Makeup brushes don't come with instruction manuals, but they really should. Figuring out exactly where each tool is meant to be used on your face along with which makeup products is just as overwhelming as following the instructions for building an Ikea dresser.
That's why we turned to New York City makeup artists Lindsey Williams and Daniel Martin to breakdown exactly what each makeup brush does, and what products work best with them. Whether you're new to makeup brushes entirely, or you're looking to build a staple collection, consider this your comprehensive guide to knowing which ones you need to invest in.
Keep scrolling for our complete rundown of how to use every makeup brush essential to any kit.
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1. FAN BRUSH: Laura Mercier Fan Brush
Use this brush to dust powder highlighter along the cheekbones, or lightly add setting powder under the eyes before creating a heavy eye makeup look, then dust away the fall out. Williams' pro tip: "I’ve used fan brushes held flat underneath the eye while doing eye makeup so the shadow falls directly on the brush and never hits the cheeks at all," she says.
Laura Mercier | $30
2. POWDER BRUSH: Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder Brush
When it comes to powder brushes, the fluffier the better. Powder brushes are best used to disperse powders over the face to set makeup in place. They also work well to apply bronzers in a diffused application. Williams says that this tool is also perfect for adding a touch of shimmer to shoulders and décolleté because they easily cover large areas.
Kat Von D | $38
3. BLUSH BRUSH: Real Techniques Blush Brush
What type of brush you use to apply blush all depends on the formula. For powder blushes, Williams says to look for a brush made of natural fibers with angled bristles because "it will give a concentration of color and blends the edges keeping the blush from any demarcation along the cheekbone." If you're using a cream, she recommends synthetic fibers with long, fluffy bristles. "The creams are easily picked up and buffed into the skin without streaks or splotchiness," she says.
Real Techniques | $9
4. CONTOUR BRUSH: Sephora Collection Pro Sculpting Blush Brush
Williams says that when choosing a contour brush, you want it to be dense but also have flexibility in the bristles so that you don't end up with stripes on your face. This type of brush will work well for all types of contour products, whether they're powder or cream.
Sephora Collection | $32
5. HIGHLIGHT BRUSH: Sephora Pro Highlight Brush #98
Martin says to use this brush on the highest parts of the face to pop radiance and sheen on the skin.
Sephora Collection | $28
6. FOUNDATION BRUSH: Charlotte Tilbury Foundation Brush
"A foundation brush can be used to apply both cream or wet complexion products," says Martin. These brushes also come in different forms from buffing to flat paddle as well depending on your needs, and are usually made of synthetic fibers.
Charlotte Tilbury | $40
7. CONCEALER BRUSH: Marc Jacobs Beauty The Conceal Full Cover Correcting Brush No. 14
Use a flat brush with a smaller smaller brush head for spot treating on the face that needs more coverage.
Marc Jacobs Beauty | $30
8. KABUKI BRUSH: E.L.F. Studio Kabuki Face Brush
Martin says that this brush is usually used to apply color in larger areas of the face like bronzer or blush.
E.L.F. | $6
9. FLAT EYESHADOW BRUSH: Surratt Beauty Classiwue Shadow Brush
A flat shadow brush is meant to transfer concentrated color to the eyelid. "If the brush doesn’t pick up shadow well then the hairs might be too coarse, or the shadow too grainy," explains Williams.
Surratt Beauty | $50
10. EYESHADOW BLENDING BRUSH: Bobbi Brown Eye Blender Brush
Get rid of any hard eyeshadow lines by blending, buffing, and diffusing the applied color with an eye makeup brush that has long, fluffy bristles
Bobbi Brown | $37
11. EYESHADOW CREASE BRUSH: Hourglass No. 4 Crease Brush
"A crease brush should be able to pick up enough product to deliver a nice concentration of color into the crease of the eye while diffusing the edges!," says Williams. "I love using brushes that have a bit of a point or dome shape to them as it helps to give a smarter shape to any eye!"
Hourglass | $36
12. SMUDGE BRUSH: Dior Smudging Brush No. 23
Martin says that these brushes are also great for softening out any hard edges in your eye makeup look.
Dior | $38
13. EYELINER BRUSH: Sisley Paris Eyeliner Brush
An eyeliner brush allows you to precisely apply color around the eyes. "You can also use this brush on the lips, too," says Martin.
Sisley | $55
14. ANGLED EYELINER BRUSH: MAC 226 Small Angle Brush
Martin says that this brush is great for filling brows and to line the top lash line with liner.
MAC | $20
15. EYEBBROW BRUSH: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #14
Just like its name says, a brow brush is meant for, well, your brows. "This tool is great for combing through eyebrows and to also separate clumpy eyelashes," explains Martin.
Anastasia Beverly Hills | $18
16. LIP BRUSH: NARS #30 Precision Lip Brush
This brush is pretty self-explanatory. Since it has a finer tip, it's perfect for precisely applying a bold lipstick, but be prepared to take a little extra time doing so.
Nars | $26