The 10 Best Makeup Brushes

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This wiki has been updated 41 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Your makeup job is only as good as the tools you use to apply it, so some quality brushes are an important component in your arsenal of beauty products. They can ensure flawless, even coverage and help to conceal imperfections. The ones featured here come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles and are designed to help you achieve virtually any look you can dream up. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Sigma F80 Kabuki

2. Real Techniques Everyday Essentials

3. EcoTools Retractable Kabuki

Editor's Notes

April 30, 2020:

These makeup brushes are the key to achieving exactly the look you prefer, whether it’s a fresh-faced effect suitable for the office or an eye-catching, dramatic one that’s great for a night on the town. No makeup bag should be without a reliable set of them for anyone who applies blush, eye shadows, concealer, bronzer, and more.

In today’s updated with replaced the currently-unavailable Sigma High Definition Kabuki Kit with another highly popular and practical set, the Real Techniques Everyday Essentials. Included in this kit are four brushes of different designs for applying blush, highlighter, concealer, and shadow. You’ll also receive two high-quality foam sponges for putting on foundation. They’ve got durable metal handles and are a great value for the price. For organization, save the slotted, clear plastic tray that comes with the packaging.

We also added in the Revlon Dual Ended, from a well-known name in cosmetics products. It sports a slanted side for applying your eye shadow, and a dome-shaped end for when you feel like smudging the shadow for a smoky, dramatic effect. It’s good with both powder and cream formulas and is comfortable in the hand, made with a birch wood handle.

The EcoTools Retractable Kabuki is worthy of a look for anyone who wants a highly portable solution that’s good for on-the-go touchups and fits easily into your makeup bag, purse, or backpack. Its soft bristles won’t irritate sensitive skin, and they’re protected by the durable cap during storage. This environmentally friendly choice is made of sustainably sourced materials and comes in recycled packaging.

For a couple more all-inclusive sets, check out the 12-piece Nanshy Masterful Collection, which come with attractive handles in your choice of pearlescent white or shiny, sleek black. They feature durable synthetic bristles and are good for small-to-large projects involving shaping, contouring, and more. The seven brushes in the Sigma Beauty Basic Kit are designed for achieving a variety of looks with eyeliner and eyeshadow, including blending colors, softening harsh lines and enhancing your brows. You can buy them with confidence, as they carry a generous two-year warranty.

Whichever individual brush or set you go with, be sure to wash them regularly, as dirty makeup brushes can cause problems like clogged pores and pink eye. Spend some time once or twice a week to get the gunk out by using a mild shampoo, like one designed for babies. Just wet the bristles, lather in a little bit of the shampoo, massage it in for around a minute, then rinse it out and let it dry overnight on a paper towel on the counter.

Special Honors

Bodyography Concealer Brush This small precision brush works well with concealer, primer, and eye mousse. It can be used to apply base products to problem areas to conceal and provide extra coverage. It’s made under cruelty-free and vegan conditions, and offers sturdy, synthetic fibers. Its compact build means it won’t hog too much space in your cosmetics bag, and it comes in at a budget-friendly price.

Make Up For Ever Medium Eye Shader Brush This flat, tapered brush is good for all-over eyeshadow application. It allows for quick application and blending on the eyelid, and the tapered end allows for precision and details. Its straight fibers are well suited for use with both creams and pressed powders. Its beveled tip makes for a two-in-one makeup brush and tool. It features a handcrafted design and is tested rigorously for quality.

4. Matto Bamboo

5. Revlon Dual Ended

6. Nanshy Masterful Collection

7. Real Techniques Powder and Bronzer

8. BareMinerals Perfecting Face

9. Sigma Beauty Basic Kit

10. BareMinerals Ready Precision

Makeup Brush Types Everybody Needs

To add drama to your eye makeup, get an eyeliner brush for perfectly applying liquid liner to your eyes.

Looking at all the different makeup brushes available can be overwhelming. Each one looks so similar to the next, but identifying the small differences between the types will help you arm your beauty box with one for every makeup technique you want to pull off.

First, you want a good foundation brush. Foundation brushes tend to be flat, since you'll use them to paint liquid foundation onto your skin, much like you apply actual paint to a canvas. If you've ever seen a sponge that looks like an egg, that's a beauty blender. While not technically a brush, you should consider this an essential sister tool to your foundation brush. The original version, patented by Rea Ann Silva, has been a popular sensation for a reason: it lets you spread your foundation evenly across every angle of your face.

If you want those dramatic cheekbones, then you need a good contouring brush to use with your contour palette. You'll recognize this brush by its angled top and dense bristles that can hold a lot of makeup at once. When it's time to add a nice shimmer, you'll want a Kabuki brush. This is a stout, wide brush with a rather flat but voluminous bundle of bristles. The Kabuki brush is used for applying bronzer or powder, as well as for blending.

A fan brush looks exactly how you'd expect: like a fan. It has a wide, flat head, and its slender profile makes it ideal for applying powder or fixing some makeup mess-ups. On the topic of mess-ups, if you ate greasy food this weekend and are breaking out, you'll want a concealer brush to cover up your blemishes. This type brush is quite small, with a rounded top and a bundle of bristles about the size of pencil eraser. It's ideal for concentrated application of concealer.

A flat eyeshadow brush looks almost like a mini fan brush, but has a bushier set of bristles. This is used for applying eye shadow all over your lid. Don't confuse it with your concealer brush: they look similar, but the flat eye shadow brush has longer bristles, which are important for sweeping color across your lids. When you're working on a nice smokey eye, you'll want an eyeshadow crease brush, too. This small brush with a pointed end will help you work color into the crease of your lid. To add drama to your eye makeup, get an eyeliner brush for perfectly applying liquid liner to your eyes. This brush looks like a pencil and has a set of bristles about the size of a pencil's point. Since everyone knows good eyebrows are everything these days, make sure you get a good brow brush. These look almost identical to a mascara brush.

Additional Features To Look For In A Brush

One of the main reasons you may need makeup is to cover up acne and blemishes. Considering just how hard it is for scientists to identify what causes acne (thereby making it difficult to identify the best treatment for most individuals), the best way to treat this nasty condition is to not get it in the first place. That's why having a makeup brush made with antimicrobial materials is so important. This will help stop the growth of bacteria on your face, and prevent germs from getting into your pores.

Getting a good grip on your brush while applying your makeup will prevent slip-ups that leave you with eyeshadow on your cheeks.

Since you don't want to have to replace your makeup brushes every month, make sure you get ones that won't shed and have high quality handles made from materials that won't crack. If you are eco-minded, there are some great brushes made from sustainably sourced materials, like bamboo.

Getting a good grip on your brush while applying your makeup will prevent slip-ups that leave you with eyeshadow on your cheeks. Make sure your brush has either an ergonomic handle or a small indent around where the handle meets the bristles. This can be used as a thumb or finger groove to keep your hand from sliding up the brush while you work. Some blending and foundation brushes have reservoir tips that keep liquid makeup from spilling down the sides, which can be helpful. Anyone who has ever accidentally touched their blouse, not knowing they had makeup that had gotten onto their hands earlier, knows how valuable this feature is.

Always consider the length of handles if you want your brush set to fit into your favorite makeup bag. If you're a professional makeup artist, then you want your tools to look as impressive as your makeup jobs. Some brushes have gorgeous handles in shiny metallic or pearly finishes that will definitely impress your clients.

A Brief History Of Makeup Brushes

While humans may not have always had the materials and technology they have today (as evidenced by this ancient cosmetic brush), they've always had their vanity. The Japanese have been making makeup brushes since as far back as the B.C. period. One area in Japan, called Kumano, is famous for its brushes, and has been producing them since the 1600s. Brush production in the area began when local farmers needed to find a way to make extra income. They started by purchasing brushes from neighboring towns and reselling them. As calligraphy become more popular, they began to manufacture their own brushes that were customized for better calligraphy performance. As the demand for cosmetic brushes grew, they once again tweaked their brushes to fit the newest and greatest need.

Today, Kumano, Japan makes around 80 percent of the country's makeup brushes, which equals around 15 million brushes a year, but it hasn't been without competitors. In 1835, manufacturers in Germany noticed a demand for more vanity products and started to produce a large amount of cosmetic mirrors. They eventually decided they wanted to compete with the Japanese makeup brush industry and began making their own versions of these as well.

Over the years, the manufacturing of makeup brushes, as with many other products, has predominantly moved to other parts of Asia, where large brands can find cheaper labor.

Karen Bennett
Last updated by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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