Must-have makeup brushes: The 7 different types everyone needs in their kit

makeup brushes
Photography by Peter Stigter
must-have makeup brushes
Photography by Peter Stigter

Despite what you may think, makeup brushes are not reserved for the pros and the Kardashians. While the trend du jour may be a quick, easy application using your fingers, some looks require a brush to get your makeup just right. These backbones of your beauty bag will allow you to create everything from a pared-down face to a red carpet contour. And while the makeup brush aisle can often feel overwhelming, we’re here to curb your confusion. A cardinal rule is that a selection of brushes should be at the ready on your bathroom counter (even for the wash and go type). Fingers need not apply here, because when it comes to looking polished and professional, investing time and money in a few obligatory tools is key.

So to make sense of this makeup brush kerfuffle, we spoke with CoverGirl’S Makeup Pro, Veronica Chu. “The better made brushes typically have a higher price tag, but they also last longer. Between application and washing, your brushes go through a lot of wear and tear. Cheaper brushes tend to fall apart and lose bristles much more easily, so you’ll end up buying more over time. Even for the 5-minute makeup woman, good brushes are a must! They’ll result in easier application, reducing the time spent on retouching the makeup once it’s applied.”

But before we let the brushes out of the bag, let’s just clarify what bristles you should be looking out for, and what Chu recognizes as beneficial to your beauty routine. “When applying dry products, use natural bristle brushes as they’re more porous and will apply and blend the product more evenly. When using liquid or crème products, opt for synthetic bristles, as they’ll absorb less. The best multipurpose brushes are a blend of natural and synthetic bristles—ideally synthetic on one side and natural on the other. These brushes will provide the best of both worlds so they can be used with any product.” For a flawless face, creating a kit of your fundamental makeup brushes will simplify your beauty routine.

And before you start exercising your purchasing power, Chu adds that she “always recommends people research what each brush does and how to properly hold it. The more you know about your tools, the better your end result will be. For example, I see a lot of women who hold their brushes right at the base of the bristles – moving your hand up the barrel will give you more control and allow you to see the makeup as you apply it.”

As well, recognize that the upkeep of your brushes is just as paramount as the purchase itself. “It’s important that you wash your brushes about once a week (more if you wear heavy makeup). Not only will clean brushes help you achieve your desired shade, but they’ll work the way they’re intended to. A lot of women feel like their brushes “wear out” after only a few weeks or months, but in reality, a good brush should last a long time; try cleaning it and you’ll see your results improve.” It’s time to start buying into the brushes, and regarding them as part of the permanent team and not the benched rotation. And if you’re looking to steer this undertaking into red carpet territory, Chu suggests adding an angled contour brush and a stiff crease brush to your repertoire. So without further adieu, these are the seven makeup brushes everyone should have in their kit.

must-have makeup brushes

1. Blender Brush

This tool is quintessential when working with foundations and liquid-based products. For that airbrushed look, work this brush into your bag of tricks, and find yourself employing its capabilities more than you ever thought possible. Think smoky eyes to chiseled cheeks; your blending and building your abilities will now enter unchartered territories. To use, simply buff out and blend in the areas where added colour correction is appropriate.

Bobbi Brown Face Blender Brush ($58,

must-have makeup brushes

2. Blush Brush

A blush brush boasts a feathery feel with ultra-long bristles that are ideal for bringing life back into your cheeks. A softer bristle will create a more subtle flush, and a more densely packed brush will deliver a more potent colour payout. As well, many of these brushes are created with an angle in order to help you contour your cheekbones and define your structure with shading. So start considering this a staple in your arsenal that can be used for your blushes, bronzers and powders. Simply smile to find the apples of your cheeks, and sweep the product upwards towards the ears.

Julep Blush Brush ($24,

must-have makeup brushes

3. Concealer Brush

These brushes are not only helpful for removing foundation streaks, but they hide any signs of a breakout with considerable ease. If you opt for a flat or pointed brush, the tip will allow you to build colour and create coverage where required. On the other hand, a more rounded brush can contour your creases, and conceal dark under eyes with little to no effort. What makes these brushes better than your trusted sponge is that the bristles can maneuver into those areas your other tools (or fingers) cannot, especially those with fine lines and wrinkles.

Kevyn Aucoin The Concealer Brush ($38,

must-have makeup brushes

4. Powder Brush

Whether you’re devoted to loose or pressed powders, these bristles will disperse the product evenly over your complexion. This particular branch of brush also happens to be the most widely used, making it a must-own if you don’t already. This tool will also prove to be helpful when working on your finishing touches such as setting powder. Just ensure you’re applying product with large sweeping motions across the face, and buffing where necessary.

M.A.C Cosmetics 134 Large Powder Brush ($63,

must-have makeup brushes

5. Eyeliner Brush

This is another brush that can work numerous jobs for the price of one. From winged liner to darkened waterlines and straight edges, this tool will be your preeminent show pony. When applying liquid liner, ensure you’re gripping the tool as if it were a pencil, holding it closer to the base rather than the bristles. This technique will take practice, but it ensures a cleaner line.

Sephora Collection Precision Eyeliner Brush #92 ($15,

must-have makeup brushes

6. Double-Ended Shadow Brush

Finding your ideal eye shadow brush can be complicated, considering the seemingly endless abundance of varieties on the market. If you relish in trying new trends, investing in several shapes and sizes is suggested. For the everyday application, though, one multi-purpose brush is more than enough. This double-duty tool is small enough for blending your shadows and flat enough to pick up the product. Just remember to avoid applying your shadow with a heavy hand, as it’s considerably easier to build colour than it is to subtract. To use effectively, sweep the shadow over the lid, starting from the inner corner working outwards, blending and buffing lightly.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Double Ended Brush ($24,

must-have makeup brushes

7. Brow Brush

Brows are having a considerable beauty moment, and this brush will help you fill in those sparse and fine hairs to give you fuller brows. Just work the wand upwards to create a more feathered and natural arch. And by using shorter brush strokes, apply the product up and outwards in short, light strokes.

WAXON Waxbar Brow Brush ($15,