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MAKEUP BRUSH 101 | The Best Brushes and How To Use Them

It’s so interesting to me to see which makeup brushes I tend to gravitate towards, out of the hundreds and hundreds I have tried, and what makes this brushes stand out. I thought it would be helpful to do a post and video showing each of my favorite brushes for face, eyes, and eyebrows and showing how I use each.

I have favorite brushes at every price point, so there is really something for everyone: beginner-friendly brushes, people looking to invest in brushes they’ll own forever, and some amazing deals. Most of the brushes mentioned are individual brushes, if you are looking for top brush set suggestions, those are coming soon on the blog!

MAKEUP BRUSH 101

1 | Composition

Brushes are made with three parts: a handle, bristles, and the metal section that holds them together, called the ferrule.

The handle and bristles need to be well attached to the ferrule to reduce shedding and get a lifetime of use out of a brush. Foundation brushes especially need to be made well as they get a lot of rotation on the bristles as you blend.

TIP | I prefer to use brushes with longer handles, as it’s best to grip brushes closest to the very end (farthest from the bristles), for the softest product application.

2 | Bristles

Makeup brush bristles can be made of synthetic fibers or natural hairs.

Synthetic fibers are man-made and natural hair brushes can either be cruelty-free, meaning collected from brushing farmed animals (the animals are not harmed) or they can come as a by-product of the meat industry. Most natural bristle brushes that are cruelty-free will be labeled as such.

Synthetic bristle brushes work best with cream products and also work well with powder formulas. Natural bristle brushes work with powder products.

You want to try to find the softest bristles possible, to reduce the wear-and-tear on your skin with use. I find this to be extra important with eye shadow brushes!

3 | Density

A brush’s density refers to how many bristles the brush has and how tightly packed they are at the base, the start of the ferrule. The more densely a brushes bristles are packed, the more product it will deposit.

4 | Length

The length of the bristles also determines how much pigmented is deposited. Longer bristles will deposit more sheer pigment and shorter bristles will put down more concentrated pigment. This is why bronzer brushes typically have long, fluffy bristles and an eyeshadow smudge brush will have extremely short, tightly packed bristles.

MY FAVORITE MAKEUP BRUSHES

And now, here are all my favorite brushes and how I use each one! I should mention, you by no means have to use or own this many brushes if you don’t want to, as many brushes can do double duty. I wanted to make sure you had solid recommendations in each category and also know how to use each brush.

SHOP THE PIC

Face: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Eyes: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Brows: 1 | 2

FACE BRUSHES

Brush 1 | Foundation Brush

favorite | IT Cosmetics Foundation Brush #101 ($24)

use | apply + blend foundation quickly

This is one of the few makeup brushes that I own multiple of. It’s such a great foundation brush that I like to always have a fresh one ready to use. Using a foundation brush has made my base routine so much faster.

I dab dots of foundation all over my face with this brush and then blend in small circles. I love how well made this foundation brush is, each of the three brushes I own has stood up to years of use and still works as new!

Brush 2 | Concealer Brush

favorites | hourglass ($38) . rare beauty ($16) . moda ($13 for 4 piece set)

use | buff + smooth concealer

I tend to blend my concealer with my fingers, to maintain as much coverage as possible. Then, I use a very dense concealer brush in in a tapping motion over the concealer to blend the edges and concealer seamlessly into the rest of my makeup.

Brush 3 | Powder Brush

favorites | Real Techniques: amazon . ulta beauty

use | setting liquid + cream products

I love this small brush, it’s by far one of the most useful brushes I own! I have multiple of these and use them to apply powder under my eyes, in my T-zone and anywhere else on my face I want to take down shine. The smaller size is just perfect to set every nook-and-cranny on my face.

I also love this brush for applying powder blush and powder highlight. It’s truly a must-have brush!

Brush 4 | Bronzer Brush

favorites | Moda #130 | $9 (save 10% with this link + code GGG at checkout) . IT Cosmetics Dome Brush #108 | $26

use | applying bronzer + loose powders

I love a dome shaped bronzer brush for easy blending. The rounded edge helps so that I don’t have any harsh lines and also makes it easier to get bronzer into the corners of my forehead. I tap this brush twice into my bronzer, then place it where the sun would hit on my face and pull I back into my hairline.

Brush 5 | Cream Blush + Contour

favorites | e.l.f. stipple . Zoeva 110: amazon . beautybay

use | applying + blending cream or liquid cheek products

These rounded edge brushes are perfect for applying and blending cream blush and contour. I will pick up only one tap of product, then use a stipple technique to apply. To stipple, you press-and-lift, press-and-lift, and repeat until the product is applied and blended.

I generally use my Fenty stick to contour, so I will grab the Zoeva 100 brush to blend that out with the same stippling motion, always going back and up towards my hair line.

Brush 6 | Highlight

favorites | IT Cosmetics 140 ($22) . real techniques ($8). moda brush ($10 for 4 brush set – save 10% with code: GGG)

use | applying + blending powder highlighters

On days I wear powder highlighter, these small brushes are perfect for applying and blending with precision. I will pick up highlighter on one side of the brush and sweep on the high points of my cheekbones, going back towards my hairline. Then, I flip the brush over and blend using the clean side of the brush that has no product on the bristles.

Brush 7 | Powder Blush Brush

favorites | Laura Mercier Cheek Color Brush $46 . real techniques

use | applying + blending powder cheek products

There are so many shapes and styles to blush brushes! Two of my favorites are a dome shaped brush that looks a bit like a small tennis racket and the more rounded Real Techniques brush again. You can see why I own multiple of these!

For more concentrated color, with the dome shaped brush, I pick up blush on one side and pat it into my cheeks, then flip the brush over and use the clean side to blend.

For more sheer color, I’ll grab the small round brush (or when I am I a rush, the tip of my bronzer brush) and use a swirling, circle motion, moving back towards my hairline.

Brush 8 | Blenders

favorites | Nars Kabuki . BeautyBlender Pro . Ilia . Moda

use | final step in blending base + color products for airbrushed look

This step I have found to be so crucial in getting really well blended makeup! These brushes are twice the size of foundation brushes and very densely packed. The beautyblender is a sponge with a unique texture, that doesn’t absorb products, but gives an airbrushed finish.

For days I want fuller coverage makeup, I will take a my large blending brush and use a circle motion over my foundation (after it’s already been applied) to buff out any lines. I will also go over the edges of blush, highlighter, etc and make sure that it all seamlessly transitions in to the rest my face. The key with these very dense brushes is to use incredibly light pressure, so that everything gets blended, but it doesn’t disrupt makeup or tug on skin.

For days I want more sheer coverage, I will take a damp beauty blender (that I let sit for about 20 minutes) and bounce that over my foundation and at the edges of other makeup. The bouncing motion is a light tap-tap all over my skin.

EYE BRUSHES

Brush 1 | Blending Brush

favorite | elf blending eye brush ($4)

use | lid prep, blending + “one-and-done” eyeshadows

I like using this fluffy brush to prep my eye lid with a light dusting of powder after eyeshadow primer, so that my eyeshadow glides on easily and smoothly. This is also a nice brush for applying “one-and-done” eyeshadows and/or cream shadows.

Brush 2 | Fluffy Crease Brush

favorite | IT Cosmetics Crease Brush #105 ($14)

use | this brush applies and blends my eyeshadow transition shade to the area above the crease of my eyelid

I like to use a fluffy brush here so that the color is very diffused and light.

The IT Cosmetics fluffy crease is my favorite crease brush. It’s incredibly soft and my shadow always applies and blends evenly with this brush. It’s one of the few brushes that I own a 2nd of, just to make sure I always have a clean one ready for use.

Brush 3 | Pointed Crease

favorite | wayne goss ($23)

use | creating depth at eye crease

I use the tapered edge of this brush to place a slightly deeper and warmed reddish brown eyeshadow color from the center of my eye crease in towards my nose. This gives the illusion of bigger eyes and more lid space.

I use light strokes in small dash motions to create this one large line.

Brush 4 | Pencil Brush

favorites | moda detail Individual ($5) . 4 piece Set ($20) (code GGG to save 10%) amazon | Tom Ford Smokey Eye #14 ($53) | e.l.f. smudge #202 ($6)

use | under eye + creating outer corner eye shape

I love using a pencil brush to apply and blend my transition eyeshadow shade under my eye. I also will place a bit of the same shadow on my upper lid at the outer corner and pull it in towards my lid, using this same brush.

The narrowed tip of these brushes helps get shadow as close to the lash line as possible. It also helps me create the perfect lifted shape on the outer part of my upper lid. I can’t do my makeup without one of these brushes!

Brush 5 | Lid

favorites | surratt ($50) . wayne goss ($26) . morphe M210 ($4)

use | packing shadow on eye lid

With a tapping motion, I place eyeshadow down across my eye lid using this brush with a curved top. The curved top makes it easy to get definition between the eye lid and crease. I start from the base of my lashes and work up towards the crease.

Brush 6 | Smudge

favorite | smudge brush

use | setting + blending eye liner

This brush has extremely short and dense bristles to pick up a very concentrated amount of eyeshadow. This is great for setting liner or when you want to use eyeshadow as your liner.

I tab the top of my smudge brush into the shadow, then press it as close as I can to my lash line. The goal is to get the shadow in between my lashes, to create the look of more dense and full eye lashes. I lift and repeat this motion, instead of trying to do one larger line, which would make the brush skip and the line uneven.

At the outer corner of my lid, I place the brush up and out (instead of smudging into my lash line), to create a lifted look to my eyes.

Brush 7 | Liner Brush

favorites | e.l.f. cosmetics . real techniques set

use | applying gel liner or inner corner eye highlight

These narrow brushes are used for applying gel eye liner or inner corner highlight. I don’t wear a ton of gel liner, but if I do, I pick up a small amount on this brush, wipe it back across the lid of the gel pot, and then use the same small dash strokes to create one larger, smooth line.

This is also the perfect size for applying inner corner highlight. I grab a small amount on the tip of the brush and apply and blend in a “V” shape at the inner corner of my eye. This size is ideal for creating a natural amount of shimmer, without the product being visible.

EYEBROW BRUSHES

Brush 1 | Eye Brow

favorites | brow gal ($18) . abh #7B ($18)

use | these ultra thin brow brushes are great for creating thin, hair like brow strokes.

They can be used with either dip brow or powder formulas. Once you try a super thin brush vs the thicker styles, it’s a total game changer! I’m finally able to create lines that look as thin as my natural eyebrow hairs.

Brush 2 | Flat Edge

favorite | luxie 221 ($14)

use | cleaning up around brows

This is a small makeup step that has made a huge difference for me. It cleans up the look of my brows and makes them look lighter.

I take this flat edge brush and a brow highlighter or concealer and draw a very thin line under and over my brows. I use the edge if this brush for the thinnest thin possible, and start at the front of my brows, going out towards the tail.

SHOP BRUSHES

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Thank you for reading and being a part of the blog!  – Molly

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