makeup brushes: the essentials

Makeup brushes; they can be as fun as the makeup itself, but I think they can also cause some confusion when you’re staring at dozen of brushes in various shapes, sizes, and bristles – what do I do with all of these things?  And maybe even more importantly, which ones do I really need?  While you can certainly apply your makeup with your fingers, using makeup brushes elevates the whole experience and can really help you refine your makeup application.  And let’s be clear on one thing right now: the sponge-tipped applicators that come for free with your makeup are not makeup brushes.  Truthfully I think you’re better off using nothing than using those things! So, step away from the sponge tips, and let’s explore my essential brushes.

Because makeup brushes can be very expensive, let’s focus on the few essential, multi-tasking brushes that every girl should have in their kit.  Once you’ve built up your base collection, then you can start the impulsive brush buying to fill all the other “needs” in your brush collection. Not like I do not that or anything…. 

 Base/Foundation Brush

Sephora Foundation Brush

There are so many options on this one, but I don’t recommend being fooled by those “paint brush” shaped brushes that are sold as foundation brushes. While there can be a use for them, if you’re looking for an all-purpose brush to apply foundation or tinted moisturizer, a full-bristled brush is best. I like the Sephora Collection Pro Airbrush #55. You can use it to sheer out the product if you want less coverage, or really buff it in, with a circular motion, to build up more coverage. The general rule with foundation brushes is that the more dense the brushes, the fuller the coverage you can get. My other favourite use for a foundation brush is to use it to clean up mistakes or wipe off eyeshadow that has dropped down when I’m doing the rest of my makeup, using the leftover foundation remaining on the brush.

Multi-purpose face brush

Real Techniques Contour Brush

What a good name for a brush, eh? It’s definitely not the technical name, but it’s how I view this brush. My absolute favourite is the Real Techniques Contour Brush. I use this baby for blush (powder, cream, and liquid), contouring, highlighting, and even powder application – so basically all face uses aside from foundation! This is my fave for traveling because even though I’ll usually have one brush for each of these uses when I’m at home, this brush can easily replace all of them. The small, tapered shape is so good for multi-tasting.

Fluffy blending brush

Mac 217

If I had to pick one single favourite brush for eyeshadow, it’s hands-down the classic MAC 217. The natural bristles are slightly fluffy but tapered at the point. This means that you can use this brush to apply an all-over wash of colour, but it’s also perfectly shaped to apply darker colours along your crease, getting into smokey-eye territory. You want a more tapered point for applying eyeshadow in the crease because it gives you more control over where the product goes. I actually have two of these; I use one to apply my crease colour, and I always keep one clean, free of eyeshadow, to really get to work blending out the shadow, so that there’s no clear line between a base colour and your crease shadow.  When it comes to eyeshadow, blending is your best friend!

Flat shader brush

Real Techniques Shading Brush

This eye brush basically does the jobs my trusty Mac 217 can’t, and that’s because they’re so different in shape. This one, the Real Techniques Shading Brush, is quite small and has very dense bristles shaped into almost a square, ending in a flat, straight line, rather than a “tip” like the 217. This brush is great for pressing on darker eyeshadow along your crease and outer corner of the eye, especially when you want to build up the intensity of your smokey eye . Use this to really just get the colour down on your lids, and switch to a 217 for blending!  I also use this to apply eyeshadow along my lower lash line, and it works perfectly because it has a flat shape and is relatively small.

So there you have it – just four brushes can make a great starter set to cover most of your makeup brush needs! What makeup brush can you not live without?


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