Make-Up Brushes: Your Complete Buying Guide
Make-Up Brushes: Your Complete Buying Guide

Make-Up Brushes: Your Complete Buying Guide

6 minutes read

The world of make-up brushes is so vast and complex. If you’ve ever seen a make-up artist’s brush roll, you may have noticed how many types of brushes exist and how each seems to serve a different purpose. 

But make-up artists work on so many different faces. They’re also constantly experimenting with new products and textures. On the other hand, if you’re not a pro-make-up artist, you probably know the exact products you to reach for every day. 

So, instead of owning every brush shape that exists, we recommend handpicking a small selection that suits your specific needs. If you choose wisely, a collection of five to eight brushes can cover all bases. Plus, if you invest in high-quality ones, they will remain soft, won’t shed and will last you years. 

But how do you choose the right ones for you? Here’s everything you need to know. 

Finding the right make-up brushes for you

What are the essential make-up brushes to own? We asked Charlotte McHale, Clarins Training Manager, and she explained that they will be different for everyone. 

The brushes you need will depend on the type of make-up you wear and the overall effect you want to achieve from your products. For instance, if you like natural-looking make-up that’s sheer and minimal, you may use your fingers to apply a tinted moisturiser and cream blush or bronzer. On the other hand, brushes are vital if you prefer a full coverage base and use bronzer to sculpt your face. 

Similarly, a brow brush in your kit will be unnecessary if you use eyebrow pencils. And lip balm or gloss wearers don’t need to invest in lip brushes.  

Exceptions aside, McHale believes that there are about eight brushes you need to create a full face of make-up. “You need two base brushes, a blusher brush, a powder brush, a lip brush, two eyeshadow brushes (one for application and the other for blending) and an eyebrow brush,” she explains.  

The best foundation brushes

Collage of the best foundation brushes and their uses

Clarins Foundation Brush, £26

A flat brush like this one from Clarins is the classic choice for foundation application. The rounded cat’s tongue shape fits into all the little crevices on the face. Begin by applying foundation along the T-zone and use the brush to sweep the product outwards.  

This brush is also a bit of a multitasker. “This is quite good for concealer as well,” says McHale. “And I sometimes apply SOS Primer with it.” 

Spectrum MB01 Buffing Foundation Brush, £9.99

Prefer to buff your foundation with a dense, round brush? We like this Buffing Foundation Brush by Spectrum. The bristles are densely packed, making it a good pick to buff in liquid and cream formulas, especially for more high coverage applications.

Just dot the foundation where you need it and buff it using small, circular motions.

Clarins Multi-Use Foundation Brush, £26

This super soft brush is great for liquids, creams and even powder foundations. It helps provide light, even coverage.

McHale’s trick is to use this as a second step to blend the foundation to perfection. “I use this after applying foundation with the flat brush. It helps buff the product in and gets rid of any stroke marks. That’s how you get a nice thin layer of foundation that lasts for a long time,” she explains.

The best face and cheek brushes

Collage of the best cheek brushes


Clarins Blush Brush, £26

A fluffy, angled brush like this one is useful for all types of cheek products. Use it to apply blush, sweep highlighter on the high points of the cheeks and to chisel the cheekbones with contour powder. 

SAIE Beauty The Fluffy Pinpoint and Setting Brush, £18

If your skin is on the drier side and you prefer more targeted powdering, choose this Fluffy Brush by SAIE Beauty. The slim shape makes it useful to lightly set specific areas of the face that tend to get oily – the under eyes, around the nose, the chin or the centre of the forehead, leaving the rest of the face dewy.

Clarins Powder Brush, £28

This dense, fluffy Powder Brush is great for both pressed and loose powder application. Its soft bristles feel ultra-gentle on the skin. McHale likes to use it to apply both powder and bronzer. 

“For powder, I use a stippling motion to press the product into the skin,” she explains. “And when I apply bronzer, I just sweep the brush along the periphery of my face.”

The best concealer brushes

Collage of the best concealer brushes

Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Concealer Brush, £35

Most lightweight under-eye concealers are best applied with fingers. But if you prefer a brush or if you’re using something creamier, try this Concealer Brush by Hourglass. The crescent shape fits the contours of the face, and the bristles are the right density to give a seamless blend. 

Surratt Artistique Concealer Brush Petite, £42

When concealing dark spots, broken capillaries or acne scars, it’s always better to use a smaller brush for better precision. And this Surratt Concealer Brush fits the bill. Just dip its tiny, fine bristles in a minimal amount of concealer and dot it on the area you want to cover up. You can then use your finger to pat the product in till its blended. 

The best eyeshadow brushes

Collage of the best eyeshadow brushes

Clarins Eyeshadow Brush, £20

This Eyeshadow Brush is the ideal choice to pat eyeshadow across the lids. It has short, dense bristles that pick up the right amount of pigment, and the round shape fits the curve of the eye socket effortlessly. Of course, you could also use it to smudge out your eyeliner.

Clarins Blending Brush, £20

The secret to flawless eyeshadow application? Diffused colour and seamless transitions. And for that, you need a round, fluffy brush like this Blending Brush. The synthetic bristles are soft and flared, making the task of blending a lot easier to do.

VIEVE 221 Eyeshadow Smudger Brush, £21

If you’re a smokey eye lover, it’s worth investing in a small smudger brush like this one by VIEVE. Use it to sweep colour along the lower lashes or to pop a highlight in the inner corners. It’s also great for softening harsh eyeliner or even blurring the edges of a bold lip.

The best eyeliner and eyebrow brushes

Collage of the best eyeliner and eyebrow brushes

NYX Professional Makeup Pro Angled Eyeliner Brush, £9

Love a sharp, sleek liner look? Try the ultra-precise Angled Eyeliner brush by NYX. The angled shape makes it more comfortable to use than conventional brushes. It’s ideal for gel and cream eyeliner formulations.  

Byredo Eyeliner Brush, £27

On the other hand, for anyone who isn’t as skilled at eyeliner application, a small angled brush like this one by Byredo will be a better choice. It delivers a perfect cat-eye flick, and you could use it with gel liner as well as powder eyeshadows.  

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12, £18

If you use powder to fill your brows instead of a pencil, you need a small angled brush like this one by Anastasia Beverly Hills. The spoolie on the other end is perfect for brushing the brows in place and diffusing powder stroke lines. And if you’re a bit under-endowed on the brow front, our tutorial Thin Or Sparse Eyebrows? Here’s How To Draw Them On Perfectly has everything you need.

Next read: How To Clean Your Make-Up Brushes In 5 Simple Steps 


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