15 Best Makeup Brushes for a Flawless Look
We spoke with makeup artists to suss out the best makeup brushes for every look.
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Brush up on the pros’ top tools
Makeup is an integral part of many people’s beauty routines, but if you’re solely using your fingers to do the job, you’re probably not getting the most out of your products. Time and again, makeup artists cite high-quality brushes as one of the most important parts of any beauty toolkit. In fact, the best makeup brushes can help your products go on smoothly and last until you’re ready to break out the makeup remover.
“Brushes are so important when doing your makeup. You don’t need a ton, but you do need a few good-quality brushes,” says celebrity makeup artist Tarryn Feldman. “Brushes are made to be washed over and over, and if a brush isn’t made well, it won’t last long. Good-quality brushes also help with application of makeup and how well your makeup looks.”
So what makes a good brush, well, good? The best makeup brushes aren’t necessarily the most expensive—although, yes, some are definitely pricey. Still, you can get great drugstore beauty products. What really sets great brushes apart are their bristles, which are specially designed to work with a specific type of makeup, maximizing their prettifying powers to leave you with a flawless face. And whether you’re applying concealer, foundation, or even mascara, a specially designed brush will lead to a dramatically better result.
We spoke with makeup artists to get the lowdown on their favorite tools. So grab your favorite makeup—we love these Black-owned beauty products—and get ready to do some shopping. Add makeup brush cleaners before you check out, and you’ll be good to go.
Artis Elite Oval 8 Brush
Best for: Versatility
If you don’t have the patience to switch makeup brushes with each new product you use, you’re in luck. This versatile tool blends cream, liquid, and powder makeup, which means you can use it for all of your faves: foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer, and more. “It offers a finish that makes your skin look like you just walked out of a professional makeup studio,” says celebrity makeup artist and hairstylist Brittany Gharring. Should you invest in this product, be sure you know how to clean your makeup brushes. There’s a good reason you should clean your beauty tools: Doing so prevents bacteria buildup.
Chanel Les Pinceaux de Chanel Retractable Foundation Brush No. 103
Best for: Creams and gels
“This foundation brush is the perfect tool to apply cream or gel foundation textures,” says Gharring, praising its ergonomic shape and ability to deliver quick and easy application. “It’s fabulous for cream blush, lightening a heavy-handed application, or to blend out under-eye concealer in one fell swoop. This retractable brush also fits in the palm of your hand and comes with a lid to keep everything else in your makeup bag sparkling clean, which we all know is a huge bonus.”
Laura Mercier Finishing Pony Tail Brush
Best for: Eye shadow
“This is the only brush you will need to blend out that crease or soften the edges of that smokey eye,” says Gharring, citing its tapered head and sculpting fibers, which help eye shadow blend naturally. “While [I was] working with Laura, she taught me that eye shadow should look as a sunset.” That means you don’t want one color to stop and another one to start abruptly. The best makeup brushes—and yes, we count this among them—help you seamlessly blend from dark to light. Need some colors to work with? Shop for the best eye shadow palette for your eye color.
Nars Yachiyo Kabuki Brush
Best for: Blush, bronzer, and setting powder
Not only is this fluffy multipurpose tool the best blush brush, but it can also be effectively used for bronzer and setting powder, says Gharring. “This is a really great all-around face brush and is small enough to apply a glow of highlighter and big enough for all-over powdering,” she says. Just avoid going heavy on the finishing powder if you’ve reached middle age. Dusting powder over your face is one makeup mistake that can age you.
Morphe M310 Large Soft Fan Brush
Best for: Powder highlighter
“Fan brushes are not a tool where you need to break the bank,” explains celebrity makeup artist Geoffrey Rodriguez, who recommends this budget-friendly version. “Because of their unique shape, which is ideal for highlighting the tops of cheekbones, fan brushes are typically used for powder highlighters and therefore should be very soft and light to distribute the perfect, subtle amount of powder. I also use fan brushes to distribute a hint of finishing powder, versus a full heavy application, as well as for a barely-there touch of blush and also for very subtle contouring.” He loves the budget-friendly Morphe M495 Duo Deluxe Fan Brush, and the company’s M310 fan brush is equally stellar. Used with a subtle highlighter, they can deliver a natural makeup look.
Omnia Artist Favorites Ashley Vieira Brush Set
Best for: The whole face
Looking for a quality brush kit? This seven-piece set delivers everything you need for precise makeup application, including a foundation and contouring brush, a multipurpose eye shadow brush for applying color and blending, a lash liner, a concealer brush, and a narrow brush with an angled edge for precise application. It comes with a stylish wrap to hold all your makeup brushes. Bonus: Fans of vegan makeup will love the fact that all of these brushes are vegan.
Beautyblender Big Boss Powder Brush & Cooling Roller
Best for: Powder and de-puffing skin
Seeking a fantastic powder brush that also preps and banishes puffy eyes, cheeks, and more? Gharring likes this double-ended brush, which features synthetic, cruelty-free bristles that mimic real hair and offer a soft, diffused application. “This double-ended power couple does more than just set your powder,” she says. “A cooling roller ball tip sculpts and de-puffs, so skin will appear lifted and awake before makeup application.”
Surratt Artistique Highlight Brush
Best for: Blush and highlighter
“This is another all-purpose cheek brush with a great shape, so application is effortless,” says Gharring. “This brush picks up and distributes product on its sides rather than the tippety-top, making it a breeze to roll on and accurately place your rouge—so sleek and perfectly thought out.” Not sure how exactly to apply your blush? There are some makeup rules to know by the time you’re 40, including placing blush in places you naturally flush.
Make Up For Ever 158 Double-Ended Sculpting Brush
Best for: Contouring and blush
Contouring is all the rage, but while this face-slimming makeup technique can downplay parts of your face you don’t particularly love, it can also be harsh. “Contouring has become the most challenging category because it can easily look heavy and artificial; therefore the brush is crucial,” explains Rodriguez, citing this double-ended brush as his personal choice. “The dense, rounded side is ideal for the perfect blush application, and the slightly angled side allows for perfect cheek contouring.”
Best for: The whole face
Yes, this is a list of the best makeup brushes. No, this isn’t a brush. But any list of makeup-perfecting tools ought to include this cult favorite. “While it may sound unusual, the Beautyblender has truly become the most useful makeup tool and does all the jobs of my previously mentioned brushes,” says Rodriguez. Case in point: This is one beauty product Meghan Markle doesn’t leave home without. “In fact, when I am on set, I begin by using the Beautyblender to apply skin care, then follow up with nearly every stage of makeup, from foundation to contouring. Because it is fully hydrated from applying the skin care, the overall application has a more flawless, sheer, glowing finish, and the unique shape means it’s so versatile you can use [it] on the entire face.”
Laura Mercier Flat Eye Liner Brush
Best for: Eyeliner
Here’s one of Gharring’s top eyeliner tips: When lining the inside of your eye, a brush with flat and firm bristles is best. She recommends this brush to ensure exact placement along the lash line. “This brush applies a water-activated cake liner not on your under-lash line but smudged in between your lashes for the ultimate eye lift and intricate definition, making your lashes look fuller and longer,” she says.
Kevyn Aucoin The Duet Concealer Brush
Best for: Concealer
Synthetic bristles are best for distributing cream products, says Gharring, who says this is one of the best makeup brushes for concealer because of its duality and precision. “The soft domed side allows for buffing and blending for perfectly even coverage,” she says. “The flat, rounded side is the ideal shape for precise, soft application of concealer around the eyes and hard-to-reach places.”
Make Up For Ever 108 Large Foundation Brush
Best for: Liquid foundation
Looking for one of the best makeup brushes for liquid foundation? Rodriguez recommends this option. “For liquid foundation brushes, the overall density of the bristles is key for blending liquid formulas evenly,” he says. “Look for very dense, synthetic bristles for the best, even application.”
You might own the best foundation, but be sure the brush will work with it before you buy. According to Rodriguez, it works especially well on medium- to full-coverage liquid, thanks to its flat surface and dense bristles, allowing for more even and fuller coverage.
Make Up For Ever 110 Foundation Kabuki
Best for: Heavy foundation
Got a big event or photo shoot requiring the highest level of foundation coverage? Rodriguez’s makeup tip for photographs is to reach for this powerhouse tool, which is the best foundation brush for a heavy application. “It’s super tactile and blends flawlessly,” he says.
Hourglass No. 13 Precision Smudge Brush
Best for: Eye shadow
Great for softening kohl eyeliner, brightening the corners of the eyes, and emphasizing the area above the lips, this domed brush comes recommended by Gharring. With PETA-approved Taklon bristles, it’s the best eye shadow brush for vegans. To use, “apply a matte contour shade on your cupid’s bow just below the highlighter, or add a little brightness to the inner corners of your eye.”
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- Tarryn Feldman, celebrity makeup artist
- Brittany Gharring, celebrity makeup artist and hairstylist
- Geoffrey Rodriguez, celebrity makeup artist