Do you know your blush brush from your concealer brush? With an eye-popping array of different makeup brushes out there it can be hard to know where to start and which brushes will be your daily essentials. From which makeup brushes are best for beginners to learning how to apply foundation with a brush, our ultimate makeup brushes guide will have you skilled-up like a pro in no time.
“The rule of thumb with makeup brushes is to start with the essentials and build from there,” explains Janeena Rumsey, Glo’s Artistry Lead.
“While there are some brushes that are multitaskers, you’ll want a few key brushes in your kit for precise placement of color. The scale of your makeup brush kit will also reflect the complexity of the makeup looks you’re wanting to achieve too. So, if you’re pretty low-key, you’ll only need a few brushes, but if you’re looking to create more elaborate looks, that’s when you’ll need to add more to your kit,” she adds.
“While it’s tempting to want to try every brush under the sun, when it comes to starting out, there are a few core makeup brushes everyone needs,” shares Janeena. “The best makeup brushes for beginners will be a powder brush, blush brush—which can also be used for bronzers, foundation brush, flat eyeshadow brush, and a crease eyeshadow brush on the fluffier side. Then you can build your makeup brush collection from there as needed.”
Each makeup brush will have a different shape and different density of fibers, for optimal delivery of the specific makeup product to the area of the face they’re designed for.
To help you learn not only the basics, but get to know all the different types of makeup brushes, we’ll take you through which makeup brush is used for what purposes and why you might want them in your kit. Let’s dive into the various makeup brushes and their uses.
“First up, one of the most common questions makeup artists get asked is; ‘How do I choose a foundation brush?’” shares Janeena. “The short answer is it depends on the type of foundation you’re using—so liquid, cream, or powder and preferred coverage level.”
“Whether pressed or loose powder foundation, you’ll need a versatile powder foundation brush that ensures even coverage and natural effect. For this, you really can’t go wrong with our 105 Flat-top Kabuki or 101 Pro Kabuki Brush. Their dense fibers make it ideal for blending medium to full coverage powder foundation, creating a soft-focus finish, plus they’re also super effective for all-over blending too.”
If you’re looking for a more sheer coverage from your pressed powder foundation like our bestselling Pressed Base, you can also try the 104 Dual Fiber Face Brush. It’s less dense than the Kabuki brushes, so offers a more gentle coverage which is buildable depending on what look you want to create.
Because of their consistency, liquid foundations are best applied with a brush that will give you plenty of blending and stippling abilities to ensure a smooth application and the depth of coverage you want. “We love the 105 Flat-top Kabuki Brush and 108 Angled Complexion Brush for this as they offer easy blending and a smooth medium to full coverage effect. They work perfectly with Luminous Liquid Foundation SPF 18 too.”
“As the texture of a cream foundation is a little more malleable than liquid or powder, many people prefer to apply this with their fingers or a Makeup Blender Sponge,” adds Janeena. “But for effortless, mess-free blending, you really can’t go wrong with the 109 Dual Foundation/Camouflage Brush or the 108 Angled Complexion Brush. They actually work well for most types of foundation, but they’re great for cream foundation as the dense fibers at the base of the brush mimic the feel and pressure of your fingers.”
For a more sheer finish cream foundation effect, use a damp Makeup Blender Sponge to apply.
“If you’re a fan of using your fingers or a sponge, don’t be intimidated by using a brush to apply your foundation,” shares Janeena. “If you’re wondering how to apply a liquid foundation with a brush—or a cream or powder, similar rules apply. Your goal is to create a seamlessly natural, airbrushed effect.”
For liquid foundation, pump a small amount on the back of your hand, then dab onto the key areas of your face using your foundation brush. Use your brush to then even out the foundation, sweeping or stippling in small circular motions. Touch-up or add more if needed to create an even glowing effect. You can always finish with a Makeup Blender Sponge for extra precision or to smooth things out further.
With cream foundation, dab the cream onto your face starting from the center outwards. Using your cream foundation makeup brush, stipple and pat in the foundation to ensure even coverage.
For powder foundation, swirl your brush into your powder, tap off any excess, then sweep and blend across your face evenly. If you’re prone to shine in your T-zone, add extra coverage on your nose or forehead.
“Fingers may be the preferred application tool for many of us on-the-go, but actually the oils from our fingers can be detrimental to the concealer’s staying power,” shares Janeena. “It’s a great idea to add a concealer brush to your kit, as it allows you to apply your concealer or camouflage in a more precise way, to areas your fingers may find awkward to blend—think corners of the eyes and nose.
We love 109 Dual Foundation/Camouflage Brush for its multitasking value. You get easy concealer precision at one end, and a bigger foundation brush at the other, so it’s a win-win for your complexion and your wallet. “Also, 304 Dual Fiber Eye Brush is one of my personal favorites for lightweight blending on delicate areas such as under eyes.”
Depending on what type of powder you’re using, a powder brush is a useful brush to have on hand. For setting powder, a soft, fluffy brush will be a game-changer as it helps to apply a gentle amount of powder for a more sheer finish. For this, try 103 Tapered Setting Powder Brush—and you can use it for your loose foundation powder too.
The best blush brush will be dome shaped with long, soft fibers that easily allow for a wash of color to be applied on the apples of your cheeks or along the cheekbones. “You can then layer up to blend and build your perfect color intensity. Try 202 Powder Blush Brush. You can also use it for powder bronzers and highlighters too.”
Whether you want to create a subtle or more statement sculpting contoured effect, choosing a contour brush that’s designed for this very purpose is essential in ensuring ease of application and easy blending. The brush size and shape should fit neatly under your cheekbone. “A true multitasker, for contouring, we love the 107 Contour/Highlighter Brush with its two brush options—the soft round end to apply, blend, and diffuse, while the tapered brush offers definition and precision.”
When it comes to eye makeup brushes, this is where things can get a little more precise, with many brushes serving very specific purposes. “To keep things simple, if you’re just looking to add buildable color, blend, and do some crease shading, the 303 Detail Blender Brush, 304 Dual Fiber Eye Brush, 305 Crease Shader Brush will be your go-tos.”
For more definition, for smokey eye effects and beyond, you may want to expand your eye makeup brush repertoire. This is where smaller and more detailed brushes come into play used to line, soften and smudge.
If you’re unsure what eye brushes you need, we’ve got all the eyeshadow application tips and tricks in our handy guide. This will help you decide the look you want to try and the brushes you’ll need.
For sculpting, filling, and defining your eyebrows, an eyebrow brush will be a helpful brush to have in your kit. “Try using a spoolie brush if you want to fluff and groom your brows, then fill with color using an angled bristle brush like our 309 Dual Brow/Liner Brush. The large brush end can be used for all-over brows, while the smaller brush creates more definition and detailing.”
“A lot of people prefer to apply their lip color straight from the bullet or crayon itself, but using a lip brush can be really helpful in creating unparalleled precision,” shares Janeena. “The tiny yet impactful lip brush gives an accuracy that’s hard to achieve from the product itself, plus it’s extra useful when you’re running low on your favorite lip color too.”
Quality really matters when it comes to your makeup brushes. That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean they should be super expensive. A good quality makeup brush will ensure easy application and blending of makeup formulas, create a natural look, and be long lasting. Look for design details and what the makeup brushes are made from to guide your decision making.
A great place to start is to check whether the makeup brushes are designed by makeup artists. All of Glo’s brushes have been expertly created by makeup artists for both professional and personal use. “That’s always a green flag as you know the quality will be pro-level and the design is meticulously crafted.”
Another detail to look for when choosing a makeup brush is that it has a sturdy ferrule (the metal part) as this will hold the bristles firmly in place and reduce shedding or splaying of bristles.
“Cruelty-free brushes are always a plus,” advises Janeena. “Vegan brush fiber is so superior these days and such great option, as natural animal hair can at times irritate sensitive skin.” All of Glo’s brushes use pro-level, vegan, synthetic fibers which are cruelty-free and super easy to clean and maintain for years.
Once you’ve got your best makeup brush lineup, the key to maintaining that brush quality and integrity, as well as ensuring your skin remains clean and clear from breakouts, is all down to how you clean them. Discover our guide on how to clean your makeup brushes and how often for everything you need to know.