Monday, April 14, 2014

My Essential Makeup Brushes

Let me tell you right now, this is a post that has been a long time in the works. It's definitely going to be a long one, so get a snack and some strawberry lemonade, and prepare for some reading!

This is something that was requested by my dear friend Sarah (who writes the awesome blog Diary of a Beauty Padawan). She is fairly new to makeup (hence the title "Beauty Padawan") and asked me to write a blog post about makeup brushes -- what to look for, what some of my favorites are, what I use each type of brush for, etc. 

The topic of makeup brushes is vast, and I could go on and on about different types of brushes. So instead of talking about a ton of different types, I'm going to talk about my must-haves for the face and for the eyes, as well as examples in different price ranges. 

Jump to...

For the face:

Large Powder/Blush Brushes: I always like to have a large powder brush when doing my makeup. For large powder brushes, I prefer to go for the classic flat domed style brush. I prefer it to be more of a medium density, so that it applies a solid amount of product without packing it on and creating a cakey appearance. I find that this kind of brush is great for setting makeup, blending out blush, and rolling on powder. I often use this kind of brush for a soft application of blush as well.

Budget: e.l.f. Studio Complexion Brush - $3; EcoTools Large Powder Brush - $7.99; Morphe C110 Tapered Powder - $9.99; Real Techniques Powder Brush - $10
Mid-range: Sigma F20 Large Powder Brush - $29; Crown C140 Chisel Deluxe Dome - $20.93
High-end: MAC 134 Large Powder Brush - $53; Wayne Goss Brush 11 - $48; Hakuhodo K002 Powder Brush Round and Flat - $82

Duo-fibre Brushes: Another great brush for setting powder is a duo-fibre face brush, sometimes known as stippling brushes. Because of the duo-fibre, it applies product very lightly. If you have a blush that is too dark for your skin, I would definitely recommend using a duo-fibre brush to apply it, as it will apply the blush more lightly than a standard blush brush. You can also use this type of brush to apply foundation, although personally it's not my favorite method of application.

Budget: e.l.f. Studio Stipple Brush - $3; EcoTools Sheer Finish Kabuki Brush - $6.99; Real Techniques Duo Fibre Collection - $20 (comes with three brushes); Crown C406 Duo Fibre Face - $8.49
Mid-range: Sigma F15 Duo Fibre Powder/Blush Brush - $23
High-end: MAC 187 Duo Fibre Face Brush - $42; Sephora Pro Stippling Brush - $35; Hakuhodo Duo Fibre Powder Brush C - $54

Flat Foundation Brushes: While flat foundation brushes aren't exactly my favorite for applying foundation, I definitely do believe they should have a place in everyone's brush collection. I prefer very dense, synthetic fiber brushes for foundation, as they are much easier to clean.

Budget: e.l.f. Studio Angled Foundation Brush - $3; Real Techniques Foundation Brush - $8; EcoTools Flat Foundation Brush - $5.99; Sonia Kashuk Core Tools Large Foundation Brush - $10.99; Crown Deluxe Jumbo Foundation - $13.13
Mid-range: Sigma F60 Foundation - $18; Sephora Pro Foundation Brush - $28
High-end: MAC 190 Foundation Brush - $34; Bobbi Brown Foundation Brush - $40; Hakuhodo G519 Foundation Brush 20 - $48

Buffing Brushes: Buffing brushes are my preference for applying foundation, as it really buffs the product in as opposed to painting it on the skin. Like regular foundation brushes, I prefer very dense, synthetic fibers. The density and shape of buffing brushes really allows for even, streak-free application. They are also perfect for blending out any blush or contouring that you may have gone overboard on.

Budget: Real Techniques Expert Face Brush - $9; Morphe C439 Deluxe Buffer - $13.95
Mid-range: Sigma Sigmax Kabuki Kit - $84 (available individually for $21 each); Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blending Brush - $25
High-end: Marc Jacobs The Face II Sculpting Foundation Brush #2 - $48; Sephora Pro Airbrush - $34

Domed Contour Brushes: Most people I know prefer angled blush brushes for contouring. I actually prefer a small domed brush for contouring, because I feel like it really gets under the cheekbones and helps to define your bone structure.

Budget: e.l.f. Studio Small Tapered Brush - $3; Real Techniques Setting Brush - $8; Mophe C437 Pro Blender/Contour - $6.99; Sigma E50 Large Fluff - $14; Crown C437 Pro Domed Blender - $6.99
Mid-range: OCC Small Blush/Powder Brush #011 - $24
High-end: MAC 109 Small Contour Brush - $39; Sephora Pro Contour Brush - $30; Hakuhodo J210 Blush Brush Round - $44

For the eyes:

Flat Shader Brushes: To apply shadow all over the lid, I like to use a flat shader brush, or a paddle-style brush. I prefer when these brushes are stiff and dense, to ensure a solid application of color, and they are also great for under the eyes when used with a careful hand.

Budget: e.l.f. Studio Eyeshadow "C" Brush - $3; e.l.f. Studio Concealer Brush - $3; Morphe C124 Firm Shadow - $3.75; Sigma E55 Eye Shading - $12
Mid-range: MAC 139 Eye Shader Brush - $25
High-end: Hourglass All Over Shadow Brush - $30; Bobbi Brown Eye Sweep Brush - $33; Hakuhodo S126 Eyeshadow Brush Round and Flat - $52

Blending Brushes: Personally, I think blending brushes are my #1 must-have brush. I find that you can do just about anything with a blending brush -- from blending out and setting concealer, to sweeping color all over the lid. The most well-known use for a blending brush is, of course, blending out shadows. For this you need something that is small enough to fit into the crease, but large enough to blend without creating a harsh wall of color.

Budget: EcoTools Eye Enhancing Duo Set - $5.99; Morphe C330 Blending Crease - $4.29; Sigma E25 Blending - $12; Sonia Kashuk Core Tools Pointed Blending Brush - $3.99
Mid-range: Wayne Goss Brush 06 - $25; MAC 217 Blending Brush - $24; OCC Tapered Blending Brush #004 - $22
High-end: Bobbi Brown Eye Blender Brush - $33; MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush - $32

Pencil Brushes: Pencil brushes are great for creating a sultry, smokey look. Typically very dense, they are ideal for blending out creamy pencils or smudging shadows along the lashline. They are also fantastic for creating a cut crease eye look, because they are precise and defined.

Budget: Makeup Geek Pencil Brush - $7.99; Morphe C431 Precision Pencil Crease - $3.95; Sigma E30 Pencil - $12; EcoTools Sharpen and Smudge Duo Brush - $3.99
Mid-range: Make Up For Ever 212 Medium Precision Smudger Brush - $25; MAC 219 Pencil Brush - $25
High-end: Bobbi Brown Eye Smudge Brush - $30

Fine Liner Brushes: Fine liner brushes are great for creating a very thin line or a defined winged liner. You can also use a fine artist's brush for this. I prefer short, fine tapered tips for fine liner brushes, as well as synthetic fibers for easy clean up. The great thing about fine liner brushes is that they are, in general, extremely affordable!

Budget: Real Techniques Fine Liner Brush - $6; Real Techniques Silicone Liner Brush - $6; Makeup Geek Bent Liner Brush - $6.99; Crown M4 Eyeliner Brush - $2.45, Sigma E05 Liner - $12; Sephora Classic Precision Liner Brush - $12
Mid-range: MAC 209 Eye Liner Brush - $20; Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine Liner Brush - $27

Angled/Push Liner Brushes: Angled and push liner brushes are great for both lining your eyes and filling in your brows. My personal preference, again, are synthetic bristles, as it creates for easier cleanup. These brushes are super versatile and are perfect for those who are just starting out with liner.

Budget: e.l.f. Studio Small Angled Brush - $3, e.l.f. Studio Flat Eyeliner Brush - $3; Sigma E65 Small Angle - $12; Sigma E15 Flat Definer - $12; Sephora Pro Brow Brush - $15
Mid-range: MAC 208 Angled Brow Brush - $20; MAC 266 Small Angle Brush - $20; MAC 212 Flat Definer Brush - $24; Becca Brow/Liner Brush - $24; Laura Mercier Flat Eyeliner Brush - $25; Hakuhodo G521 Eyeliner Brush - $20
High-end: Bobbi Brown Eye Definer Brush - $30

Now the next question is, what's better, natural hair or synthetic

Well the answer isn't black and white; it all depends on what you want out of your brushes. Personally, if I am using a liquid or cream product, I will choose a synthetic fiber brush, as it is much easier to clean wet products from synthetic fibers. The synthetic fibers will also absorb less of the product than a natural hair brush. Synthetic fibers are most suitable for vegans.

On the other hand, natural hair brushes will pick up and disperse pigment more effectively than synthetic, meaning that you will get a stronger application of color with a natural hair brush. That is due to the porous nature of the hair that make up the brushes. Natural hair brushes also dry a lot more quickly than synthetic brushes, but are not vegan or cruelty-free.

And that's it for today's post! If you stuck through this wall-of-text, I applaud you! I know my back sure hurts from sitting here typing this up ;)

What are your must-have brushes?

- d.


  1. This is perfect, it is exactly what I was after! Now I actually have some hope of looking at a brush and not describing it as a "funky-looking pointy-flat thing".

  2. I love make-up brushes...there's so much you can do by using a variety!!

    Loving the holder too...I've done the same only mine is pink bead things haha :)

    Layla xx

  3. I love how you store your brushes in the glass jar with the pearl beads... just so cute xx

    Gemma //

  4. Omg this post is so packed-full of information people need to bookmark this!

    I love how you included low-end to high-end brushes for each brush type; Right now I'm using a mix of Real Technique & MAC brushes, but I've heard great things about sigma & I see you've listed a few of their brushes!

    Morning Neon Blog
    "Let's move to Vegas!"

  5. Thanks for the post. I'm new to makeup too

  6. I really had a great time reading your blog and I found it more interestingand useful . I Like you my one of my addiction is to collect makeup brush set with different style. Thanks for sharing this awesome post!

    Makeup Brush Set