Whether you're new to makeup or you've been winging it for years, makeup brushes can seem intimidating. There are so many different kinds, but do you really need a set of 24 different brushes? And does spending more really mean you'll get a better brush?
I picked the brain of veteran stylist Lindsey Herring to find out what makes for a good makeup brush, which are actually worth buying, and how much you should be spending. Lindsey is a hair and makeup artist from New Jersey with more than 17 years of experience applying makeup (and doing hair) for weddings, runway shows, photo shoots, proms, and more.
The only brush you really need
If you've been thinking about buying a makeup brush set, don't. According to our makeup expert, there's only one essential brush to keep on your vanity: a foundation brush.
"A foundation brush with a flat top and a slanted angle that has some thickness to it can be used for any cream or liquid foundation," Lindsey explained. "The shape and thickness are what allow you to get the most even coverage."
Using a brush instead of your fingers for foundation helps with that coverage as well. Oils from your fingers will make it harder to seamlessly blend your makeup, but a brush removes that issue. For things like blush, bronzer and highlighters, you've already established a base, so the oil on your fingers won't be as problematic, according to Lindsey.
She recommends the Artis BrushCraft Oval 6 Brush ($24.50 at Home Shopping Network) for its unique, ergonomic shape that's easy to use and comfortable to hold. The large, flat surface allows for easy distribution, and the high fiber density means better, more even coverage.
If you're looking for a more budget buy, this e.l.f. angled foundation brush is only $2.77 as an add-on item on Amazon. Its synthetic fibers aren't ideal and it's not as thick as it could be, but for $3, it's great for perfecting your technique before you invest into a higher-end option.
Opt for natural or vegan-friendly fibers
Natural fibers are the absolute best. The soft texture is easy on the skin, the fibers move more naturally for smoother application, and makeup is less likely to cling to the bristles than with synthetic.
"The natural cuticle in the hair means it acts just like human hair," Lindsey said. "You can wash and dry your brush far more easily than synthetics, and it'll last longer too."
Vegan-friendly synthetic fibers can be OK as well, if you prefer animal-free brushes. Regular synthetic fibers won't have a cuticle, but vegan-friendly fibers mimic natural fibers more closely, allowing for results akin to animal hair. The downside is that vegan-friendly synthetic brushes tend to cost a bit more.
Plastic handles are the best
You want to choose a makeup brush with a lightweight handle, ideally plastic. Metal might look nice, but it's likely to rust over time. It also tends to be heavier, which will tire out your wrist.
Wood can expand and warp when wet, making cleaning your brushes more challenging than it needs to be. Considering most of us don't clean our brushes enough anyway, the last thing you want is one more excuse to put it off.
How to use a foundation brush correctly
First, apply a dab of foundation directly to the brush (not your face). You can also mix your foundation and your primer together for a single-step application. This is great if you're running late or you just prefer being as efficient as possible.
Ignore your instinct to "paint" your face. To get the best, most even coverage, you want to pat the makeup on all over. Then, use a blending sponge to blend everything in. You don't need to splurge on this product either. This highly rated set of 6 is only $10 on Amazon, for example.
"Any kind will work, "Lindsey told me. "They're all basically the same."
Lindsey also pointed out that the key to using a sponge correctly is to dampen it first. Otherwise, a dry sponge will just soak up your makeup instead of spreading it around your face.