How To Use Every Type Of Makeup Brush

by Miki Hayes

When I think "makeup," my mind instantly goes to eyeshadow palettes. And lipstick. Basically any colorful products I can put on my face. I tend to forget about the guys working behind the scenes, which is unfortunate because great makeup application begins with using the right tools. But with so many different kinds of makeup brushes on the market these days, where do you even begin? Before looking at types of brushes, there are two basic qualities to look for: what the bristles are made from and how densely they're packed.

Synthetic versus Natural

The general rule here is to use a synthetic brush if you intend to use cream or liquid products with it. Natural hair will absorb moisture from the product, hindering the application onto your skin. Natural hair (usually goat, squirrel, sable, or badger) tends to hold and deposit powder better, so it's best for applying blush and bronzer.


The density of a brush has to do with how many bristles are packed into the ferrule (the metallic part that connects the handle to the hairs). The denser the brush is, the more product it will be able to hold and deposit. You'll generally want denser brushes for foundation, powder, and eyeshadow application. Less-dense brushes are good for blush, bronzer, and highlighter application, as well as blending purposes.

Keeping these two qualities in mind, whether you're building your collection, or just want to invest in some key players, here are the eight makeup brushes that will allow you to achieve (almost) any look.

1. Flat-Top Kabuki or Buffing Brush

Try: Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, $6, Amazon

Flat-top Kabukis or buffing brushes are great for applying foundation. Either works for both liquid and powder types. Use a them in a circular motion for totally even full coverage.

2. Powder Brush

Of course, a powder brush can be used to set your foundation with, well, powder.

But it can also be used to apply bronzer.

Try: Juice Beauty Buki Powder Brush, $18, Amazon

And if you pinch the bristles together to form a line, it can easily be used to contour.

3. Blush Brush

Try: Sigma Beauty F10 Blush Brush, $25, Amazon

There's just no getting around a good blush brush. Brushes advertised as "contour" brushes can also work. Just look for a dome-shape with synthetic bristles.

4. C or Shader Brush

Try: e.l.f. Studio Eyeshadow C Brush, $11, Amazon

Use these to pack color all over the lid.'

5. Blending Brush

The most important thing you can do in makeup application is blend. Seriously. Blend that shit.

Try: Bdellium Tools Tapered Blending Brush, $15, Amazon

A blending brush can also be used to apply highlighter.

6. Spoolie

Comb those brows before you fill 'em in.

Try: Jane Iredale Deluxe Spoolie Brush, $10, Amazon

And separate your lashes if your mascara made them clumpy.

7. Angled Liner Brush

This brush is great for filling in brows with powder or gel.

Try: Sigma Beauty E06 Winged Liner Brush, $13, Amazon

Also eyeliner.

8. Stippling Brush

Try: Real Techniques Stippling Brush, $7, Amazon

Have I mentioned blending is your friend? A stippling brush is great for blending your blush and bronzer. It's also good for cream products.

9. Bonus: Eyelash Curler

Try: Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, $18, Amazon

I know, I know, not technically a brush. But it's one of the best tools to have in your arsenal. Start from the base and pulse up to give lashes a more natural-looking curl.

Images: Leonid & Anna Dedukh/; Miki Hayes (14)