Style Q: Essential Makeup Brushes

Updating your makeup tool bag? Read this first.

Q: Can you recommend a good set of makeup brushes? —K

Real talk? We’re not in love with brush sets. It seems like they’re always made up of the two brushes you’ll really use—and five brushes you won’t. Maybe this is our paranoid side speaking, but who’s to say it’s not just the manufacturer’s attempt to get rid of their worst-selling varieties by packaging them in a pretty bundle? If you ask us, you should curate your own set based on the makeup you actually use. Read on for our top brush picks.

Foundation applicator: Devoted to your BB Cream or liquid foundation? Then it’s worth investing in the teardrop-shaped (and neon pink!) Beauty Blender sponge ($19.95) for a finish that’s much smoother and airbrush-y than what you get the old-fashioned way—meaning with your fingers. Try using it damp for a truly flawless look. If you prefer mineral powder formulas, head right for the experts—that would be BareMinerals, obv—for a densely bristled brush with a nearly flat head, like the brand’s precision face brush ($28). You can also use this type of brush for stippling liquid foundation for fuller coverage.

Concealer brush: A flat, tapered brush constructed from smooth, synthetic
bristles is the best way to perfectly, seamlessly blend cream
concealers. We can’t live without Benefit’s version ($22).

Eyelash curler: There’s a reason Shu Uemura’s eyelash curler ($20)
is the undisputed cult favorite: It’s the best. The curl and hold this
little guy offers will make you never want to do without.

liner brush:
Think through what type of eyeliner you prefer. Do you
like a soft, smudgy line or a sharp, dramatic cat-eye? If you’re more
into smudgy softness, then go for a slanted brush such as Sephora’s
classic angled brush #15
($14), which you can use to smudge a pencil
into your lash line or turn a favorite powder shadow into eyeliner. Love
a bold, defined line? A bent brush like Laura Mercier’s ($20) will be
your new best friend for its ease of application, clear visual line, and
cat-eye mastery.

Double-ended eyeshadow brush: The workhorse of
our extensive brush collection, this two-for-one style wins for
versatility and precise application. Use the pointed end for crease
contouring and adding shadow along the lash line, then blend and press
in color with the larger dome side. If we could only have one eye brush,
it should be this kind. One to try: BareMinerals double-ended precision

Fluffy blending eyeshadow brush: Yes, we just said
all you needed was that magical double-ended number. But if you’re going
to add another shadow brush to your roster, we’d suggest going for a
fluffy, super-soft, lightly angled brush meant for sweeping on color
and blend, blend, blending. Our fave? MAC’s 275 medium angled shading

Powder brush:
Make it big. Make it soft. Make it fluffy. And when it comes to brushes,
this is the place to splurge on a really nice one. We’d spring for
Hourglass’s powder brush no. 1 ($65).

Blush/bronzer brush: This one should be smaller than your powder brush, with a soft bristles and a domed shape, like MAC’s 116 brush ($35). Use it for a light-handed sweep of blush or bronzer.

Brush cleaner:
Okay, this one isn’t really an applicator, but it’s still a must-have.
We’re not exactly germaphobes, but regularly shampooing your brush
collection is a crucial step to ensure your tools stay bacteria-free and
in tip-top condition. We love Sephora’s purifying brush shampoo ($6).

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