How to Choose Which Brushes to Use for Makeup

June 29, 2022
Alyssa Kaplan
By: Alyssa Kaplan | by L'Oréal
person applying blush to cheekbone

If you ask us, one of the keys to achieving a gorgeous makeup look is the beauty tools you use to create it. Sure, finding makeup items that work for your needs and preferences is important, but the sponges and makeup brushes you use can make all the difference. With that said, there are tons of makeup brushes on the market — and many of them look so similar that it’s difficult to tell which one does what. So ahead, we’re sharing what you need to know about the different face makeup brushes, as well as how to care for them so they last. 

Do Face Makeup Brushes Really Make a Difference? 

Having an appropriate makeup brush for the steps in your makeup routine can make a huge difference in the outcome of your look. Using the correct kind of brush, whether it’s a tapered foundation blush or a flat concealer brush, can change how your makeup applies and help give you a smooth finish. 

Another thing to note before picking up your tool is if it’s a natural or synthetic makeup brush. Natural hair makeup brushes are often made from animal hair and are known for their blending and pick-up properties, whereas synthetic makeup brushes are made of man-made materials like nylon and are great for precise and streak-free application. 

What Do You Use Each Makeup Brush For?  

Just like makeup products themselves, makeup brushes can be used in multiple ways. While one might be labeled as a blush brush, you might prefer it for contouring and that’s okay — don’t hesitate to experiment. However, if you’re curious about the main types of brushes for face makeup, there are several. 

Foundation Brush

Foundation brushes tend to be flat or rounded and densely packed so that they can buff and blend product into your skin smoothly. 

Concealer Brush 

Concealer brushes are similar to foundation brushes, they’re just smaller so that they can get into hard-to-reach areas. They come in flat shapes as well as rounded shapes to buff and blend. 

Powder Brush

Big, round, fluffy brushes are typically used to apply powder when setting the face. They’re not too densely packed so that they don’t add excess product to the skin. 

Blush Brush

Blush brushes often look like small powder brushes — they’re usually round or slightly angled. They’re fluffy and loosely packed so they don’t deposit too much color at once.

Bronzer Brush

Bronzer brushes are typically in between blush brushes and powder brushes in terms of size. They’re usually fluffy and either round or oval in shape to cover a large surface area.

Contour Brush

Contouring brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but you’ll commonly find them in small round or oval shapes with densely packed bristles in order to place and blend product with precision. 

Highlighter Brush

Like contouring brushes, highlighter brushes come in different shapes and sizes. They’re often fan brushes, which are thin brushes that apply powders lightly, or cone-shaped, fluffy brushes which are great for delicately applying highlighter to the cheekbones. 

Which Makeup Brushes Are Best for Beginners? 

If you’re first starting out with makeup, there’s no need to spend tons of money on a bunch of expensive brushes. Like makeup, preferences also come into play with brushes — so starting out with a few inexpensive staples is key until you find what you like. If you’re looking for a great foundation brush, we love the NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation Brush. It can also be used for contouring or cream blush application, so at $15, it’s a great place to start.
person applying blush to cheekbone

How to Store Your Makeup Brushes

If you want your makeup brushes to last you for years, don't just throw them loosely into a makeup kit. Doing so can cause the top to get crushed and distorted, and it can also be unsanitary — especially if you have spilled or dirty makeup in your bag. Instead, stay organized and clean by using a brush roll or a brush organizer. You can also get creative by standing them up in a decorative jar or container. 

How to Wash and Dry Your Makeup Brushes 

Washing your brushes is important for hygiene reasons, but it’s also important in order to remove excess pigment and product from the bristles so that you get a smooth, clean application. To clean them, look for a gentle shampoo or bar soap — ensuring the cleanser is gentle is important because harsh cleansers can loosen the glue that holds the bristles together. 

Then, hold the brush with the bristles pointing down and lather them in the soap and water. Softly scrub the lathered-up brushes in the palm of your hand and rinse thoroughly until the water stream runs clear. Once they’re clean, lay them flat and let them dry overnight. 

How Often to Wash Your Makeup Brushes

It’s best to wash your brushes once a week, however, should you skip a week, don't sweat it. Just don’t go much longer than that. Re-using gunk and dirt-ridden brushes can cause breakouts and also introduce other nasty skin reactions and allergies to your complexion. Plus, the buildup of color on your brushes means that the shade you intend to apply to your face may not be what you actually get. 

When to Buy Replacement Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes don’t have expiration dates, but you might need to replace them every once in a while. If you notice that your brushes smell, are shedding quite a bit, or have gone flat, it’s time to replace them. 

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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