Beauty Brush Breakdown

By Tara Thompson Rasmus

Whenever a friend tells me that she’s “terrible with makeup,” I can usually infer that, in reality, she just has no idea how to apply it. And, honestly, I don’t blame her — there are so many different brushes and applicators out there, I’m sure it seems impossible to determine with brushes are used for what (without a degree in cosmetology, of course). With that said, today I’ll be breaking down exactly which tools you need to easily and quickly make up your entire face (lip brushes need not apply!). Read as I decode the best brushes and blenders — and, if you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!

featured image by andrea bell


EcoTools Cosmetic Applicator

I have to say, I’m a little shocked to learn how many of my friends still apply their foundation with their fingers. No judgment, but whenever I’ve had to apply my base this way (i.e., if I’m traveling and forgot my foundation brush), I always find that I end up with way more makeup on my hands than on my face. So, a good foundation brush is key. You can use a tiny bit of product and blend it to an airbrushed finish — simply apply tiny dots of foundation to your forehead, chin, cheeks, and nose and buff away!

Lancome Eyebrow Reshaper Brush

Two brushes I think are totally unnecessary: concealer and lip brushes. For both of these tasks, I simply prefer using my (clean) fingers. But, one of the most life-changing brushes out there is an eyebrow brush — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: brushing your brows up and out (and darkening/filling them with a bit of taupe eyeshadow if desired) is one of the quickest ways to look wide-awake and polished.

e.l.f. Powder Brush

This brush is described as a “powder brush” — but, I actually love using flat-top brushes like this to apply cream or gel blushes. (This is another instance where using your fingers will just leave you a streaky mess, with more product on your hands than on your face.) Once again, you can use a smaller amount of product, and apply it exactly where you need it.

Dior Backstage Kabuki Brush

To apply powder and/or bronzer, you’ll want your biggest, fluffiest brush — it makes covering a larger surface area go very quickly, and the fine bristles means that you won’t pick up too much product and end up looking overly matte.

BareMinerals Detail Shader Brush

So, next up: eyes. This is where things get tricky — even for me! Through trial and error, I’ve found that good eyeshadow application starts with a good flat brush, which can precisely apply your shadow on the lashline, lid, or crease.

MAC 217 Blending Brush

Next, reach for a fluffier “blender brush,” which you can use to fade shadow out and blur any hard edges. (P.S.: I also like using this brush to apply powder highlighter to smaller areas like the browbone, inside corners of my eyes, and bridge of my nose.)

Catrice Duo Eyeliner Brush

Finally, a precise eyeliner brush is key. You can use this brush dry to apply cream eyeliner, and wet to turn powder eyeshadow into eyeliner. Or, for a more subtle look, just use it dry in whatever shadow you used on your upper lids to swipe a bit of that color along your lower lashlines — it’ll add definition and a subtly smoky look, without the harshness of liner.