I Tried Cheap Versus Expensive Makeup Brushes & This Is What Happened

Makeup brushes are an extremely essential part of any beauty routine — that is, if you use makeup with any sort of regularity. When I first started wearing makeup, I didn't realize how important makeup brushes are. For a while, I just slapped on foundation with my fingers and used the little white sponges that come with some eyeshadow palettes. It didn't take long for me to start wondering why my makeup never looked quite as good as other women's. Then I picked up a few cheap makeup brushes and my world changed. Suddenly I could apply my makeup much faster and easier, and I got a much smoother, flawless finish.

Over the years, my brush collection has grown quite a bit. I now have brushes from several different brands, all at different price points and for different purposes. I've learned that good eyeshadow brushes are essential for blending, and that a good face brush can elevate the way your foundation and blush look. However, as many women probably do, I often wonder if it's necessary to spend a certain amount of money on makeup brushes to get the best results. I like affordable brands, as I'm usually on a tight budget, but I'm also more than willing to splurge on a really great product if I find it's worth it.

So with that in mind, I tried makeup brushes at three different price points to see if there was any difference.

1. Eye Makeup Brushes

Pictured above from top to bottom: Sigma Firm Shader Brush, $14, Amazon; E.L.F. Professional Eye Shadow Brush, $4, Amazon; Artis Circle 1R Brush, $35, Artisbrush

For each brush, I applied a primer to my eye first and then blended two shades from the Urban Decay Naked 3 palette.

$1 e.l.f. brush

Not bad at all for a $1 brush. It took a little bit of patience to blend properly and it had a tendency to get streaky, but it deposited color well.

$14 Sigma Brush

This brush is pretty much the same as the e.l.f. brush but the bristles feel softer and denser. It did a decent job depositing color and blending.

$35 Artis Brush

I was surprised that I liked using this brush best, since I was skeptical of the strange shape. As it turned out, this brush made it very easy to deposit color and it blended very smoothly. I also noticed that my eye shadow application went faster when I used this brush.

2. Face Brushes

Pictured above is the e.l.f. Kabuki Face Brush, $6, Amazon; Sigma 3DHD Kabuki Brush, $24, Amazon; Artis Oval 6 Brush, $55, Artisbrush

I applied liquid foundation and then powder blush using each brush.

$6 e.l.f. Kabuki Brush

This is the very first makeup brush that I ever used, and I still use it occasionally for some things. It's best for when you want light coverage. It has soft, fluffy bristles that make it ideal for something like blush. If you only want light coverage then this brush would be fine for foundation but personally I want more coverage.

$24 Sigma 3DHD Kabuki Brush

I've written about this brush before. I really like how the shape allows you to get into hard-to-reach places like the corners of your eyes or nose. Since the bristles are very dense, it's easy to get medium to full coverage when using this brush to apply foundation. I don't usually use this brush for applying blush, but I was surprised to see that it worked just fine for that as well.

$55 Artis Brush

I feel like I got the most flawless coverage from this brush, which doesn't surprise me considering how very soft and dense the bristles are. My foundation didn't look patchy and I think this brush helped cover my spots and redness the best. I also think the shape makes it perfect for applying brush or even doing some contouring. Plus, it just feels very nice to use.

The bottom line? Each of the makeup brushes that I used did a good job of applying my makeup — much better than just using my fingers, for sure. If you're on a budget, a cheap or mid-price makeup brush collection will serve you just fine. However, if you're willing to splurge a little bit more, it turns out that expensive makeup brushes really are worth the price. Since the Artis brushes are so useful and pretty, I'd say they would make a great gift (to give or receive). But if you or someone you know is just starting out with makeup, it's a great idea to experiment with cheap brushes first. Really, the most important thing is to remember to wash your brushes regularly — no matter how much they cost.

Images: Kelly Dougher