Spend enough time watching YouTube videos or reading beauty blogs, and you’ll likely acquire a serious collection of high-quality makeup brushes (and also a serious dent in your wallet). Those who don’t waste their lunchtime hours watching Michelle Phan and Lauren Luke, however, probably find the world of makeup brushes completely confusing. Does using one really make a difference with your makeup? And—with so many brushes on offer, all seemingly identical—how can you pick the brush that’s right for you?
The answer is: yes, makeup brushes really do make a difference, since they help your shadows last longer and look more natural and professional. In short, makeup brushes = a prettier, more polished you. I’ve spent a year greedily snapping up brushes (truly, it’s a sickness; plus there are more brushes than there are grains of sand!) but these few are the ones to start with. They’re indispensible, will last for years when properly taken care of (wash once per week with baby shampoo and then dry overnight) and simply will make your makeup look better. Just watch those aforementioned guru videos at your own peril. Trust me, they’re addictive!
MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush, $24.50
This is possibly the single most popular makeup brush on the market. (I am also possibly making this statistic up…but hours of internet watching suggest otherwise. Seriously—this brush is in every video!) It’s particularly handy for applying darker shadow to lids, and will deposit pigment extremely well, making the most of your fun colors, helping you to effectively craft a smokey eye, and simply giving you more bang for your buck.
MAC 249 Large Shader Brush, $27
My favorite brush for applying a single—usually lighter or bronzey, never too dark—color all over your eyes, from lid to brow. When I briefly lost this brush for a few days, I first went crazy, then tried supplementing other brushes (didn’t work) and finally had to resort to using my fingers. It was a happy, happy day when the brush resurfaced.
MAC 129 Blush Brush, $34
Another MAC brush? (Hey, they’re in every makeup artist’s kit for a reason!) As soon as you buy a new blush, immediately throw away any crappy mini brushes that might accompany it, and use the MAC 129 instead. It’s the industry-favorite blush brush, and blends, shades and contours like a dream.
Bare Escentuals Full Flawless Face Brush, $28
Look, ma, it’s not MAC! Being a huge mineral makeup fan in general, and a Bare Escentuals obsessee in particular, I had to include this brush. It’s my hands-down pick for best mineral makeup brush, giving more coverage with its fuller head than the standard blush, and showing you (and the world) in a few swirls just why women are so damn obsessed with minerals makeup. (Answer: because when it’s applied properly, with the right brush, it makes your skin look china-doll perfect.)
As far as brushes for lips and brows and crease shading—and more!—we’ll go into that in a future column. Baby steps here with the basics, gals!