How to Build Your Makeup Brush Arsenal - Beauty Addict

Saturday, October 13, 2007

How to Build Your Makeup Brush Arsenal

One of the questions I'm asked most frequently concerns the eternally confusing topic of makeup brushes - which brands are the best, which brushes are absolutely essential to a good collection, and how to use them.

There's always much debate over which ones are the best (and it's damn near impossible to try them all), but some excellent choices are NARS, MAC, Chanel, Trish McEvoy, and even the Sephora "house brand." I'm partial to Smashbox; I've always found the brushes to be soft, well shaped, and easy to work with.

Next, which to buy? I've separated the brushes into 3 major categories below, to help break it down for the beginner brush connoisseur.

So I hope you enjoy this primer on brushes, and please feel free to chime in and post your suggestions for "best brushes" in the comments!

The Absolute Basics

By now I hope you've figured out that the brushes that come packaged with blush compacts just don't cut it. A good blush brush should be soft with a rounded top and tapered sides that allow for even blending, but not so large that it cuts too wide a swath.
My pick: Trish McEvoy #2B

Foam tipped applicators are great if you can keep from losing them, but for more controlled application, a good eyeshadow brush is essential. Pick a medium sized brush with a slightly rounded head and soft bristles for applying base colors, a "wash" of shadow, or light blending.
Larger: Smashbox Blending Brush #3
Smaller: Smashbox #4 (actually a concealer brush but I love it for shadows, too!)

Some may argue that this one doesn't belong in the "absolute basics" category, but I really think it's essential! Poorly blended eyeshadow or eye color that doesn't reach the lashline are telltale mistakes that can easily be avoided with a good smudger brush. This one is the most frequently used brush in my collection - and my favorite by far! My Smashbox smudger has a flat, rounded brush that's perfect for blending into the lashline or applying shadow to the delicate lower lid area, and the other end sports a foam tip that's ideal for smudging cream/cake liners.
My pick: Smashbox Double Ended Smudger #20 or Trish McEvoy M54

The brush I've chosen here is excellent for powder bronzer, highlighter powders, loose powder, or mineral makeup (in fact, I like it better than the kabuki brushes marketed with some of the popular mineral makeup brands). I even use it with body bronzer and shimmer powders.
My pick: Smashbox Face & Body Brush #19

Finer Details

Lip Brush
Essential for precise application of darker lip colors, a good lip brush gives you more control over how much product you use and where it goes. This is especially helpful once the original pointy angle of a new lipstick has been worn off. Choose one that's capped or retractable to keep it from attracting dust.
My pick: Sephora Professionel Retractable Lip Brush #60

Concealer Brush
Sometimes those pesky blemishes call for a tool that's more precise than your finger, so a concealer brush is your best bet. Look for one with bristles that are just slightly stiffer than a blush or shadow brush, just make sure to wash it frequently if you're using it on blemishes! NB, the one I've recommended here works well with both mineral and cream concealers.
My pick: Bare Escentuals Precision Concealer Brush

Eyeliner Brush
For applying cream or gel eyeliners, look for a small, blunt-angled brush for thick, smudgy lines, or an extra-fine tipped brush for a thinner or more precise line. I find that many of the long, super-thin ones you usually see don't really give enough control when working with cream or gel formulas, so take a good look at the tip and make sure it'll stand up to a little pressure.
For a thinner line: MAC #209 Eyeliner Brush
For a thicker line: Clinique Eye Liner Brush

Brow Brush
A good brow brush should be angled and stiff-bristled to "push" product into the brows. Use it to apply brow powder, wax or pomade.
My pick: Smashbox Angle Brow Brush #12

Crease Brush
For blending shadow in the crease, look for a slightly smaller, narrower head with more densely packed bristles. This one is also good for applying highlight shadow to browbones.
My pick: Smashbox Definer Brush #15

Extras & "Nice-to-Haves"

If you'd prefer a separate brush for bronzer, look for a nice full one that will distribute color softly on the areas where the sun would naturally touch your face. I became addicted to Clinique's last year when I started using it with the Pink Chocolates Shimmering Tones palette, and now I use it all the time for bronzer.
My pick: Clinique Bronzer/Blender Brush

If you find you just can't trust your fingers, pick up a brush for applying cream or liquid foundations. I especially like using a brush with mousse foundations so I don't have to keep dipping my fingers in the jar. A good one should distribute product evenly without streaking.
My pick: Lancome Foundation Brush

Fan Brush
For a super-light application of powder highlighters/shimmer powders, choose a fan brush - it's extra soft, flat, and wide, allowing for a light veil of product. Not exactly a necessity, but it provides good control - nevermind the fact that it looks cool and feels great on the face.
My pick: Sephora Professionel Platinum Naturel Fan Brush #43

There are plenty of other brushes to experiment with in addition to these, from stippling brushes to angled liner brushes to the 18 million types of powder brushes on the market, but I hope this guide helped get you started if you're a brush newbie.

For even more brush suggestions, browse the July and August archives at Blogdorf Goodman and look for the terrific "Brushed with Greatness" posts!