Before picking sides in the eternal makeup brush vs. blending sponge debate, it's key to consider which product you'll be using, as well as your end result. "For me, it's all in the finish I'm trying to achieve," makeup artist Abraham Sprinkle tells us. "If I want a seamless wash or blend, I love a sponge, but for saturation or precision, I use a brush." For powder-based products in particular—like blushes, setting powders, and some highlighters—Sprinkle notes that brushes work better with these formulas, as they allow more control over just how much is deposited onto the skin, and you can always further blur the edges with a BeautyBlender sponge ($20; sephora.com) over the top. If you're the type to get into some serious cream contouring, a damp makeup sponge should always be used to mix the colors and ensure no graphic lines are left behind.
Liquid and cream foundations, on the other hand, can realistically be applied using your hands, but brushes and sponges can impart different effects on your complexion. Sprinkle recommends working with a synthetic brush if you're applying liquid foundation, as they're easier to sanitize, and create a smooth, even finish. "A sponge is great for sheering out creams and liquids," he adds. "However, keep in mind that it can absorb a lot of product." Just about anything from your fingertips to your MAC 217 ($25; maccosmetics.com) can work in terms of eyeshadow, just be sure to remember the mantra—the denser the formula, the denser the brush. "Loose, fluffy brushes are great for powders, but can be a nightmare for liquids," he notes. "Sometimes for cream shadows, I like to use my ring finger as the warmth of my hand helps emulsify the product, and makes blending easier."