Have you ever seen those lush-looking makeup brush kits? Perhaps you’re wafting through the mall with a gourmet cup of coffee in hand, and you see it in the window at Sephora or some other fab beauty place. And you think, “Ooooo! OMG! I want that!” Maybe you’re shopping for something online and a cool brush kit is one of the recommended items so you tap it into your cart.
But do you really need ALL those makeup brushes?
Let us answer that with a question of our own: are you a professional makeup artist? If you are, then yes, you’d probably want a massive spread of makeup brushes so you can create all kinds of looks for your clients as well as for yourself.
But if you’re just trying to create your own best looks for work, dates, brunch with friends, and those sorts of things, you maybe wondering how many makeup brushes do I need? And what for?
To create virtually any look all you need is a Beauty Blender and these 5 makeup brushes:
- A fluffy face powder brush
- A loosely bristled blush brush
- A contour brush that can also be used as a bronzer brush
- A medium width eyeshadow brush doubling as a highlighter brush
- A firm bristled angled brush for brows and eyeliner
Good makeup brush kits are expensive. But the bigger kits have so many brushes that you’re not going to need them all unless you do this for a living. Investing in a small brush set that has about 5 to 7 brushes in it is more worth your while. You can also pick and choose them buying them a la carte to fit your needs, which is ideal since you have a say in exactly which brushes you choose though some women are perfectly happy with a small set and that’s fine too.
Some women opt to only get brushes for powders, blushes, and eye makeup while others prefer using brushes to apply foundation, concealer, and lip color. We all have our thing and honestly, you’ve got to apply your foundation and makeup the way that makes YOU comfortable. That being said, some of you may be happiest applying your foundation with a Beauty Blender. Others will use brushes for applying foundation and some will integrate both the BB and makeup brushes to get their look. Beauty Blender or brush you do you.
Of course, with so many different brush sizes and shapes, it can be really tricky trying to pick the right ones for the things you want to apply. Having the right brush for the job matters because using the wrong thing will result in a look you won’t love. Each brush is made to target specific areas on your face. If you use a brush that’s too big to apply your concealer, it’s not going to have the desired effect. But if you choose a smaller one that is made for just such a purpose, you’re going to love how your look comes out.
Unfortunately, though, most brush brands don’t label the brushes as to what they are used for. They usually have numbers on them and you’ll have to decode all that to find the ideal brush for your needs. Confusing, yes, but not impossible. You can Google the answer to just about anything these days. And there are gift sets you can get of quality makeup brushes that have a few of the key essentials which do make it easier.
Don’t make the mistake of buying too many brushes though. Honestly, 5 of them and a Beauty Blender is really all you’ll need, at least starting out. And if you’re trying to do the whole Marie Kondo thing and simplify, you most certainly can create flawless looks with just these few things in your arsenal.
Read on and you’ll know which brushes are best for keeping in your makeup stash!
5 makeup brushes and a Beauty Blender are all you need
Whether you’re a makeup beginner or you’re looking to downsize your makeup tools, we’ve got the scoop on what will help you achieve any look!
A Beauty Blender
Some women do prefer using a brush for foundation application, but there are also many who opt for the BB to get that streak-free, flawless, airbrushed appearance. The Beauty Blender has that unique egg shape and it’s smooth, so it makes for a completely blended appearance. It’s ideal for achieving a sheer and dewy look, I personally use this one (Amazon link).
Best of all, you can use it for applying foundation and concealer. Here’s how to use it for awesome results:
- Wet your BB with running water to saturate it. Squeeze out any excess, then squeeze again using a clean towel or even a paper towel. This keeps it from absorbing your products and allows for a flawless blend.
- Using the broad sides of the BB, stipple cream formulas along your face.
- The tip of the BB is ideal for reaching those tight areas around your eyes and nose.
Pro tip: Always start at the center of your face and work your way outward and into the jawline.
Wait, what’s this stippling thing? Beginners, if you’re lost here, this simply means you bounce the BB along your skin. Rather than rubbing the product in, it’s a bit like dabbing it on. Dab and press really. It blends as it deposits the makeup, so you get a look that doesn’t look made up. It looks like real skin. It may take a few practices using the BB to get fully familiar with the technique.
What’s great about the Beauty Blender is that if you do make a mistake, you can buff it away. For correcting mistakes, you’ll want to drag it while it’s dry rather than wet. This dry texture acts almost like an eraser to take away excess makeup without leaving any telltale signs behind.
A fluffy face powder brush
The face powder brush is the biggest one you’ll see. When trying to decode all those numbers, you’ll know this one because of its size. It usually has long and fluffy bristles which are ideal for dispensing loose powder with an even and flawless look.
We definitely don’t recommend using the loose powder brush for bronzer although you technically can do so. But you’ll need to remember to clean it first. Further along, we’ll tell you what you can use for applying bronzer.
Here’s how to use this fluffy powder brush:
- To set makeup, tap the brush over your face.
- Use a light touch.
- Don’t sweep it across your face unless you’re trying to remove excess powder.
- For a natural look, only powder your T-zone and inner cheeks.
Pro tip: The best fluffy powder brushes will have lots and lots of very soft bristles and have a bit of a domed shape, like Sigma Beauty Professional F30 (Amazon link), which is the fluffy powder brush to have!
A loosely bristled blush brush
Blush brushes are one of THE most essential brushes to own. But choosing the right one is crucial or else you’ll look like a clown. Your goal is to get flawlessly rosy cheeks, not entertain children by twisting balloons into animal shapes, right?
How to use it:
- You’ll want to glide the color onto your cheekbones, not stamp it in.
- Pack the blush on while blending it out and up.
- Swirl it in your blush and swirl it on.
Pro tip: Select a blush brush that has a lightly-domed shape and loosely-packed bristles. If you choose one with a dense bristling, you’ll have that fake, stamped-on clownish appearance. Blush should swirl onward and upward for a lifting effect. In size, it’s smaller than the powder brush but will be fluffy which makes it easy to blend. wet n wild Blush Brush (Amazon link) can help you apply the perfect amount of product and it blends like a dream!
Don’t forget that creamy blushes go best on skin that is covered with a creamy foundation. If you use a creamy foundation and then apply powder, you need to use a powder blush so you don’t get some weird cakey look.
A contour brush that can also be used as a bronzer brush
Those of you new to makeup might be worried about contouring and bronzing. Please don’t! It’s really much easier than it all sounds. The good news is you can use a contour brush as a bronzer brush. It has slanted bristles that make blending the contour powder super-ease for a clean finish just below your cheekbones. The bristles should be blunt and sharp-edged for a sharper contour. If you want something more subtle, choose one with a softer slant in the shape.
How to use a contour brush:
- Swirl it into the contour powder and tap the excess off. Don’t skip this step!
- Gently glide the brush in a back and forth motion just below your cheekbones. This emphasizes the natural contours of your face.
- To get a more chiseled look, add more contour powder to the brush and then swirl it underneath your jawline as well as around your hairline.
- Contour your nose by pinching the front of the contour brush to make it flatter.
Pro tip: You want a contour brush because the angled tip makes short work of contouring. It can make all the difference in giving you a flawless face, one that truly highlights your best features. Choose a brush that fits perfectly under your cheekbone. By doing so, it takes the difficulty out of contouring. If you’ve thought it was hard to contour before, it is most likely that you don’t have the right brush to do the job. The Sigma Beauty F53 (Amazon link) is a perfect addition to your set with its super soft and lush bristles that also work perfectly with liquid foundation, it’s just phenomenal.
A medium width eyeshadow brush doubling as a highlighter brush
Of all the places on your face where a makeup brush is necessary, it is for the eyelids. In particular, the eyeshadow brush is of massive importance. It must be of high quality for you’re working with the delicate skin of your eyes, which can look aged and saggy the more you tug at it. Choosing the right eyeshadow brush keeps you from doing damage to this delicate skin and gives you a beautiful application. The holygrail is by far the MAC 217, but if you want something more affordable check out this set by Real Techniques (Amazon link).
How to use a medium eyeshadow brush:
- Use cream or powder eyeshadows and spread them on the lid.
- Using the flat side, you can create a light effect.
- The flat side can also be used to highlight the brow.
You will often see three main brushes for the eyes. There’s a short flat eyeshadow brush, a pointed crease brush, and a blending brush. The last one is basically the one you can live with if you only had to choose one eyeshadow brush. It’s very simple to use even if you’re a beginner and can create your desired eye effects without tugging your lids.
Plus, you can use it to highlight your cheekbones. To create this effect, add your highlighter to the flat side of the eyeshadow brush and brush it along the top of your cheekbone. Because of its density it concentrates the shimmer effortlessly for a beautifully strobed look!
A firm bristled angled brush for brows and eyeliner
Of all the features of your face, your eyebrows really set it off. They frame the face. Whether you lived through the over-tweezing thin-eyebrow craze of the 90s or you’re noticing yours are looking a bit more sparse, having an angled brow brush is the key to getting your brows on fleek.
How to use an angled brush:
- Dip it into the brow powder, carefully removing any excess.
- Make short strokes to mimic the look of brow hair.
- You can also use it as an eyeliner brush since it has such a tight angle.
- For eyeliner, tap it into your gel or liquid liner and simply press it along your lash line. To make it flawless, brush off any excess product before applying.
Pro tip: The key to a perfect application for brows or eyeliner is to choose an angled brush that has very firm bristles. The edge must be really narrow too. In fact, the finer that edge is, the more delicate of lines you can make. This results in a more natural appearance for your brows.
Some, like Make Up For Ever’s 274 Double-Ended Eyebrow brush (Amazon link), have a spoolie on the end too. This helps you blend even more flawlessly. Spoolies are ideal tools for brows and lashes alike though do be careful when using it for both to make sure you don’t transfer your mascara to your eyebrows for example. Now THAT would be a major mishap, one that no blending could fix. You’d definitely have to start over from scratch and who has time for that?
There’s really no need to go overboard and buy a makeup brush set that has 75 brushes in it. If you’re not a professional makeup artist, you will never use all of those brushes. It’s just a waste of money.
Instead, you’re much better off getting a Beauty Blender for sponge tasks and choosing 5 quality versions of the brush types mentioned above. If you can find them all in one kit, great! But if not, you can buy them individually. We actually recommend choosing them this way so you can pick the ones that work for you.
As with the contour brush, there are various sizes and choosing one that is ideal for your cheekbones will give you the best application. For your bestie, it could be one of a slightly different size.
When all is said and done, you’ll spend less money buying just the 5 essential brushes you need than you would getting some gigantic brush set. Plus, you won’t have to make much room to store your key makeup brushes. Fine-tune your skills with this collection and you’ll see exactly why less is more also applies to how many makeup brushes you have, not just how much makeup you apply!