Jun 9, 2014

My Favorite Makeup Brushes

I wanted to dedicate Day 1 of Makeup Week to a commonly overlooked player in the makeup world: makeup brushes. When I first used makeup for dance competitions and recitals when I was younger...I didn't know makeup brushes existed. I used the sponges that came with the foundation compacts, and sponge tip applicators that came with the eyeshadow palettes. It wasn't until high school that I understood brushes had a purpose, and until college when I actually started using them.

Now obviously if you prefer a more minimal look of mascara and some lip balm, you probably don't even need to look at brushes. I don't wear a full face of makeup daily, but having a selection of brushes around for when I do want to take the time to do something extra is just so handy. I've slowly built up a collection over the years. I think my first few were just from the Target line (before Up & Up existed...what?!) and they've lasted me until this day. I've never been able to justify spending $20+ per brush a la MAC. I'd rather spend that on the makeup itself!

Thank goodness some brands have really stepped up their game to bring quality brushes at lower price points. For face brushes, I love Real Techniques. They can be found at places like Ulta and Walmart. For eyes, I like using Eco Tools, a brand that can be found at nearly every store. I also tried out some Coastal Scents brushes a few months ago when they were running a sale (they nearly always are) and love them!

Here are my personal favorites for building up your makeup brush stash on a budget!


If you wear liquid foundation, a good blending brush can do wonders. I feel like a brush allows you to be much gentler on the skin; if I use my fingers, I'm tugging my skin in every which way...and I'm sure that can't be good for future wrinkles. I also feel like you can use less product with a brush and it's harder to look "cakey" <---yuck, what a gross makeup term!

My two favorites are both from Real Techniques: the Expert Face Brush (1) and the Buffing Brush (2) [This one's part of their "Core Collection" and comes in a set along with #3 listed below!]. They're sooo soft and make blending foundation an absolute breeze.

(3) Everyone and their mother swears by blending concealer under the eyes with their ring finger by patting it into the skin. This never seems to work for me. For an option that mimics that technique, I like the Real Techniques Pointed Foundation Brush. I dab the concealer under my eyes from the wand and then pat-pat-pat with this brush while looking up until it's all blended in.

(4) I got my favorite powder brush by Bare Escentuals as a gift years ago and I can't really find a similar one on their site. Most brands make a great powder brush, though. I probably sound like a broken record by now, but I've felt the Eco Tools & Real Techniques ones and they're so soft! Any large fluffy brush will do great.

(5) Eco Tools makes a great blush brush [part of a set] that really distributes the color lightly, which makes it hard to overdo it. I'm not as particular about blush brushes, though, and honestly nearly every brand makes a suitable option! Again, fluffiness is key ;)


(1) A flat shader brush is usually the first step for putting on eye makeup. It allows you to pack on as much or as little color as you want from your lashline to your natural crease. Here's a great option from Coastal Scents.

Next, let's talk about crease brushes. When I first got into makeup during my sophomore year of college, everyone on YouTube worshipped at the altar of the MAC 214 brush. I put it off because again, was it really worth that much money?, and I'm glad I did. I have 3 much more affordable options that I use regularly. The first is from Coastal Scents (2). It's more dense and allows you to pack on more color. Because of this, you'll probably need to blend the line out even more with another clean blending brush.

The second, and my favorite, is another one from Coastal Scents (3). It creates a much more diffused, natural look without too much work. I use it daily...sometimes for every aspect of my eye look!

The third is from a mini set of Eco Tools brushes (4). It has a tapered point that allows you to focus the color directly in your crease, but it's also a little fluffier so that you can blend out any harsh lines.

While I'm sure this isn't necessary, I like using a fluffier eye brush for my brow bone "highlight" color. Adding a matte cream shade above your crease ensures you don't blend your crease color too high (hello 1980s!) and is just a great finishing touch to accentuate your brows. My favorite was a gift a few years back and is from Sephora's line (5). They don't make the exact one anymore, but here's a similar option. I don't have a Sephora near me, but I'm sure if I did it would be dangerous. Their brushes are slightly more expensive than what you can get at Target or Walmart, but they are great quality!

For filling in my eyebrows, I've been using a brush meant for lip/detail application. Again, it's from an Eco Tools set (6). It diffuses the color a little more than using an angled eyebrow brush. After, I like to comb through them with a spoolie. The one I use is a cheapo $1 one from ELF (7). I don't have particularly unruly eyebrows by any means, but it helps set them into place. I also like to use this after I put any powder through them to help even out the color.

When I don't feel like wearing eyeliner...which is most of the time...I like using a dark brown eyeshadow on my upper and bottom lashes. For this, I have 2 favorite Eco Tools brushes. The first is an angled brush (8). This allows for slightly more precision; I also use this one for my eyebrows in the fall/winter months. The second is a smaller one that came from a set (9). It is just a teeny, tiny, fluffy point that gives a more blended and messy look.

When I do feel like wearing eyeliner, gel is my favorite. To apply it I've tried a few different brushes, but my favorite is actually $3 from the ELF line (10). The bristles hold their shape well with washing and are the perfect mix of soft and stiff for precise application.

If you're interested in building up a makeup brush collection, I highly suggest starting small and cheap! There's no point in investing money into brushes you will never actually use. ELF has a great line of both $1 and $3 brushes at Target and on their website. You could grab a few that look interesting and if you actually end up using them, you can look into investing your money into a slightly higher quality brush next. At Target, Up & Up make some good brushes, as well as Sonia Kashuk.

I also recommend watching tutorials on YouTube to see how different "beauty gurus" use different brushes. You might learn a new application technique that will make your life a lot easier! And practice truly does make perfect, so if it feels awkward at first, give it another try the next day.

Once you are using makeup brushes, make sure you take care of them by washing them regularly. Some people prefer to use them once and wash them right after, while others go a week or so. Depending on how gross they get, I'm usually part of the latter group. I've been washing mine with good ol' Dawn for years. Here's a great resource on how to clean them.

Do you think you'll give a new makeup brush a try? If you already use them, what are your favorite brands?

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