It has recently come to my attention that a lot of my friends are very overwhelmed with makeup brushes. They don’t know what brush to use for what, they don’t know what to buy, they don’t know where to buy it…the list goes on. There are SO many makeup brushes on the market that it can feel impossible to choose just a few to invest in if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.
Having good brushes is a total game-changer. It’s pointless to spend your money on great products if you don’t invest in high-quality tools to apply those products properly. Luckily, some of the best brushes in the game are NOT super expensive. I’m going to go over which brushes I think every woman needs in her collection, why she needs them, and what each brush does. These are my personal favorites, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need them all! Just take this as information to help guide you through the makeup-brush-buying process.
FIRST. If you want to keep things as simple as possible, get a makeup brush set that’s already put together. This is how I officially started my brush collection back in the day, and it made things SO much easier. Once I started playing around with my new set, I figured out which brushes I liked the best, which I used the most, and what I wanted to get next.
If you have the money, my #1 suggestion would be to invest in the Sigma Essential Kit. It has every brush you might need, and the brushes come in a case that will SAVE YOUR LIFE. These brushes are so soft, versatile, and very long-lasting. I personally prefer Sigma brushes to MAC. Suuuuper high quality.
As much as I love my Sigma brushes, the price can be a bit steep, which brings me to my next love – Morphe Brushes.
Once again, if you don’t want to have to think about it, go for a brush set. Morphe sets are less than half the price of Sigma, but they are still HIGH QUALITY. Trust me. Whenever I want a new brush nowadays, I always go straight to Morphe.
To get every brush you could possibly need, choose Set 697. It comes with 15 brushes in a snazzy little case (VERY USEFUL). Sidenote – if you’re ever going to buy a set of brushes, make sure it comes with a case.
NEXT OPTION: If you don’t want to invest in a set because you can tell straight off the bat that you don’t want or need all of the brushes in it, then buy your brushes individually! If I were to create my own brush set completely from scratch, here are my top picks:
(Note: These are not my ONLY picks for affordable makeup brushes. There are so many fabulous, inexpensive brushes that I’m obsessed with. I’m just choosing my absolute faves to share in this post… Tryin’ to keep things as simple as possible for anyone just starting out!)
I NEED a Kabuki brush in my life at all times. Kabuki brushes are so versatile. You can use them to apply setting powder, powder foundation, blush, or bronzer. Personally, I use my Kabuki brush every day to apply translucent powder to set my foundation. I honestly prefer Kabukis to regular powder brushes just because they’re so small and cute. Normal powder brushes usually have a really long handle which can be super inconvenient to fit in your makeup bag. I find that a lot of brands carry excellent Kabuki brushes. I love this one from Morphe, but you can also get a great Kabuki brush from e.l.f at Target!
This isn’t technically a brush, but I think every woman needs a Beauty Blender in her collection. Beauty Blenders can be used for so many things and will last you FOREVER, so it’s beyond worth the $20. Just make sure you clean it regularly to ensure its longevity! The Beauty Blender is best for cream and liquid products. It blends foundation, concealer, cream blushes, cream contours, and liquid highlights like a dream. I could write an entire post about Beauty Blenders because they’re so freakin’ amazing. Basically, invest in one. It’ll change your life.
Most of my favorite affordable brushes for the face are in the Real Techniques Core Collection Set. These are ideal for face products because they have synthetic bristles, and synthetic bristles are exactly what you want when you’re dealing with cream and liquid products in order to get an even, buildable application (or you can use the Beauty Blender, as previously mentioned). Lemme break it down for ya.
On the far left we have the Contour Brush. This can be used to contour, as the name says, but I also sometimes use it for highlighting. Remember – there are no rules for makeup brushes! Do what works for you. This brush is on the smaller side and is rounded, so it works perfectly to carve out the hollows of your cheeks to achieve that extra-chiseled, sexy contoured look.
Second from the left we have the Pointed Foundation Brush, which can be used for foundation. However, I personally prefer a larger brush to apply my foundation so I can quickly cover a lot of area on my face. I prefer to use this brush to blend out my undereye concealer because it’s large enough to work quickly in the undereye area, but small enough to easily fit in the tight crevices under your eyes.
Second from the right is the Detailer Brush. This brush is perfect for concealing spots on your face because it’s extremely small, allowing for a very precise application. The synthetic bristles blend out cream or liquid concealers flawlessly. I also like to use this brush to apply glitter to my eyelids! I’ll wet the brush with my Fix+, tap the brush into my glitter, and voila! Party on my eyelids.
On the far right is the Buffing Brush. I am NOTHING without this brush. This is my favorite foundation brush, by far. It provides a perfectly even application and blends out foundation beautifully. BAM. DONE.
I am obsessed with this brush. It’s big, it’s fluffy, and it’s SO SOFT. Like the name says, this brush is amazing for applying blush. However, I also like to use it to apply bronzer all over my face because it’s nice and large and not very dense. I also sometimes use this to apply powder all over my face when setting my makeup if I don’t want to use my Kabuki brush or if it’s dirty.
I love pretty much all EcoTools brushes, but this is my absolute favorite for bronzer! It’s sooo soft. It’s large enough to apply your bronzer quickly, but not so big that things get out of control. (Patchy bronzer face is NOT cute.) It’s also fab for setting your face with powder, like the name says, or for blush.
If you want your highlight to be on fleek, YOU NEED THE MORPHE M501 BRUSH. I can’t not wear highlighter, and I can’t live without this brush. Fan brushes are also amazing for applying highlighter, but this is for sure my #1 choice. And Jaclyn Hill uses it, so you know it’s good.
Every woman needs at least one flat shader brush in her brush collection. I have about 10 of these, but I also use a lot of different colors all the time & pretend that I’m an actual makeup artist. You want a brush that is flat so that it can easily pack color onto the lid, and you want something medium-sized. Too small, and it will take forever to get the lid color on there. Too large, and you won’t have as much control over the color placement. When it comes to eyeshadow brushes, I prefer natural bristles because they tend to pick up and transfer pigment much better than synthetic bristles.
Alright, I admit this isn’t 100% necessary, but I use it every day so it’s one of my personal essentials. A small, dense brush like this is perfect not only for precisely packing color onto the lid, but also for applying your highlight shade underneath the brow bone. Because it is so dense and tiny, you get a very controlled application, and the pigment will REALLY show up.
Having a fluffy blending brush is ESSENTIAL. If you can only get one eyeshadow brush, get a fluffy blending brush. These are your dupes for the infamous MAC 217. I prefer to always have at least two on hand because I like to apply color with one and then use the clean one to blend everything out. I also like to have one blending brush that is slightly larger than the other. The smaller one is for precise crease work, and the other is for my transition shades. These fluffy brushes are both ideal for applying transition shades because they’re big enough to cover a large area, and they effortlessly diffuse the colors because they aren’t very dense.
For example, I might use the M441 to apply a color that’s 1-2 shades darker than my skin tone in my crease as a transition shade, and then I might go in with my M519 (SLIGHTLY smaller) to blend a brown shade into the crease. Then I would probably go back in with the M441 to fade everything out. Without a blending brush, your shadows will just awkwardly and bluntly start and stop, which isn’t very cute unless you’re going for a cut crease. Blending brushes are the key to a diffused, flawless look.
A pencil brush is another key part of any brush collection. You can use a pencil brush to apply color precisely in the crease or in the outer V of the eye. I like to apply my darkest shades in the outer V of my eyelid and then use my fluffy blending brushes to blend it all out seamlessly. A pencil brush is also perfect for blending out colors on the lower lash line. It’s small enough to fit under your lower lashes, but large enough to blend out the color for a smokey look.
You NEED a small angled brush in your life. Again, I own about 10 of these because I use them for so many different things. First of all, you can use this brush to apply eyeliner and create that perfect wing. Second, I love using this type of brush to apply dark shadows extremely close to my lower lash line. Then I go in with my pencil brush and smudge ’em out. A small angled brush is also exactly what you should use to apply your brow products (unless you’re a pencil kinda gal, like me). For your brows specifically, you can opt for a slightly larger angled brush, but nothing too crazy.
So there you have it! If I was starting my makeup brush collection from scratch and wanted only the essentials, this is exactly what I would get. I’d probably get doubles of many of the brushes mentioned because most have multiple uses, and it’s a hassle to try and use the same brush for two different things on the same day. Of course I could add a million more things to this list, but I’ll refrain. These brushes are all extremely affordable, but I promise that the quality is not sub-par in any way. Like I mentioned before, I reach for these more often than my MAC brushes. Why spend $20 on a single brush when you can spend $5?
Another note – Morphe has one store in Burbank, which means you’ll probably be ordering those brushes online. Real Techniques and EcoTools brushes can be found at Target (score!). If you don’t want to order brushes online, e.l.f. and Sonia Kashuk also have great options for eyeshadow brushes at Target, so feel free to check those out as well. Morphe is just my #1 true love. <3
What’s your fave makeup brush?! Let me know in the comments! XO