Richard BordGetty Images
Figuring out what types of makeup brushes to have on hand can be overwhelming, especially with all of the different options out there. Sometimes it can feel like the only way to tell the difference between a flat eyeshadow brush and a crease brush is if it’s literally written on the brush (and that’s not always the case). On top of that, quality brushes can get pricy, and knowing which are the best ones to invest your hard-earned cash in is another confusing piece of the puzzle.
To help sort things out, we decided to turn to 14 makeup pros to get tips on which brushes are a must for your kit, even for those of us who are total eyeshadow amateurs. So, while it might be tempting to take the easy way out and smudge eyeshadow on directly with your fingers, you’ll be able to take pride in knowing you’ve got the inside scoop for the best makeup brushes from the experts themselves. Shop them all, from high end applicators to a highlighter brush you can easily pick up on your next Target run, ahead.
This article has been updated and was originally published on October 11, 2018.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
1.21 My Flat Definer
Molly R. Stern, who works with Reese Witherspoon, Cara Delevingne, Maya Rudolph, and Julia Roberts says this detailing brush is “amazing” when it comes to precision for eyeliner or brows.
Highlighter Brush Small 140
This is the best buffer brush, according to Stern: “I use it to smooth under the eye and apply a small amount of powder to control the T-zone.”
Eye Brush #10
Stern says this basic eyeshadow brush from Shu Uemura is “the best for blending and applying eyeshadow and concealer.”
Cheek Brush 06
“I use this for an all-around blending brush after I’ve applied my foundation and contour,” Jessica Elbaum, a makeup artist and hairstylist who currently does hair on Modern Family, says, “you can also use it to apply bronzer.”
Eyeshadow Smudge Brush
Elbaum uses this brush to apply eyeshadow. “It’s a perfect gradual angle eyeshadow brush that is almost fool-proof when it comes to applying that perfect, smudgy, eyeshadow fade.”
For Cream Blush
954 Synthetic Brush
“It’s more effective to use a synthetic bristle for cream blushes,” says Elbaum about this slanted kabuki brush. “They blend soft and flawlessly.”
LY53 Eyelash Fan Brush
“Louise [Young] is a brilliant makeup artist so I was so happy when she brought out this range,” says Nadia Stacey, who did the hair and makeup on The Favourite and won the BAFTA for it. She loves several of Young’s brushes, but specifically calls out the fan brush for period makeup. “Her fan brush LY53 is a thing of beauty, I use it to push color onto the lashes for period pieces when I don’t want it to look like the actors are wearing mascara,” she says.
For the Eye Crease
1.20 My Precise Crease
“This is a lovely little blending brush; perfect for softening the crease,” Stacey says. “I use it for creamy concealers for a softer look.”
217S Blending Brush
Stacey calls this a “kit staple” and says she uses it for everything, even to create special effects bruising. “Which means I’ve ruined lots of them, but I always replace,” she says. “Makes a smokey eye so much easier.”
The Foundation Brush
Stacey says she loves the domed top of this brush because it makes circular movements with application really easy. “It feels lovely, too. For a big brush there’s still lightness of touch,” she says.
190 Makeup Brush
“MAC brushes have been in my kit since I was a trainee and they are still going strong,” Stacey admits. “I love these foundation brushes. They are big enough to carry a good amount of product, but allow you to be delicate with the application. They never lose bristles, either.”
“I’ve used this Blush Brush since it first came out and I actually use to swirl and buff in cream bronzers, powders, and skin care — not blush at all!” Emma Willis, the makeup artist for JoJo Fletcher, Ashley Greene, Jana Kramer, Audrina Patridge, and Giuliana Rancic says, adding, “That’s the fab thing about brushes; finding which ones works best for your own individual style and technique. What it says on the box doesn’t have to apply at all. I use it to seamlessly buff product from the face into the neck and décolletage areas, too!”
For Highlighter and Touch-Ups
“I absolutely love this fluffy and super-soft, small tapered highlighter brush, which I use for both powder and cream highlighters,” Willis says. “It also works a treat when buffing in cream blush; it’s a fab little precision brush that I also sometimes use for applying loose finishing powder around the t-zone area and under the eyes, and it’s additionally great for touchups and spot checks throughout the day.”
Pro Concealer Brush #71
Willis counts this Sephora Collection brush among her go-tos and says it’s the perfect size. “I’ve been using this brush for concealer around the eye area and T-zone specifically for a long time now and love it!” she says. “It has a tapered brush head and dual usage; one side to place and smooth and other I use to sheer and blend, and it helps me to blend so well!”
Eye Shadow Blend Brush 13
“The bristles are soft enough to blend a wash of color but have [the] density to pack on pigment,” Nina Park, who works with Bella Hadid and Zoe Kravitz, says. “The slightly tapered shape distributes shadow evenly, hugging perfectly along the crease.”
Flat Eye Liner Brush
Park recommends this brush for tight-lining with cream, gel, or cake liner. “It’s perfect for stippling on products as close to the lash line as possible,” she says. It also does double-duty to create “sharp edges around the mouth for a clean, perfect lipstick pout.”
M310 Large Soft Fan
Park uses “this brush to dust off any excess powder” and to “strategically place [a] pop of color at the apples of the cheek.” The natural “goat bristles are perfect to create a diffused, natural-looking highlight along the top of the cheekbones, bridge of [the] nose, and collarbone.”
Cream Foundation Brush 02
Robert Sesneck, who counts Kendall Jenner and Adriana Lima as clients, uses this natural hair brush “to buff any type of foundation [… to] flawlessly blend into a seamless finish.” If the hefty price tag is cause for concern, consider his tip: “If you wash and care for your brushes, they will last a lifetime.”
For the lips, Sesneck uses Bobbi Brown’s concealer brush: “I think it’s the perfect size and its synthetic bristles make for crisp red lips.”
For Blush and Contouring
Powder & Sculpt Brush
Sesneck calls this brush a “must have” because it “can be used for powder, contour and blush- great for multitasking!
BareMinerals Full Flawless Face Brush
Yachiyo Kabuki Brush
“It is great for blending and diffusing color around the eyes and cheeks,” Ardoff says.
For the Eye Crease
E25 Blending Brush
“This brush is great for blending in the crease or socket of the eye,” Ardoff says. It “helps to distribute product densely and evenly” and is “great for softening and blending in areas where you would require a smaller brush.”
For Smudging Liner
Sigma E30 Pencil Brush
Ardoff uses this brush “for buffing and softening either cream or pencil eyeliner” and “for applying shadow on top” of liner for an even bolder look.
Instant Brow Brush
If you’re in a hurry but still want the ultimate boy brow, grab this brush. “I have literally never seen any other makeup line do a brush like this one,” says Julianne Kaye, the makeup artist to Dove Cameron and Karimah Westbrook.
F25 Tapered Face Brush
“I love the tapered shape of this brush,” says Kaye. “I can use it for highlighting, setting powder, under the eyes, and contouring.”
Small Paint Brush
The perfect paint brush for contouring. “I like to use this brush with a darker shade to find the hollows of the cheeks and carve out the jawline,” says Kaye.
Elite Mirror Oval 8 Brush
This foundation brush is a favorite of both makeup artists and their clients. “This is hands down my favorite brush for applying foundation,” says Kaye. “I have never had a client not ask me about this brush because it just buffs in the make up so flawlessly and feels dreamy on the client’s skin.”
Angled Lip Brush
This is the only lip brush Nick Barose, who works with Priyanka Chopra and Lupita Nyong’o, will use. “It cuts in an angle so it makes the shape easy to fit any hard to reach areas of the lips,” explains Barose. “It helps me to be precise without doing too much of the work. “
Small Angle Brush
“I use this for filling in brows and lining eyes because it has the right small shape and angle to easily line,” says Barose. “The bristles are perfect for both cream and powder formulas.”
Dual-Ended Cheek & Contour Brush
If you’re looking for one brush to do it all, this might be it. “This dual, multi-purpose brush is great for blush, bronzer, defining contour,” says Barose. “It’s one of my kit’s favorites.”
For a Whole Kit
Hakuhodo 10 Piece Brush Set
Hakuhodo offers the ultimate set of brushes. The bristles are exquisitely cut to give an artist complete control over the makeup application process. “My favorite brushes are by Hakuhodo,” says Elaine Offers, the woman behind Dakota Johnson and Julianne Moore’s flawless looks. “An extremely talented makeup artist named Vivian Baker told me about them 10 years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
“Chanel’s precision powder brush is the perfect length and density to apply bronzer on the halo of the face,” says Jenna Kristina, who calls Hari Nef and Rashida Jones reoccurring clients. It’s the perfect blending brush.
Kristina also always uses a metal eyelash comb after she applies mascara. “I like a whispie feathery lash and it always helps to take out chucks,” says Kristina. Her go-to choice is this pink eyelash comb by Hakuhoda.
Angled Cut Brush Small 15
Kristina is also obsessed with Anastasia’s Angled Cut Brush’s bristles. “The synthetic hairs keep this brush sturdy and stiff for the most precise lines,” explains Kristina. “I use it to create hair like strokes with powder on brows and also for the sharpest pointed cat eyeliner.”
217S Blending Brush
The MAC 217 Blending Brush is a staple for Jamie Greenberg, Busy Philipps and Rashida Jones’ makeup artist. According to Greenberg, the brush can turn a novice into a pro in no time.
Large Domed Powder Brush
Greenberg loves all of Jenny Patinkin’s brushes but the Large Domed Powder Brush is her all-time favorite. The fluffy fibers relax clients in her chair.
Light Coverage Fluid Foundation Brush N11
Dior ambassador Sabrina Bedrani loves this brush because of its ability to apply foundation evenly and smoothly. It’s also a Bella Hadid-approved brush.
Flat Long Handled Eye Liner Brush
The ultimate cheekbone definer. The tapered shape works to spotlight cheekbones on Bedrani’s celebrity clientele.
Kira Nasrat, who works with Bebe Rexha, uses Chanel’s Contouring Brush because of its slant angle that helps to sculpt the cheeks and contour the face. It also works well as a setting powder brush.
Hood Eyeshadow Brush 13
Nasrat says she has a bunch of these Utowa Hood eyeshadow brushes in her makeup bag. “The brush is fluffy, flat and with a gradual point,” says Narsa. “It’s perfect for adding eyeshadow onto the lids, contouring into the crease, and great for blending.” She also uses it to set makeup with translucent powder in concentrated areas of the face especially the t-zone.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below