Just as a professional artist knows, the right brush can make or break a painting. So why should you expect anything but the best for your makeup? Having the right set of makeup brushes is absolutely key to getting the right look — but it’s so dang confusing to know what to choose with all the options out there!
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Read on for a breakdown of what to look for in a great set of brushes.
How Can You Tell A Good Makeup Brush?
If only there were a class for makeup brushes 101, then we would not have the dilemma of which brush to use for what purpose.
A good thing to remember is a good brush is not always about the price. When looking for a brush, you want to look for quality, and the truth is that quality isn’t *only* attached to a brand name.
What I mean is this: Don’t feel like you have to spend hundreds of dollars on something fancy. Instead, look for good quality in the three parts of the brush:
- Hair – More on this in the next session, but essentially, you want either natural or synthetic hair that feels soft on bigger face brushes (for powder and contouring), and firmer on smaller detail brushes (such as those for eyes and lips).
- Ferrule – This is the part of the brush that connects the hair to the handle. Look for a seamless construction, where the material is one single piece with no joints. This will make sure no materials gets lodged up in the ferrule, which can corrode it and damage the handle. Brass or stainless steel are best, but aluminum is OK, just a bit weaker. It’s the least expensive material. You should also yank on the hairs a bit to make sure they’re very secure and don’t easily shed or pull out.
- Handle – Here you want a length and width that feels comfortable in your hand and is easy to manage while you’re applying makeup. Plastic or wood – either on works, but you’ll be spending more for wood. You just want to be sure the handle isn’t too long, because that can get tricky and unwieldy when doing detail work.
Synthetic Or Natural?
There are a couple differences between synthetic and natural hair, and probably the first one you want to consider is cost. Natural brushes, which are made from animal hair, are going to be more expensive than synthetic, so keep that in mind as you’re shopping around.
The other key difference is application – the rule of thumb is that you should use natural brushes to apply powders (blush, eyeshadows) and synthetic for creams and liquids. This is because synthetic fibers aren’t absorbent, so they won’t soak up all your more liquid-based products. Natural hairs tend to hold powders better so they don’t get everywhere while you’re applying them.
That said, I have a very serviceable set of all-synthetic brushes that I use for everything, including powders, and I love it. I also am vegan, and don’t believe in using any products made from animals, so my all-synthetic set makes me happy. 🙂
This is the one I use, and it’s a pretty great deal at around $35.
What Kind Of Brushes Do The Pros Use?
The pros use the best makeup brushes that they can get. They know and are trained to get the best results in the right situations, the right brush can be critical. The pros have to consider the lighting, the weather and the setting that will be used for their clients. They may be in a bright studio, in a film with soft lighting or posing for a wedding shot.
The pros do invest a bit of money in their special types of makeup brushes, and they also spend a bit to keep them clean and in pristine shape. A professional will usually have one or two brushes for each application.
For instance, the shape of the brush needed for applying eye shadow may change from person to person since each face is different. A brush for applying a bronzer will differ greatly from a brush that does eyebrows. A fine eyeliner brush should not double as a lipstick brush.
For tutorial on which brush shapes to use for each area of the face and what effect you want to accomplish, I have a couple of resources for you to check out:
This helpful infographic article in Cosmo: 12 Makeup Brushes You Need and Exactly How to Use Them
Or, if you’re more a video person, check out this tutorial:
Are The Best Makeup Brushes More Expensive?
I think by now you’ve figured out the answer to this one: The best brushes are not always the most expensive ones. It is important to have the right tool for the job, but don’t get hung up on brands and price tags.
The most high-end professional makeup brushes may set you back a few hundred dollars. If you know exactly how to use them, then you may decide the purchase is worth it.
But for most of us, a good quality, inexpensive set of makeup brushes can be a great way to start your collection, then if one brush really works well, investing in a higher end brush in the same style may be something to think about. Or if you are uncertain how all the brushes work, try experimenting since they are not high end brushes.
You should be able to get a good starter set for under $40, like the one I mentioned above.
Which One Is Right For Me?
One of the best ways to find a great brush set is to actually try them out — at Sephora or your favorite beauty shop — and see what works for you. Also, a perk is if a professional makeup designer is there to help you understand how to use each one.
Or, if you prefer the convenience of shopping online and just want to pick up a good quality set for a really good deal, I can recommend this one, which is the one I use: