10 Essential Makeup Brushes and How to Use Them

Including the pricey ones makeup artists say are worth the investment.

Photo: Getty Images

Makeup brushes are a necessary tool for every makeup lover. Whether you're a professional or a novice, there are some brushes you should have in your collection to help make cosmetics application easier. The right makeup brushes can offer professional-looking results, from a poreless complexion to a beautifully blended eyeshadow. That said, with so many brushes on the market, knowing exactly which ones you need and how to use them can be confusing.

"When choosing your makeup brushes, always go with what feels good, followed by the application test," says celebrity makeup artist and LARUCE Beauty ambassador, Janice Daoud. "The application test will allow you to see how the color is picked up, deposited, and blended. If the bristles of the brushes do the job, then it's the right brush for you."

But that's easier said than done, especially considering the different types, shapes, and styles of brushes. From big, fully round face brushes to detailed eye brushes, if you need help deciphering all of the options, we've got you covered.

We spoke with celebrity makeup artists to learn about the different makeup brushes, their functions, and which ones are an absolute necessity in your collection.

A Guide to Face Makeup Brushes

Foundation Makeup Brush

Anisa Beauty

To buy: ($38, anisabeauty.com)

Your foundation is the base of your makeup look, so invest in a high-quality brush that works with both liquid and powder formulas. Look for a soft brush that's a little bit dense and has enough surface area to cover the face. According to Anisa Telwar Kaicker, CEO and Founder of ANISA Beauty, a foundation brush is crucial to help create everything from full coverage to a natural "no-makeup" makeup look. "The right foundation brush sets the tone for a healthy complexion," she says.

Powder Makeup Brush


To buy: $18, sephora.com

Whether you're a fan of translucent or colored-powder products, a powder brush is another must-have. "The more fluffy, flexible, and soft the bristles are, the better it will be to blend and get a soft wash of color from any product," says celebrity makeup artist Melissa Hurkman.

Concealer Makeup Brush


To buy: $16, sephora.com

Like a foundation brush, a concealer brush can help create the perfect base for the rest of your makeup. These brushes tend to be a little smaller to target and cover discoloration on areas, like under the eyes and around the mouth and nose.

Blush Makeup Brush

Ulta Beauty

To buy: $6, ulta.com

According to Daoud, a blush brush is an important addition to any repertoire. She says you can use a blush brush for multiple purposes, including blush (of course) and other powder products, like bronzer and face powder. It's a versatile brush that helps distribute the product evenly and precisely because it's not as large as a powder brush.

Contour Makeup Brush


To buy: $35, sephora.com

Contour brushes come in all shapes and sizes. They're used for carving and sculpting the face to add dimension. You'll most commonly find angled contour brushes to help hug and sculpt the contours of the cheeks. These brushes are great for makeup lovers who feel comfortable with their application skills.

Highlight Makeup Brush


To buy: $12, ulta.com

Daoud says highlighter brushes are best for those who are very makeup savvy and want every kind of brush in their collection. Typically, these brushes are small and tapered to help apply the product to the high points of your face. A rounded brush like this is beginner-friendly. Another type of highlighter brush you might encounter is a fan brush, which is great for dusting powder highlighter on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, and other high points on the face.

A Guide to Eye Makeup Brushes

Eyeshadow Crease Brush


To buy: $22, sephora.com

An eye makeup brush everyone should own, according to Daoud, is an eyeshadow crease brush. These brushes are fluffy and tapered to get in the crease and add dimension to the eyes. Typically, you'll see beauty gurus applying a transition color with this brush if they're doing a bright or colorful eye look.

All-over Eyeshadow Brush


To buy: $24, sephora.com

A beginner-friendly eyeshadow brush is a rounded fluffy, all-over-eyeshadow brush, which does exactly as the name suggests. If you're still practicing how to blend and stick to one wash of color all over the lids, this will be your go-to tool.

Short Eyeshadow Brush


To buy: $28, larucebeauty.com

"The best and most necessary eye makeup brushes are small eye-detailed brushes," says Daoud. A small shadow brush (also known as a smudger brush) can add a highlighter on the inner corners of the eyes, smoke out the lower lash line with eyeshadow, or define the edges of your eyes, she says.

Angled Eyeliner Brush

Ulta Beauty

To buy: $32, ulta.com

There are a variety of eyeliner brushes out there. An angled eyeliner brush is great for getting that sharp, winged eyeliner look. However, you can also find eyeliner brushes that are pointed, like a pencil, which beginners may find a little bit easier to use.

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