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Once an afterthought for non-professional cosmetic users, makeup applicators (brushes, sponges, tools) are commanding more attention as brands’ hero products. Online searches for makeup brushes have nearly doubled since September, and makeup applicators are becoming the focus of product pages and homepage content. In L2’s 2016 Beauty report, 65% of brands included an applicator view on their product page.

Online retailers are also allocating more space to these tools. Recent L’Oréal purchase It Cosmetics created an exclusive “It for Ulta” makeup brush set, which was featured on Ulta.com’s primary navigation.

A graph from L2’s beauty event shows several brands with brushes and sponges at the forefront of their product strategy are generating significant buzz. Beautyblender and realTechniques account for close to 1% of social mentions in the beauty category despite low search visibility. Makeup Geek, which Marlena Stell founded after building a large following for her YouTube beauty tutorials, scores high in visibility and social mentions.

These brands show promise and could be stars in an emerging category.

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