There are tons of different types of makeup brushes out there. Brushes come in all types of materials, bristle shapes, lengths, and densities. The truth is, that you really don’t need them all. Clean hands and fingers work just fine for many people, even professional makeup artists. But still, there’s something to be said for having the right tool for the job.
Specialized makeup brushes are specifically made for targeting certain areas of your face. Having a nice brush set (or just a few key brushes) can really elevate your makeup look. And if you want to try looks like contouring and wingtip eyeliner, brushes are pretty much a must.
If you’re ready to channel your inner makeup artist, here’s a complete guide on different types of makeup brushes and how to use them.
Different Types Of Makeup Brushes
Brush Style: round, dome-shaped brush with densely packed bristles
Used For: applying foundation evenly across the face
How To Use It Properly: Dispense foundation to the back of your hand, dip the brush in it, and apply it to your face using short, circular motions. Start at the center of your face and work your way out.1
Brush Style: a full-fibered, fluffy head that is interspersed with long, feathery fibers
Used For: layering foundation (gives an airbrushed look)
How To Use It Properly: Push the brush down on your face in short movements, then use soft strokes to spread the makeup with the longer fibers.2
Brush Style: thick, full brush with long, fluffy, soft bristles
Used For: spreading loose or compact powder over your face without distributing too much
How To Use It Properly: Dip the brush in powder, tap off excess, and lightly sweep it over your face to set your makeup.3
Brush Style: small brush heads with dense, rounded bristles
Used For: applying liquid or cream concealer
How To Use It Properly: Dip the brush in concealer, and tap it over areas that need extra coverage (like under your eyes, around your nose, or over blemishes).4
Brush Style: flat, round, and “fan-like” with lightweight bristles
Used For: applying highlights and cleaning up powder makeup mistakes
How To Use It Properly: Sweep this brush over your cheekbones to apply powder highlighter.5
Angled Blush Brush
Brush Style: soft, fluffy brush with slanted bristles
Used For: applying blush, bronzer, and highlighter
How To Use It Properly: Use the blush brush to precisely dust colored powder over your cheeks and cheekbones.6
Face Contour Brush
Brush Style: angled with soft, dense bristles
Used For: defining your cheekbones and making your face look angular or slimmer
How To Use It Properly: Using a slightly darker shade than your face, sweep the contour brush over areas that you want to slim and minimize. Many people use contour brushes near their hairline, under cheekbones, on the sides of the chin and jawbone. (Hint: Contouring can be an advanced technique; YouTube tutorials may help).7
Flat Eyeshadow Brush
Brush Style: flat, fluffy, medium-sized brush head. Oval brushes are also popular.
Used For: eye makeup application over your eyelid
How To Use It Properly: Use this brush to sweep shadow on the eyelid and blend it in an outward direction.8
Eyeshadow Crease Brush
Brush Style: long, dome-shaped brush
Used For: delivers a high concentration of color to eyelid creases
How To Use It Properly: After applying a base color to the lid, dip this brush in shadow, apply the crease color, and diffuse the edges.9
Blending Brush For Eyes
Brush Style: wide, flat bristles that taper slightly at the end
Used For: the blending brush is used to blend layers of eyeshadow
How To Use It Properly: After you apply your first layer of eyeshadow, use the blending brush to smooth and blend additional layers.10
Flat Tip Eyeliner Brush
Brush Style: flat tip with dense, rigid bristles
Used For: applying color around eyes with precision
How To Use It Properly: Dip in eyeliner and apply across the lash line.11
Angled Eyeliner Brush
Brush Style: flat tip with dense, rigid bristles
Used For: applying color around eyes with precision; can be used with powder, cake, or gel liner
How To Use It Properly: Dip the brush in liner, start at the inside of the eye, and sweep the brush along the lash line.12
Spiral Eyebrow Brush (Spoolie)
Brush Style: very rigid, spiraled bristles
Used For: taming brow hairs
How To Use It Properly: Brush through your eyebrows in short strokes, using the brush to move hairs back into position.13
Brush Style: small, fine brush with squared off tip
Used For: defining the edges of your lips and applying color or gloss
How To Use It Properly: Dip brush into lipstick, wipe of excess, use the brush to line the edge of the lips and fill them in.14
What Materials Are Available For Bristles?
While there are hundreds of different types of makeup brushes, there are really only two types of brush materials. There are brushes made with synthetic bristles and those made with natural bristles. Both types have their pros and cons.
Synthetic brushes are typically made of polyester or nylon. These synthetic fibers don’t absorb liquid, so they tend to work well with cream and liquid products. Cream blushes, concealers, foundations, and eyeliners typically call for synthetic brushes.
- Less expensive than natural hair brushes.
- They come in many styles and brands.
- Easy to wash.
- They don’t shed.
- No animals are harmed in their creation.
- They are ideal for liquid or cream products because the bristles are not porous.
- Synthetic bristles may aggravate some skin types.
- They may not pick up powder products as well as natural brushes.15
Natural Hair Brushes
Natural brushes are typically made from the hair and fur of animals like boars, squirrels, and goats. Because they are made of real hair, they tend to be much softer than synthetic brushes. Because they are porous, they tend to absorb and spread pigment well.16
You may want to grab natural brushes when applying loose powder, powder blush or bronzer, highlighter, and eyeshadow.
- They pick up and distribute pigment better than synthetic brushes.
- They may allow for more control and precision.
- They are extremely soft.
- If you take care of them, they can last a long time.
- They may cause allergies or reactions in some people.
- They may not be animal cruelty-free.
- They may shed.
- They are difficult to wash.
- They are more expensive than synthetic brushes.17,18
Which Brushes Do You Actually Need?
Do you need a blush brush or an angled brush for your eyeshadow? The answer of which make-up brushes you absolutely need will be different for everyone. How do you currently apply makeup? Is it working for you? Are there specific looks you’d like to try that require brushes? If you love makeup, then you may want all of the brushes on this list in your arsenal.
If you had to whittle it down to only three choices, you might choose something like this:
- A small, angled brush that can be used on eyeliner, lips, and brows
- A flat, medium-sized brush that can be used to build coverage with foundation, concealer, and highlighter
- A soft, fluffy, dome-shaped brush that can be used to apply powder, blush, and bronzer19
As you build your collection of makeup brushes, remember to reach for quality products. Investing in high-quality pieces will ensure they will last a long time and serve you for many years down the road.
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