Tools of the trade can often make or break a project, and makeup is no different. You don’t need to splash a lot of cash to get the good stuff, but a few key investments can really help you level up your skillset. If I tried to go through all of the 50+ brushes I own, we’d be here for the next week, so instead I thought I’d just share the key members of my brush family – the workhorses, the luxury buys that were totally worth it, and the guys I reach for just about every day.
As a side note, I have listed (to the best of my ability) whether the brushes are vegan, cruelty-free, natural hair, etc. If you prefer to only shop vegan/cruelty-free, this list from Logical Harmony is a great resource for cruelty-free brands.
RealTechniques Duo-Fiber Face Brush (Amazon) – I had no idea how to use this when I first picked up the RT Duo-Fiber Collection (the colors were recently changed to align with the rest of the brand’s products), but it has become my absolute favorite brush for working with super pigmented blushes like NARS and Tarte. It’s so soft and pleasant on the skin, and picks up just the right amount of product for the easiest blending. I had such a hard time working with blush before and now it’s quickly become one of my favorite products. RealTechniques brushes are always cruelty-free.
RealTechniques Setting Brush (Amazon) – The multi-tasker! This brush gets used so often that I actually have two of them; setting powder, highlight, contour, all over lid shade, you name it – this brush can do it. Right now its top two uses for me are picking up just the tiniest amount of HD powder to set my under eye concealer and giving me a perfectly blended out natural-looking contour. RealTechniques brushes are always cruelty-free.
IT Cosmetics #103 Airbrush Blurring Concealer Brush (Ulta, $16.00) – For anyone that just cannot get the hang of the micro.mini beautyblender, this is hands down the best concealer brush I’ve tried. Specifically, under-eye concealer. It helps blend out product beautifully without disturbing the rest of my makeup or sheering out my foundation too much. With my current foundation, I’ve actually had better luck applying my concealer first and this brush really does give me an airbrush finish that is undetectable under or over my foundation. This brush is made with synthetic fibers.
Luxie Beauty 522 Tapered Highlighter (luxiebeauty.com, $24.00) – I actually have never used this brush for highlight, but it’s the perfect size and shape for setting eyeshadow primer or under eye concealer with minimal work. You could of course also use it for highlighting, and even contouring or baking if that’s your style. It’s super soft and won’t feel scratchy no matter what part of your face you use it for. This brush is vegan and cruelty-free.
e.l.f. Fan Brush (elfcosmetics.com, $2.00) – I’m sure any fan brush will do, but the price is right with this one. Fan brushes are the best for applying highlight to the tops of your cheeks for a natural looking glow. If you prefer to look like a metallic alien, I’d opt for the #23 brush from Anastasia Beverly Hills. The e.l.f. brush is made with synthetic fibers; the ABH brush uses natural bristles.
MAC Cosmetics #217 Blending Brush (MAC, $25.00) – This is the game changer, a natural bristled blending brush that is the absolute perfect size and shape for blending out harsh edges in and above the crease. This is the brush that really took my makeup application to the next level and I use it every single time I do my makeup. I bring it with me any time I’ll be doing my makeup away from home too and it’s usually my #1 brush recommendation when friends ask what to get. MAC does make synthetic brushes, but this one is made with white goat hair.
MAC Cosmetics #224 Tapered Blending Brush (MAC, $32.00) – My newest baby, I picked this guy up because I loved the idea of my #787 brush from Bdellium Tools, but it was just way too big for my eye shape/size. The 224 is the perfect choice for working a transition shade in and above the crease to help other shadows blend out better. I use it together with my #217 (above) for enviably smooth, blended-out looks. MAC does make synthetic brushes, but this one is made with goat hair.
Makeup Geek Small Crease Brush (makeupgeek.com, $8.50) – My little miracle worker! I could never get a smoky eye right before this brush came into my life. If you are having trouble achieving a certain look, try a smaller brush! This one is absolutely perfect for getting just the right amount of shadow in the outer corner/outer v area for any look from work neutrals to blinding neons. This brush is cruelty-free and made with synthetic fibers.
Bdellium Tools #780 Pencil Brush (Amazon) – Another case of “if you’re having trouble with your look, try a smaller brush,” this tiny pencil tip brush is my go-to for anything on the lower lashline. It’s great for work in your inner corner too; I love it so much that I have two. The Bambu Series line of brushes from Bdellium Tools is “all vegan”.
Bdellium Tools #772 Small Shadow Brush (Amazon) – Clearly I really like my tiny brushes! This one is great for packing wet or dry shadows onto the lid and is small enough to keep product only where you want it. This is usually my go-to for applying loose pigments too.I have a similar, slightly larger version in the Bdellium #777, but I don’t reach for it nearly as often. The Bambu Series line of brushes from Bdellium Tools is “all vegan”.
BeautyBlender The Original BeautyBlender (sephora.com, $20.00) – This is an honorable mention because it’s not a brush, but it is my number one favorite makeup tool. I really think this is the best way to blend out liquid foundation and I use it for my dewy formulas as well as mattes. It took me a while to see the light, but I have no idea how I applied my foundation before this and think it’s an excellent tool for any skill level. Just get it wet so it expands, squeeze out excess water, and bounce away. While I don’t think they’re quite as good, the RealTechniques Miracle Complexion Sponge is an excellent budget-friendly alternative if you’re still not convinced what all the fuss is about. Both the BeautyBlender and RealTechniques brand are cruelty-free.
Sugarpill Lip Brush (sugarpillcosmetics.com, $16.00) – The best shape for a lip brush I have encountered thus far, this pretty thing is perfect for cleaning up uneven edges, applying product to the outer corners of your mouth where a lipstick tube can’t reach, and for keeping your liquid lipsticks clean and sanitary when mixing colors (or if applying on someone else). I use it most often with my Bite Beauty lipsticks for a really clean application of my favorite bright pinks. Sugarpill Cosmetics brushes are vegan and cruelty-free.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I was not asked to write this and all products were purchased by me. I receive a small percentage of sales placed through Amazon at no additional cost to you.
Photos for the Bdellium Tools #772 brush and BeautyBlender Original were taken from the brands’ respective websites. All other photos are my own.