Every makeup lover has to start somewhere to build their collection. Foundation? Check. Neutral eyeshadow palette? We all begged for Urban Decay’s Naked three palette. Eyeliner? It depends—are you a winged or classic tightline kind of person? But no makeup collection—or look, really—is complete without a handy batch of reliable tools. Figuring out what types of makeup brushes to have on hand can be overwhelming, especially with all of the different options out there. Do you splurge on a professional set or work your way up to becoming an expert using frugal finds?
To help sort things out, we decided to turn to the makeup pros to get tips on which brushes are a must for your kit. There are brushes for literally every part of your face, so there is no need to use your fingers to smudge your eyeliner or lipstick. Shop the best makeup brushes below, from Mac Cosmetic classics to must-have sets you can grab from your nearest Ulta.
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Basic Eyes Kit
My favorite makeup brushes are Sigma makeup brushes because they’re are vegan and they’ve always been a head of the curve in developing amazing brushes for artist,” says Ashunta Sheriff, the go-to makeup artist for actress Taraji P. Henson.
Eyeliner Brush N° 24
Sabrina Bedrani, whose brushes have touched the faces of Gal Gadot, Mich Williams, and plenty of Hollywood’s finest, says the star of her makeup brush collection is the Dior Backstage Eyeliner Brush #24. “This brush is perfect for smudging pencil eyeliner onto the lash line, as well as tracing the perfect eyeliner,” she says. Plus, the brush’s sharp edge creates polished and clean lines “by just dabbing the shadow along the lash line, especially when wet.”
Maestro Angled Eye Brush
If you haven’t quite mastered the smokey eye, Armani Beauty Artistry Collective Member Melanie Inglessis says it could be because you don’t have the Giorgio Armani Blender Brush in your arsenal. “This brush is great for the crease and blending the outer corner of the eyes, especially for smoky eyes,” she explains.
Maestro Blender Brush
“This is my favorite foundation brush, it’s short and dense and allows the foundation to be applied without any streaks,” Inglessis adds.
212 Flat Definer
According to Sean Harris, makeup artist to It girls like Laura Harrier, Lori Harvey, and Kristen Noel Crawley—”this brush does it all.” The flat brush “lines your eyes, fills in your brows and adds definition to your eyeshadow.”
All-Over Care Brush
“This domed shaped brush is a must for applying all of your favorite skincare products. Applying skincare with a brush will help conserve the amount of product you use considerably,” Harris adds.
S165 Magic Blending Brush
“The S165 by Cozzette is a dome top brush that is really great for concealer application because it’s light and the right size for the under eye,” Raisa Flowers, the makeup magician known for her eccentric eye looks, says. “It is a must-have for makeup artists, especially if you don’t use beauty blenders. I love these brushes because I think skin is so important to your look so having the best tools for skin application makes sense since we not sure to use our fingers anymore for makeup.”
Lock-It Setting Powder Brush
Ask Brittany Whitfield to explain why KVD’s powder brush is a good investment and she’ll put it plainly, “If you need one brush for everything, she’s your girl.” Whitfield adds that the brush is amazing for cream products, and “applies incredibly well in all of the beautiful crevices of the face better than any sponge or flat foundation brush ever could.”
Ombre Brush Set
As someone who likes to have fun with her makeup looks, Amber Amos likes her tools to match the vibe. But don’t let the pretty pink packaging discourage you. “The synthetic hairs are super soft, and the set takes pretty much covers all your blending needs,” she explains. “Added bonus is inexpensive and super cute.”
118 Blush/Powder Brush
“For a more luxurious option, Smith Cosmetics makes great brushes. Although they’re pricey, they last long, and blend like a dream. The cute wooden handle is an added bonus,” Amos adds.
No. 14 Powder Brush
“I love the round fluffy shape of this brush and also how super the soft the fibers are,” Keita Moore, who does makeup for a number of stars including Iman, Janet Mock, and Halima Aden. “Each stroke feels like luxury. I like to use the brush for applying blush and as an all over finishing powder brush.”
188 Synthetic Small Duo Fibre Face Brush
Moore reaches for this brush a lot. “From applying foundations to cream blushes to powder highlight, this brush is versatile and can be used for many things. I carry maybe 3 or 4 in my kit.”
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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