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Image on left from Beautyblender website, image on right from Avon website
Image on left from Beautyblender website, image on right from Avon website

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Rip-off or not: How teardrop-shaped make-up sponges became all the rage

In a 2016 lawsuit, beauty company Avon admitted liability for infringing on Rea.deeming Beauty’s intellectual property rights. The object in question was a hot pink make-up sponge that Avon had named “Beauty Blender”. And as all make-up buffs know, the most famous Beautyblender (yes, that’s how it’s officially spelled) was invented by Rea Ann Silva, the founder of Rea.deeming Beauty.

Let’s start at the beginning. In 2003, Silva booked a job as a make-up artist on a sitcom that was the first in the United States to be shot and broadcast in high definition. That meant the actors’ make-up had to look flawless, and she decided to cut a regular make-up sponge into a teardrop shape to achieve a more natural look.

That shape was a huge innovation in this product category. The lack of straight edges meant no streaks, the broader end could be used (with a bouncing action for the best results) on bigger areas of the face, and the tapered end could be used for more delicate areas like underneath the eyes.

When Silva decided to start manufacturing these sponges, she picked an open-cell structure foam, which was much more porous than the typical make-up sponge. That meant it could be dampened and soak up foundation in a particular way that made for a better finish.

As Silva told Allure magazine, "that's one of the big secrets about why Beautyblender works so well". In a stroke of marketing brilliance, she also kept the hot pink colour that the manufacturer had made the samples in, and that’s become the signature hue of the Bleautyblender.

This make-up sponge has spawned many imitators. Rea.deeming Beauty has gone after infringing and counterfeit product listings on sites such as Amazon, Groupon, eBay, Poshmark and Alibaba. In a statement following the Avon case, Silva said: "We hope that our ongoing efforts against Avon and others will send a message to both our customers and would-be infringers that Rea.deeming Beauty is fully committed to aggressively pursuing even the largest companies when they violate our intellectual property rights."

That’s probably an ongoing battle. Avon’s website currently sells a teardrop-shaped make-up sponge. It’s called the Avon Pro Flawless Makeup Applicator (no “beauty” and no “blender” in this name). And it’s pastel pink, not hot pink. So, is this a rip-off or not?

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

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