Makeup brushes are something you can buy for life. I still use makeup brushes that I bought 10 or 15 years ago – makeup brushes that are no longer available on the market for the most part. The right brush can make your makeup application relaxing and pleasant, while the wrong brush can scratch your skin and make putting on makeup a frustrating experience.
If you are starting to build or are looking to expand your collection of brushes, don’t be too afraid of splurging on the best makeup brushes on the market, because you’ll be saving money in the long term and ensuring a super beautiful makeup application for years to come.
The way makeup brushes are crafted and used has changed a lot in the last ten years, so I hope you’ll find this article useful whether you’re a newbie or an old-timer who’d like a refresher. I give the most thorough brush guide imaginable, talking about some important brush elements that influence how a particular brush will function.
I detail all of the main makeup brush types, going over what they are, what kind of makeup they are for, and how to use them. I have a few extra tips and tricks that apply to all makeup brushes, including very important instructions on how to clean and maintain your makeup brushes properly. Happy brushing!
Your Ultimate Makeup Brush Guide: Contents
23 Best Makeup Brushes to Buy
As always, I start off with some product recommendations, so this time around I’ve collected the 23 best makeup brushes available on the market.
1. Too Faced Kabuki Brush
This kabuki brush is one of the best makeup brushes for applying setting or finishing powder. This brush is quite large, so it ensures a quick application, and its bristles are super soft and luxurious on the skin. It is retractable and comes with a lid so it’s ideal for traveling or on-the-go touch-ups.
While it is recommended by Too Faced for bronzers and highlighters as well, I think it’s too soft and fluffy, so it is better for powders that don’t need to be applied densely. This brush is vegan, but it feels like soft animal hair. Buy it from Sephora!
2. Sigma Beauty F80 Flat Kabuki Brush
Despite the name, this kabuki brush is nothing like the previous one on this list. While it is also made of soft, vegan fibers, this brush is quite firm so it is actually ideal for cream and liquid applications rather than powders. This brush has a large, flat top, which makes it perfect for applying foundations. It covers the face quickly and creates a very seamless, blended finish, saving you the need for a sponge. As to be expected from one of the best makeup brushes, it is long-lasting and does not shed. Find it at Nordstrom!
3. Real Techniques Powder Brush
Real Techniques brushes are game changers – they hold all the quality of more expensive vegan makeup brushes but at a fraction of the cost. The colors of the brush handles are a bit more youthful than higher-end options, but if you like this aesthetic or only care about utility then any brush by this brand will be a great choice. This powder brush, in particular, is luxuriously soft and has a lot of yield, so it’s perfect for applying powder lightly without risking cakiness or compromising on a dewy glow. You can get it at Ulta.
4. Hourglass Veil Powder Brush
Hourglass products just scream luxury to me, and this dual-ended brush is no different. One end of it should cover all of your major setting powder needs, while the other can take care of setting hard-to-reach spots like around the nose or under the eyes, and it can also work for applying blush, contour, bronzer, or highlight. Can you just imagine? Apply your bronzer with the small end and then instantly flip your brush over to blend it out! The bristles are made of taklon, so it is vegan. Buy it from Sephora!
5. Morphe M459 1 1/4” Flat Contour Brush
Hundreds of beauty gurus, including ones with expensive tastes, have fallen in love with the reasonably priced makeup brushes from Morphe. The intense variety and specificity of their brushes make this unsurprising, with this contour brush being a prime example. It’s a firm, straight-edged brush that gives a very intense and sharp contour, which is fitting for your average influencer. You can also use it to quickly and easily contour the nose, and in a pinch it should also work for other complexion products. You can buy it from Ulta.
6. MAC Cosmetics 239 Synthetic Eye Shader Brush
This new, vegan version of the classic eyeshadow brush is just as good as the original. This flat, domed brush is perfect for getting a super intense layer of eyeshadow over the lid. You can even use the end of the brush to diffuse the edges or to bring the shadow down to the lower lash line. This brush is a must if you like creating complex eyeshadow looks! It is sold at MAC Cosmetics.
7. NARS #45 Smudge Brush
This brush is small yet mighty. It has short, tightly packed bristles in a narrow shape that make it exceptional for packing on and very slightly smudging both powders and creams. It’s ideal for applying crease colors if you’re going for a really intense and precise look, and it’ll also work for smudging and blending shadows or eyeliners under the lower lash line. Alternatively, it could work for applying an inner corner highlight, especially if you’re using a cream shadow. Order it from Net-a-Porter!
8. Hourglass Vanish Foundation Brush
This is another Hourglass brush that we had to recommend. It is a firm makeup brush intended for cream foundation applications. What makes it unique is its slight angle, which allows getting into the crevices of the face. Because of this it could also work for concealing or blending under the eyes or around the nose. As with other makeup brushes from this brand, it is vegan, durable and has the most gorgeous reflective handle. Pick it up at Sephora!
9. Fenty Beauty By Rihanna Tapered Blending Brush 210
Rihanna’s makeup brushes are quickly becoming cult-favorites, and this pink little blending brush is no different. Blending brushes are extremely versatile, so it makes sense to own a few of them. Use this one to blend your eyeshadow, set the under-eye area or apply nose contour. Since it is a fluffier brush, it is best used for applying and diffusing powder products. As cute as this brush may be, it’s also durable so it doesn’t shed and it stays soft even after a few washes. Find it at Sephora!
10. Sigma Beauty F90 Fan Brush
A fan brush is a unique and polarizing makeup brush that you will probably want to own if you struggle with applying your blush, contour or highlighter softly. This brush fans out to cover just the right amount of space, but it still has the light touch of other powder brushes. Like the other makeup brushes on this list, the quality of this vegan brush is phenomenal so this brush should hold up for years. It is available at Nordstrom.
11. Rae Morris Jishaku 6 Deluxe Pro Blender Brush
Rae Morris is an exceptional makeup artist with a truly unique range of gorgeous makeup brushes – if you’ve got money to burn, buy them all. They have a magnetized bottom, so they can stand up on a magnetized surface (which the brand also sells), which allows them to stay clean when not in use.
One of the more unique makeup brushes in the range is this blending brush. Its bristles are made of cruelty-free goat hair and they are as soft as can be. It is larger than your average eyeshadow blending brush but is smaller than most complexion powder brushes, so it can be used anywhere on the face where powder needs to be applied or blended in a diffused manner. It is sold via Net-a-Porter.
12. Japonesque Round Concealer Brush
Japonesque is a brand with an old history of brush construction, though in the last few years they seem to have taken a backseat. This is unfortunate because they still make some of the best makeup brushes on the market!
I decided to feature this concealer brush that is a must-have for anyone who has to deal with the occasional blemish or spot. This synthetic brush is exactly the right size to pack concealer on localized areas, though it can be used for other detailing work with cream products, including lining lips or eyes. Order it from Dermstore!
13. Anastasia Beverly Hills #12 Large Synthetic Duo Brow Brush
Paired to go with the iconic ABH Dipbrow, this synthetic angled brush is excellent for filling in brows but it could also work for lining the eyes. The size of the brush is large enough for filling in the brows all over with powder or pomade, but with a bit of practice you might even be able to make it work for the natural micro-hair look that is becoming trendy. Unlike with cheaper brow brushes, this one stays firm and packed even after repeated washing. Pick it up at Nordstrom!
14. Fenty Beauty By Rihanna Cheek Hugging Bronzer Brush 190
This brush is totally gorgeous, both in look and in function. It has the most unique angled shape that allows it to hug the cheek as you apply bronzer, highlighter or blush. You will feel oddly special and taken care of when you use it. It is very soft so it gives a more diffused wash of color, which is why I don’t recommend it for contouring. You can purchase it from Sephora.
15. Bobbi Brown Eye Sweep Brush
This is a tightly packed eyeshadow brush that sits somewhere between a setting/ blending brush and a typical eyeshadow brush. If you would rather keep your collection a little smaller, then this would be one of the best makeup brushes for you, since it can take over the role of multiple eye makeup brushes. The best use for it, however, is to get a quick sweep of base eyeshadow all over the eye. It is available at Nordstrom. …