What Methods of Foundation Application Use the Least Product?

I have heard it asserted that using your fingers to apply foundation uses less product because no goop is left on your brush. I have also heard it asserted that using a brush to apply foundation uses less product because it is easier to get a perfect finish, so you stop layering on makeup more quickly.

I couldn’t find any evidence to support either of these claims, so I decided to investigate.

I looked at five different methods of foundation application: my fingers, traditional wedge-shaped sponges, a Beauty Blender, a tapered foundation brush (specifically theBalm’s Blend-a-Hand), and a buffing foundation brush (Tarte Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush).

For my foundation, I used Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse. I applied my foundation ten times for each method, and recorded the mass of the used product. For some reason, I thought applying and removing foundation 50 times would be some sort of zen experience, but it was not. It was boring as hell, even with a podcast on in the background.

Without further ado, here were my results, from most product used to least product used:

#5 (worst): Wedge Makeup Sponges

Raw Data (in g): 0.781; 0.512; 0.638; 0.470; 0.621; 0.797; 0.634; 0.793; 0.449; 0.364
Mean=0.6059, Standard Deviation=0.1544

#4: Tapered Foundation Brush

Raw Data (in g): 0.463; 0.345; 0.309; 0.304; 0.400; 0.208; 0.285; 0.285; 0.175; 0.139

Mean=0.2913, Standard Deviation=0.0991
#3: Beauty Blender

Raw Data (in g): 0.346; 0.442; 0.272; 0.333; 0.227; 0.266; 0.241; 0.162; 0.227; 0.205

Mean=0.2721, Standard Deviation=0.0815

#2: Buffing Foundation Brush

Raw Data (in g): 0.252; 0.250; 0.211; 0.207; 0.181; 0.151; 0.242; 0.216; 0.313; 0.308
Mean=0.2331, Standard Deviation=0.0512

#1 (best): Fingers

Raw Data (in g): 0.324; 0.141; 0.167; 0.196; 0.225; 0.211; 0.175; 0.212; 0.243; 0.173
Mean=0.2067, Standard Deviation=0.0512

Hooray for scales.

Clearly, there are numerical differences between these methods. The next question is whether or not those differences are statistically significant. To answer this question, I started by running a one-way ANOVA, which is a test that compares means between multiple different groups. This yielded of p-value of
I did not compute a bunch of post-hoc tests to differentiate what was different from what, but I can tell you that the p-value was only marginally significant when the traditional sponges were removed from the equation (p=0.06). Thus, the big statistical conclusion was that wedge sponges are a shitty way to apply your makeup, but the other ways are much more similar. That said, this analysis indicates that if you are using disposable wedge sponges to apply makeup, you are using a lot more foundation than you would use otherwise. Based on these numbers, someone who uses disposable sponges will use 221.15g (7.801oz) of foundation per year, compared to the 75.45g (2.661oz) used by someone who applies with their fingers. Even if your foundation is drugstore prices, around $10 per ounce, you would save yourself $51.40 (plus the cost of the sponges) every year by switching. If you use fancier foundation, that difference may be much higher.

Looking at the data, I am confident that more statistically significant results would have come up if I had had more power (in other words, if I had been willing to apply and remove my foundation EVEN MORE FUCKING TIMES THAN I ALREADY DID). Unfortunately, my methods were super boring, so it is highly unlikely that I will be collecting any more data just to prove a point. 
It’s really up to you to decide if these differences are enough to switch to a new method of application.

Additionally, it is worth stating explicitly that although the amount of foundation used may influence your makeup application decisions to some extent, there are lots of reasons to choose a more expensive method, including ease and speed of application, the finish, and sanitary issues.

10. Wow!!! How interesting!!
I think the BB is still my favorite, considering speed, finish and ease of sanitation. Very surprised to see it ranked no. 3, I actually thought it would do worse because I felt like it was soaking up my foundation.I don’t know how you managed to apply and take off foundation so many times; you really are admirable! ^_^
2. I thought it would do worse as well, but I think since you use it wet, that might prevent it from soaking up as much foundation as it would otherwise.

3. It makes me very happy that you actually went the whole way and used ANOVA instead of stopping at raw data!
I use a buffing brush because it makes application the easiest; I find finger-application ends up really uneven and I apply far too much if I use a tapered brush.

4. We’re exactly on the same page. I use a buffing brush and sometimes tap over with a Beauty Blender to give a nicer finish.

5. This is so interesting! I generally use a buffing brush and am happy to see that rank #2. Fingers may use slightly less but the brush just makes me feel like I’m tugging at my face too much for my liking.

6.  I always feel like my fingers give me a more splotchy, uneven application, so I use a buffing brush as well.

7. When you use the brushes, how do you get the foundation on your face? I’m trying to decide which feels like I’m using less product: dotting it on my face and then blending with the brush, pumping it on the back of my hand and picking it up with the brush, or squirting straight on to the brush. I like the first one best I think, but wondered how you did it?

8. For this I picked it up from a separate container, but I usually put it on the back of my hand.

9. Thanks!

10. I absolutely LOVE your tests! They always make me happy 🙂
Fellow Nerd