The 20 Best Makeup Brushes of All Time, Picked By Professional Makeup Artists

20 best makeup brushes elle

Cindy Ord

Every makeup lover has to start somewhere to build their collection. Foundation? Check. Neutral eyeshadow palette? A pre-requisite to a professional-level lineup. Eyeliner? Whether you prefer a winged or classic tightline look, you have options. These essentials are great, but no makeup collection—or look, really—is complete without a handy batch of quality tools. Figuring out what types of makeup brushes to have on hand can be overwhelming, especially with all the different options on the market. And after you start a collection, you have to clean them? Insanity. Start slowly by assessing the level of face painting you plan to do regularly. Then you can decide if you want to splurge on a professional set or work your way up to becoming an expert using frugal finds.


For Vegan Bristles

Basic Eyes Kit Sigma Beauty Read More


For Eyeliner

1.21 My Flat Definer My Kit Co Read More


For Buffing

Highlighter Brush Small 140 Make Up For Ever Read More


For the Eye Crease

E25 Blending Brush Sigma Beauty Read More


For Body Makeup

Foundation Blender Real Techniques Read More

To help sort things out, we turned to the makeup pros to get tips on which brushes are a must for your kit. If you want a good recommendation, turn to people who regularly work on the red carpet, behind movie sets, and generally need their work to look flawless in harrowing conditions. Doing your makeup for a selfie is hard–doing it for the Oscars is even harder. There are brushes for literally every part of your face, so there is no need to use your fingers to smudge your eyeliner or lipstick. Shop the 20 best makeup brushes below, from Mac Cosmetic classics to must-have sets you can grab from your nearest Ulta Beauty store.

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For Vegan Bristles

Basic Eyes Kit

Sigma Beauty

“My favorite makeup brushes are Sigma makeup brushes because they are vegan and [the brand has] always been ahead of the curve in developing amazing brushes for artists,” says Ashunta Sheriff, the go-to makeup artist for actress Taraji P. Henson.

For Eyeliner

1.21 My Flat Definer

Molly R. Stern, who works with Reese Witherspoon, Cara Delevingne, Maya Rudolph, and Julia Roberts says this detailing brush is “amazing” when it comes to precision for eyeliner or brows.

For Buffing

Highlighter Brush Small 140

Make Up For Ever

According to Stern, this is the best buffer brush: “I use it to smooth under the eye and apply a small amount of powder to control the T-zone.”

For the Eye Crease

E25 Blending Brush

Sigma Beauty

“This brush is great for blending in the crease or socket of the eye,” makeup artist Christopher Ardoff says. It “helps to distribute product densely and evenly” and is “great for softening and blending in areas where you [generally] would require a smaller brush.”

For Body Makeup

Foundation Blender

Real Techniques

Beyond the face, Jenny Patinkin says, “The Real Techniques Foundation Blender Kabuki is great for applying body makeup because it’s small and dense and gives good coverage. This is the one I use when I’m on-set at a photoshoot, particularly on the legs.”

For Liquids and Powders

PRO Foundation Brush #55

Sephora Collection

“This is the best brush for the face. It can be used for both liquid and powder products. I can literally do my entire face with just this one brush,” says Cara Lovello.

For Eyeliner

212 Flat Definer

Mac Cosmetics

According to Sean Harris, makeup artist to stars like Laura Harrier, Lori Harvey, and Kristen Noel Crawley—“this brush does it all.” The flat brush “lines your eyes, fills in your brows, and adds definition to your eyeshadow.”

For Cream Makeup

Lock-It Setting Powder Brush

KVD Vegan Beauty

Ask Brittany Whitfield to explain why KVD’s powder brush is a good investment and she’ll put it plainly, “If you need one brush for everything, she’s your girl.” Whitfield adds that the brush is amazing for cream products, and “applies incredibly well in all of the beautiful crevices of the face better than any sponge or flat foundation brush ever could.”

For Multipurpose Blending

188 Synthetic Small Duo Fibre Face Brush

Mac Cosmetics

Keita Moore, who does makeup for a number of stars including Iman, Janet Mock, and Halima Aden reaches for this brush a lot. “From applying foundations to cream blushes to powder highlight, this brush is versatile and can be used for many things. I carry maybe three or four in my kit.”

For Contouring

Cheek Brush 06

“I use this for an all-around blending after I’ve applied my foundation and contour,” Jessica Elbaum, a makeup artist and hairstylist who currently does hair on Modern Family, says, “you can also use it to apply bronzer.”

For Cream Blush

954 Synthetic Brush

Bdellium Tools

“It’s more effective to use a synthetic bristle for cream blushes,” says Elbaum about this slanted kabuki brush. “They blend soft and flawlessly.”

For Eyeshadow

217S Blending Brush

M.A.C. Cosmetics

Nadia Stacey, who did the hair and makeup on The Favourite and won the BAFTA for it, calls this a “kit staple” and says she uses it for everything, even to create special effects bruising. “Which means I’ve ruined lots of them, but I always replace,” she says. When you are creating a glam look Stacey states, “it makes a smokey eye so much easier.”

For Multipurpose Blending

Blush Brush

Real Techniques

“I’ve used this Blush Brush since it first came out and I actually use to swirl and buff in cream bronzers, powders, and skin care — not blush at all!” Emma Willis, the makeup artist for JoJo Fletcher, Ashley Greene, Jana Kramer, Audrina Patridge, and Giuliana Rancic says, adding, “That’s the fab thing about brushes; finding which ones work best for your own individual style and technique. What it says on the box doesn’t have to apply at all. I use it to seamlessly buff product from the face into the neck and décolletage areas, too!”

For Concealer

Pro Concealer Brush #71

Sephora Collection

Willis counts this Sephora Collection brush among her go-tos and says it’s a perfect size. “I’ve been using this brush for concealer around the eye area and T-zone specifically for a long time now and love it!” she says. “It has a tapered brush head and dual usage; one side to place and smooth, and another I use to sheer and blend. It helps me to blend so well!”

For Eyeliner

Flat Eye Liner Brush

Laura Mercier

Nina Park recommends this brush for tight-lining with cream, gel, or cake liner. “It’s perfect for stippling on products as close to the lash line as possible,” she says. It also does double-duty to create “sharp edges around the mouth for a clean, perfect lipstick pout.”

For Finishing

M310 Large Soft Fan

Park uses “this brush to dust off any excess powder” and to “strategically place [a] pop of color at the apples of the cheek.” The natural “goat bristles are perfect to create a diffused, natural-looking highlight along the top of the cheekbones, bridge of [the] nose, and collarbone.”

For Lashes

Eyelash Comb

Jenna Kristina also always uses a metal eyelash comb after she applies mascara. “I like a wispy feathery lash and it always helps to take out [mascara] chunks,” says Kristina. Her go-to choice is this pink eyelash comb by Hakuhoda.

For Eyeliner

Angled Cut Brush Small 15

Anastasia Beverly Hills

Kristina is also obsessed with Anastasia’s Angled Cut Brush’s bristles. “The synthetic hairs keep this brush sturdy and stiff for the most precise lines,” explains Kristina. “I use it to create hair-like strokes with powder on brows and also for the sharpest pointed cat eyeliner.”

For Eyeshadow

217S Blending Brush

The MAC 217S Blending Brush is a staple for Jamie Greenberg, Busy Philipps and Rashida Jones’ makeup artist. According to Greenberg, the brush can turn a novice into a pro in no time.

For Eyeshadow

Hood Eyeshadow Brush 13

Kira Nasrat, who has painted the faces of Jessica Alba and Sophie Turner says she has a bunch of these Utowa Hood eyeshadow brushes in her makeup bag. “The brush is fluffy, flat, and with a gradual point,” she adds. “It’s perfect for adding eyeshadow onto the lids, contouring into the crease, and great for blending.” She also uses it to set makeup with translucent powder in concentrated areas of the face, especially the T-zone.

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