Makeup Brush Guide: Your Go-to Handbook

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Makeup Brush Guide

There are so many different ways to apply makeup, and using makeup brushes remain to be the most professional and satisfying way of doing it.

The problem is that it can be very daunting to anyone who’s just starting out.

That is why I created this ultimate handbook to help people who are just starting out with makeup. By the time you’re done reading this makeup brush guide, you should no longer be overwhelmed by these tools. In fact, you’ll feel very much excited the next time you go to your favorite makeup counter or buy makeup online.

Even if you already know how to use makeup brushes, this Makeup Brushes 101 can still be a valuable resource if you’re looking to buy a new one, whether high-end, drugstore or even dupes. You can also share this with your friends who are new to doing makeups.

Makeup Brush Guide

Makeup Brushes For Beginners

When I was still a newbie, I couldn’t help but stare in awe how makeup artists ‘paint’ someone’s face using their brushes in such a fluid way, effortlessly. The transformation that follows is just as equally amazing.

So when I finally started out, I was excited to get my hands on these brushes and use them. But it was so overwhelming for me. During that time, there was no guide about how to use makeup brushes for beginners, so I had to learn the hard way. I tried to stay away from them for some time and settled with just using lipsticks, pencil eyeliners and the brushes that came along with my eyeshadows.

Back then, I used my fingers when applying concealer, and sometimes when applying and blending my eyeshadow. I thought I was doing great back then, but I just couldn’t get the same finish I wanted.

Furthermore, I came to learn that using fingers are a big no-no when it comes to maintaining a healthy skin. I wouldn’t want to add more bacteria to a zit that I was trying to conceal.

To keep yourself from being overwhelmed, I suggest not to buy makeup brush sets. Instead, you need to ease your way into using them one by one. When you’re already comfortable with your current routine, you can add another brush type.

The 4 basic makeup brushes every beginner should buy:

  1. Foundation Brush
  2. Powder/Blush Brush
  3. Concealer Brush
  4. Eyeshadow Brush

This is an ordered list, so it’s best to buy and start getting comfy into using them based on the sequence listed above.

As you continue to get more confident using these brushes, you can then start purchasing other types. You can also start experimenting with variations of these four.

Makeup Brush Guide

Makeup Brush Types: The Basic Ones You Need To Know

If you’re new to doing makeup, you need to get yourself up to speed on using brushes. Before you start ordering online or going to the store, you will have to get acquainted with the types of makeup brushes first.

I will also be highlighting the best makeup brushes you can buy for each type from different popular brands. That way, if you’re already familiar with these types, you can as soon as possible get the brushes you want. So here are the different types of makeup brushes and their uses.

Foundation Brush

If you want to get that flawless finish you’re so wanting to achieve, you need to have a foundation brush. Using your fingers just won’t do. Besides, you don’t want to go about clogging your pores and spreading bacteria all over your face in the first place. If applying makeup is an art, then it’s best to do finger painting on an actual canvas, and leave the brushes for makeup.

There are different types of foundation brushes. The quicker way in choosing which one to get will largely depend on the type of foundation you’re using.

Are you using liquid or cream foundation? The best type of brush for this is a tapered foundation brush. You can easily apply and blend with this one. So how do you know if it’s a tapered foundation brush? Just check the edges, they should be tapered, whether at an angle or not.

Personally, though, I prefer to use Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush for cream foundations like the brand’s own Traceless Foundation Stick. The brush has super soft, natural hair bristles that perfectly blends cream foundation into the skin for a streak-free, flawless finish. The trick when using a cream foundation with this brush is to buff it in small circular motions.

Because of its small size, the application may take a bit of time. But it’s definitely worth it, considering the flawless, natural-looking and perfect finish. It can also be used to apply either powder or cream blushes. I’ve tried it with Chanel cream blushes, and it works well!

A cheaper version would be Real Techniques Expert Face Brush.

If you’re using a powder foundation, it’s best to get a rounded foundation brush. The rounded edges and the densely-packed bristles are able to pick up the powder easily and able to spread them evenly on your face. They don’t just spread the product, they evenly and smoothly blend them as well.

Another great thing about this dome-shaped brush is that it can also be used for liquid and cream foundation as well.

So how do you actually use a foundation brush? Well, it’s a sort of different strokes for different folks kind of thing, but here are the most common steps on how to use it:

  • Pick up some foundation using your brush, adjusting the amount of product you pick up with the amount of coverage you need.
  • Begin blending outwards starting from the center of your face, and sweep outward toward your hairline. You can also buff it in a smooth circular motion if you’re using a stippling brush or rounded foundation brush.
  • Use quick downward strokes for your nose, forehead, chin and cheeks.
  • If you have a tapered brush, you can use it on the corners of your nose and other hard-to-reach areas of your face in small downward strokes.
  • If you see any makeup lines, just simply blend it out in a small circular motion for a seamless finish.

Aside from using tapered foundation brushes to apply foundation, did you know that you can also use it to apply primers? I use my Chanel foundation brush #6 with Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Primer and it works better than just using my fingers.

The Best Foundation Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
MAC 187 Duo Fibre Face Brush
~$42Achieve an airbrushed finish by stippling liquid foundation using this brush. It can also be used to set with powder. Made from a blend of goat hair and synthetic fibers.Makeup Brush Guide Foundation Brush
Shiseido Perfect Foundation Brush~$30Create the perfect foundation finish with this small but wonderful brush. Can be used for all formulations of foundation: cream, liquid, and even powder.Makeup Brush Guide Foundation Brush
Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush 02~$72The perfect brush to use for applying cream foundations. Can also double as a powder or blush brush.Makeup Brush Guide Foundation Brush
Sigma Beauty F60 Foundation Brush~$22This hypoallergenic, synthetic brush can be used for either liquid or cream foundations and other products like primers or highlighters.Makeup Brush Guide Foundation Brush
Real Techniques Expert Face Brushless than $10The best foundation brush for liquid foundation and BB cream.Makeup Brush Guide Foundation Brush

So what if you’re not using foundation for your base makeup? A lot of people use BB or CC cream instead. How do you apply it? Do you use your fingers or a cream foundation brush like the one from Tom Ford? Or do you use a brush that’s specially made for BB/CC creams like Japonesque BB/CC Cream Brush?

SPECIAL MENTION
JAPONESQUE BB/CC CREAM BRUSH
This professional mixed fiber base brush is uniquely contoured to deliver perfect application of BB or CC creams. Made from a balanced blend of synthetic and natural materials, it is the best makeup brush you can use to stipple or buff your favorite BB/CC cream without it looking cakey or flat. Achieve a natural finish that looks healthy and luminous.

Powder/Kabuki Brush

This is one of my most favorite brushes. It is definitely a must-have makeup tool. Even if you’re not doing a full-on makeup, you can just apply powder foundation using this brush and put on a bit of color on your lips and you’re good to go.

My favorite type of powder brush is the densely-packed kabuki brush. Aside from its cute mushroom shape, kabuki brushes are just so soft to the skin. If you’re going to get one, be sure to buy the retractable ones so you can bring it with you anywhere. Or, you can buy both a regular-sized and a retractable kabuki brush so you can have one within your reach anytime.

You can easily discern from the name that this brush originated from Japan. In a Japanese theater, a kabuki brush is used to apply white powder evenly on the actors’ faces. This just shows more proof on how good this brush can blend, as some irregularities with the actors’ white face can be easily seen on stage.

Obviously, we’re not going to cover our face with white powder. Think about the blending capability of this brush, though, and you can get a clear picture of how your foundation or blush would look like on your face. Because of the brush’s nature, you can blend your powder in less time and with a beautiful even finish.

A kabuki brush is best used for blending powdered makeup products like foundation, blush or face powder on the face. You can easily achieve a natural-looking coverage with this tool. In fact, it is so good that you can also use it with liquid and cream makeup products.

Another more important reason why this brush is one of my faves is because of how versatile it is. This mushroom brush can actually replace a lot of other brushes in your collection. It can function as a foundation brush, a blush brush, and even a powder brush. That is why it always has a special place in my bag for those emergency retouches.

Here is a quick rundown on how to use a kabuki brush for both liquid and powdered makeup product:

  • For a liquid foundation, squeeze a small amount on the back of your hand. Then pick it up with your kabuki brush and apply to different parts of your face by dabbing the foundation in small circles.
  • Spread the product by blending in small circulation motions. Use the same motion even with areas like your nose and forehead. These are areas where you would normally use a stroking motion with tapered foundation brushes.
  • For powdered makeup products like a blush, pick up a small amount with your kabuki brush. Keep in mind that the brush can easily pick up a lot so you will need to lightly tap it.
  • Apply the blush on your cheeks in a stroking motion towards the direction of your ear. In case there’s too much pigment after the application, there’s no need to worry as you can easily blend it out with your kabuki brush.
  • If you’ll be using a kabuki brush to apply bronzer, the easiest way is to do a “3” shape by sweeping the brush along your hairline towards your temple. Then go into your cheekbones, back out and down towards your jawline.

Do you want to see more proof on how versatile this brush is? You can use it to apply foundation to your shoulders quickly and evenly. Now it’s time to flaunt those shoulders 😉

The Best Powder/Kabuki Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
Sigma Beauty F80 Flat Kabuki Brush
~$25A major favorite of beauty addicts around the world, it's best used for liquid foundations and cream products.Makeup Brush Guide Powder Kabuki Brush
Tarte Airbuki Bamboo Powder Foundation Brush~$28Use it to apply powder foundation for a flawless, airbrushed finish. The perfect tool to use with the Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation. Vegan-friendly and versatile!Makeup Brush Guide Powder Kabuki Brush
Too Faced Kabuki Brush~$34Packed with 'teddy bear hair' bristles, this retractable kabuki brush is ideal for applying mineral foundation. It's also great for applying and blending blush, highlighter, bronzer and powder.Makeup Brush Guide Powder Kabuki Brush
Chanel Retractable Kabuki Brush (Limited Edition)~$70This Limited Edition, ultra portable makeup brush is perfect for touch-ups anytime, anywhere. Densely packed with super soft synthetic bristles.Makeup Brush Guide Powder Kabuki Brush
Tom Ford Soleil Bronzing Brush~$95Achieve a seamless, glowing look with this retractable kabuki brush made with high-grade, soft synthetic hair.Makeup Brush Guide Powder Kabuki Brush

Concealer Brush

Is it really important to use a concealer brush? Why would you use a brush to apply concealer? Or to hide the dark circles under your eyes? You can hide your blemishes and dark spots with pinpoint accuracy using your fingers anyway.

This is a common misconception that some people would still argue over.

I can’t blame them, though. I used to do that as well. I think it’s maybe because when I was still in my teen years, I would naturally apply acne-busting products directly on my pimples with just my fingers. Take note, I don’t do that anymore as I now use cotton swabs.

The crime of dabbing concealer using a finger is not an obvious one until you look closely. Your finger can actually worsen the condition of the blemish. It can deposit oil and bacteria in the area. It may look like you’re able to cover it successfully, but as soon as you remove your makeup you might find your blemishes in an even worse condition.

Using a concealer brush solves this, plus it can help make your blemishes truly invisible. In fact, when applied the right way, even bumps become almost unnoticeable.

Aside from hiding dark spots and pimples, a concealer brush can help apply makeup to specific areas of your face that need extra coverage. This can include the nose area near the upper lip, which oftentimes overlooked.

Using a good concealer brush is not enough, though. You also need to use the right product. For instance, if you’re going to neutralize the reddish color of your acne, you will need to use a concealer with green undertones. Tips like this deserve an article of its own so I’ll make sure to create one later.

There is another wonderful use for a concealer brush, which is to perfect your lipstick application. You can actually use this brush and a small amount of concealer to clean up messy lipstick edges. Pretty neat huh?

The best use of a concealer brush is to reach the small corners around the nose and eyes. You can also use it to pat and blend concealer under the eyes. For bigger concealer brushes, they can also be used to apply eye makeup.

But for concealing small blemishes, especially the really tiny ones, I don’t use a concealer brush. I usually opt for an ultra fine eyeliner brush like the Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine eyeliner brush ($29) or the Chanel Pinceau Eyeliner Ultra Fine eyeliner brush #13 ($28). The precise, pointed tip of these brushes are ideal for covering small imperfections.

What Is The Best Concealer Brush?

Product NamePriceNotes 
Shiseido 'The Makeup' Concealer Brush
~$20Achieve a seamless application of your concealer to completely hide those stubborn blemishes. Made with synthetic bristles.Makeup Brush Guide Concealer Brush
Sigma Beauty F70 Concealer Brush~$15It has a very precise tip for concealing imperfections on hard to reach, small areas of the face. Can be used with both liquid or cream products. Cruelty-free.Makeup Brush Guide Concealer Brush
Sephora Pro Airbrush Concealer Brush #57~$24Applies concealer easily and gives an airbrushed, flawless finish. This concealer brush with synthetic bristles had not been tested on animals.Makeup Brush Guide Concealer Brush
Chanel Pinceau Correcteur Concealer Brush #10~$32This synthetic-fiber concealer brush can be used to apply all concealer formulas. Can also be used to apply eye makeup and blend cream eyeshadows.Makeup Brush Guide Concealer Brush
Cover FX Concealer Brush~$20This synthetic brush is ideal for applying concealer to cover up dark undereye circles and redness around the nose area. Vegan-friendly and Cruelty-free.Makeup Brush Guide Concealer Brush

Blush Brush

There’s not much to say about a blush brush, except that it’s the most commonly seen brush used in almost every movie with a makeup scene. Come to think of it, the first image that comes to my mind when I think about applying makeup is an actress sweeping her blush brush on her cheeks.

Well, on second thought, lipstick comes first. Touching up lipstick either in the car or even in restrooms during lunch break at work or in between classes. Those are the images that first come to mind when I think about makeup.

Anyway, a blush brush is a type of powder brush but is more compact. The compact bristles allow the brush to easily pick up pigment at the right amount. The dome-shaped brush helps to make the blush color pop out naturally, without making you look like a clown.

There is no special way to use this brush except that you apply the makeup on your face in a sweeping motion. It is that simple yet it can be so effective in making you look a lot younger. Make sure to choose a color that would complement your skin tone, because a wrong color may make you look haggard or worse, older. You should also make sure not to overdo it. A natural-looking blush is the most wonderful thing you can put on your cheeks.

To use, simply swirl your blush brush around the powder blush to pick up enough color then tap the excess. Apply on the apples of your cheeks and lightly blend it outward along your cheekbones.

Another option is to use an Angled Blush Brush. Personally, though, I don’t see much difference between using a regular blush brush and an angled one. Simply hold your blush brush at an angle when applying blusher and you’ve got yourself an angled blush brush! 😉

The Best Blush Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
Tom Ford Cheek Brush 06
~$78The luxurious way of applying color to your cheeks. With this natural-bristled brush, you can either layer on color for an intense look or sheer it down for a more natural flush to your cheeks.Makeup Brush Guide Blush Brush
Marc Jacobs Beauty The Shape Contour and Blush Brush No. 15~$38With its soft, flat-shaped design, this versatile brush can be used for applying blush, highlighter and bronzer. Its synthetic fibers are antibacterial and safe for sensitive skin.Makeup Brush Guide Blush Brush
MAC 129 Powder/Blush Brush~$35Can be used for either face powder or blush, but it works best for applying blush.Makeup Brush Guide Blush Brush
tarte Double-ended Cheek & Lip Brush~$34Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. Ideal for applying tarte Kiss & Blush Cream Cheek & Lip Palette, but can also be used with other cream formulas.Makeup Brush Guide Blush Brush
Real Techniques Blush Brushless than $10Ideal for use with powder or cream blushes. Can also be used for highlighting and contouring to achieve an HD finish. Cruelty-free, hand-cut synthetic Taklon bristles.Makeup Brush Guide Blush Brush
SPECIAL MENTION
e.l.f. Angled Blush Brush
Synthetic haired taklon brush that is priced at less than $5. Can be used for all formulas of blush, bronzer and highlighter: liquid, cream or powder. Soft bristles are densely packed for easy pickup of product and precise application and blending. It’s effortless to achieve a sculpted look with the slanted shape of this e.l.f. studio blush brush.

Fan Brush

One of the most overlooked brushes, in my opinion, is a fan brush. This multi-faceted tool may not be that essential at first glance, but as you continue to do your makeup every day and as your makeup demands increase, you’ll get to understand how invaluable this brush is.

Did you know that you can use a fan brush to sweep excess particles of stray makeup, eye makeup fallouts or even excess powder? The shape itself makes it look like a miniature flat broom.

Gone are the days of makeup products leaving stray flakes when applied. Well, at least to most brands. However, this brush still proves to be of great use.

Even up to this day, I still sometimes experience flecks of excess eyeshadow falling on my face while applying it. Most of the time it’s because I haven’t tapped the eyeshadow enough to get rid of excess products. Fortunately, I can easily sweep these away by lightly swiping with my fan brush.

A fan brush can also be used to apply a blusher if you want to create a soft blush or sheer effect. The brush’s flat shape can prevent you from applying too much color, even if you’re the heavy-handed type. So you can use it if you want a sheer application of blush, highlighter, powder or bronzer.

There are more creative ways to use this brush and I’m sure you can think of some of your own too. You might ask, why? Because us girls who are into makeup are naturally creative in the first place. Some of my friends even use their fan brush to even out the mask or face peel they apply on their faces.

Perhaps the best use for this brush, if we are to focus on just one, is for highlighting. With its delicate way of creating mild tones, this tool is just perfect for those subtle highlights that look so natural.

The Best Fan Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
MAC 184 Duo Fiber Fan Brush~$25Use it for featherlight application of powder makeup. Can also be used to remove excess product and fallouts without messing up the rest of the makeup. Works great with MAC’s Mineralize range of products.Makeup Brush Guide Fan Brush
tarte Fan Brush~$30The perfect fan brush to use with your favorite highlighter. You can achieve a healthy-looking, luminous glow easily with this sleek brush.Makeup Brush Guide Fan Brush
Make Up For Ever 120 Medium Powder Fan Brush~$31One of MUFE’s most iconic brushes, this fan brush is designed to remove fallouts and excess powder. Can be used with both loose and compact powders.Makeup Brush Guide Fan Brush
Make Up For Ever 134 Large Powder Fan Brush~$48This large fan brush from MUFE is perfect for highlighting as well as for sculpting the cheekbones.Makeup Brush Guide Fan Brush
Smashbox Fan Brush #22~$18Seamlessly and effortlessly apply blush, bronzer or highlighter with this ultra-soft and featherweight fan brush with high grade synthetic fibers. 100% certified cruelty-free.Makeup Brush Guide Fan Brush
SPECIAL MENTION
MAC 205 Mascara Fan Brush
If applying mascara is part of your makeup routine, I suggest you try using a mascara fan brush like this. It is a little different from the common fan brush since the bristles are shorter and firmer.

This is the brush you should use if you want to go for the no-mascara mascara look. It makes your mascara look so natural. It’s like you really grew those long and gorgeous eyelashes naturally.

What’s more, the mascara fan brush makes applying mascara extremely easy, especially to the base of your lashes. No goofing and clumping, I’d say this brush is worth a try. Goodbye clumps, hello perfect lashes!

Lip Brush

Here’s another overlooked makeup brush, which is considered to be a hidden gem to those who love to wear lipstick. Now that I think about it, almost everyone who wears makeup loves to wear lipstick. So I guess a lip brush is everyone’s hidden gem after all.

We’re so used to applying lipstick directly from the tube that this tool is easily taken for granted. If you want to make your application perfect, more artsy, cleaner and more stunning, using a lip brush is definitely the way to do it. It can bring out the real artist in you.

Since a lip brush is all about applying color on your lips from a pan, pot, palette, or a lipstick itself, its brush is smaller than some of the concealer brushes. Just enough for your lips. The bristles are soft and are typically tapered for precise application. The handle is long and thin, like a small wand, for easy control.

Now, just when do you actually use a lip brush? There’s no hard-set rule on when and when not to use a lip brush. I would use it on very important business meetings or on formal gatherings. If I’m going to the club, though, I’d rather use a lipstick.

The best way to know when you should use a lip brush is to understand how to use it in the first place, here are the some of them:

  • Do you need more color or a slightly different shade of your favorite lipstick? A lip brush is a must if you’re into mixing several shades. You can come up with a whole new color that is more to your liking and still be able to use your favorite lipstick.
  • Do you hate those sneaky smudges that hide when you’re in front of the mirror but reveal themselves in front of your friends? A lip brush can help you avoid these smudges. The long handle gives you the best control in your color application.
  • Do you want to accentuate your beautiful lips or make your lips beautiful by accentuating it? A lip brush can help you in shaping up your lips the way you want it. The brush can help you in blending the lip liner and lipstick on your lips. By properly blending the two, you can create a very natural appearance to your lips.

The Best Lip Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Lip Brush
~$24The only 2-in-1 retractable lip brush you’ll ever need to easily apply a variety of lip looks. Prevents feathering and fills in lip lines with little to no effort.Makeup Brush Guide Lip Brush
MAC 316 Lip Brush~$20With its tapered tip, high quality firm and flat fibers, MAC 316 is the ideal lip brush for controlled application of lip color.Makeup Brush Guide Lip Brush
Make Up For Ever 304 Lip Brush~$25Round brush with dense bristles that you can use for quick and expert application of lip products. Great for both professional and personal use.Makeup Brush Guide Lip Brush
Chanel Angled Lip Brush #33~$32Angled lip brush with slanted shape that’s perfect for precise application of liner, lipstick and gloss. Spreads color cleanly and makes matte finishes look luscious. Allure magazine's 'Best of Beauty' Award for Best Makeup Brush for Lips, 2016Makeup Brush Guide Lip Brush
e.l.f. Retractable Lip Brushless than $5Retractable lip brush that ensures even and controlled application of lip color for a flawless, professional finish. A great entry-level lip brush. Very cheap yet functional.Makeup Brush Guide Lip Brush

Eyeliner Brush

I was not planning to explain much about eyeliner brushes because I think that they’re not as important as other makeup brushes. Especially if you’re using liquid eyeliners where you don’t need to have a separate brush to apply it. (I usually use pen-type liquid eyeliners because they make it easier for me to wing my eyeliner.)

But if you’re one of those people who prefer using gel eyeliners, then you definitely need to use a good eyeliner brush.

There are 3 distinct types of eyeliner, and while most of us are already content with just using one shot pens, others want a better way of defining their eyes. An eyeliner brush is the perfect tool for precise eyeliner application. You can easily create the eye makeup you want with this tool.

I, too, had been a slave of pencil-type eyeliners for years and do still use them from time to time. But when I started using a brush, oh wow, it became my most preferred way of doing my eyeliner. It just feels so satisfying, especially those times when I’ve perfected that elusive cat-eye look.

Before buying your first eyeliner brush, or upgrading to a new one, you need to know exactly how you’re going to use it. You will need a specific type of brush for the specific eye makeup look you’re trying to achieve.

  • Are you trying to achieve thicker, more pronounced lines? You should definitely get a dome-shaped eyeliner brush. They can pick up more amount of product and help spread them wider and evenly.
  • If you’re just going for a basic tool, you can get a flat, angled eyeliner brushes. They can easily help you achieve those tight lines along the lash lines. You can also use just a flat tip brush for the same effect.
  • Having a hard time drawing those curved wings? You should then do yourself a favor and get an angled bent eyeliner. It does look funny but it is very useful. Once you use it for that winged eyeliner look, you’ll surely make this as a mainstay in your collection.
  • For just about anything else, you can always get the basic eyeliner brush. You can easily tell this as it has that pointed tip like that of a sharpened pencil eyeliner. Gel liners also have this same design.

There’s no harm in using pencil eyeliners. In fact, I learned to apply eye makeup this way. But for those date nights that you want to achieve that eye-catching look, you should certainly use an eyeliner brush.

The Best Eyeliner Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
MAC 210 Precise Eye Liner Brush~$20Synthetic eyeliner brush with extra-fine tip for lining the eyes in a very detailed and precise way. Works well with powder, cream or gel liners.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeliner Brush
Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine Eyeliner Brush~$29Finely pointed, tapered slim brush makes gel liner application real easy. Best used with Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeliner Brush
MAC 266 Small Angle Brush~$20Fabulous brush for applying gel eyeliner as well as for applying eyeshadow as liner. Can also be used to fill in the brows for a precise application.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeliner Brush
Laura Mercier Flat Eye Liner Brush~$26Flat eyeliner brush with firm, synthetic bristles for ensuring perfect application of eyeliner along the lash line. Soften and smudge the line by lightly brushing upwards.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeliner Brush
Anastasia Beverly Hills Pointed Eyeliner Brush~$18A perfect basic eyeliner brush that you can use to apply liner along the lash line and below the water line.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeliner Brush

Brow Brush

A stunning eye makeup cannot be achieved when your brow is out of whack. Don’t you agree? Even if you have the most beautifully blended eyeshadow, your disheveled brows, or the lack there is, will still grab most of the attention.

Can you imagine someone with a beautiful cat eye look with almost no eyebrows? Supermodels at Fashion Week can get away with this, but definitely not us. So to me, having a brow brush is really essential for us who are into makeup.

Even if you already had your eyebrows perfectly shaped from your favorite brow bar, it still doesn’t give you the license to completely take it for granted. Your makeup steps will be significantly lessened, but you still need to fill in your brows to complement your entire eye makeup.

There are 2 types of brow brush, each focused on a different purpose. You can have one or the other, but it’s best that you have both:

  • Spoolie Brush: Think of a hair brush and you’ll get a picture of what a spoolie brush does. It is used to brush your brows into place in the same direction, which is away from your nose. It is used before and after applying color to your brows, making the makeup appear very natural.
  • Angled Brush: The stiffness of the bristles of an angled brush makes it perfect for applying color to your brows with precision. It can take care even the thin tail-ends with ease.

Fortunately, you don’t really need to buy these 2 different brushes separately. You can always get a duo or dual eyebrow brush, which has the angled brush on one end and the spoolie on the other. They are more practical and gets the job done in a nifty way.

The Best Brow Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
Tom Ford Angled Brow Brush~$59Groom your eyebrows in luxury and style. The slanted shape of this brow brush is ideal for shaping, filling in and defining the eye brows.Makeup Brush Guide Brow Brush
Chanel Angled Brow Brush #12~$32The perfect brow brush to use with the Chanel Brow Powder Duo. The angled design makes it easy to define and fill in the brows.Makeup Brush Guide Brow Brush
Sigma E75 Angled Brow Brush~$16This synthetic angled brush is ideal for shading and filling in the brows with brow powder. Hypoallergenic, antibacterial and cruelty-free!Makeup Brush Guide Brow Brush
MAC 208 Angled Brow Brush~$20Must-have eyebrow brush for easy definition and filling in of brows. Perfect blend of natural and synthetic fibers that can be used to apply either liquid, cream or powder products. Can also be used with eyeliner for tightlining and for lining the upper lash line.Makeup Brush Guide Brow Brush
Sigma E80 Brow and Lash Brush~$15The professional way to groom your brows and comb out your lashes. This spool-shaped tool from Sigma Beauty is another great addition to your makeup brush collection.Makeup Brush Guide Brow Brush

Eyeshadow Brush

An eyeshadow brush is a collection of its own. If a single duo brow brush is enough for your eyebrows or a single kabuki brush enough to become a powder, blush and foundation brush all at the same time, you will need all of the types of eyeshadow brushes below for you to achieve the stunning eye makeup look that you’re yearning for.

The number of types of eyeshadow brushes may look overwhelming at first, but once you start using them regularly identifying them becomes so natural. It’s good thing their names are so descriptive, you’ll already have a good idea on what they’re used for beforehand.

Here are some of the most common types of eyeshadow brushes:
  • Large Eyeshadow Brush: This is a dome-shaped brush used for dusting off excess eyeshadow powder across the lid. Using it under the brow and you can even highlight that part. It is also great for seamlessly blending the outer edges of your eyeshadow, eliminating any harsh edges.
  • Smudger Brush: This is the brush you need to use to create the smokey eye look. It can easily diffuse the eyeliner and shadow. If you want to get that sultry, smokey look with your eyes, you shouldn’t skip this brush at all.
  • Precision Eyeshadow Brush: A precision eyeshadow is what you need to precisely apply eyeshadow to your lid or your crease. You can easily spot this from the rest of the pack because it has a nice rounded tip.
  • Fluffy Blending Brush: This is a variation of the large eyeshadow brush. The difference, as you may have already guessed, is that the brush is fluffier. To some, their difference is not that much obvious unless you compare them side by side. They both work the same way, though. This brush is also great for blending and for cleaning up.
  • Blending Eyeshadow Brush: Now this is the true blending brush. As the name obviously implies, it is used for blending. It is perfect for creating a sheer finish to your lid as well.
  • Angled Liner Brush: Do you still remember the angled eyeliner brush from the earlier section of this article? This angled brush is basically the same, except it’s for eyeshadows. You should use this brush if you want to create that perfect, smokey cat eye look. It can also create the dark “V” shaped shadow on the other edge of your eyeshadow makeup.

Knowing these brushes might make things more confusing. In fact, everyone including beauty bloggers and makeup brands seems to have their own way of calling them. The best way to sort it out is to just understand that you will need a brush for the following purposes:

  1. Applying
  2. Blending
  3. Smudging
  4. Cleaning

The Best Eyeshadow Brushes

Product NamePriceNotes 
MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush~$25Soft and dense, it’s the perfect brush for shading and blending eyeshadow. Picks up eyeshadow color easily and applies smoothly as well.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeshadow Brush
MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush~$32This fluffy blending brush made with natural fibers makes blending out harsh lines super easy. Luxuriously soft and densely packed.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeshadow Brush
MAC 217 Blending Brush~$25A fluffier version of the MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush, but performs almost the same. Can be used with both powder or cream products.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeshadow Brush
Tom Ford Eye Shadow Brush 11~$56Features soft, natural hair bristles that makes applying eye makeup very luxurious. Easily create a soft eye look and set almost everything. Can also be used to apply highlighter on the nose and chin area.Makeup Brush Guide Eyeshadow Brush
Tom Ford Eye Shadow Blend Brush 13~$56Designed with natural hair bristles, this eyeshadow brush can help you create the perfect shade gradation for beautiful eye makeup every time.

Makeup Brush Guide

Makeup Brush Material

With the information you’ve already read from the previous sections, you should be well on your way to becoming proficient in choosing the right brushes for your makeup needs. However, having knowledge on the types of makeup brush material used in a product can also affect your buying decision.

A makeup brush material can be either of these 2 types: natural or synthetic.

Natural bristles are very soft, and well, very natural. It can be made of squirrel or goat hairs, with red squirrel hair being the rarest of them all. Brands like MAC, Tom Ford, etc usually make use of pony hair for their natural brushes.

On the other hand, synthetic bristles are manmade and are usually from Taklon fibers or nylon. They are also hypoallergenic. Your initial impression might be that they are not soft at all. Well, it all depends on the way they were manufactured. In fact, a synthetic brush can be even softer than other natural brushes.

Here’s a quick rule of thumb in choosing which material is best for your bristles based on the makeup product or formula you’re going to use:
Makeup brushes with natural bristles are best used with powder products. On the other hand, makeup brushes with synthetic bristles are best used with liquid or cream products.

What makes natural bristles bad for liquid or cream products? Natural hair has that inherent quality to absorb moisture. This will keep the products from sticking to your skin. Consequently, they are able to pick up, hold and deposit powder on your skin better than synthetic.

Makeup brush manufacturers solved the issue with natural bristles by using synthetic. Synthetic brushes don’t have cuticles, which are responsible for moisture retention. This means that liquid or cream products will not get trapped and can be easily applied.

Here’s another rule of thumb, regardless of the type of brush material:
The denser the brush is, the more product it can hold and deposit.

How can you tell the density of the brush? You can measure it by the number of bristles packed. Denser brushes are good for applying eyeshadow, foundation, and powder. Brushes which are not too dense are great for blending purposes, and also for applying blush, bronzer, and highlighter.

If you’re looking to buy makeup brushes for sensitive skin, then you should consider all the things I mentioned above. You can opt to go for hypoallergenic makeup brushes. You should also take into consideration if you have any allergies to the materials used in a makeup brush.

For people who are allergic to nylon, they should stay away from synthetic brushes that are made of this material. They might be better off using makeup brushes that are made with natural bristles. While those who are allergic to a certain animal hair should consider using synthetic brushes instead.

Makeup Brush Guide

Cleaning Makeup Brushes

To ensure proper care of your makeup brushes, it is so important that you keep them clean. You don’t want these brushes to be culturing acne-causing bacteria!

Of course, it would be so impractical to clean them thoroughly after every use. Besides a small product buildup doesn’t necessarily mean your brushes are contaminated. It’s when the buildup has accumulated too much that you need to wash them.

If you have time to clean your brushes once a week, then that would be ideal. Anyway, here’s a simple table so you can easily remember when to clean them. This is not etched in stone so you can modify them depending on your brush usage and condition.

MAKEUP BRUSH CLEANING SCHEDULE
Concealer Brush At least once a week
Foundation Brush At least once a week
Eyeshadow Brush At least twice a month
Eyeliner Brush At least twice a month
Brow Brush At least twice a month
Lip Brush Once a month
Other brushes Once a month

The best way to clean brushes is actually the most inexpensive way as well. I recommend using baby shampoo because your brushes are just as soft and delicate. Here are the general steps to follow:

  1. Rinse the brush head with running water, making sure they are pointing downwards at an angle.
  2. Gently massage and work a small amount of baby shampoo onto the damp brush head. Pretty much like washing your hair, but don’t mess up its natural shape.
  3. Alternatively, you can swirl the brushes in a pan with diluted baby shampoo.
  4. Rinse it gently and thoroughly under running water.

You can also use a product like the Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat ($25) which is a great tool for cleaning makeup brushes. This newly redesigned device features 7 patented textures so you can more effectively wash your makeup brushes with ease, and in half the time. Its unique design can fit most sinks, but you can also opt to use it on any flat surface possible. Another convenient feature of this brush cleaning mat is having suction cups at the back so you can secure it in place.

The cleaning mat sure is small enough for travel, but there is another innovative tool from Sigma Beauty that is a much better option for travel. The Sigma Spa 2X Brush Cleaning Glove ($39) can also aid you in cleaning your makeup brushes fast and easily. Designed with 8 advanced cleaning textures, it also features raised silicone for a deeper clean. One side of the glove is for face makeup brushes while the other side is for eye makeup brushes. Both ends can fit the thumb so you can easily transition from one side to the other. The thumb end can be used to squeeze out water from, and for reshaping, the brush.

It even comes with a microfiber insert glove that you can use to keep your hands protected from the silicone material. This is especially important for people with sensitive skin on their hands.

This brush cleaning glove from Sigma Beauty is so convenient to use. It’s truly heaven sent! If you’re going to use baby shampoo instead of a brush cleanser, then I recommend that you get either the brush cleaning mat or this glove. You definitely need this as it’s a really wonderful tool that can deep clean even the densest of all makeup brushes.

To remove stubborn makeup residue from foundation brushes that have been used with liquid or cream products, you can use an oil-based cleanser like The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil before doing the above steps. Some people even use plain old olive oil for this purpose of removing oil buildup and makeup remnants.

If you want to use a brush cleanser instead of a baby shampoo, there are lots of available products to choose from. My favorites are MAC Brush Cleanser and Sigma Beauty SigMagic Brushampoo. But there are also other antibacterial brush cleaners from brands like Dior, Laura Mercier, Estee Lauder, and Bobbi Brown.

Using these safe and gentle yet effective brush cleansers extend the life of high-quality brushes. They are able to deep clean makeup brush bristles while disinfecting and conditioning the brush fibers. All traces of makeup are completely removed, while the brushes are left sanitized and smelling fresh.

Most of these brush cleansers have a quick-drying formula which helps shorten drying time. They can be used to clean, disinfect and condition natural and synthetic brushes without damaging them. To be sure, follow the instructions of a specific product when using it.

When you’re traveling or in a rush to clean your makeup brush, the steps outlined above may not be possible to do. As a quick solution, you can purchase a brush cleaner spray like this handy one from Clinique (Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser). Just pump 1 spray on each side of the brush you’re cleaning. Then, gently wipe the brush on a clean paper towel or tissue until all makeup residue is removed. Air dry for about a minute or two and the brush is now ready to be used again.

Another antibacterial brush spray that you can use is Trish McEvoy Makeup Brush Cleaner. When you need to clean and sanitize your makeup brushes in an instant, this is another option. It is safe to use for both natural and synthetic brushes. You can use it for cleaning brushes in between uses – when you don’t have time to wash your brushes.

Makeup Brush Guide

DIY Makeup Brush Cleansers

If you’re into DIY (do-it-yourself) everything, then you can try this recipe for makeup brush cleaner DIY.

Ingredients:

  • bottle container
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 tbsp shampoo of your choice (choose a shampoo with little to no harmful chemicals)
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol

Directions:
In a bottle container big enough to hold all ingredients, simply pour the water and shampoo. Shake it well until the shampoo is completely dissolved. Then, add in the rubbing alcohol and shake it again to fully mix all the ingredients together.

You might need to heat up the water a bit if the shampoo you’re using does not dissolve easily in water. You can even add a little bit of pink food coloring to make it resemble MAC brush cleanser. However, it’s best to omit the coloring step because it will only incur additional expenses.

Use it as you normally would a brush cleanser. Remember to shake it well before each use as they may separate again in storage.

Another recipe that I found useful is this DIY Brush Cleanser Spray which you can use to spray your brushes in between uses. It will disinfect and sanitize your makeup brushes while keeping them soft and conditioned. You will need four items for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • spray bottle
  • 3 oz slightly hot (not boiling) water
  • 3 oz alcohol
  • 1 tsp hair conditioner

Directions:
Combine hair conditioner and slightly hot water in the bottle. Shake it until the conditioner is completely dissolved. Make sure that the water is not boiling hot, especially if you’re using a plastic spray bottle. Otherwise, your bottle might melt from the heat. The water only needs to be slightly hot in order to thoroughly dissolve the conditioner. Add the alcohol and shake again until the ingredients are totally mixed.

Spray it on your makeup brushes after each use. The easiest way to do this is to apply the mixture on the center of a piece of paper towel. Depending on your spray bottle, you might need to spray around 2-3 times. Then, run both sides of your brush in the soaked area a few times. You can repeat the process until you’re satisfied with the result.

Remember to shake it well before using!

Makeup Brush Guide

Makeup Brush Drying Tips

Cleaning your makeup brushes doesn’t stop after washing it. You also need to dry it the right way so that it retains its shape.

Here’s a method more oftentimes used:

  1. After washing and rinsing your brushes, squeeze any excess water off using a clean towel. Do this gently and only squeeze around the bristles. Let the towel absorb most of the water and reshape the brush as needed.
  2. In a flat surface like a table or your dresser, lay out another clean towel. The towel must reach the edge of the surface.
  3. Lay your brushes flat on the towel. Make sure the bristles are hanging over the edge of a table or counter as this will allow them to preserve their shape while drying.
  4. After a couple of hours, your brushes should be good to go.

Remember to AVOID drying your makeup brushes in an upright position, where the brush head is at the top or pointing upward. Do NOT do the common mistake of drying the brushes in a cup. It may look cool but it will ruin them.

The bristles will spread and excess water will drip towards the glue that holds the bristles together. It will ruin the shape while it’s drying up and worse, it will ruin the glue itself. This will cause the bristles to fan out and eventually shed. The brush handle can also become loose or even crack due to this.

That being said, duo makeup brushes can only be dried by laying them flat on a clean towel. That is if you washed both ends of the duo brush. But if you washed only one of the two brush heads, then you can use other methods of drying as well.

Here’s an alternative method which I personally prefer. It’s quite funny, but I feel like a professional makeup artist, if not a painter, doing this:

  1. After squeezing excess water from the brushes, hang them dry with the use of a clean cutting board and some rubber bands.
  2. Hang them upside-down with the bristles pointing down, at an angle of 45 degrees. This will prevent the water from messing up with the glue.
  3. Lay down a few paper towels at the bottom to catch any water dripping from the brushes.
  4. Your brushes should be all set after a few hours.

There is a much easier method for drying makeup brushes, though. Sigma Beauty Dry’n Shape Tower Face & Eye Set can help you in drying and shaping your makeup brushes after washing them. It can hold 20 face brushes and 24 eye brushes at once – for a total of 44 brushes! Drying and shaping even the densest out of all your face and eye makeup brushes will be an easy task with this cutting edge tool.

Another option is the Sigma Dry’n Shape Tower Full Set. The two towers can hold up to 92 Brushes!

Another groundbreaking tool from the brand is the Sigma Dry n Shape Spa. With this gadget, you get all the tools you need to take care of your makeup brushes. How so? Well, if you will look at the pink core of the tool, you will notice that it does have the same brush cleaning textures as that of the Sigma Spa Brush Cleansing Mat. So aside from shaping your makeup brushes while they dry, you can also use the core to deeply clean your brushes.

The only downside with these Sigma Dry’n Shape towers is that they cannot accommodate every makeup brush available in the market. Especially the large ones and the ones with not-so-normal shapes.

Makeup Brush Guide

Top Makeup Brush Brands

Here’s a quick trivia for you. Did you know that all cosmetic brands do not make or manufacture their own brushes? They pass their specifications and designs to a couple of common manufacturers. Sometimes, even competitors use the same manufacturer.

Additionally, no makeup brush manufacturer make brushes exclusively for one brand only. That is why you would sometimes see the same flaw occurring between different brands.

That is also the reason why makeup brush dupes exist, which we will discuss in detail at the end of this article. Here’s a secret surprise for you, I will also be providing you with links to dupes which are actually credible.

The top makeup brush brands below made it to the list because they are popular and are trusted by both professional makeup artists and makeup addicts like us. I’ve also listed a couple of their bestselling makeup brushes, in case you’re interested.

MAC

MAC is one of the makeup industry leaders, so it’s pretty obvious why anyone who’s into makeup, beginners or experienced alike, would have an inkling of using their brushes. For one, most of their brushes are known to last even for a decade!

Perhaps the quality of their brush gives more than enough justification why you should spend more than lower priced versions. You get more bang for your buck in the long run.

If you’re just starting out, I would normally suggest getting your brushes from e.l.f. or Real Techniques for practicality’s sake. To be honest, though, my first makeup brush was a MAC foundation brush.

Aside from MAC brushes seemingly to last forever, they are very soft as well. Personally, if I’m to choose between e.l.f. brushes and MAC brushes, even if they’re of the same quality, I’d go for MAC mainly because I feel more confident with this makeup brand.

Tom Ford

Are you into luxe and high-end brands? You can never go wrong with makeup brushes from Tom Ford. Unlike some brushes I’ve tried, they don’t shed like crazy and the bristles are very soft and densely packed. If you have the money to shell out, these Tom Ford brushes are definitely worth it.

Some people get intimidated by the price of Tom Ford brushes, but you really get great value for your money.

What makes their brushes really special is that they are handmade in Japan. Makeup brushes from Japan are known to be very soft and have excellent quality.

If you can afford to buy premium makeup brushes without ruining your budget, then I highly suggest getting them from Tom Ford.

The moment these brushes touch your face, you already know you’re getting more than your money’s worth. Especially with the fact that they don’t shed, lose shape or color even after washing.

Sigma Beauty

Sigma Beauty is an American company established less than a decade ago, in 2009. This company is heavily focused on makeup brushes. They do have a small number of cosmetic products as well, but not as popular as their brushes.

As part of their marketing techniques, Sigma offers great affiliate programs to beauty bloggers. This helps increase the company’s presence in an industry dominated by makeup giants such as MAC. Unfortunately, this can also affect some product reviews by other bloggers to be biased. My advice is to be sure to get second, or even third opinions and check other reviews for consistency.

Their brushes are known to be of high-quality and super soft as well. Sigma Beauty’s Sigmax brush collection holds the limelight among their other products. Some of their most popular makeup brushes are mentioned above.

Real Techniques

Real Techniques is another popular and inexpensive makeup brush brand. Some of their face brushes are comparable, if not seem to be better than the high-end brands. Unless you compare them to brushes with natural bristles, their synthetic bristles are one of the softest there is.

If you really want value for your money, you can go and get their brush sets which are sold for around 13 dollars. Individual prices for brushes are still affordable, which is why I believe this is the best drugstore brand.

If you have a small face, though, you’ll find your choices limited. Most of their brushes are catered for medium to large face. One of their distinctive characteristics is their brightly-colored handles (I find this very attractive), which have rubbery ends and sturdy metal parts that seem to be scratch-proof.

Sephora

Sephora brushes are not as expensive as high-end brands, but they are also not as cheap as drugstore brands. They come in between and yet their brushes are of high-quality and very soft. They even have a brush set specifically designed to be hypoallergenic and antibacterial.

The Sephora Collection Pro is a crowd favorite. They were actually made for professional makeup artists, but with an affordable price. Every brush in this collection is hand made. Even the lettering on the handle is etched to prevent it from fading.

e.l.f. Cosmetics

This brand will make you think of some fantasy movies like The Lord of the Rings, which I still believe to be one of the best in its genre. This brand is an abbreviation of Eyes, Lips, and Face. Where else would you really use makeup and makeup brushes?

This is one of the most popular drugstore brands with items as cheap as $2. Cheap doesn’t mean low-quality with e.l.f., though, as most of their brushes surprisingly last for a long time. Their brushes range from very soft to very scratchy.

You’ll also notice that some of their brushes are copycats or dupes of brands like MAC and Sigma Beauty, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal. In fact, I would recommend this for newbies until they are quite decided which MAC brushes to get.

Makeup Brush Guide

Makeup Brush Dupes: Are They Worth It?

Cheap makeup brushes can definitely apply products to your face but it’s more of a question of being able to do it well and with ease. Some leave streaks while others make blending so frustrating it looks like you’re giving your wrist a strenuous workout.

Even if they do apply the products well, another thing to worry about is if these brushes will hold. Will the bristles start falling off literally after the 2nd or 3rd time you use it? Will they have a bad hair day after washing, permanently?

With that being said, cheap makeup brushes are still okay for small or flat synthetic brushes like concealer or angled brow brushes. The differences with higher priced brushes are not so obvious. When it comes to larger brush types like foundation brushes, the comparison is more obvious.

If you’re planning to buy cheap brushes, then you should go for dupes. Most of these dupes are manufactured by the same companies that create the original brands. They use the same molds and design too. The major difference is the quality of the material used.

I personally don’t go for makeup brush dupes. Their worth depends on current circumstances so it’s very much subjective. However, since this is a Go-to handbook for makeup brushes I decided to add these as well. Here are some makeup brush dupes that are almost like their original counterparts.


And now we have reached the end of this very long yet very extensive guide about makeup brushes. I do hope this would be of great help to you. I suggest bookmarking this page for easy reference later on.

Aside from all these makeup brush brands that I’ve mentioned, some of the best ones are Japanese brands. Hakuhodo, Chikuhodo and Suqqu, are just some of them. But I’m going to talk more about them in a separate article, so keep an eye out for it.

This makeup brush guide is just the first of my series of extensive makeup and beauty guides, so be sure to visit Ang Savvy often or, better yet, subscribe and follow. If you have any makeup brush experiences you want to share, please feel free to drop by in the comment section below. Let’s have a chat and some bonding time!

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