The right brush doesn’t just make it easier to apply makeup; it can also allow you to be more precise. Here’s how to end up with a set that’s perfect for your needs.
Cover your bases. Like most makeup artists, I prefer natural bristles for any brush used to apply powder. Not only are they the fluffiest and the softest, but they also have a cuticle—just like human hair—that really grabs pigment and holds on until you place it exactly where you want on the face. Blue squirrel is the best quality (hence, the most expensive), but pony hair, goat, and Lewinsky sable are also good.
Pick and choose. I think it’s more important to find the right brush for each task than to have a pretty matched set on your vanity. At minimum, you need four: a large powder brush, a slightly smaller fluffy brush (for blush, bronzer, and/or highlighter), an eye-shadow brush the size of a fingertip, and a smaller shadow brush (for smudging and blending). For each, look for a slightly domed shape—it rolls best across the skin with the least drag—and a nice fluffy texture, which deposits less pigment so you can be precise. (Synthetics are really only good for applying creams and liquids.)
Go beyond the basics. If you prefer applying concealer with a brush, it’s best to have two: a slick Taklon one a half inch wide for under the eyes and a tiny, pointy one for blemishes. Foundation brushes tend to blob too much coverage right where they first touch your face; I prefer using a damp Beauty Blender Sponge to stipple on makeup, because it allows for very sheer coverage.
Buy the best brushes you can afford. I really believe that high-quality brushes are worth the price. They don’t just perform the best; they also make applying makeup a pleasure. If a $60 blush brush still gives you sticker shock, consider that it can easily last 20 years with proper maintenance. Once a month, mix warm water with a little shampoo (I like Aveda Shampure Shampoo for this) for natural hair bristles or dish soap for synthetics. Swish the brushes around, rinse well, blot with paper towels, and lay them flat until they’re completely dry.
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