What are the best makeup brushes? That’s a tricky question to answer, since there are literally thousands of products out there. Take a walk through Sephora and you’ll see large brushes, small brushes, fan brushes, round brushes, angled brushes… the list goes on.

Have you ever excitedly bought a new makeup brush after the salesgirl convinced you it was going to transform your beauty routine, only for it to end up in the makeup brush graveyard after a handful of uses? Or convinced yourself you need a shiny new brush type being hyped up by all the influencers and beauty editors, even though your current makeup brush kit gets the job done fine?

Whether you’re a beginner looking to build up a makeup brush kit from scratch, or you’re just looking to hone your mad brush skills, this guide will help you wade through the never-ending list of choices. I’ve narrowed it down to the bare essentials – those makeup brush must-haves that will allow you to apply almost any makeup product skilfully and with ease.
How big should your makeup brush kit be?                            
Do you need a separate makeup brush for every item in your cosmetics bag? Truthfully, no. Many brushes are multi-purpose! That said, just one or two won’t be enough. So what’s the magic number?

Well, think about what you do to get ready every morning: foundation, brows, lips, cheeks, a little eyeshadow, Mademoiselle Lashes to finish the look. At least, that’s my list! Then, think about which brushes you need to apply each one, if you even do. Certain things such as BB and CC creams are often best applied with just your fingertips.

You’ll probably find that you have 5 or so ‘go to’ brushes that you keep coming back to. If you choose the right 5, they’ll allow you to do pretty much anything – even those smokey eyes you love so much! And the best part is, since you don’t need to own many brushes, you can afford to spend a little more on each.
Are expensive brushes worth the price? 
I firmly believe your tools, not your makeup, are the most important things in your cosmetics bag. Poor application can make a high-end product look decidedly average, while good-quality brushes will make the most of whatever makeup you can afford. If you need to budget, don’t do it on your brushes.

Spending a little more on your makeup brush kit will ensure smooth application and a soft feel that avoids irritating your skin. Plus, you’ll save money in the long run anyway. Not only will the best makeup brushes last longer, they also allow you to use less product each time and keep your makeup germ-free compared to applying it with your fingers.

Makeup brushes guide: The best brushes for different applications
So here it is, my ultimate guide to makeup brushes. Not only does it list the five brush types you need, but I’m also recommending a specific brush for each that has excellent reviews. Oh, and I’ve included a bonus non-brush item at the end that I definitely think you’ll benefit from owning too!

The Best Concealer Brush – F70 Concealer Brush by Sigma Beauty.
The best concealer brush – F70 Concealer Brush by Sigma Beauty

What is a concealer brush? This is a small, flat brush, not puffy at all, with a slightly round or straight edge. The rounded tip is more versatile to get to smaller corners like your inner eyes. A flat top or pointed shape will effortlessly build color and coverage for flawless skin, and it can even do double-duty as a brush for other cream products such as blush, bronzer, and highlighter.

Why you need this one: It will get perfectly into all the small nooks and crannies around your eyes and nose. Due to its shape and synthetic hairs, it can stand up to any cream-based makeup!

How to use it: With the brush, pat concealer, foundation, bronzer or any cream-based product directly onto the area. Use the rounded edge to get into the smaller areas around your nose and eyes. If you use a liquid contouring product, use a flat-edged brush to draw a line on areas you want to recede (always moving the brush upward). Then follow up with a larger blending brush, or beauty blender, to soften the line.
The Best Kabuki Brush – Retractable Kabuki Brush by Too Faced Cosmetics.
The best kabuki brush – Retractable Kabuki Brush by Too Faced Cosmetics

What is a kabuki brush? The kabuki brush was developed in Japan for women wanting to apply heavy, thick powder to their face. It has a short base which makes it easy to handle, and a fluffy, rounded top to cover maximum surface area. The thicker hairs can pick up any powder product, pressed or loose, with ease and if you want to you can even use it on cream products as well.

Why you need this one: Kabuki brushes are probably one of the most popular and versatile brush types available today because of their efficiency to apply any powder. This particular kabuki brush is ideal for ‘on the go’ due to its compact size.

How to use it: Use it to apply a light to medium coverage of foundation or BB cream by dotting the makeup on your face first, and then lightly buffing it in. For blush and bronzer, dip the brush in the powder, shake or tap off the excess, and then apply just above or under the cheeks with a light hand. Kabuki brushes can be large, so be careful not to over-apply color when focusing on one part of your face. You could also get more exact placement by using liquid blush or bronzer, dotting it on your face where you want it to go, and then blending with the brush. Finally, you can use the kabuki to lightly buff finishing powder over your makeup, to reduce shine and to set your look for the rest of the day.
The Best Eye Shadow Brush – All-Over Shadow Brush by Smashbox.
The best eye shadow brush – All-Over Shadow Brush by Smashbox

What is an eye shadow brush? A small, flat brush that is typically wider at the edge than the base. Its hairs are packed together to pick up maximum pigment, and apply it to your lids with minimal fallout. Because this brush is particularly dense, it is ideal for applying all-over color or padding in darker colors on your lids for a smokey eye look. 

Why you need this one: Soft yet dense, this brush picks up a ton of pigment, which will give your lids a smooth finish and can build up to a more intense color than a fluffier brush would. 

How to use it: Sweep shadow over the lids from the inside of the eye, outwards. To intensify the color, use a windshield wiper motion to add more color.  You can also pat the color on to your eyes for darker colors that need to be caked on.
The Best Eye Shadow Blending Brush – 242 Large Blender Brush by Makeup Forever.
The best eye shadow blending brush – 242 Large Blender Brush by Makeup Forever

What is an eye shadow blending brush?  A brush with a flower-like shape, similar to a closed tulip, that’s made of soft hairs. Its pointed tip makes this brush ideal to blend colors and reduce any stark lines that come up. This is a fluffier brush so it doesn’t pick up pigment as well as the eye shadow brush above… if you buy this brush type only and want to intensify the color, you will probably need to reapply multiple times.

Why you need this one: The natural hairs are super soft, and the pointed tip can get into the crease of your eyes to define the lid. You can get your eye color just so with this brush, because it can help to tone down color in a single stroke. It can also be used to apply liquid concealers on dark circles, for bright eyes with a natural finish.

How to use it: Dip the tip of the brush into your eye shadow using a circular motion and then tap off the excess product. Then, starting at the outer edge of your eye, use the tip of the brush to blend the shadow into your crease using a windshield wiper motion. This will contour your eye.

Psst, want even fewer brushes in your makeup kit? Although we love the quality of the two brushes above, dual-ended brushes with both a standard eye shadow brush head and a blending one also exist. Then you’ll be set for all of your shadow needs.
The Best Eyebrow Brush – Mini Angled Brush by Anastacia Beverly Hills.
The best eyebrow brush – Mini Angled Brush by Anastacia Beverly Hills

What is an eyebrow brush? A brow brush is designed to be stiff and sharply angled for a reason. We use the slanted edge to shade, and the tip to outline. Whether you’re filling in some sparse spots or drawing in an entirely new pair, a brow brush is quite frankly a crucial beauty weapon!

Why you need this one: This brush has very firm bristles and a really narrow edge; the finer the actual angled part of your angled brush is, the more delicate you can keep your lines, and the more natural-looking you can keep your brows.

How to use it: Use the slanted edge at a 45-degree angle on its side to shade.  Use the slanted edge at a 90-degree angle to outline quickly. Use the tip of the edge to draw a line, or draw individual hairs by flicking it repeatedly upwards.

A beauty blender is an amazing tool to apply any cream or liquid-based makeup.
Bonus product – The Original Beautyblender
Although not a brush, a beauty blender is something you absolutely need in your arsenal of cosmetic tools. It can be used for numerous makeup products and application types, entirely doing away with the need for multiple brushes from your makeup kit.

A beauty blender is an amazing tool to apply any cream or liquid-based makeup. You can use it for foundations, contour, and highlighters. You can use it for powder-based makeup as well, but I generally stick to cream/liquids for beauty blenders.

For either application you firstly need to wet and towel-dry the blender (it needs to be damp to avoid soaking too much product into the blender, but not so wet it waters down your product). You can apply product directly to the blender, or apply product to your face first and dab it to blend it all in; either way it’s an essential product to have in your makeup bag. Its round and tapered shape allows for multiple applications without mixing colors.

Basically, if you don’t have one, go get one! And if you only get one, get the Original Beautyblender. It’s the best out there. It’s a little pricier than its competitors (you can get it for $20 at Sephora), but well worth the money.

I hope you’ve found this makeup brushes guide useful. Armed with these six products, you’ll be able to do 80% or more of your everyday and night-out makeup looks like a pro. If you’d like me to follow up with a guide to the best ‘fancy’ makeup brushes for those more unusual products and applications, let me know!

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