How to know what to get when there are literally thousands of different makeup brushes and tools?
It’s a fact that beauty, especially makeup, has become one of the trendiest subjects of our generation. Just take a look at the Internet, and you’ll find tons of stuff related to makeup and how to apply it. I must admit that I became an addict the moment I came across a makeup tutorial. Not only was I inexplicably relaxed while watching these people's transformation in a matter of seconds, but I also got interested in learning how to create those amazing looks by myself. So, when I decided I would try out one of those tutorials, I went to the drugstore to get some of the basic makeup products (by now I only had some lipsticks, blush, and a pencil liner, so basically nothing compared to the many options out there). I was already confused by all the names and brands mentioned in the tutorials, but that wasn't as perplexing as going to the shop and finding a wide variety of tools and products I didn't know about. However, I only got what I remembered seeing on the video, but when it came to the brushes, I was totally lost. There are so many options that it felt like looking at a surgeon’s kit or a toolbox. Obviously, I grabbed a kit that included like 12 different brushes, hoping I had all the stuff I needed to recreate a look.
I can’t even describe how disappointed I was when I went back home, ready to work, and found out that only three brushes from that "complete" brush kit were useful. Now, as I said, I’ve become addicted to this stuff, and as much as I want to fight hard against my inner compulsive buyer, I can’t resist the need to buy more stuff whenever I have the chance. I've also learned to develop a sixth sense to detect whether a new beauty product is a gimmick or will actually work.
If you want to improve your makeup skills but are confused by the many tools out there, take a look at this easy guide that will help you achieve a flawless look and save you some money, since you’ll know exactly what to get. Before going through the guide, my advice will always be to stick with synthetic brushes. The reason is that natural bristles tend to absorb a lot of product and spread it less than synthetic materials. As for powders, there’s no doubt that natural brushes blend better than the others, but synthetics aren’t that bad. That’s why I recommend going for the second ones in general.
Well, we definitely have to start with the face. The main steps for getting a flawless skin, besides your regular beauty routine, are primer (which I always apply with my clean fingers, although there are brushes for it), foundation, and concealer. You’d be surprised at how many tools there are to apply these simple steps, from silicone sponges, to spatulas, beauty sponges, and brushes.
Flat Kabuki brush
My very favorite tool for foundation is definitely the flat kabuki brush. The name sounds super fancy, since it alludes to the ancient Japanese brushes used by theater performers to apply their thick white makeup. The flat kabuki brush is literally one with very compact bristles that is absolutely flat at the top. This is my favorite, since it applies your makeup in a faster and more uniform way than other tools. To do so, you'll just need a couple of pumps of your foundation directly on your brush and pass it all over your face, and that’s it, all in less than a minute.
Once your foundation is done, it’s advisable to put some concealer. This has two functions: as the name suggests, it helps cover "imperfections," like under eye bags, pimples, or zits, and it gives a natural highlight to those areas that shine naturally, like the forehead, nose, chin, and under eye (making a triangle that goes from the eyes to your cheekbones). Once you’ve blended this perfectly, the best way to make it last the most is by setting it with loose translucent powder. To do this, the best tool is a regular medium-to-small powder brush to just tap the area with the powder.
Another extremely famous tool is the beauty sponge. To be honest, I’ve never managed to get used to it, and I don’t love how the foundation looks when using it, but I decided to put it in the list, since I’m pretty sure it could be a life changer for you. The trick with these tools is soaking them with water, rinsing well, and using them to blend your foundation. What happens is that the sponge gets bigger and softer, which allows you to manipulate it better. There are many shapes and sizes, but if you’re a beginner, I’d go for the regular egg-shaped one or those that have a rounded side and a flat one, so you can use it for more techniques like baking.
Blush brushes are basically the fluffy one with a curved end. You won’t have any trouble here, since they’re included in almost every brush set. The trick to applying blush, especially if you’re wearing any sort of contour, is to smile and apply it right in the apples of the cheeks. Don’t go any further, so that it’ll look like a natural and cute tint of color to complete your look.
Once your foundation and concealers are set, let’s go for contouring. You can opt for a full contour look or just a subtle one that will naturally outline and sharpen your natural face lines. Before going for specific brushes, let me give you an advice. If you’re going for a cream contour product, don't set your foundation until you’re done. If you apply powder and then cream over it, you'll create a pasty consistency that can end up looking cakey, which is the least desirable thing for a makeup look. So, always keep the creams underneath and use powders to set. Having said this, let’s go to the tools.
There are, of course, specific contour brushes that will make your job easier. My favorite ones are those flat brushes with short bristles (you’ll find them easily, since they look more rectangular when you place it in front of you). This makes it even more precise to apply in the exact areas you want. Moreover, their flatness and the thin bristles allows you blend it more flawlessly.
Huge fluffy brush
If you prefer a more subtle and natural contour, this brush will be your most favorite thing ever. When I say huge, I really mean it, and it must be really, really fluffy. Now, here you’ll need a bronzer matching your skin tone. There are endless options, but one great way to know which one to get is by looking one that’s one or two shades darker than your skin tone. Dab the bronzer with your fluffy brush and blend it right into the cheekbones. It won’t look that dramatic, but it will outline your features.
Precision kabuki brush
This is like the thin version of the one you’d use to apply your foundation. This one is perfect for contouring the nose, since it will set the product specifically on the zone you want. It will also be perfect for blending it without dragging the cream to undesired areas.
Angled brushes work similarly to the fluffy brush if you want a subtle look, or you can also use them to set your cream contour with bronzer so it’ll last longer. These ones look similar to the powder brush you’d use to set your concealer, but they have an angled end. This is also great to contour your jawline with bronzer and make your face look more sharp-edged.
Although highlighter is basically something new, it has revolutionized the makeup industry. There are now tons of products with different glowy shades. You can select from gold, bronze, copper, silver, blue, purple, pink, or yellow. If you don’t want to go for all of them (but once you start using highlighter, you’ll want them all), I’d choose one that matches the shadow colors you’d use in a daily basis. So, if you like warm tones, the best highlighters would be the first three I mentioned. Now, if you opt for cooler tones, silver and blue will make your look stand out the most.
Small powder brush
There’s no difference on where to apply the highlighter. What changes is the finished look. This brush is basically like your concealer powder brush but smaller. This will help you have more precision and will give you a more pigmented finish. Again, how you use it will depend on the look you want, whether you want something subtle or more dramatic.
There are basically two main types of fan brushes. You can go for the original ones that are super slim or those that are thicker and fluffier. The first ones are great if you want a defined highlighter line, while the others will give you a more expanded and blended finish. You must place your highlighter over your cheekbones, on the bridge or tip of your nose (I prefer putting a line from the bridge to the tip of my nose), on your Cupid’s bow, the chin, and a bit on the forehead. It’s also fashionable to put it on your clavicles if you’re showing some cleavage.
This is my favorite part. Oh, by the way, I always do my eyes first, so if there’s some fall out I can clean it perfectly without damaging my foundation. One trick to avoid smudging your shadows throughout the day is to apply a coat of translucent powder over your bare lid, then the primer you normally use, another coat of powder, and then your shadows. In that way the powder soaks all the natural oil s and creates a sort of mask that prevents oils from getting to the shadows.
Flat synthetic brush
These aren’t my favorites to be honest, but they are great for applying metallics and glitter. So, this is the trick for these hues if you want to use a brush. Wet them with some set spray or fix water, and then apply the colors. They’ll look way more blinding and pigmented (this applies for highlighter and bright colors as well). Now, if you ask me, the best trick for more pigmentation is using your fingers. Seriously, they apply these products way much better than any brush.
To be honest, I basically use a fluffy brush for everything, but I must admit that at the beginning I had to use different specific brushes for each step. So, it's better to use it to apply your transition color, that is, the one that will be seen on your crease when your eyes are wide open. You can also use this to blend the colors in a flawless way.
Pencil precision brush
I use the pencil brush when I want a more defined and dramatic look on my crease. Nonetheless, it’s also very helpful to apply shadows in the under eye, right on the lash line.
I basically use this one to blend in small and precise places, especially under the eye section. However this can also be used to pack certain colors in the outer crease, or even to blend specific areas.
Angled brushes will be your best friends if you’re a beginner. Seriously, it was my absolute go-to every day. Its natural shape will allow you to create flawless and easy smokey looks.
Finally, we have brows, which in my opinion is what encloses the entire look. Now, you have many options here. You can go for powders (which I personally don’t like), creams (that have more of a waxy consistency and that will last for longer), or pencils.
This is optional if you ask me. You can use this to comb and arrange the brow hairs in the position you want, even after finishing the makeup. Some people like it, but I personally think you can do the same with the spoolie, but it’s all a matter of taste and what works better for you.
Whether you choose cream or powder, this will be the brush you’ll need. These ones are compacted brushes with an angled end that will help you get deep into the skin, creating a long-lasting natural look. You just have to apply the product with brushstroke motions to mimic your natural hairs.
Basically all brow pencils have a tiny spoolie, but if you’re going for another type of brow products, I highly recommend getting one of these, which are also very inexpensive. Spoolies are great to comb your brows and help you tackle all the brow region and avoid leaving blank spaces.
As you can see, there are some brushes that are essential and some of them can be exchanged for another alternative. I recommend looking for some medium quality ones at first to find out which are the best for you, and once you know what works best, get some better ones. My last advice is to clean them regularly, since it’s quite easy for them to gather a lot of bacteria from the environment, and you won’t want that on your face, right?
If you’re into beauty and makeup, here are other articles that might come in handy:
Gif photos by @_mcemiliano
Makeup by @xbscara