We’d never say that you’re not a pro when it comes to doing makeup, but the pros might agree that you’re missing the right tools in your makeup kit. For instance, the swab-like applicator that came with your eye shadow isn’t doing you any favors. “Never attempt to do a full makeup look with makeup applicators instead of full-size brushes,” warns Tomy Rivero, New York-based makeup artist known for his Fashion Week looks. “The applicators are too small and dense, and always create weird shapes and pick up too much product. They mark the face instead of blending into the face.”
Think of it this way, if you decided to learn watercolor, you wouldn’t use the same brushes from your toddler’s paint set, right? The same goes for the best makeup brushes worth buying.
A good brush does the work for you because each brush is cut and angled in such a way that even a clumsy makeup novice (umm, hi!) can figure it out. Armed with the right tools, facing yourself in the mirror will feel a little less intimidating.
Once you stock up, do yourself a favor and clean makeup brushes weekly (unless you have very oily skin, then you might want to add an extra wash mid-week). Dedicate a glass bowl to washing makeup brushes, then add a drop of Dawn dish soap and swirl to clean synthetic and vegan brushes. For busy moms, Rivero suggests bringing makeup brushes with you in the shower and cleaning with shampoo, as long as it’s not for color-treated hair. Either way, once you thoroughly rinse the makeup brushes with clean water, squeeze the excess water without pulling on the bristles and lay flat on the edge of the counter overnight. You want the bristles to dangle over the edge so air circulates all around the brush, drying the makeup brushes completely.
With Rivero’s tutelage, we found the best makeup brushes—from brushes with antibacterial properties to eco-friendly bristles.
Best All-Around Makeup Brush
This makeup brush has more than 10,000 5-star reviews, and for good reason. You might not admit that you sorta like one of your kids just a teensiest bit more, but you can call the Lamora Kabuki brush your favorite without any guilt. This is the ultimate brush for applying foundation, powder and bronzer to produce even coverage, while still looking like you barely have a stitch of makeup on. The secret is in the bristles, of course. “Having a brush that has the right density in the hair bristles does half the job for you because it grabs just the right amount of product,” says Rivero. The Kabuki brush doesn’t soak up product and expel it out on contact. Meaning: when you apply highlighter to your cheekbones, you won’t look like an extra from Disney’s Frozen.
Best Budget Makeup Brush
Eye shadow may not seem necessary, but it definitely livens up your morning face—especially if you add a lighter shade just under your brow arch. But that’s just the basics. Consider this your BFF, should you venture into smokey eye territory. You’ll want to keep this brush handy for any blending, especially as you test out new eyeshadow hues. “It is soft, has the exact right amount of bristles to blend seamlessly, and holds the product but releases it on the lid. These are better than many of my more expensive and higher-end brushes,” raves one reviewer. As a final step, use this brush sans shadow to finish off the look without smudging. “Start blending outwards towards the temples to make the eyeshadow look super natural and make your eyes standout,” suggests Rivero.
Best Makeup Brush for Looking Polished
With this makeup brush you look like you have your sh*t together. “Don’t underestimate the power of eyeliner,” says Rivero. “A strong clean, even line makes your look more awake and put together and it takes two minutes. Most days that’s all I recommend to my clients for everyday looks around the house and office.” Yes, please. The angled tip of this brush makes application easy-peasy, even if you have a toddler clutching your leg. What’s more, it doubles as a brow brush, filling in as needed with not-too-much feathery strokes. If you want to get really fancy, get another one and use it for a statement lip. The point works perfectly at making sure lipstick stays in the corner of your mouth, and not smeared like you just ate a cherry popsicle.
Best Makeup Brush to Make Eyes Look Less Tired
Show us a mom who doesn’t wake up looking tired and we’ll show you a unicorn. Fortunately, we learned a nifty little trick that banishes that “who woke me up three times last night?” look in seconds. Dab concealer under eyes with your fingertips, focusing on that space between the corner of the eye and the nose, then use this little wand to blend the formula. One reviewer wrote, “I used to apply my concealer with my fingers and it didn’t seem to cover very well. More of the concealer stayed on my fingers. It covers much better with this brush.” The thin paddle-like tip of this concealer brush lets you get right under the lash line, without painting lashes nude. As you smooth out your concealer, you’ll also notice that you’re camouflaging any fine lines without leaving makeup-filled creases that usually creep up later in the day.
Best Blush & Bronzer Makeup Brush
You don’t’ have to worry about having 80s rouge with this brush. Thanks to this makeup brush’s rounded curve, it’s a one-and-done deal when it comes to blush. The brush picks up just the right amount of color to create a fresh, “just came back from a jog” look (even if you binged on Hulu instead). Speaking of couch surfing…Use it with bronzer for a beach day glow—just swipe along the temples, cheeks and under the jaw—and Presto! you’ve got a natural contour. (Because, come on, who has time to learn contouring?) And if you’re worried how to clean makeup brushes with this shape, it’s no different than any other brush. As one reviewer states, “It’s made well and is attractive. Nice wood handle, soft dense bristles. I’ve not had any issues with shedding. It washes easily and bounces back into shape.”
Best Finishing Makeup Brush
One critical thing to know about makeup brushes is that the looser the brush the more pigment it will carry and spread on your face. And this, our friends, is what can make your face look muddy. “This brush keeps the product from traveling all over your face and only picks up the amount of product you need,” says Rivero. The pointy tip of this award-winning brush helps you apply and blend the face powder, blush or highlighter, while the chiseled, tapered side helps with contouring. You’ll love the uber soft fibers that won’t shed even after frequent makeup brush cleaning.
Best Portable Makeup Brush
This makeup brush’s petite size makes it perfect for travel, but you might just want to use it every day. One reviewer wrote, “This little brush is magic! It blends my foundation and concealer flawlessly and makes it so I’m using less of each product. I find that I don’t even reach for a sponge, this brush does it all for me.” Start off with the smaller blending tip to distribute your foundation, be it cream, powder or liquid, then use the domed buffing tip to “knock off shine” or apply blush and bronzer in a seamless look. Rivero’s beauty tip: stick to the same makeup consistency and textures i.e. don’t apply powder blush to creamy foundation or vice versa because it will look too heavy or streaky. Rivero refers to this brush as the G.O.A.T—enough said.
Since we know you’re looking for more ways to simplify your self-care routine, check out our other beauty essentials.