Here I’ve compiled a little list of the Ultimate 11 Makeup Brushes (including a couple beauty tools) that I feel will best help apply a full range of products. You may not actually need ALL of these, but I wanted to share with you why it is better to have specific brushes for specific makeup to get the best application. Using different brushes also eliminates cross-contamination of product or color. It really will make a difference!
These brushes all fall into either the category of eye makeup or face makeup. I’ll show you multiples for each, but any one in a group will work fine depending on the type of product you use (gel, liquid, powder, etc.). And, of course, there is no ONE way to wear or apply makeup, but these are my favorites.
Listed in my order of application (I always start with eye makeup in order to avoid stray pigment on top of finished foundation):
1.) Crease Brush — eyeshadow
These are my go-to brushes for crease colors. Most have fairly straight bristles to be able to place color exactly in the crease, but the couple larger ones have bristles that fan a bit in order to diffuse edges of color or blend it out.
*Beauty tip: Hold brushes closer to the ferrule or bristles for more precision, and closer to the end of the handle for a lighter touch.
2.) Lash Line Brush — gel/liquid/cream or powder eyeliner
My go-to brushes for powder eyeliner are all MAC brushes, particularly #233 and #239. I consider these the gold standard. I know MAC has fine quality bristles that stay in place, and have even edges (no bristles longer than the others) which is important in this area so close to the inner eye. A lot of times I use a dark powder eyeshadow as an eyeliner.
MAC brush #209 is perfect for gel, liquid or cream eyeliners. Stick with smaller, narrower brushes for eyeliner, even onto the waterline, (or the small angled ones can alternatively be used for eyebrows or lip color). You can also use small brushes with bristles that come to a fine point to apply softer eyeliners. This type of brush work best for winged eyeliner.
3.) Lid/All-over Brush — eyeshadow
I like to use a fluffy eye brush for larger swaths of powder eyeshadow. If you are applying a cream eyeshadow, you will want to use a flatter brush. These lid brushes distribute color well and blend out any hard edges. They also will pick up and disperse color in a less saturated way.
4.) Foundation/Concealer Brush — base face color
I love these duos Oval Brushes for foundation and concealer application because they leave an airbrushed finish from distributing the product evenly. They come in all sizes, even tiny ones, for making sure you get color around the hard to reach eye areas.
There are other types of brushes that will work for foundation use, like the compact, tapered paddle brushes. And, if I’m not using these I will generally use my fingertips for a light touch. But, if you haven’t tried this type of brush it would be worth seeing if you like them.
For a quick application (like you’re running late to work) I will dot on foundation as well as concealer and blend out toward my hairline, all at once, with these brushes.
5.) Makeup Sponges — concealer
Sponges or BeautyBlenders are sold at multiple places, here I’ve added a link for Sephora so you can access a range of sponge types. These come in flat, oval and diamond shapes, with pointed tips for precision, ridges for grip, and multiple sides for application of several products. There are a wide range to choose from.
I use these primarily to distribute concealer around the inner corner of eyes or close to the lash line. They also work great to make sure foundation does not have a sharp edge at the hair line.
Beauty tip: Get sponges damp before using (squeeze out most of the water) and they will give foundation a dewy look. A barely damp sponge can also be used for adding powder for baking foundation.
6.) Powder Baking Brush — fine translucent face powder
I use these larger eye brushes to apply powder for baking, although traditionally a damp sponge is used to apply the powder and these brushes would then be used to sweep of any excess. But because I generally only bake my under eye area, I usually just use these for both steps.
If you are new to the term Baking, it is the process of adding a concentrated amount of translucent powder on top of foundation to areas of the face you would like to highlight (under eye, hollow of cheek bone, top of cheek bone, center of nose or sides of chin), waiting about 10 minutes for it to ‘bake’ or set the foundation, then dusting off the excess with a brush.
The two powders I have pictured here are Kat Von D’s Lock It Setting Powder in Translucent and Makeup Revolution’s Luxury Baking Powder in Ghost (but Makeup Revolution has a better option that is a Bake & Finish Powder that I’ve linked).
7.) Contour Brush—bronzer or tinted powder
There are a few shapes for contour brushes, basically they are somewhat narrower brushes that have shorter bristles, sometimes with an angle that fits the contour of your cheek bone. Pictured are the ones I tend to grab when applying bronzer.
Apply a contour color to define the planes of your face and give the illusion of more depth. Use these to chisel your cheek bones, along the sides of your nose and at the top and sides of your forehead. Contour color can also be effectively used along your jaw bone and around collar bones.
*Make sure to blend out any harsh edges so that this color will be seamless.
8.) Fan Brush— highlighter
Fan brushes come in all different sizes. I use a smaller one to add powder highlighter to the top of my nose, cupids bow of the top lip and forehead. A larger fan brush is nice for adding highlighter to the top of cheek bones. If your neckline is showing, you may also want to add some highlights to décolletage or collar bones.
This shape of brush can come in quite handy too, when you need to remove stray pigment from under your eye area.
9.) Blush Brush—rouge/cheek color
The main brushes I use for blush are fluffy angled brushes. However, fluffy domed brushes also get the job done very well. Here are two brushes in different sizes.
The white one is a basic, very affordable ($1.99), wet & wild brush (actually it is officially a contour brush) that I really like. This brand also has a ‘blush’ brush that is evenly domed.
Whatever brush works best for you, just use a brush for blush that will add the color to the apple of cheeks.
10.) Eyebrow Spoolie Brush—brow color/eyelash tool
These days, you will often find a spoolie on the end of eyebrow pencils. Some eyebrow pencils even have a small rigid fiber brush on the end cap (like the essence one above). Spoolies are perfect for preening your eyebrows and making sure they are neat and tidy. They have a multitude of overlooked uses like unclumping eyebrow hairs, separating eyelashes that have melded together (don’t get it in your eyes though), distributing eyebrow powder and ensuring definition of your brow hairs.
The brush that comes with your mascara is actually a spoolie as well.
11.) Powder Brush—face powder
I like to add a minimal amount of face powder LAST in my makeup routine, to halt any glaring shine that other products have not handled. Although a dewy look is great, a shine slick is definitely not.
So, even before a shine reducing setting spray, I like to lightly dust a bit of face powder (typically a shine control powder) on the really shiny spots like between my eyebrows, center of forehead and chin. These large fluffy brushes deposit just the right amount and easily handle a large area.
So, thats it!, for the list.
Remember, it’s not how many brushes you have but how well they do the job they’re assigned! Usually more expensive brushes are made with better fibers, but it all depends on how precise they need them to be.
Usually synthetic brushes are better for creams or gels because they do not absorb the product. But natural fiber brushes are better for delicate areas of the face (particularly the eye area).
And, don’t forget to wash your brushes regularly to get rid of any ‘icky’ bacteria and makeup build up! Be safe.
Hang in there! Friday is around the corner. 🙂
I would love to hear about your favorite makeup brushes and brands.