The 19 Best Makeup Brushes of 2023

IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7 applies creams and liquids like a dream.

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Best Makeup Brushes

InStyle / Kristin Kempa

We’ve all heard it before, but it bears repeating: An artist is only as good as his (or her or their) tools. And while the original quote may have been referring to more classic mediums of art, it certainly holds true when applied to the artistry of makeup. You can have the most skin-like foundations, lit-from-within highlighters, and buttery eyeshadows, but they’ll do you little good without the proper tools. And while applying by hand works for certain products, others demand stellar brushes — after all, what would the Mona Lisa look like if da Vinci had opted to finger paint it?

To ensure your brushes are the best of the best (and last for years), I sought out the help of professional makeup artists to share their favorite picks and what they look for to ensure high-quality makeup brushes. I also rounded up my personal favorites (from my collection of well over 100 makeup brushes), expert recommendations, and top sellers in the market, and put them all to the test.

And while no one brush can do it all, if I were stranded on a desert island, I’d most definitely bring IT Cosmetics’ Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7 along. Its plush but dense bristles and multifunctional double-sided heads make it a no-brainer for our overall best pick.

Whether you’re a makeup newbie or a seasoned pro, an amazing brush always makes all the difference. Find our top picks, based on lots of testing, vetting, and research, below.

Best Overall

IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7

it-cosmetics-heavenly-luxe-complexion-perfection-brush-7

Sephora

What We Love: The ultra-plush, dense bristles make blending a breeze.

What We Don’t Love: Double-sided brushes tend to be harder to store and keep hygienic.

Full disclosure: This might be my all-time favorite makeup brush. So much so that I own four, and keep one in my work bag at all times for on-the-go touch ups. The bristles are densely packed but luxuriously soft, making for a seamless application that feels great on skin.

And while its intended use is applying foundation and concealer, the brush is also great for buffing in cream and liquid contour, blush, and bronzer. The result is a flawless but natural-looking base. In a real pinch, you can even use the concealer brush for shadow application, making it a true one-and-done tool.

I’m not the only fan, though: Countless makeup artists and thousands of shoppers have all sung its praises. That being said, at nearly $50 a pop, the brush is definitely an investment — one that might not be worth it for those less passionate about makeup and beauty in general. But for those who prioritize multifunctionality and quality, this is a no brainer. I also have to admit that while the dual-sided design is genius, it’s not the easiest to store. 

Price at time of publish: $49

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Double-ended dome | Intended Use: Foundation, concealer | Vegan: Yes

Best Budget

Real Techniques Makeup Setting Facial Powder Makeup Brush

Real Techniques Makeup Setting Facial Powder Makeup Brush

Ulta Beauty

What We Love: This multitasking brush is equal parts affordable and effective. 

What We Don’t Love: It may shed over time if not cared for properly.

Celeb makeup artist Alexx Mayo is a fan of Real Techniques in general: “An artist’s tools are just as important as the product itself, and I really love the Real Techniques brushes,” he says. “There’s such a big variety, and at such an affordable price.”

Makeup artist Daniel Martin, who famously did Meghan Markle’s makeup for her royal wedding, agrees. Beyond the price (which is so good), Martin counts this brush’s versatility as a major selling point — it plays nicely with creams, liquids, and powders alike. And while some people online complain about shedding over time, I’ve had no problems in the year-plus I’ve owned the brush.

Price at time of publish: $8

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Tapered dome | Intended Use: Setting powder, powder highlight, cream highlight | Vegan: Yes

Best Splurge

Westman Atelier Liquid Blender Brush

Westman Atelier Clean Liquid Blender Brush

Sephora

What We Love: The ultimate in terms of luxury, this brush is handmade by artisans in Japan and specially designed by a celeb makeup artist.

What We Don’t Love: Beyond the price (which, to be fair, is a lot), it’s an incredibly short brush and can easily get lost when stored with other brushes.

If you want to splurge, then we say really splurge. Crafted with cherry wood sourced from Japan and handmade, cruelty-free polyester bristles, this liquid blender brush from Westman Atelier is as luxe as they come. It smoothes product quickly and evenly, leaving a seamless finish on the skin in just a few swipes. Similar in shape to a kabuki brush, with slightly denser, shorter bristles, it makes second skin-like coverage so easy to achieve, it’s nearly fool-proof.

Though densely packed and stiff, the bristles are still soft to the touch and feel plush — not rough — on the skin. The rounded head is ideal for really pressing product into the skin, while the dense bristles ensure streak-free application. Plus, the soft edges of the brush are ideal for hard-to-reach spots like the sides of the nose and under eyes.

Price at time of publish: $125

Bristle Type: Polyester | Shape: Compact round | Intended Use: Blending liquid makeup | Vegan: Yes

Best Liquid Foundation Brush

Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation Brush

Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation Brush

Sephora

What We Love: The unique shape and custom bristles are intended to mimic the control of fingertips with all the luxuries of a brush.

What We Don’t Love: The size is smaller than your average foundation brush, meaning application will likely take more time.

There’s nothing worse than finding streaks of excess foundation all over your brushes, blushes, and bronzers. But such is the case when applying foundation with your fingers. And while in a perfect world we’d wipe any excess foundation off before moving on, this isn’t always the reality. Enter: Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation Brush, and its unique custom shape meant to mimic the delicate and precise control of your fingertips.

At first glance, this brush looks deceptively small for applying foundation — the head of bristles is roughly the same size as a quarter. Luckily, what it lacks in size it makes up for in seamless application, flawless precision, and a skin-like finish without getting your hands dirty.

The densely packed bristles and unique shape lends itself to getting hard-to-reach spots like the nasolabial folds. The bristles are soft, but not so soft that they simply move product on top of the skin, and allow for streak-free application whether you’re stippling, blending, or pushing the product into the skin. 

Price at time of publish: $47

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Custom angled | Intended Use: Liquid, stick, and cream foundation | Vegan: Yes

Best Powder Foundation Brush

e.l.f. Flawless Face Brush

e.l.f. Flawless Face Brush

e.l.f.

What We Love: This brush is dual-sided — the flat side allows for seamless all over application, while the skinny side provides more targeted placement. 

What We Don’t Love: The bristles fall out over time.

When I first started using makeup I went with powder foundation because it seemed like the easiest to apply (movies made me believe I could get a flawless application with a flick of the wrist). But I quickly came to realize that wasn’t the case: The most seamless application doesn’t depend on the foundation itself, but rather the tool used. And after years of putting up with subpar foundation brushes that left me with a patchy complexion, I struck gold with this affordable tool. 

This foundation brush picks up the ideal amount of product with a quick swirl in the compact, and blends it out like magic. The beauty is in the duality — the fluffy brush has two sides: a flat edge that allows for seamless, all over application, and a skinny edge that provides more targeted application. I use the former to buff out an even layer of foundation all over my face, and the latter to build up extra coverage where I need it most. 

To make things even better, it works exceptionally well with other powder products too (especially blush and bronzer), so it is multipurpose if you want it to be. The one thing that could improve, though, is the bristle quality: Over time the synthetic fibers fall out, but that typically happens after a few years of use.

Price at time of publish: $7

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Fluffy with flat and skinny ides | Intended Use: Powder foundations, bronzers and blush | Vegan: Yes

Best Concealer Brush

Dior Backstage Concealer Brush No. 13

Dior Backstage Concealer Brush No. 13

Bloomingdale's

What We Love: The flat, tapered “cat’s tongue” tip is ideal for precision application and smooth blending.

What We Don’t Love: It requires more work to blend in and perfect coverage than larger concealer brushes.

Flat with a tapered “cat’s tongue” shape and rounded tip, the brush is ideal for pinpointing imperfections and gives professional results with a smooth, blended layer of concealer. Best of all, the flat edge makes the brush a great multitasker — stipple on concealer under the eyes or pat in some powder in those hard-to-reach spots. And yes, it works with liquids, creams, and powders alike.

Because this brush is so great for precision, it does require more work and attention to blend to perfection than larger concealer brushes. But if you’re looking for flawless coverage, it’s going to take time no matter what. And with this brush, the result really is flawless.

Price at time of publish: $30

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Tapered “cat’s tongue” tip | Intended Use: Cream and liquid concealer | Vegan: Unclear

Best Powder Contour Brush

Sephora Collection Pro Contour Brush #79

Sephora Collection PRO Contour Brush #79

Sephora

What We Love: The cylindrical, tapered bristles allow for strategic placement, and they sculpt and blend to perfection.

What We Don’t Love: It’s too big to use on the nose and some prefer a denser brush for cream contour.

As a self-described thumb-face, contour is a nonnegotiable for me — if I’m doing my makeup, I’m applying contour. I usually use a cream contour topped with some powder, and to be honest, I go back and forth between preferring densely packed brushes and light, fluffy brushes for my powder step.

While I find that both work, denser, shorter brushes allow for a quick buff with minimal effort, whereas looser, fluffier bristles need a bit more work but leave behind soft, buildable layers.

This brush was a bit intimidating for me at first; it’s even softer and smaller than what I usually use for contour, but trust me when I say (er, write?) that it completely changes the game. The tapered, fluffy bristles give me a contour that’s simultaneously softly diffused and precisely defined. It makes hollowing out the cheekbones a breeze and reviewers say it doubles as a fabulous highlight brush. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: long, tapered cylindrical | Intended Use: Powder contour | Vegan: Yes

Best Cream Contour Brush

Sephora Collection PRO Foundation Brush #64

Sephora Collection PRO Foundation Brush #64

Sephora

What We Love: Densely packed bristles of various lengths apply and blend contour smoothly, leaving behind buildable coverage.

What We Don’t Love: Because the brush is dense, the resulting contour is more full coverage than subtle.

For those who can’t fathom buffing out your cream contour with a fluffy brush, this foundation brush from Sephora is a stellar alternative. While it’s technically meant for foundation, I’ve been using it to blend out my contour for years.

The brush features bristles of varying lengths to keep product from settling into pores, which is genius and really does deliver a smooth finish. Despite being densely packed, the bristles are still soft to the touch and cover up texture and irritation flawlessly. The brush applies product in a slightly mottled fashion that quickly blends in with circular motions.

Best of all, it never moves any product underneath the contour. If you’re looking for a more subtle contour, though, you may want to use another brush because the end result when using this is pretty full coverage. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Short dome | Intended Use: Foundation | Vegan: Yes

Best Bronzer Brush

Real Techniques Ultra Plush Blush Cheek Makeup Brush

Real Techniques Ultra Plush Blush Cheek Makeup Brush

Ulta Beauty

What We Love: The large, domed shape is perfect for all-over application and leaves a smooth finish.

What We Don’t Love: The bristles can get slightly scratchy over time.

We already know tons of our favorite makeup artists are Real Techniques fans, and their tools really do stand out — and not just because of that lovely price point. Yes, this is technically a blush brush, but I actually don’t think it’d be very good for that. Instead, its large brush head and fluffy shape works far better when applying bronzer. The soft, thin bristles glide bronzer across the face for an even, non-streaky finish, and diffuses product in a way that imparts a natural, light tan that’s never, ever patchy.

After about two years, my brush has started to feel slightly scratchy, but at $10, it still feels like a great deal. It still picks up the perfect amount of product and has kept its shape surprisingly well. Even if I feel the need to buy a new one (which, to be clear, I don’t yet), $10 every few years is still a better price than some of its competitors.

Price at time of publish: $10

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Tapered dome | Intended Use: Powder blush | Vegan: Yes

Best Powder Blush Brush

MyKitCo My Blush & Powder

MyKitCo My Blush & Powder

MyKitCo

What We Love: The bristles are somehow both dense and soft, making it ideal for blending out blushes.

What We Don’t Love: The natural fibers aren’t great for blending cream or liquid blush.

I’d actually never heard of MyKitCo brushes before, but Mary Phillips swears by them — and when Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber’s go-to makeup artist says a beauty brand is good, you listen. According to Phillips, this brush is the “perfect size and softness for applying blush to the apples of the cheeks.” And I have to agree. The bristles are expertly bundled in a way that creates some density while maintaining its soft fluffy shape, which is hard to find. And it happens to apply blush with impressive precision.

Here’s the issue: Natural bristles are not good for cream or liquid products, and I love a good cream blush. I agonized over whether or not this brush could possibly be the best for blush if it couldn’t apply cream products.

Here’s where I landed: Many of the brushes on this list are multifunctional and are particularly good for creams and liquids (in particular, the Sephora Collection Pro Contour #79, Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation Brush, and IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7), and I’d rather include an amazing brush with limitations than a fine brush that works across the board. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Bristle Type: Natural | Shape: Plush dome | Intended Use: Blush, powder| Vegan: No

Best Cream Blush Brush

Real Techniques Tapered Cheek Face Makeup Brush

Real Techniques Tapered Cheek Face Makeup Brush

Ulta Beauty

What We Love: The precision brush head allows for buildable, targeted coverage.

What We Don’t Love: The lighter bristles get easily stained with blush.

Real Techniques consistently brings us top-notch makeup brushes and this one is no exception. The small, tapered bristles precisely apply a pop of color for a natural flush that’s buildable without looking cakey. Like we said before, tons of makeup artists love Real Techniques brushes thanks to their stellar prices and impressive quality. This brush works slightly better with liquids and creams than it does with powder, which is why I ultimately included it alongside the previous brush.

The bristles are simultaneously dense and soft, which is ideal for cream blush placement — plus, the handle has a nice weight to it, giving you more control when applying. Just know that if you use a highly pigmented blush, it may stain the bristles — so be sure to wash after every use. 

Price at time of publish: $8

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Small, tapered dome | Intended Use: Liquid, cream, or powder blush, contour, and highlighter | Vegan: Yes

Best Highlight Brush

Makeup by Mario EF 2 Makeup Brush

Makeup by Mario EF 2 Makeup Brush

Sephora

What We Love: Thin dome is perfect for ultra-precise application and blending.

What We Don’t Love: Some may find it too small for applying highlight.

I’ve been using fluffy eyeshadow brushes to apply my highlighter for years, and I was excited to learn that Mario Dedivanovic (as in the Mario of Makeup by Mario, known for being a staple on Kim Kardashian’s glam team) does the same. This brush is ever-so-slightly stiff to help with precise application, but fluffy enough that it easily blends product into the skin. To me, this is my ideal highlighter brush: I want complete control over where the product lands on my face, and a softness that helps to seamlessly buff. 

Price at time of publish: $22

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Thin, fluffy dome | Intended Use: Eyeshadow, highlight | Vegan: Yes

Best Multifunctional Brush

MAC 240 Synthetic Large Tapered Blending Brush

MAC 240 Synthetic Large Tapered Blending Brush

MAC Cosmetics

What We Love: The fluffy tapered head applies and softly blends product in one foul swoop.

What We Don’t Love: Its multifunctionality is a double-edged sword: Colors can get muddy and blend together within the brush if you don’t wash after each use.

This larger tapered brush plays nicely with liquids and cream, but does its best work applying powders and blending soft washes of product to the eyes and face. It’s ideal for sweeping or swirling product, especially a light coat of powder in shinier spots like under the eyes and along the T-zone. The bristles are expertly engineered to be breakage-resistant and feature non-porous fibers that make cleaning the brush easier.

The soft, fluffy fibers and perfectly medium-sized brush head make it incredibly versatile, a key attribute Martin says he looks for in his brushes — add a wash of color to the eyes, buff a darker shade into the crease for some contrast, apply highlighter and contour with precision, or lay down setting powder under your eyes.

The brush’s fluffiness makes it easy to pick up the right amount of product, and it makes blending a breeze. While we love the multifunctionality of this brush, it’s imperative to wash it after each use to ensure pigments don’t become muddied, and ultimately, keep your overall look pristine. 

Price at time of publish: $36

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Fluffy tapered dome | Intended Use: Powder eye shadow, powder highlighter | Vegan: Yes

Best Eyeshadow Blending Brush

Hourglass No. 4 Crease Brush

Hourglass No. 4 Crease Brush

Hourglass Cosmetics

What We Love: The weighted handle provides extra control for easy blending.

What We Don’t Love: Because this is less tapered and stiffer than most blending brushes, using it might not be the easiest for novices.

Hourglass brushes are luxe, thoughtfully designed, and super soft. This brush is fluffy and soft but has a rigidity to it that you don’t traditionally see in blending brushes. The unique, longer shape paired with the weighted handle and stiffer base allow for control and precision, while the fluffier top and flexible bristles create a soft blend that eschews harsh lines.

The brush’s shape and length make it great for sculpting the eyes and buffing out color without creating a muddy mess. Razzano says a great blending brush is an absolute necessity for eye makeup, and this one certainly fits the bill. That said, there is a bit of a learning curve when using it, especially if you’re a makeup beginner. But with practice, anyone can be a blending pro in no time. 

Price at time of publish: $39

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Medium, straight dome | Intended Use: Eyeshadow crease | Vegan: Yes

Best Eyeshadow Shading Brush

Makeup by Mario E3 Makeup Brush

Makeup by Mario E3 Makeup Brush

Sephora

What We Love: It’s perfect for a quick and easy sweep of all-over lid color.

What We Don’t Love: The white base is stylish but gets dirty very easily.

If you take a one-and-done approach to eyeshadow, allow me to introduce you to your new best friend. This brush is perfect for effortless shadow application. “The Makeup By Mario E 3 Makeup Brush has a fluffier bristle shape which makes it perfect to quickly sweep a wash of color over the eyes or blend out any edges on the shadows you’ve laid down,” Razzano shares. “The shape also fits snugly into the crease of the eye creating a beautiful accentuation of the eye shape.”

It’s a favorite among celeb makeup artists like Jenna Menard, Katie Jane Hudges, and Nam Vo — three experts I absolutely trust. The wide, tapered shape picks up color easily and blends out shadow like a dream. Plus, the custom blend of synthetic and vegan fibers makes for a super soft, fluffy head.

Price at time of publish: $22

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Wide tapered | Intended Use: All-over lid color | Vegan: Yes

Best Eyeshadow Smudger Brush

Charlotte Tilbury Eye Liner Brush

Charlotte Tilbury Eye Liner Brush

Charlotte Tilbury 

What We Love: The precise tip allows for targeted, contained smudging.

What We Don’t Love: The pencil tip can tug at the eyelids.

I love the look of a smudged out cat eye, but you need the right tools to nail the look. This brush features an incredibly small head with dense fiber bristles that perfectly lays down and buffs out shadow along the lash line. I like to dip the brush in a matte hue and run it along my lower and upper lash lines.

The tiny tip allows for precise, targeted application of shadow, which can be difficult to achieve with thicker brushes. And thanks to the sturdy bristles, you can use the tip to create finer lines and graphic effects, or simply rock a soft liner look. Somehow the brush still feels light and luxurious at the same time. Just be sure to glide it lightly around the eye area, otherwise it can uncomfortably tug. 

Price at time of publish: $28

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Pencil | Intended Use: Eye liner, blending on the lash line | Vegan: Yes

Best Eyeliner Brush

MAC 208 Synthetic Angled Brow Brush

MAC 208 Synthetic Angled Brow Brush

Nordstrom

What We Love: The brush’s flat edge is perfect for stamping on a thin layer of eyeliner.

What We Don’t Love: The bristles are slightly longer than traditional liner brushes, which makes it more difficult to control.

Upper lash liner is a dangerous game: Make one wrong move and suddenly your liner went from subtle to full-on graphic. This brush’s flat, angled head makes it easy to stamp on color and ensure a thin, consistent line from inner corner to outer wing. Plus, the sharp tip and edges make for flawless, precise wings. Thanks to the thin, flat shape, you can customize your liner width to your liking, and the stiff bristles stay taught on the eye. The brush is ideal for both gel shadow liners, too.

It definitely takes some practice to get used to this brush shape compared to your average flat-edged liner brush, particularly because of the longer bristles. That being said, with some practice, you can create far thinner and precise lines.

Price at time of publish: $22

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Flat angled | Intended Use: Brows | Vegan: Yes

Best Eyebrow Brush

Joey Healy Duo Brow Brush

Joey Healy Duo Brow Brush

Joey Healy

What We Love: The thin liner brush picks up product easily and is great for creating a subtle wash of color on the brow.

What We Don’t Love: The double-sided feature makes hygienic storage difficult.

This brush is a staple in my routine — I use it every time I do my makeup. While the angled liner brush is thin enough to make hair-like strokes with cream and gel formulas, I prefer to dip it in a powder and use it to fill in a light wash of color on my brow. It helps fill in any spots or gaps, and the spoolie ensures optimal distribution of color. Plus, it sweeps my brows into place without scratching the skin beneath it.

Price at time of publish: $28

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: Angled liner | Intended Use: Cream, powder, and gel eyebrow formulas | Vegan: Yes

Best Set

Spectrum KJH 11 Piece Edit Brush Set

Spectrum KJH 11 Piece Edit Brush Set

Spectrum Collections

What We Love: This set has you covered with all the essentials you need (and at an incredibly high quality to boot).

What We Don’t Love: The set is a pared-back version of the original 25-piece brush set, which is less than ideal for more advanced makeup connoisseurs.

If you’ve ever so much as dabbled in makeup, you’re probably familiar with celebrity and editorial makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes, who regularly paints the faces of Hollywood’s elite — including Ashley Graham and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Following the massive success of the 25-piece brush set she created with Spectrum Collections in 2021, the duo took fan feedback to heart and created this 11-piece edit for those who want a condensed collection of artist-inspired tools.

The set is, in a word, impeccable. It’s beautifully designed and is as functional as it is luxurious. The bristles are soft and fluffy and remain that way even after countless washes (I’ve owned the 25-piece set for two years and still use the brushes every time I apply makeup). The brushes are generally smaller than traditional makeup brushes and feature longer bristles that give an airy, almost watercolor-like quality to the application process, and an airbrush-like effect to makeup (rather than something more full coverage-looking).

The collaboration truly excels with its eye brushes, which account for eight out of the 11 included. The selection goes far beyond traditional eyeshadow brushes, though, including petite accent brushes and variously sized fine pencil-type brushes. Phillips, who works with Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, and Jennifer Lopez, says they’re mainstays in her own collection. Our only complaint is that the other 14 brushes from the original set are no longer available.

Price at time of publish: $109

Bristle Type: Synthetic | Shape: N/A | Intended Use: Full face | Vegan: Yes

What to Keep in Mind

Bristle Type

Makeup brush bristles tend to fall into two categories: natural (hair) and synthetic. Synthetic bristles seem to be more common these days, and Martin much prefers them, but natural bristles do offer a softness sometimes harder to recreate with synthetic fibers. Even within the general category of synthetic bristles, brands use different processes to make them, resulting in a range of textures and softness.

“I look for a thicker, denser brush when I need to pack on color,” says Phillips, “and a lighter, wispier brush when trying to diffuse and blend.” Razzano echoes her sentiments, explaining that fluffy, loose bristles apply products in soft layers, while shorter bristles apply a heavier application of color. As bristle density increases, it’s easier to buff in product. For those who have sensitive skin or are allergic to animal products, avoid natural-hair bristles.

Your Makeup Needs

Your own makeup skills, daily needs, goals, and budget should factor into which brushes you purchase. For example, someone who doesn’t fuss much with eyeshadow might only need a single eye brush — we suggest going for the Makeup by Mario E3 Makeup Brush, which can apply all-over shadow and blend color into the crease for definition.

For those new to makeup or looking to start a collection, consider brush sets like the Spectrum KJH 11 Piece Edit Brush Set or this one from Real Techniques, which includes two of our top picks from the brand. If you’re a seasoned pro, consider investing in high-quality brushes that cost a bit more but will last a lifetime, like the Hourglass Ambient Soft Glow Foundation Brush or the MAC 240 Synthetic Large Tapered Blending Brush

Shape

The shape of both your face and your brush will determine how easy (or difficult) it will be to apply your products. Larger brushes tend to offer less control and precision, but smaller brushes lengthen the overall makeup application process. It’s all about personal preferences. “It’s always best to consider what you want your tool — the brush — to achieve, then choose,” Razzano shares.

Your Questions, Answered

What makeup brushes do I really need?

“When you are first starting out you don’t need a ton of brushes to get great results,” shares Mayo. “You'll want something you can apply and buff foundation in with, a blush brush, a small powder brush, a fluffy eye brush for blending, and something precise for detail work around the eye.”

Meanwhile, Razzano suggests people have around six makeup brushes total: Three to four complexion brushes (for foundation, concealer, powder, and then one for bronzer and/or blush) and at least two brushes for eyes (a flatter shadow brush and a fluffy blending brush). Like we said, your brush needs largely depend on your daily needs, goals, and skills. 

How do I clean makeup brushes?

While there are soaps made specifically for washing brushes (more on that later), Martin says he simply uses Dawn dish detergent and a silicone makeup pad, like the Sigma Beauty Spa Express Cleaning Mat Brush Cleaner. Wet the bristles and gently massage the soap in using the mat to get rid of built-up makeup. Rinse and allow your brushes to lay flat to dry before the next use.

Meanwhile, Phillips swears by the Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner, which is quick drying, rinse free, and 99.99 percent antimicrobial. Pour the cleaner into a shallow dish, dip a dirty brush into it, and remove immediately. Follow up by wiping the brush clean on a paper towel or cloth and repeat as necessary.

How often should I wash my makeup brushes?

You’re probably not going to like this answer, but almost all our experts wash their brushes after every single use. At the end of the day, the better you care for your makeup brushes, the longer they’ll last and the better they’ll perform.

“If you’re only using your brushes on yourself, I would say a biweekly clean is a great way to ensure your brushes are free from buildup and bacteria,” says Mayo. “Plus, a clean brush gives you a much better application.”

Alternatively, Razzano suggests using a no-rinse cleanser after each use (which really does take mere seconds), followed by a deep clean two to three times a month. For that deeper clean, he loves the Beauty Blender Blendercleanser Solid, which he suggests keeping next to your sink and simply swirling your wet, dirty brushes into it and rinsing.

Why Shop With Us

Danielle Cohen is a freelance beauty writer and editor with more than five years of experience reporting on the beauty industry and testing products. As a member of InStyle’s commerce team, she swatches, sprays, and samples countless beauty products. For this story, she researched and tested dozens of beauty brushes, read reviews, and consulted celebrity makeup artists Mary Phillips, Alexx Mayo, Daniel Martin, and David Razzano

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