshadow, to pack colour in small areas like the outer v or to apply it over the eyeliner to blur the line. I find it good for colours I don’t usually use so I don’t have to dirty another eyeshadow brush, but then I can live fine without these applicators and I’d rather do without them for high end makeup cos it looks cheap to me (it’s OK for drugstore makeup).
Paris B says
I remember doing that back in the day, and because it’s so hard to blend with the sponge, I’d have these little patches of colour all over my eyes LOL! Ah, happy days 😀
I’ll admit: I do actually still use the applicators provided with blushes! I can’t really tell the difference between the good brushes and not. *sheepish* I picked up a brush set from Sephora once, but some of the brushes don’t seem to pick up eyeshadow very well, and I simply never thought to replace them. These days, I mostly use fingers.
Paris B says
Yay thanks for being honest Esther 🙂 Good brushes are always a bit of a challenge to find, but the general rule is that it should not be too scratchy on skin, and it should not be too loose (unless it’s intended to be that way e.g. fan brush). I have not used Sephora brushes, but some of their single brushes do look quite decent. I’m not sure about their sets. If you find that they don’t pick up shadow well, try swirling the brush in the colour, then tap off the excess before applying. It could be either the brush, or the shadow. if you use your fingers on powder shadows often, the oils can cause the surface to harden, so it makes it harder for brushes to pick up colour thereafter. I used to use my fingers too, which is how I noticed this 🙂 My preferences do lie with natural hair brushes for the eyes and cheeks especially, as I find they pick up colour better. But that said, new synthetic brushes are much better quality now, so my opinions may no longer be valid 🙂
if you use your fingers on powder shadows often, the oils can cause the surface to harden, so it makes it harder for brushes to pick up colour thereafter.
oh no, didn’t know this! D: I’ll probably look into getting better brushes then. I wonder if the Korean ones (Innisfree, Etude House) are any good – they’re usually priced more affordably.
Paris B says
I’ve heard the Etude House face brushes are quite nice, but I haven’t seen them, because the only Etude House store I know of is in Sunway Pyramid and it could be on the moon for what I know! LOL! I have tried Zoeva and Sigma, which aren’t bad. They often have sets and can sometimes be quite affordable. For something more affordable, Ecotools is quite decent too. You don’t need many eye brushes. I’ve learnt from experience that all I need are 2 or maybe 3 at a push, and that is only if I’m doing something complicated. Else, I could quite easily get along with just 1-2 🙂
I, frankly, LOVE, what you would call, the cheap eye shadow, and I also love the sponge applicators to use with them. I very much miss that so many of the eye shadows don’t come with them anymore nor do they even have space for one. Super annoying! Guess we don’t all think alike!!
Yes, I use the applicators!I’m very Annoyed now that there are a limited amount of compacts without the brush. So now when I travel where do I pack my brush? I have to have a separate bag if the compact is too big and won’t fit in the bag. So now I have more things to pack instead of all consolidated together? Yes, I get you can put it in a makeup bag but what about other brushes I have to have now? They all mix colors or get filled with bacteria because it’s all just stuffed in a makeup bag? I like it all together so when I go put on eyeshadow it’s all in one and covered in one case. I don’t have to go find where the brush is. So annoying!!