We Tested 15 Makeup Brushes for Foundation, These Are the Top 5

The Lune+Aster Foundation Brush was the clear winner.

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Best Makeup Brushes

InStyle / Tamara Staples

So, you've found your perfect foundation but somehow, some way, it just doesn't look as flawless as when the makeup counter expert helped you pick and test the product. Chances are, you're using the wrong makeup brush. After all, different foundation formulas work better with specific foundation makeup brushes.

With that in mind, we set out to uncover the top five makeup brushes for foundation. To do so, we spent a week researching the most popular SKUS in the category. Once we came up with our initial pool of 15 brushes, it was time to put them to the test. To do so, we had a group of seven testers analyze the tools based on their design, the foundation they're intended for, and how easy they are to clean (because, ICYMI, it's important to regularly clean your makeup brushes). Throughout their research, they were able to weed out the less-stellar products, with the five top-performing makeup brushes remaining. All in all, the Lune+Aster Foundation Brush was the top contender thanks to its ability to be used with liquid, stick, and powder foundations.

Keep reading to discover the best foundation brushes.

Best Overall

Lune+Aster Foundation Brush

Lune+Aster Foundation Brush with InStyle Badge


What We Love: This makeup brush can be used with a variety of foundation formulas.

What We Don't Love: The dense brush is better suited for fuller coverage application.

Allow us to introduce you to the clear winner of our search for the best foundation makeup brushes. What sets this short, thick-handled, densely-bristled brush out is the fact that it's designed to be used with liquid, stick, and powder foundations. Beyond its versatile use, our tester loves how it applies foundation. "It felt extremely smooth and quick," she says. My foundation blended evenly and melted into my skin. Though small, this got into all of the grooves of my face and made my skin look amazing without streaks or blotches."

Logistically, the brush is made with synthetic bristles, so it's an entirely vegan makeup brush option. Despite being synthetic, though, our reviewer found the bristles to be incredibly soft. "They are definitely not harsh or stiff on the skin," she says.

Speaking of the bristles, they're designed with an angle to make foundation application a breeze. "The bristles are short and densely packed and on an angle to get into the contours of your face," our reviewer says. "The short handle makes it easy to apply pressure and get an even look."

Additionally, thanks to the short bristles, this makeup brush is extremely easy to clean, as the product doesn't have very far to sink into. "The product squeezes right out of the short bristles, making the process very quick," our reviewer reveals.

All in all, it earns a resounding A+ from us.

Price at time of publish: $38

Bristle: Synthetic | Shape: Angled | Foundation Type: Liquid, Stick, Powder | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Value

e.l.f. Cosmetics Buffing Foundation Brush

e.l.f. Cosmetics Buffing Foundation Brush with InStyle Badge


What We Love: This brush seamlessly applies liquid foundation—and it's the most affordable of the bunch.

What We Don't Love: It could be a smidge bigger to cover the face quicker.

At first glance, you might assume that this makeup brush is meant for powder foundation, but it's actually designed with liquid and cream formulas in mind. Created with a tapered circular silhouette, the makeup brush works well to apply foundation to large areas of the face, like the forehead, cheeks, and chin, while also being able to get into the smaller contours around the nose and eyes.

Given the very affordable price range, some might assume that it lacks quality, but our reviewers found otherwise. "This brush was extremely smooth to apply and so, so quick," one reviewer says while raving about how soft the synthetic bristles are. "The foundation went on so easily and smoothly without blotchiness. I was able to build up my coverage without anything coming off or looking streaky. I loved the way this brush made my foundation look."

It's also easy to clean—and maintains its density while doing so. "The bristles are soft and the makeup comes out easily," our reviewer says. Though, she notes that the foundation does stain the white tips of the bristles a bit.

Price at time of publish: $8

Bristle: Synthetic | Shape: Tapered Circular | Foundation Type: Liquid | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Multipurpose

MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush

MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush with InStyle Badge


What We Love: It's extremely soft, applies foundation beautifully, and is very easy to clean.

What We Don't Love: It's not the best at applying foundation under the eyes.

Much like the Lune+Aster brush, the MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush has dense bristles and is designed to help easily apply foundation to the harder-to-reach areas of the face. Additionally, like the Lune+Aster brush, it's designed with multipurpose applications in mind, as it can be used for both liquid and cream foundation applications.

From an application stance, our reviewers are still swooning over the flawless coverage of this synthetic-bristle brush. "The MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush applied my foundation so beautifully,' one reviewer says. "The foundation went on extremely smoothly and quickly and it made the product just melt into my face. I love the way this brush performed. I can see myself using it daily for foundation or even cream contour or blush."

Although it applies foundation seamlessly, our reviewer did find that it's not without flaws. "The brush is angled with a thick rounded shape," she explains. "This gets into the contours of your face and makes it a little easier to get into the small parts of your face like around the nose. But it can still be a bit difficult to get under the eyes with the shape of this brush."

Price at time of publish: $39

Bristle: Synthetic | Shape: Angled Dome | Foundation Type: Cream and Liquid | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Oval

Real Techniques Blend + Blur All Over Brush

Real Techniques Blend+ Blur Oval Foundation Brush with InStyle Badge


What We Love: The design of this makeup brush is very unique, as it utilizes a toothbrush-like silhouette that makes applying foundation a breeze.

What We Don't Love: The bristles are stiff and not super soft—but they do feel smooth to the touch.

The Real Techniques Blend+ Blur Oval Foundation Brush is another more affordable foundation brush. It's designed to mimic the cult-favorite oval Artis makeup brushes for a fraction of the price. What sets this brush apart from the others on this list is its shape. Unlike the others, which have flexible brushes in a bundle at the top of the brush, this brush more so resembles a wide, ovular toothbrush. While the shape is a bit unconventional, our reviewers found that it works particularly well for applying liquid foundation.

"I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to build up even coverage where I wanted it when using this brush," our reviewer reveals. I've never used a brush with this type of handle—the design makes this brush very comfortable to use."

The only negative thing our reviewers had to say about the brush revolved around its bristles, which are synthetic, densely-packed, and not particularly soft. Still, despite the less-than-glowing review of the bristles, they found that their overall application was so stellar that the bristles don't take away from its overall top-notch review.

Price at time of publish: $16

Bristle: Synthetic | Shape: Domed Oval | Foundation Type: Cream and Liquid | Cruelty-Free: Yes

makeup brushes

InStyle / Tamara Staples

Best Splurge

It Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Flat Top Buffing Foundation Brush #6

Foundation Brush

What We Love: It works with a variety of foundations and helps speed up the application process.

What We Don't Love: The price is hefty—it's $49.

Designed with over 88,000 bristles, this top-rated makeup brush is built to deliver a seemingly airbrushed finish each and every time. Although the description of the brush doesn't call out the specific type of foundation it's designed for, our reviewers found that it fares well with loose and pressed powder foundations, as well as liquid formulas.

"I used this brush to apply liquid foundation and it did a great job," one reviewer says. "It applied my foundation very smoothly and it didn't leave any streaks. It also didn't absorb much product."

Made with soft, densely-packed synthetic bristles, the larger, flat-top domed brush helps speed up the foundation application process. "It's a good average size for blending foundation onto any part of your face," our reviewer notes.

As for what we don't love: the price. It costs $49, which is nearly $10 more than the next most expensive SKU on our list. Still, despite being the most expensive brush on our list, it applies foundation so seamlessly that it's still well worth the hype.

Price at time of publish: $49

Bristle: Synthetic | Shape: Flat Domed | Foundation Type: Powder | Cruelty-Free: Yes

makeup brushes

InStyle / Tamara Staples

Our Testing Process

To determine the best foundation brushes, we had seven testers rigorously research and review the 15 most popular foundation makeup brushes on the market. To narrow down the initial pool of brushes, our testers rated each brush on a scale of 1 to 5 in three key categories: design, foundation application, and ease of cleaning. From there, we had them consider the bristles, brush shape, intended foundation type, and whether or not the brush was cruelty-free. By taking all of these things into consideration, they were able to rank the contestants leaving a final group of five top-performing foundation brushes.

makeup brushes

InStyle / Tamara Staples

What to Keep in Mind


Foundation makeup brushes are made with different materials, categorized as natural (hair) or synthetic. Nylon is a popular choice for a synthetic bristled brush. Even when bristles are made of the same material, some brands have processed to make them softer than others. Typically, the softer the bristles are, the smoother the product will apply. However, if the bristles are too soft, it may be difficult to achieve fuller coverage. As such, thinking about your goal look will help you determine the best foundation makeup brush for your beauty arsenal. If you want to avoid having animal hair or fur used to make your makeup brushes, choose a synthetic foundation brush (like our Best Overall pick, the Lune+Aster Foundation Brush).


The shape of your foundation makeup brush determines how easy it will be to apply product to different areas of the face. The larger the brush, the more difficult it may be to cater to the edges of the nose and around the eyes. That said, small foundation makeup brushes will lengthen the overall application process, so it's all about finding a shape that best suits your needs. A densely bristled brush (with more bristles in a small area) will usually apply a fuller coverage, (our favorite is the It Cosmetics Heavenly Foundation Brush) whereas softer and less dense brushes apply a lighter coverage.

Foundation Type

Depending on the type of foundation you use, you'll want to use a different type of makeup brush. Where liquid foundations tend to fare best with buffing brushes, stippling brushes, and oval brushes, powder foundations apply best with fluffier, powder-centric brushes, as they help keep the coverage looking light and natural, as opposed to caked into pores. However, you can always opt for a multipurpose brush, such as the MAC 170 Slant Brush, that works well with both liquid and cream foundations.

Your Questions, Answered

Do I need a separate makeup brush for foundation, concealer, and powder?

It's not so much a question of whether you can, but whether you should. According to celebrity makeup artist Tobi Henney, it's imperative to have separate makeup brushes for your foundation, concealer, and powder. "Each formula is entirely different [from] one another," she says. Generally speaking, she says that foundation brushes tend to be much larger in size, and denser in construction, given the amount of coverage they're designed to provide. Meanwhile, concealer brushes tend to be smaller and flatter, while powder brushes tend to be large and fluffy. "Having different brushes for different products will help you achieve a more clean and flawless makeup look," she assures us.

How do I clean a makeup brush?

Although there are many newfangled devices to deep clean and spin dry makeup brushes, Henney says that simply using a brush cleaning shampoo or mild soap will do the trick. You can gently massage the soap into the bristles, or you can use a silicone mat, like the Sigma Beauty Spa Express Cleaning Mat Brush Cleaner, to better rid the bristles of built-up makeup. When washing your makeup brushes, do your best to only get the bristles wet, as not all brushes fare well with full water exposure. Additionally, allow your bristles to lay flat and dry before next use. Allowing them to fully dry will help prevent them from harboring bacteria or, worse, growing mold.

What Is InStyle Picks?

Did you notice the InStyle Picks seal of approval at the top of this story? That means our team of testers has reviewed every product on this list using a unique methodology to ensure it's really worth your time, money, and attention. We may get samples for free to try but we never promise positive (or any!) coverage in exchange. Put simply: InStyle picks are products we love, and we've put them to the test to be sure you will too.

Want more product recommendations? From best-in-class concealer to the black pants you need for work, check out all of our InStyle Picks content.

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