The key to the perfect complexion might lie in a foundation, but even the highest quality product can let you down when applied incorrectly. Whether you’ve found yourself with a streaky, tiger-esque finish, or your foundation is running out faster than you can buy it, the perfect applicator is difficult to find. Whether your first choice is a sponge or brush, the first thing to consider when buying an applicator is the coverage you hope to achieve from your foundation.

Those who prefer long-lasting, more matte finishes should opt for a brush, while a sponge is the best choice for those who love dewy skin. For makeup novices, it can be tempting to use the same brush for multiple steps, but if you want versatility this should be another factor in your selection. Whatever your choice, there is only one applicator that should be avoided – your fingers. From the luxurious to the thrifty, here are our favourite foundation applicators to leave your skin flawless and streak-free.

Dior Backstage Full Coverage Fluid Foundation Brush 12: £34.20, John Lewis

Hoping to share the glowing complexions of runway models with the world, Dior launched their latest Backstage brush collection in 2017, including a range of foundation brushes in varying levels of coverage. Our tester’s favourite was the Full Coverage option. Despite its name, it only picks up enough product to allow you to layer up your foundation to either a dewy or matte finish. Not only does this brush leave your skin streak-free, but the dense brush head makes blending easier for those less confident with their beauty skills.

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Beautyblender: £17, Cult Beauty

There’s a reason that this tiny pink sponge is so recognisable in the beauty industry. Its legion of fans have inspired a range of lookalikes from different brands, but few work as well as the original. While you can use it both wet and dry, the easiest way to achieve full coverage is to dampen it in cold water before squeezing out the excess and patting on your foundation. Not only does it use less product than a brush, but it creates a smooth, natural finish. Those who find that their makeup often looks patchy or flaky as the day wears on will love how drastically the Beautyblender can transform an average foundation.

Thanks to its infamous egg shape, it can also apply concealer and cream products in tricky places, like under the eyes. The only downside to this applicator is that sponges require frequent cleaning and is pricey to replace every few months, unlike a brush which is a much more long-term investment.

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Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Brush: £42, SpaceNK

Those who rely on their morning commute to apply their makeup will love this product, which is small enough to slip into your makeup bag. The size also comes in handy when it comes to applying other liquid products, particularly concealer. While it may be one of the pricier options on this list, the quality can be felt in the bristles of this brush, which are very soft and don’t shed. Our tester found that this brush applied foundation best in strokes, rather than stippling or buffing it into your skin.

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Fenty Beauty Full Bodied Foundation Brush 110: £26, Harvey Nichols

Despite being one of the original products from Rihanna’s acclaimed range, the Full Bodied Foundation Brush hasn’t received the same level of attention as the Killawatt Highlighter or Gloss Bomb. Our tester was pleasantly surprised as a result. It has a unique shape for a foundation applicator, featuring a paw-like brush head which allows you to multi-task and use it to apply foundation, highlighter, concealer or even contour. As an added bonus, this is one of the prettier applicators on this list and is cruelty-free.

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Real Techniques Brush Crush 2 301 Foundation Brush: £12.99, Superdrug

Designed by YouTube power duo Pixiwoo, Real Techniques have become a drugstore beauty staple since its launch in 2011. Its latest range combines a galactic-inspired design with high quality and low prices, making this the cheapest entry on this list. This brush buffs out the foundation, giving skin an airbrushed finish. As it’s slightly slanted, you can adjust your coverage to whatever weight you want, as well as blending in hard to reach areas such as beneath the jaw and the corners of the nose.

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Kat Von D ‘Lock-It’ Edge Foundation Brush: £22.10, Debenhams

We had high expectations for this brush: Kat Von D Beauty’s eponymous founder is known her flawless, porcelain skin, and so surely any foundation applicator in her range would help us mimic it? Thankfully, the ‘Lock-It’ Edge Foundation Brush delivers. It features a densely-packed head which feels soft on the skin and picks up just enough formula to help you build up coverage. Those looking to layer up their makeup will appreciate how its dome-shape prevents the dreaded cakey finish on the dryer areas of your skin. Our tester preferred the shape of this brush to all others on this list.

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Charlotte Tilbury Magic Complexion Brush: £45, John Lewis

Although originally designed to apply Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation, this brush is a versatile addition to your makeup bag. With a flat brush head, the pigment of foundation is applied evenly rather than wiping them across the skin. As a result, it’s a good choice for those with open pores, scarring or rosacea, because it doesn’t force the foundation into the pores. While the brush may seem too dense for the first few uses, it is designed to shed bristles upon its first wash, which leaves it softer and more flexible for future application.

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Guerlain Foundation Brush: £33, Selfridges

This is the ideal brush for those who prefer sheer, light formulas on their skin. Guerlain’s pretty, pink brush design incorporates a unique circular shape that applies makeup in streak-free layers. Our tester found that this brush worked best when applying with small, buffing motions. While it isn’t suitable for those who prefer matte finishes to their foundation, this brush can also be used for blusher, contouring or bronzer.

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By Terry Light-Expert Click Brush: £48, Harrods

The most innovative entry on this list, the By Terry Light-Expert Click Brush is a foundation and brush in one. By pressing the button on the base, product is dispersed onto the kabuki brush at the top, which then blends quickly into the skin. We were surprised by the quality of both the brush and the foundation considering its novelty design. The brush is densely-packed and while it may be harder than your average applicator, it’s perfect for medium to high coverage. Our main concern was how hygienic a foundation/brush hybrid would be in practice. However, the brush is removable for washing, as well as allowing you to see how much product is left inside.

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Clarins Foundation Brush: £26, Clarins

Surprisingly, Clarins only launched their first ever makeup brushes this summer, filling out their range with six products covering all the basics. Our favourite is their slim, dome-shaped Foundation Brush. While it may be thinner than the other entries on this list, it’s flexible enough to provide coverage for those who prefer a lightweight, dewy finish. We used this applicator by starting in the centre of our face and working in sweeping, outward motions rather than buffing in our product.

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The Verdict: 10 best foundation brushes and sponges

Despite its name, Dior’s Backstage Full Coverage Fluid Foundation Brush is the most effective applicator and the best investment no matter your foundation preference. However, if you’re looking for versatility in your applicator, you can’t beat the Beautyblender.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.