Cheap Treats: Cotton Swab Makeup Applicators

I love to share Cheap Treats--things I'm crazy about (usually beauty-related) that are fewer than $10
See past Cheap Treats here.

Put down the Q-tips. I've got something better--something you might've seen but not really considered. I know I didn't--it's no secret I'm frugal about many a beauty product. In fact, I originally bought these on a whim. And I'm so glad I did! I'm talking about cotton swabs specifically for makeup. Yes, they are completely different! They're around $2-5, come in different brands/sizes, and can be found online or in drugstores/beauty supply stores.

Whereas regular Q-tips easily come apart, these are harder to unravel. The ones I use are pointy on one end, and flat on the other, but the swabs can be purchased in different shapes. Here are many ways I use them:
  • Smudger--I keep these in my bag for when I want to create a smokey eye look for night. Add a thicker line of eyeliner and smudge it out. Easy smokey eye!
  • Sanitary & Non-Messy Application--I can't stand touching certain makeup with my fingers, as in, putting my fingers into a tin of lip balm, for example. It grosses me out. I use the cotton swab applicators instead. No germs, no mess!
  • Scent Keeper--I traditionally do this with cotton balls when traveling, but have found these cotton swabs work too. I spritz perfume on them and keep in my suitcase/purse/dresser/car to scent it. Or I put them in a Ziploc and rub on my wrists later for a pick-me-up of scent. I've even held them under my nose during stinky cab/subway rides to calm my nerves. Is that weird?
  • Fly Away Tamer--Spritz with hairspray to tame flyaways/baby hairs or unruly brows.
  • Eraser--I love these for traveling! I pour a little eye makeup remover (or olive oil) into a Ziploc bag. I can throw in the swabs or dip them to make those eye makeup mistakes disappear. And it's cheaper than store-bought ones.
  • Eye Shadow Application--Before I started using brushes, I used these. The swabs can apply and blend shadow. They're great for touching up shadow too.
  • Zit Zapper--This is gross, and I don't advise popping zits, but if you must, use two clean swabs to pop the zit from both sides. Definitely more sanitary than your fingers.
  • Zit Shrinker--Once the zit is popped, drop some Visine onto the swab and gently dab it onto the zit. The redness and zit will shrink. Note: I'm not a dermatologist, but this tip has never caused me scarring/damage. Check with Dr. first.
  • Spot Hider--Use the makeup applicator to apply the tiniest amount of foundation (never concealer...we don't want to highlight zits!) to cover zits or small imperfections. I use the same technique with spot acne cream.
  • Mani Helper--I use the pointed end to help remove polish from a rushed mani (and my lack of steady left hand!). Unlike a Q-tip, the cotton fibers won't come apart and stick to your wet nails.
  • Nail Cleaner--Run the pointed end under nails to clean them instantly.
  • Nail Design--Use the pointed end to make dot designs on nails.

 What Cheap Treats are you loving lately?


  1. Aw I love those!!!!! I recently bought the cheap rite aid brand. Bad, awful decision...

  2. Great ideas! I love the eye makeup remover while traveling one.

  3. Very great tips...you came up with so many uses! Using them for scent is something I would have never thought of in a million years!

  4. You are so resourceful! What great ideas. :)

  5. Love the scent keeper trick. I'm gonna start doing this now!

  6. THIS is awesome, Elle. I love the tips on this one. Off to hunt for them today.


  7. Visine for zits? Hmmmm...I'm trying that next time!

  8. Wow, I've got to try these - they're so versatile!

    Courtney ~ http://sartorialsidelines.com

  9. I didn't know you could use these for so many reasons. These are great.

  10. Ah, q-tips are a forever lifesaver! So many uses. :)


  11. I never thought to get these, but it totally makes sense especially if they are less linty than cotton swabs!

    Chic 'n Cheap Living

  12. Great find! Cheap and useful are always pluses in my book.

  13. I always see them but guess I never put much time into the fact of thinking they were any different from regular q-tips. Now I need to get me some! I love the variety of tips you gave especially the scent keeper one! Genius!

  14. Another set of quick tips. I expect nothing less from you :)

  15. I love your ideas and uses for them!! Especially for perfume! Xox <3 hautepinkpretty.com

  16. I love those too! And you just take everything to the next level! Brilliant ideas! :) xoxo

  17. I heart your tips! Thanks for sharing, as always, Elle! I'm definitely going to use this for the fly away situation :)

  18. I love these suckers, especially when I'm doing a show–they're the best!

  19. I have always liked them better : ) What a great post!

  20. So many uses for this little thing!!

    Jayme @ Her Late Night Cravings

  21. What a great list! Definitely pinning this. I've been cleaning my sink with those cotton pads you're supposed to wash your face with. I have about a bajillion of them and they really do take a ton of grime off.

  22. huh, I haven't seen these- good to know!

  23. What would we do without these! Thanks for giving me even more ways to use them!

  24. ohmygosh, i totally didn't know we can use visine as a zit shrinker! wowow, thanks for that tip! :)

    <3, Mimi
    Fashion To Figure Giveaway: Win any item $30 or less
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  25. I'm definitely going to have to check these out! Thanks for all the great tips too--I especially love the traveling tips!

  26. Good things to know. Thanks! xoxo


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