Perusing an aisle filled with makeup brushes can conjure up some very confusing feelings. Most of the brushes look so cool and are uniquely beautiful (and let’s face it, we’re suckers for packaging), which makes us want to buy every single one—but studying all off the brushes can also strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned makeup aficionados. What the hell are we supposed to do with all of these brushes?
Brushes for your face, brushes for your eyes, brushes for your brows—they’re all out there, and they’re all pretty much essential for getting your makeup on just right. So, as a public service, we’ve rounded up a makeup brush guide you’ll want to get your hands on, post haste. And, of course, we’ve included how to use all 13 of ’em.
Originally published July 2012. Updated September 2017.
The unassuming fan brush has several key purposes: You can use it to sweep on blush, blend other makeup, clean up excess powder, and brush a light layer of highlighter along the cheekbones.
Necessary for filling in your brows with powder—a good brow brush should be angled so that you can tackle even the thin tail-ends.
The most ubiquitous of all brushes, the powder brush should be in every makeup collection—use it to apply any type of powder product.
Eye blending brush
The name is a dead giveaway: This brush is a must-have for blending eyeshadow into your lids.
Use the tiny squared-off tip of a lip brush to get a crisp, defined line of color.
With its wide rounded bristles and super soft feel, the kabuki is perfect for applying everything from loose powders to bronzer and highlighter.
The tapered but soft bristles of this brush make it perfect for precise shadow application.
Angled face brush
The easiest way to add definition to your face—just sweep on some bronzer in the hollows of your cheeks using a fluffy angled brush. Perfect for applying blush or highlighter, too.
Firm, narrow, and tapered at the end, concealer brushes are the best way to put concealer exactly where it needs to go.
Score a smokey eye with a soft-bristled smudge brush.
Brow brush and comb
You can use this multipurpose tool for grooming both your lashes and brows—comb through your lashes to get mascara clumps out, and use the brush to perfect your brows.
Not technically a brush, but an essential tool nonetheless. Perfect for using with liquid foundations, concealers, and pretty much anything, it leaves skin with a smooth, flawless finish.