As much as I love makeup, I admit that I still know relatively little about the ins and outs of makeup application. Sure, I can tap, tap, tap on my foundation and dab, dab, dab my concealer, brush my brows, put on some mascara, and throw on some blush, but anything more complicated than a two-color eye shadow look is definitely out of my realm.
But I LOVE elaborate makeup looks (like the full-blown contour/highlight/ eyeshadow/lip super glam look), and I’ve been desperate to teach myself—I mean, what else do I have to do during this time but learn a new skill?
After watching a handful of YouTube videos, it was clear to me that my set of five brushes from Real Techniques I got four years ago were not going to cut it. So, down the rabbit hole I went to try to find the essential makeup brushes I needed to achieve any look. Want to know what I found out? Keep reading!
If you’ve watched any makeup YouTube tutorial ever, you’ll know that the blending brush is an essential makeup brush that every person needs in their arsenal. This fluffy brush helps clean up any harsh lines and makes sure all of your eyeshadows are seamlessly blended. I’ve always loved the MAC 217 brush for this—it’s fluffy but also a bit dense, while the tapered brush shape ensures that the blending is super precise. It’s also a really good brush for applying pigment across the eyelid.
Large Powder Brush
Once I invested in a large powder brush, baking my face got a WHOLE lot easier. I primarily use it to brush away my powder after I’ve finished baking, or to apply blush, or even to apply a bit of bronzer around my forehead and jawline. My fave is the Real Techniques Powder Brush. It’s $10 and feels luxuriously soft on the skin.
I’m cheating because this technically isn’t a brush, but honestly there isn’t a brush on the market (IMO) that’s going to give your skin a perfectly airbrushed finish like a blending sponge will. I fell in love with the Beauty Blender, and I’ve tried to use other more affordable options, but nothing will compare. It couldn’t be easier to use—simply dot your face with your preferred foundation and gently tap the sponge in to diffuse the makeup into the skin. I love using my Beauty Blender when I want a barely-there, undetectable look.
Flat Eyeshadow Brush
I could never understand why I couldn’t get my lid pigment to really pop on my eyelids—until I realized I needed to apply it with a flat eyeshadow brush, and now my life has changed. If you want to try the trendy halo eye or simply add a bold pop of color to the lid without it spreading across the eye, this is the essential makeup brush you need. I like the Morphe 167 Brush for this—it’s very dense, small, and flat, allowing extreme precision on the lid. You can also use it to apply glitter in very small spaces too!
If you’ve been anywhere on social media or following beauty trends, you’ll know we’re moving away from harsh black eyeliners and moving into a more softer look—one that can be achieved using the eyeliner brush. This thin, angled brush is perfect for using with both gel and powder liners, and because it’s so angled, you get a super precise line. I love to spray mine with a bit of MAC Fix+ and then dip it into a dark brown eyeshadow for a soft liner look. My fave? The Morphe Angled Liner/Brow brush. This one has stiff bristles for an ultra-precise line and can also be used for your brows.
Fluffy Contour Brush
If you don’t want your contour to look like a paint-by-numbers picture, you’re gonna want to invest in a nice fluffy contour brush. Instead of giving you a harsh, painted-on line, it’s going to diffuse your bronzer/contour into the skin for a seamless, glowing-from-within finish. The Sigma F40 Large Angled Contour Brush is perfect for this, and you can also use it to apply your blush. We love a multi-use brush!
And finally last but certainly not least, we have the highlight brush. I decided to include this instead of a fan brush because fan brushes tend to give me harsh lines, whereas the highlight brush gives a nice li’l soft glow. Pick up some highlight on the brush and tap off the excess, then swipe up along the cheekbones and the tip of the nose. I love the BareMinerals Diffused Highlight Brush. It has a tapered tip so it places the highlight exactly where you want it to go, but it has a slight fluffiness that helps the highlight look natural when applied.
What are your favorite essential makeup brushes? Let me know in the comments!