A work of art is only as good as the tools used to create it—probably doesn’t apply to a Rembrandt, but when it comes to your makeup, the tools you use matter. Brushes don’t have to be expensive to be high quality, though sometimes the expensive ones do perform better, depending on what you’re using them for. Typically a good brush will be able to grasp and pick up product well and transfer it to your face without too much fall-out or streaky marks. Whether real or synthetic, as long as their hairs can perform, there’s no creed that says animal vs. non-animal hair brushes are better. As a general rule of thumb, makeup brands make tools to be used with their makeup, so chances are if you’re shopping for a brand’s certain kind of eyeshadow, the best brush for it may very well be offered by the same line. That said, not all brushes are created equal, so some may make certain ones better than others and some may be just good enough for your needs. Here’s some of our go-to makeup brushes for nearly any need.
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Sonia Kashuk slays the game for accessible and affordable makeup, releasing a new collection of gorgeous brushes almost every season. You could literally replace your whole brush set twice a year and still have money left over for a celebratory dinner about it. Her latest offering this spring is the Art Of Makeup Brush Set, created in collaboration with Linda Mason, a visual and makeup artist who mentored Sonia. The hot pink brushes will be available in May and are a mixture of synthetic and cruelty-free goat hair.
(Sonia Kashuk Art of Makeup, $35.99 at Target)
Best Brow Tamer
Who better would know how to define and tame your brows than Anastasia Beverly Hills? Her Duo Brow/Liner brush has an angled brush that can be used with brow powder or her pomade for brow definition and filling, while the spooley side grooms those brows (or wipes mascara clumps from your lashes). Way more than two uses, this brush can be used for brows and eyes for total eye makeup control.
(Anastasia Beverly Hills Duo Brow/Eye Liner Angled Cut/Spooley Brush #12, $18 at Ulta)
Best Foundation Brush
Bareminerals made us ooh and ahh over their new gel tinted BB cream, but little did we know that the brand also figured out how to use foundation brushes that don't just make our makeup look pushed around with brush marks. This brush has a little reservoir in the center for product to sit as your buff it into your skin for the most naturally invisible finish.
(Bareminerals Perfecting Face Brush, $28 at Barescentuals.com)
Most Affordable Brushes
E.l.f. falls a bit under the radar at times, even though while found in drugstores they're not totally accessible in every one. Their studio collection makeup brushes are vegan-friendly and have super soft bristles that really perform. The black matte handles make them look much chicer than a $3 buy at your drugstore—that's right, any brush from this collection is between $3-6. You can collect them all, or choose a la carte, the ones you need.
(E.l.f. Studio Brush Collection, $3-6 at Eyeslipsface.com)
Best Eyeshadow Brush
Leave it to MAC to give you the best tools to use with their amazing cosmetics. Their 239 Eye Shading brush is one of their most popular makeup brushes for its super soft and densely-packed bristle that picks up and delivers intense color, wet or dry.
(MAC 239 Brush, $25 at MACcosmetics.com)
Best Face Brushes
NARS has got your back as far as looking flawless goes. So naturally, they wouldn't give you anything less than perfection with their weapons of choice. This Kabuki set is swiftly become a crowd favorite. The brush shapes are multifunctional but work best for any kind of blending and coloring, be it soft or intense. Based on Japanese beauty and theater rituals of Kabuki, these brushes give you the ability to create beautifully sculpted looks.
(Nars Kabuki Brushes, $55 at Nars)
Beauty Bloggers Favorite
Real Techniques brushes are the kinds of beauty things that get popular through word of mouth, and because, well—they work. So many beauty bloggers sing praises for this affordable and quality brush line. Any brush is generally less than $20, with so many sets available for less than $30. The brushes were created with their use in mind, so you'll see lots of sculpted brush heads and tapered parts that are meant to give the most precise control and the best blending ability.
(Real Techniques Makeup Brushes, $8-20 at realtechniques.com)
Best Eyeliner Brush
Other than a liquid liner pen, the next best thing to apply liner with is a bent liner brush. The angle is made to fit into your hand to give you the most comfort and control of your lines. For gel liner users, this brush rules. No more awkward hand angles with this brush. You'll find that it's never been easier to create a cat eye with this bad boy.
(Sephora Pro Bent Liner Brush #23, $17 at Sephora)
If we're being honest, we probably don't clean our brushes as often as we should be. Sephora's Deluxe Antibacterial Brush Set has seven most-used brushes created with antimicrobial technology to repel bacteria that could irritate your sensitive skin. So while your blemishes may diminish, we can't promise that your color will be on point if you see their anti-germ technology as another reason not to wash them.
(Sephora Deluxe Antibacterial Brush Set, $60 at Sephora)