Are Expensive Makeup Brushes Worth the Money? We Asked the Pros

Plus, what brushes to buy if you're on a budget.

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Whether you apply a full face of makeup every day or just wear makeup on occasion, the right brush can make all the difference. While many of us will admit we probably use that free brush that came with our last eyeshadow and it was just fine—could it be worth it to invest in more expensive makeup brushes? Do expensive makeup brushes really help you apply makeup better than cheap ones? What should you buy if you want to invest in makeup brushes but are on a budget? Here’s what the experts have to say.

Are Cheap Makeup Brushes Just as Good as Expensive Ones?

While an inexpensive drugstore mascara might work as well as one you buy at Sephora, the same rule unfortunately does not apply to makeup brushes. According to Brittany Lo, professional makeup artist and founder of Beia, “One of the biggest differences with high-quality brushes are the bristles. Cheaper brushes tend to have bristles that shed while applying makeup.”

Makeup artist Nick Lujan, who is the director of artistry and education for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, shares a similar sentiment. ”I suppose this might be more subjective based on what one considers expensive. From my perspective, really good brushes range from $20 to $70 dollars per tool.”

Cheap brushes don't work as well because they're less durable and need to be replaced more often. Marcia Williams, founder of Embellish Beauty, also prefers pricier brushes. However, she tells me that Real Techniques brushes are good and won't break the bank. 

How to Choose Makeup Brushes

If you can only budget for a few good makeup brushes, it’s crucial to think about what you’ll really use. For example, if you wear liquid eyeliner most of the time, there's no need to splurge on an expensive eyeliner brush. Never use a lip brush? Why start now? 

Still not sure what to buy? Lo suggests opting for brushes designed for the face. “Powder brushes, blush brushes, and foundation brushes are worth the investment.”

Avoid Brush Sets

While it might be tempting to buy a brush set that includes everything, Lujan tells me it's best to avoid these because they won’t last in the long run. “In my experience, a pre-made, reduced-price, set of brushes typically features a lower quality product at a greater value—which [can be] great for discovering what you like. But these tools will not last long and will eventually fall apart or start to feel poky on the skin. I am a believer that the right tool will make your application much easier and give better results.”

Splurge Smartly

If you’re going to splurge on makeup brushes, make sure they are worth the money. Lujan recommends Kevyn Aucoin’s new Artist Brush Series which he helped develop. These brushes are dual-headed so you're getting two brushes designed to work together for the price of one. So, they might be a splurge, but they’re still a better value than single-headed brushes in the same price range. 

One of the best brushes from the line is the Duet Foundation Brush. There’s a cover end for applying foundation and a buffing end to help blend. The buffing end can easily replace a disposable makeup sponge, which means the brush ends up paying for itself over time. 

The Duet Concealer Brush also has cover and buffing ends. Not only does it help your concealer look better, but less product is wasted. A high-quality makeup brush can also make you feel more confident because you’ll know your makeup is properly applied. 

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