Review – Urban Studio Makeup Sponges | Beautyblender Dupe?

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Nowadays, makeup sponges are considered a ‘must-have’ in every makeup girl’s collection.  They come in all shapes and sizes, but there’s one specific pink egg-shaped sponge that is the most coveted sponge of all.  You know the one I’m talking about…right?

The beautyblender.

Now, as most of you already know…the beautyblender and I are very much in love and have been in a long term relationship for about 4 years now.  I’ve featured this little pink sponge in quite a few blog posts over the years, and I’ll link some of them for you below:

♥  Pictorial – How To Use Beautyblender Makeup Sponges

♥  Review – Beautyblender Pretty.Posse Kit

♥  Product Showdown – Beautyblender vs. QVS Deluxe Egg Sponge

♥  Best Of Beauty 2014 – Beauty Tools Edition

♥  My Birthday Wish List

♥  Easter Inspiration – The Beauty Edition

The beautyblender is remarkable – so much so, that a lot of companies have desperately tried (and failed) to reproduce more affordable versions.  Trust me when I say: I’ve tested many, MANY makeup sponges over the past couple of years and I was never been able to find a true dupe.  By the way, the beautyblender retails for R398,00 at Placecol salons & the Placecol online store.

What is a dupe?  It’s basically a duplicate or carbon copy of something.  In the makeup world, it’s usually a product that is the same colour and / or has the same formula / shape / pigmentation as a high-end product, but it’s more affordable – in other words, it performs the same (or even better) than the high-end version.

I’m sure most of you are wondering whether these Urban Studio sponges are any good / worth the money / dupes for other more wellknown sponges.  You can purchase Urban Studio makeup brushes and sponges at Dis-Chem, the brand is actually part of CALA.  I believe most of you already know CALA is my favourite affordable makeup brush brand at the moment – I discovered their brushes about 2 years ago, blogged about it here, and since then the brand has been very popular here in the South African beauty community.  Take a look at the very first in-depth review blog post I wrote about each of their brushes here – it’s really helpful.

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Earlier this year I discovered Urban Studio brushes (which is a new addition to the CALA brand) – their brushes are a tiny bit more expensive than the original CALA brushes but I feel like some of their brushes are a little bit more interesting / unique too.  I reviewed the Urban Studio PRO Contour Brush in my ‘What’s New In My Makeup Bag’ blog post, and featured one of their sets on Instagram here.  I’ve loved all the brushes I’ve purchased so far, so I was really keen to test their new makeup sponges.  I visited my local Dis-Chem a few weeks ago, and when I saw the ‘Precision Blending Sponge’ and ‘Makeup Blending Sponge Duo’ I immediately popped both into my basket.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love my beautyblender, but what I love even more is potentially saving a bit of cash in the long run.  Prices of the sponges are at the end of the blog post – scroll down.

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Is the purple egg-shaped sponge in the duo pack a dupe for the beautyblender?  And is the ‘Precision Blending Sponge’ a dupe for the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge?  I don’t know, you’ll have to keep reading to find out…  BUT while we’re on the subject of the Real Techniques sponge, I must admit: I haven’t bought one since end of 2015.  When it first launched, the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge was the only sponge that was ever able to mimic the results that a beautyblender gives you (it required a bit more effort, and it didn’t last as long as the beautyblender but it was a very decent dupe).  More recently, though, the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge is not the same quality anymore (I suspect they wanted to cut corners / save on costs, and started manufacturing it in a different factory or even country).  The texture is different – the newer version of the sponge is more porous and less ‘squishy’, it absorbs more product (wasting foundation / concealer), and doesn’t clean as easily.  I’m not the only one who has these suspicions, just google ‘real techniques miracle complexion sponge changed’ and take a look at the results.

First things first: It’s important to note that one should ALWAYS dampen these types of makeup sponges before using them to apply your foundation or concealer.  Running them under a cold tap for a few seconds and squeezing the excess water out increases their performance and ensures that they don’t absorb too much liquid makeup products.  Remember, though, it’s still a sponge – so like any sponge, it will absorb liquids to a certain extent.  The key is to find a makeup sponge that doesn’t absorb too much makeup.

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SIZE & SHAPE:

The purple egg-shaped sponge has the same shape as the beautyblender, but when dry it’s a little bit bigger and rounder towards the bottom (when dry – in the photo above).  I wrote a very detailed blog post on what exactly you can use these types of egg-shaped makeup sponges for, you can take a look at the blog post here (it’s really very helpful).

The orange sponge looks exactly like the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, it has the same slanted edge on the one side and the same pointed tip on the other.  I will say, however, the sponge from Urban Studio looks like is has a small manufacturing defect because the slanted edge isn’t as perfect the RT sponge.  As with the Real Techniques sponge, this one can be used to blend out your foundation (slanted edge), concealer / corrector (pointed tip), cream contour / bronzer (side of the sponge), liquid or cream highlighter (side of the sponge) etc.

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I don’t have anything to compare the smaller pink sponge to, but it’s a nice medium size.  Not as big as the beautyblender or RT sponges but also not as small as the beautyblender micro.mini sponge.  This sponge is perfect for blending concealer under the eyes or around the nose.  It’s also small enough to apply concealer / eyeshadow primer to the eye area (lid, crease & browbone).  Ooooh!  And you can also use it to apply any liquid or cream highlighter to the upper cheeks – it’s the perfect shape and size.

When held under running tap water, all 3 sponges absorbed water exactly like a beautyblender sponge does.  They grew in size and became a bit more pliable or squishy, but the beautyblender doubles in size whereas the other sponges grew about 50% in size (see below – the beautyblender is the same size as the Urban Studio sponge when dampened).  I was very happy about this, because some lower budget makeup sponges tend to stay dense and hard even when dampened with water.  A good makeup blending sponge will become soft and cushiony when dampened – any other makeup sponge that stays hard goes straight into the bin in my house.  In the past I’ve tried to make these makeup sponges work, but it honestly feels like your hitting yourself in the face every time you bounce a hard sponge on your skin.

All the sponges are small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of my hand.

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TEXTURE:

When they’re dry, all 3 the Urban Studio sponges are relatively soft – I say relatively because the beautyblender is the softest and most squishy of all.  Am I using the word ‘squishy’ too often?  It’s the only word that sounds right to me when I think about how these sponges feel.

Ok, getting back to the texture of the sponges.  What surprised me, though, is that they are actually a bit softer than my Real Techniques Miracle Complexion sponge (especially the pink and purple sponges).  Compared to the other sponges in the collection, both orange sponges almost feel like they have a dense core.

Once dampened, the purple and pink Urban Studio sponges are soft and squishy, but the beautyblender is softer and has more bounce to it.  The Urban Studio orange sponge still has a bit of a hard core once dampened, the outer layer does soften but the beautyblender softens all the way through.

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PRODUCT ABSORBTION:

The Urban Studio sponges hold onto more water and product compared to the beautyblender, this means I have to use more foundation to build up to the amount of coverage I want.  Please note, they don’t absorb as much product as some other makeup sponges I’ve tested in the past (Forever21, Dis-Chem brand, essence, and UBU) but they do absorb more liquid products than my high-end sponge.  I would say they absorb the same amount of product as the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge – no more, no less.

PRODUCT APPLICATION:

While I think that the Urban Studio sponges do an excellent job of blending out my makeup (and for price, it’s a total steal), the beautyblender is definitely superior.  The beautyblender doesn’t retain any excess water, and instantly blends liquid makeup products into the skin – giving it an airbrushed finish.  Using a good makeup sponge also cuts down on foundation application / blending time, even more so when compared to a makeup brush.  It’s almost as if a sponge applies and blends the product out seamlessly, and does the work for you.

Since the Urban Studio sponges hold onto a bit more water, I feel like they also sheer out my foundation just a tiny bit, but the overall finish is pretty similar – almost like skin, and not cakey or heavy.  Again, I think the Urban Studio sponges perform the same as the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge in terms of application and finish.

CLEANING:

As mentioned earlier, the Urban Studio sponges absorb and hold on to more liquid makeup products (compared to the beautyblender) and because of this, it does take a bit more effort to clean them.  But if you use the right type of brush cleanser and you clean your sponges often, then you shouldn’t have a problem getting them squeaky clean.

Are they dupes?  The egg-shaped sponge is NOT a dupe for the beautyblender but the orange sponge is definitely a dupe for the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge.

Are they worth the money?  Definitely, yes!  The duo set retails for R99,95 (which works out to approximately R75,00 for the purple egg-shaped sponge and R25,00 for the smaller pink hourglass-shaped sponge).  Not bad, right?  The Precision Blending Sponge (the orange one) retails for R74,95 and in my opinion is much nicer than the newer version of the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge.  They give a gorgeous airbrushed finish to the skin, and a very natural appearance to any cream or liquid makeup product.

So far I can’t really comment on how durable these sponges are, because I haven’t owned them for long enough.  But I’m holding thumbs!

Will I replace my beautyblender with any other sponge?  Nope, not until I can find a sponge that can do what the beautyblender does so well.  I feel like I’m going to live and die…and never discover a real dupe for the beautyblender…and that’s okay.  For now.

♥ PINK PEONIES POLL ♥   What is YOUR favourite makeup sponge?

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23 Comments

  1. Simone 11 November 2016 / 13:26

    Live and die…Lmao. I love how hardcore you are about makeup and specifically your Beautyblender

    I bought the orange one but don’t have a RT sponge to compare it to. I do like the orange sponge though and the flat orange slanted side.

    I love the Beautyblender but definitely can’t afford the price. The red one i got on the runway sale I love. ..but it just bleeds terribly and looks so ugly now. I don’t mind though. Just glad to have been able to experience an actual Beautyblender.

    Awesome review Luzanne! Hope you’re well.

  2. Siobhan Hughes 11 November 2016 / 13:40

    Ah I’ve been looking forward to this post!

    A sidenote: – I placed a Boots order and received it last week. I added a Real Techniques sponge to it, as I was convinced I’d bought fakes from an online store here. When I read that you’d said they’d changed the formula of the sponge, I figured that explained it, and didn’t really think about it again until I ordered the sponge from the UK. I figured I’d take it out of the packaging, feel it a bit and see if it was the same – if it was I’d give it to a friend, if it wasn’t then I had most definitely bought fakes.

    I’m sad to say that the double pack I bought earlier this year was INDEED a fake! I’d paid the full price for it, and I could tell INSTANTLY on taking this new one from the UK out of the box that it was an original. Completely different sponge. And oddly it was very much like the old RT sponges!

    I don’t know if they’ve switched back the formula of the sponge, or if they’re listening to customers, but these are not the same make. The ones I bought that are fake are so much like the super cheap ones you get at Dischem that are so hard!

    • ayesha 11 November 2016 / 17:55

      Hey Siobhan. Did you use Aramex for your order?

      • Siobhan Hughes 14 November 2016 / 08:29

        I did, yes Ayesha! They’re really really good.

  3. Paulina 11 November 2016 / 14:15

    Ha-ha, such a virgin to beautyblender, I thought the sponges were all the same and picked one up at the local woolies thinking “winner” … now I have been enlightened, thank you :-)

  4. Brett Robson 11 November 2016 / 15:05

    I enjoyed this post.
    Fingers crossed my Dis-Chem has these :)

  5. Elenor J 11 November 2016 / 15:20

    Great blog post, Luzanne!! 😀 I am definitely going to get the RT dupe sponge, especially since my local Clicks and Foschini stores are always out of stock. I am a die hard fan of the Beautyblender, but money is tight and I can’t afford to spend that much on a sponge anymore (I recently started studying again).

    I hope you have a great weekend XO

  6. Olga 11 November 2016 / 15:21

    Beautyblender all the waaaaaaayyyyyyyyy!!!!!!! 😀 😀 😀

  7. Wendy H 11 November 2016 / 15:35

    I so agree with you about the RT sponge changing.. I loved them when they were first introduced (I asked a friend to send me a couple from the UK) but then I bought one at Clicks towards the end of last year and it was totally different. Harder and more scratchy if one could call it that, didn’t enjoy it at all. I saved up and bought a beauty blender after reading one of your blog posts, and it was the best decision I ever made.

    I am very excited to go to Dischem to buy the Real Techniques dupe sponge, I’d rather alternate between a more affordable sponge and an expensive sponge, so that I don’t use the beauty blender up too quickly.

    Thank you for a superb blog post, L. x

  8. Lalannie 11 November 2016 / 16:51

    Your reviews are also so good! Thank you.

  9. Shanita Ruddick 11 November 2016 / 17:44

    Love your reviews, theyre always so helpful and indepth. :) Thanks, Luzanne, Im going to buy the duo set. Its too good to pass up on!

  10. Jenna 11 November 2016 / 18:04

    I am definitely buying that Real Techniques dupe! I bought a RT sponge last year and gave it to my niece because it was nothing like the original one I had. So disappointing. :(

    Thanks for the honest reviews, Luzanne, your blog is the only one I check on a daily basis. xoxoxoxoxo

  11. Nabeela 12 November 2016 / 00:13

    Haha this post got me thinking of “I shall call him squishy, and he shall be mine, and he shall be my squishy” 😀
    Definitely not too much squishyness!

    This review was so super in-depth and descriptive, and so worth the wait, thanks a million for testing these so thoroughly – I think I’ll save my monies for a real actual proper beautyblender 😉 for now I’ll hide in a corner while I apply my foundation with a brush

    Luzanne, speaking of money, have you seen that the LA Girl Beauty Bricks / Eyeshadow Palettes are now DOUBLE the price that they were when you first reviewed them?? Inflation AF. Shivers

  12. Bianca 12 November 2016 / 13:52

    Your posts are the best! Defs getting my hands on these sponges

    I’ve always used a flat makeup brush, but been wanting to branch out to other methods of applying my foundation. Thanks, L!

  13. Wardah 13 November 2016 / 12:38

    I quite like the original Cala makeup sponge, the one that looks like an hourglass. It does hold on to a lot of foundation, so I couldn’t properly clean mine from the get go but I like it nonetheless. :) Have you tried it, Luzanne?

  14. Melissa ❀ 13 November 2016 / 16:19

    Ooooh, definitely getting my hands on that duo set! 😀

  15. Tyler Cullum 14 November 2016 / 08:05

    Your reviews are always so honest and to the point! I can’t wait to get my hands on the Urban Studio Sponges! ❤️ I was also wondering if you have any idea as to how I can cover up these extremely light areas of skin I have surrounding my eyebrows? I can’t wait for your next post! I hope you’re well Luzanne xx

  16. melissa 14 November 2016 / 12:40

    Thanks for the post Luzanne , when u mentioned it i immediately went and see if there was any in the dischem at willow bridge and the lady working that section told me it went out like nothing , but ill be sure to catch one soon.

    hope you had a wonderful weekend and a blessed weekend ahead.

    much love :-)

  17. Susan 14 November 2016 / 21:53

    Another good blog post, I love your reviews!
    Going to see if I can get the Orange one at my local dischem. :)

  18. Hlobi 16 November 2016 / 10:08

    Hi Luzanne,

    I have the original Cala blending sponge and I love the finish it gives. I don’t think I’ll ever afford to buy a Beautyblender or justify buying one so this will do ha ha. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new Urban Studio range! Thanks Luzanne for this post.

  19. Shannin 30 November 2016 / 09:44

    Thanks for your fab review Luzanne! I’m wondering whether you’ve tried the new sponges from Real Techniques that launched with the Bold Metals collection? If you have, pretty please let us know your thoughts.

  20. Michelle Ebersohn 8 December 2016 / 09:59

    I am a bit late to this party but I wanted to echo the sentiments others have shared. I bought both these Diskem varieties (the purple and orange ones) and tried the orange one first. I have not even taken the purple one out of the package because I enjoy the orange one so much! I even went back to buy a back-up. Good thing i did because since then I have not seen them at Diskem again.

    I will definitely recommend the orange sponge. I use it with huge success when applying the following foundations – Estee Lauder Double Wear, Revlon Colour Stay (Oily Combo variety), Rimmel 25 H. I am trying all of my foundations with it at the moment. I can say, it did not do much with the Catrice whipped foundations but I do blame the foundation, not the sponge. I am still not loving that foundation but keep trying to find a way to make it work LOL!

    thanks for the great blog.

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