Brushes 101

Have you ever tried applying eyeshadow with the little brush that comes with the packaging, and wondered why your makeup doesn’t look like it does on the advertisement?

Besides the fact that you can’t hit the ‘Photoshop’ button on your face, don’t forget that the makeup artist working on set of that ad was probably using the best makeup brushes out there. Makeup brushes haven’t been an ‘optional’ purchase since we graduated junior highschool and got a little more serious about our makeup and tools. A good brush could mean the difference between an uneven, unblended finish, and a flawless finish.

Now, before you jump the gun and run out the door yelling “I’m going to Sephora to buy a brush right now!”, let’s go over the different types of makeup brushes you’ll encounter at the store. Makeup brushes, like a bikini, are not a ‘one size fits all’. There are different types designed for different purposes, they’re made from a wide variety of materials and come with a wide range of prices.

Here’s the main types of makeup brushes you may see:

1. Foundation brush

 foundation brush
Sure, using your fingers to rub foundation onto your face is OK, but try a good foundation brush and you’ll never go back to finger applications. A foundation rush has a flat shape with long, soft bristles, so your foundation is flawlessly applied and blended.

My picks – Splurge: MAC #190 Foundation Brush ($33). A classic and popular tool found in pouches of many professional makeup artists. It’s super smooth, and uber soft. Budget: Ecotools Bamboo Foundation Brush ($6). Cruelty-free, soft, synthetic fibres (made with Taklon). It’s eco friendly and works really well with cream foundations.

2. Concealer brush

If you could see the amount of bacteria that hides under your fingernails, you’d think twice about using your fingers to apply concealer – especially on a blemish. Concealer brushes either come in a tiny size (for blemishes), or a medium size (for under-eye shadows). Using a concealer brush rather than your finger will also help the product to be concentrated on the area you’re trying to cover – and not in places you don’t need it.

My picks – Splurge: Smashbox Precision Concealer Brush #5 ($20). The tapered tip really helps with precise application, even along the lower lash line. Budget: e.l.f. Studio Concealer Brush Small ($3). Anti bacterial (very important when dealing with blsmies!), vegan friendly, and absorbent. e.l.f. really nails it with this one.

3. Powder brush

powder brush
Remember watching your mom dust her face with a large brush and face powder, and thinking “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to wear makeup”? That brush, ladies, was probably her powder brush. Powder brushes are used to dust loose powder over your face to set your makeup, and to eliminate any shine. They usually come as a large, fluffy and loosely bound brush, or a short tightly bound Kabuki-type.

My picks – Splurge: MAC #182 Buffer Brush ($52). It’s extra soft (made from Goat hair), and blends unbelievably. Budget: Sigma #F30 Large Powder Brush ($19). Big, fluffy, and soft, this one’s a steal for the price.

4. Eyeshadow brush

There’s probably more types of eyeshadow brushes out there than you can count. Medium-sized for the lid, small-sized for outer socket of the eye, large-sized to add highlights to the browbone, a specialized blending brush for, well, blending, and the list goes on. Depending on what kind of look you’re going for, try to get the brush that will help bring your makeup up to its best potential.

My picks – Splurge: Bobbi Brown Eye Smudge Brush ($28). This top-rated smudge brush is great for blending and smoothing harsh lines of colour on lids and creases. It also works amazing as just an eyeshadow brush. Budget: Sigma’s #E60 Large Shader Brush ($11). This one’s great for those of us that have a large eyelid canvas to work with. One swipe, and the colour’s firmly set! The bristles are firm, and the shape of the brush is pretty flat so it helps to uniformly cover the entire lid at once. Works great with cream eyeshadows too.

5. Blush brush

Your blush brush should have oh-so-soft bristles, and rather larger in size. Blush brushes can come in a variety of shapes, like a rounder long-bristle shape like the Foundation brush, or in a flat long-bristle shape like an open Asian fan.

My picks – Splurge: NARS Blush Brush ($65) is a cult favourite, and is made of Pony hair and feels like a baby’s butt on your cheeks. Budget: e.l.f. Studio Blush Brush ($3) is amazingly soft for synthetic fibres (made of Taklon), and have a smooth application for wet or dry blushes

6. Lip brush

lip brush
While applying lipstick directly on your lips is totally fine, try it once using a lip brush and you’ll notice the difference. A good lip brush will give you more accurate coverage, and help make your lipstick last longer. Lip brushes are usually small in size with short-bristles, similar to a small-sized concealer brush.

My picks – Splurge: MAC #318 Retractable Lip Brush ($23). This little itty bitty thing that extends to a full size once out of your clutch, has a firm shape with a tapered tip for soft application. Toss it in your bag, and go! Budget: e.l.f. Essential Lip Defining Brush ($1). It’s amazing what you can get with just a dollar – this lip brush is softer than some of the others, which is ideal for softening lip pencil lines and a softer application all-over.

7. Eyebrow brush

eyebrow brush
A groomed pair of brows will help frame your face and bring out your best features, whether it be your eyes, lips, or cheekbones. Eyebrow brushes generally have an angled tip, so that it can help you direct hair and add strands where needed.

My picks – Splurge: Smashbox Angle Brow Brush #12 ($20). Great for eyebrow wax users! It’s stiffer than most, to help get the precise application to create a fuller set of brows. Budget: Sigma’s #E75 Angled Brow Brush ($11). This one’s also great for applying eyebrow wax with, is firm with a sharp angle for accurate strokes.

Generally speaking, brushes made from natural materials like animal hair (Pony hair is popular, so is Rabbit) are much softer and easier on the skin. But there’s lots of companies doing the synthetic fibre brushes very well these days (Ecotools, e.l.f., etc.), and a lot of them promise that they’re animal cruelty-free and eco friendly.

If you’re looking for a good set, I recommend Bobbi Brown’s Basic Brush Collection ($175). Bobbi Brown makeup brushes are very well known and respected by the pros, so if you’re going to invest in a set, this is one of the best you can get!

If you are looking for a “steal”, we love Sephora + Pantone Universe’s Luminous gorgeous silver and white set ($68) and QUO Cosmetics Professional Interchangeable Set ($35). 


Jenny aka ‘Koko’ is YouTube beauty guru, with her tutorials for hair, makeup and nails garnering a lot of attention. Jenny maintains that she’ll always be a student of the beauty industry – always curious to learn more so she can spread the tips and tricks to the rest of the world. 

Tags: bobbi brown, brush review, brushes, ecotools, Elf, MAC, Makeup & Nails, makeup brush, review, sigma

Related Posts

Previous Post Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *