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?