6 High-Low Makeup Buys With Applicators That Don’t Suck

These applicators aren’t messing around.

It’s almost cute when brands include a little eye shadow sponge in the compact, you know? Like, “Aww, it’s adorable that you think I’d ever use that! You tried.”

True, we all have different levels of makeup mastery, but I doubt any of us are still hanging onto those plastic thingamabobbies anymore, right? And I don’t know about you, but if I do forget to toss mine, there is a 100% chance that it will fall onto my opposite-colored outfit at the most inopportune moment.

So I’ll usually throw out all the included powder puffs (germ factories!), blush brushes that look like Barbie accessories, and those evil, outfit-ruining shadow sponges. But hey, not all applicators are bad!

Eyebrow Pencils

Anastasia’s Brow Wiz is one of my favorite brow products. The ultra-thin pencil is ideal for natural-looking, feathery strokes, and the formula has a waxy yet firm balance. But the feature that tips this product over into the “lifelong repurchase” category is the mini spoolie on the other end. It’s the perfect size to comb hairs into place, soften harsh lines, and redistribute pigment toward the inner corners.

Sephora Collection’s Retractable Brow Pencil gets an honorable mention: The teeny plastic comb is small enough for detail work, the stiff bristles are great for breaking up extra pigment, and it’s sturdy enough to withstand the beatings doled out by my purse.

Benefit Blushes

Benefit has been making these boxed powders for ages. Hoola is still one of my favorite bronzers--a neutral matte brown that works on everyone. Benefit regularly adds new shades to the collection, but the packaging remains the same: A generously sized brick of finely-milled powder in a square cardboard box with a square brush that fits neatly inside. I’ve had a number of these over the years, and I always hang onto the brushes to use with the powder. (I leave the plastic insert between them to keep it neat.) The actual surface of the bristles is the perfect shape for contouring when held lengthwise, and for a sheer sweep of color when turned widthwise.


Concealer products as a whole tend to have the applicator game on lock. Case in point: these three beauties.

Cover Girl + Olay The Depuffer

Remember the cold spoon trick from beauty mags of yore? Cooling metal has been used for many an under-eye product, but more commonly with skin care formulas, and usually in rollerball format. This applicator instantly cools puffy eyes on contact, and the lightweight formula includes cucumber extract for extra soothing.

Maybelline Age Rewind Concealer

This concealer contains Haloxyl, which helps reduce puffiness and dark circles (it stimulates lymphatic drainage). But I like it because it covers my dark circles, and the goofy little applicator actually helps soften edges and blend the concealer really well. Be sure not to oversaturate the tip by clicking too much, and wash it (gently, after removing it from the concealer body) every so often.

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat

If you’ve been reading about beauty for longer than a week, you’ve heard of Touche Eclat and its magical powers. But far less virtual ink has been spilled on the subject of its applicator. The ultra-soft plastic bristles are integral to the product’s success: they allow for precise placement in the inner corners of the eye, are long enough for a slight drag when applied under the brow for shaping, and are flexible enough for excellent stippling along the under eye and along cheekbones to highlight. Stippling is great for building coverage and depositing more pigment in one area.

There you have it! The applicators I don’t throw away--or wouldn’t, if they didn’t happen to be connected to the product. What are your favorites? Ooh, or tell me about the ones you HATE!