Makeup Brushes – What should You Buy?


This entry is the logical conclusion of my brush post.

My advice to those just starting their collection, or to anyone who’s buying a brush really, is the same advice I followed and one that you’ve heard many times: buy the best that you can afford. Personally I prefer natural hair and am very partial to Japanese brushes – you won’t look back.

I see the convenience in getting a set but I would recommend getting them individually if you can. That way you can really cherry pick the best ones in each category from the best brands that make them and cater to the products you already own or your usual technique.

If your heart is set (*giggle*) on starting with a set, one with 5 brushes is cool but I would avoid those with 20. I’d look into what Hakuhodo has to offer simply because they make high quality brushes with various price points, and from what I’ve seen on Instagram there are a myriad of colour for the handles as well so you don’t have to have black handles. And since it’s Hakuhodo. You can’t go wrong.

Natural or synthetic, to start with the bare minimum I’d recommend getting:
– 2 eye brushes, one to lay colour (paddle type) the other to blend (fluffy type)
– 1 x blush brush. Choose the shape depending on how you apply. Do you stroke and pat (paddle) or do you stipple and do round circling motions (dome)? Choose the hair type and density based on the type of blushes you have most or what you tend to buy. If you tend to go for crazy pigmented then opt for softer hair, less densely packed.
– 1 x powder or large face brush
– mascara comb (metal teeth – technically not a brush, I know)
– spoolie for lashes or brows

I think I was given some good advice with my first brush purchase at shu because they were all essentials and functional (ok the 5R was not entirely necessary for a newbie but still really nice to have).

Good to have brushes:
– brow brush if you use a powder for them. I’ve been using the same one from Bobbi Brown for decades and it’s a very stiff brush that I’ve found to be most efficient
– small synthetic brush with pointed tip for spot concealing (I find fingers to be as good, the heat helps meld it into the skin so that’s why I didn’t put this in the must-haves). This would be good to blend out the edges
– gel liner brush if you use pot gel liners (personally I like flat ‘push’ types and find them easiest to use and control)
– a smudge brush if you like smokey eyes
– a dense face brush for buffing in your foundation and eliminating hard lines and getting that perfect finish. Can also be used for foundation*
– a lip brush if you love reds or other darker colours

Nice to have brushes:
A lot of these depend on what makeup products you have and use. The road to the rabbit hole begins with the ‘nice to haves’.
– highlight: I find a fan brush to be the best shape if you prefer your highlights natural and subtle; alternatively a small fluffy brush (something like a big eye blender) would also do nicely. I like the Real Techniques one too.
– bronzer: a fluffy, medium density brush with a dome or candle tip is my choice for natural looking application
– contour: I like the ita shape for more precision around the cheekbones. Something like the Rae Morris ultimate cheek bone (which I have) is a nice one too
– If you do touch-ups on the go or travel a lot: Retractable cheek/powder brush/lip brush. You can get natural or synthetic hair with these.

*Foundation brushes:
I put this separately because it’s not a must for me. Perhaps this will change when I try my latest acquisition! I know however that this is the preferred method for a lot of people. Logically you’ll want a synthetic brush because it won’t absorb as much product and you’ll be washing it frequently so it needs to be able to take a beating. I haven’t had luck with paddle types, the ones I’ve tried tend to leave brush marks and streaks behind. The best ones for me are dense flat kabuki type brushes like the Sigma one, or rounded ones like the ultimate face from Real Techniques. Smaller brushes give you more control. Stippling brushes can really give an air-brushed perfect finish only if you stipple and not swipe, and that takes a lot more time. I wouldn’t splurge for foundation brushes, but will consider getting a second one to rotate if I use them daily.

I tend to reach for a Beauty Blender before I would a brush, to be honest!

*Brush sizes:
Choose the size to work with YOUR face. For example I like smaller eye brushes because I have hooded eyes and not much space to work with. A lot of the brushes I see in makeup tutorials/videos are too big for me. Take into account your technique/preference too. Imagine you have two blush brushes of different size but the same hair type. The smaller brush will usually give you more precision and control; the bigger one efficiency and speed.

Be careful of the rabbit hole!
You’ve carefully selected each and every one of the brushes in your collection. You are happy with all of them and how they perform. For some reason you wake up one day and decide to browse makeup brushes online. Soon you find yourself filling up the virtual shopping cart. None of the brushes you have in the cart will be performing a brand new task. You’re not even sure if it will outperform your current brush. But you go ahead with the purchase anyway because:
– it’s a different hair type/mix/dyed/undyed
ok this is debatable and could be a valid point especially if it’s cream vs powder purpose
– has a longer/shorter/different coloured handle
if you’re getting a shorter handle for traveling, are you leaving long-handled ones behind? If not, forget it.
– said to be a $30 dupe of this unicorn brush that cost a gazillion dollars
never do this. Save up and buy the unicorn.
– said to be a $10 dupe of this other popular, mid-priced, good quality brush you’ve never tried
Just buy the other brush. You’ll always wonder about the other brush.
– is a special limited edition. They’re never making this again!

Tread carefully! When you have too many single-purpose brushes it’s time to step back and take a look at the big picture. I know I have too many redundant ones. But I also know I would not have known some really great brushes if I hadn’t taken the chance.

The best brush is the brush that works best for YOU. That Tom Ford face brush that everyone loves might not be the best for you and that’s ok!


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