One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years of being a makeup artist is how important your makeup brushes are.
Surprisingly, it is also one of the parts in my own makeup routine that I find myself neglecting the most. When I talk to people about their makeup brushes, they often tell me how they’ve been using the same brushes for the past ten years, they haven’t washed them, and they’re falling apart at the seams. They’re also usually confused as to why their makeup never turns out the way they want it to.
Ladies, if there is one piece of advice I can give you about your makeup routine, it is that your brushes matter, and the cost of them does not.
Let me elaborate.
Your makeup brushes are important. They are the tools you are using to paint your canvas with. If you wanted to create a painting with precise, detailed lines, you wouldn’t use a frayed old paint brush which is missing half it’s bristles. So why would you use your makeup brushes in your makeup routine any differently?
The amount of money you spend on your brushes doesn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great quality brushes for a pretty price tag, but there are some equally great quality brushes for a fraction of the cost!
This article is going to be all about which brushes you should have in your kit, which brands are worth spending your money on, and how to clean your brushes and maintain their quality so you can get the most out of them.
What Makeup Brushes Do I Need?
This question can be a little bit of a big one. There really isn’t a magic number for how many brushes you should have in your kit. It’s a personal preference which is determined by trial and error. I am going to walk you through the basic brushes you should have in your kit to achieve a well done look with maximum efficiency.
For your face brushes you’re going to want three different kinds. One for liquid foundation, one for powder foundation, and one for cheeks/ bronzer.
One of the best and easiest brushes to use for liquid foundations is the Complexion Buffer Buffing Brush from EcoTools. It’s a flat top buffing brush which has densely packed, longer bristles for a streak free, full coverage application.
Pro Tip: For a more skin like, lighter coverage finish to your foundation use circular motions to buff in the product. For a fuller coverage look, use the brush to push the product into the skin, rather than swirling it in.
For your powder foundation and/ or setting powder, you’re going to want a large fluffy brush which will lightly dust your powder over your skin. The Sheer Powder Brush from EcoTools is perfect for this. The full yet loosely packed bristles evenly distribute a fine layer of powders to help you prevent a cakey look.
Your cheek and bronzer brush should be similar to your powder brush, but shaped slightly different. I prefer a brush which is fluffy but narrow, that way I can loosely apply the product in a more precise manner. My favourite cheek/ bronzer brush is Studio Complexion Brush from e.l.f Cosmetics.
The most versatility, do-it-all makeup tool, and probably my personal favourite out of all of them, is a makeup sponge. And no, I’m not talking about the little pull apart triangles your mom probably had when you were growing up. I’m talking about the brightly coloured, tear drop shaped sponges that grow to 5 times their size when put in water. The makeup sponges can be used for almost ever step of your face makeup, starting from your moisturizer all the way to your powders! My personal favourite is the original Beauty Blender but spending $30 on a sponge isn’t always feasible so the Real Techniques makeup sponge is the next best thing for a much smaller cost.
Pro Tip: To use your sponge, soak it under water until it no longer grows any larger, ring out the excess water and apply your products. To use with powder, make sure the sponge is damp, not soaking wet.
When it comes to eyes and the brushes you’ll need, there are a couple of key brushes will definitely bring your eye looks to the next level.
For the eyes, there are three brushes you should have: a flat concealer brush, a fluffy blending brush, and a pencil brush.
A flat concealer brush is a great staple brush to have in your kit. It can be used for a ton of different steps in your routine such as cleaning up the shape of your eyebrows, applying eye shadow to your eye lids, spot concealing and highlighting the face. A great affordable flat concealer brush is this Concealer brush from e.l.f cosmetics.
Your blending brush is what is going to really make your eye looks stand out. It is going to help give you that smooth colour transition from your eyelid to your eye brows. There are a ton of blending brushes out there with different shapes, sizes, and densities, however, if you are just starting out and want one brush that can do it all the Fluffy Eye Blender brush from e.l.f cosmetics is great. It has a tapered shape which allows for a more precise product placement if needed, but it has lightly packed bristles which are very helpful when trying to achieve a smokey, blended look.
Pro Tip: To create the ultimate smokey eye shadow look with only one blending brush, start by applying your lightest colour and work your way to the darkest. Once all of your colours have been applied, go back into your lightest shade and use it to blend all the colours together.
The pencil brush is one that is often overlooked. It doesn’t appear to have much use to it when you first see it but it can make a huge difference in your eye makeup! I love using a pencil brush for applying colour on the lower lash line, in the corner of the eye to give a more awake look, to apply eye shadow as an eyeliner while I’m running out the door, or even to highlight your brow bone. A great pencil brush will be stiff, but still have movement so it can seamlessly blend out your shades while maintaining the intensity of the colour. The Beautifully Precise Smudge brush from e.l.f cosmetics is a really good, affordable pencil brush to add to your collection.
What Makeup Brush Brands Is The Best?
This is a tricky question to answer for multiple reasons. I think there is a degree of personal preference when it comes to brushes and makeup brush brands. What I use my brushes for may be completely different than how you use your brushes. There are no rules when it comes to this stuff, so if it works for you then do it!
There are a couple of brands I find myself getting a lot of my own brushes from for reasons like, cost, quality, and accessibility. Having a family is expensive and as much as I’d love to spend money on the expensive high-end brushes (maybe one day) it just doesn’t feel like smart spending for me. Because of that, I find myself always on the hunt for affordable brushes which provide great quality. I also am not a huge fan of buying makeup and makeup tools online. I prefer to be able to feel and test out in person before I buy, and you can’t do that when you’re buying online so being able to easily find them in store is important.
My go to makeup brush brands are e.l.f cosmetics, EcoTools, and Real Techniques. Each brand is totally affordable (brushes range from $3.00-$25.00, at most) and can be found in almost any Walmart, grocery store, or drugstore. EcoTools and Real Techniques will also sell brushes in kits which make it even easier to get the ones you need!
How Do I Clean My Brushes?
One thing people often neglect is keeping their brushes clean. I am totally guilty of not cleaning my personal brushes as much as I should, but I know from my profession brushes which I use on clients, having clean brushes is the first step to a great makeup application.
When it comes to cleaning your brushes you have a couple of different products which you can use, depending on the time you have.
For a quick clean between colours or products, using a dry brush cleanser such as Dry Clean Instant Brush Cleanser by Sephora is perfect. You just lightly mist your brush with the cleanser and swirl it around on a towel or paper towel to remove the product sitting on the surface of the bristles. I use this in my kit when I am doing weddings or appointments with multiple clients back to back. My brushes stay dry and I can easily remove the products on them. After spraying them down with alcohol they are clean, sanitized and ready to be used on the next face!
For a deep clean which removes the product build up which happens over time, I use plain old baby shampoo. I have been using Johnson’s Baby shampoo but that is really only because now we have gallons of it since having Rhys. Any baby shampoo will do the trick for cleaning your brushes.
The reason I use baby shampoo is because your brushes are delicate. To maintain the quality of the bristles you have to use gentle, moisturizing cleansers on them and what is more gentle than cleanser meant for brand new babies?
To clean your brushes, hold them by the handle upside down, with the bristles pointed down and saturate the bristles with warm water. I like to keep a little cup of the shampoo beside me so all I have to do is dunk the brush in the product and swirl the brush around the palm of my hand. After you have cleaned the brush, rinse it upside down under the warm water until the water runs clear. Squeeze out the excess and shape the brush with your hand. Lay it down on a towel to dry and when the brush is no longer wet, you can fluff it up again to bring it back to it’s original shape.
Pro Tip: Holding your brushes upside down while cleaning prevents water from getting into the handle and wearing out the glue. To keep your brushes for longer, try and avoid getting too much water anywhere other than the bristles.
To clean your makeup sponge, wet the sponge and apply a small amount of baby shampoo on it. Squish the sponge and roll it between your hands to work the shampoo into the sponge and create a lather. To rinse it, hold it under the water and squish it to absorb and ring out the soap and products. Once there are no more suds and the water runs clear, remove all the excess water and leave out to dry fully.
In conclusion, your brushes can make a big difference in your makeup application. While there is no magical number for how many brushes you should have, there are a few staples which are beneficial to have in your kit. Keeping them clean is a timely task, but can prevent damage to the brushes as well as keeping your skin clean and clear from any breakouts.
If you are looking at improving your makeup routine, or are look at adding some new makeup tools to your kit, these brushes would be a great start!