Makeup Brushes: How to Use Them
Unless you are a professional makeup artist, you probably have amassed a collection of makeup brushes that clutter up your bathroom drawers, but you still aren’t sure how many you need and how to best use them. In fact, many of us end up using the same couple of brushes and just push the others aside because we aren’t clear on their purpose. And some even shrug off the brushes altogether and just use their handy fingertips to apply makeup. How are we supposed to know what each brush is for and how to use them? Is there a rulebook somewhere that we missed out on?
How Many Makeup Brushes Do we Really Need?
If you haven’t already noticed, makeup brushes not only come in a variety of sizes but they also come with different bristle shapes, materials, and densities. If you’ve been choosing and using the wrong ones, you might be doing your makeup a disservice. Each type of makeup brush is designed to target specific parts of the face. If you choose the wrong type or shape, it’s not going to give you the best, most natural look. In fact, it’s surprising how much the right makeup brush with the correct application can make a difference in the way you look.
While a makeup artist is truly an artist and chooses from many, many brushes to get the exact result they demand, most of us can narrow our makeup brush range down to a collection of nine or ten of the best makeup brushes to give our makeup a professionally applied appearance.
Foundation Brush—A Must!
A foundation brush is generally densely bristled and dome-shaped. It’s meant to transfer liquid or powder foundation smoothly onto the surface of the skin with seamless blending. A good foundation brush buffs the product into the skin and gives the most natural-looking results. Foundation brushes are available in both natural and synthetic bristles, both work well, but synthetic bristles are easier to clean and faster drying.
Concealer Brush or Bust
A good concealer brush is also an essential makeup tool. These are typically tapered at the end with a small, firm bristle head. It gives a more natural and realistic finish than you can achieve with your fingertips or the sponge-tip applicator included in your tube of liquid concealer. The tapered brush can work its way into tiny spaces on your face, under your eyes, in the corner of your eyes, and can cover a small blemish without overlap and with perfect blending—and it doesn’t add the extra oils from your fingertips.
A perfect brush for blush or bronzer has long, light, fluffy bristles with either a dome-shaped or angled head to evenly diffuse color onto your face right where you want it. Fluffy brushes pick up less product, making them ideal for applying color to ensure that you don’t end up with a bright streak across your cheeks.
No-Fuss Contour Brush
A contour brush has densely packed bristles that are commonly angled for more precise application. Unlike blush, contour is intended to be less diffused and more precise. A good contour brush will apply color directly beneath the cheekbones to highlight your natural contours. It results in a more finely chiseled appearance if contour is also brushed beneath the jawline and at the hairline.
A Powder Brush is Always a Must
Powder brushes have long fluffy bristles in a large, soft brush head. This helps to lightly diffuse setting powder over the entire face. Unlike powder compact pads, these brushes are designed to apply a light dusting of powder for an invisible appearance that’s never cakey.
An eyeshadow shader brush does a much, much, better job of blending eyeshadow then the little sponge-tip applicators that are often included in an eyeshadow palette. These are the size of a small artist’s paintbrush and may have an angled tip to aid in contouring the eye crease. They are soft and dense and perfectly diffuse your eyeshadow for that seamless blending that we see on celebrities and never thought we could achieve at home.
Perfect Pencil Brush
A pencil brush has a small, slightly stiff brush head that can serve many purposes. It’s ideal for blending eyeshadow beneath the lower lash line for a perfect smokey eye.
No Fuss—No Muss Eyeliner Brush
An eyeliner brush has a very thin bristle tip for applying a fine and precise eyeliner line. Some of them have dual tips with one side bent to aid in applying winged-eyeliner or cat’s eyes. An eyeliner brush is meant to apply liquid, gel, or cream eyeliner.
With today’s eyebrow obsession, no makeup brush set is complete without a good brow brush. The best eyebrow brushes have dual tips with a spooly at one end and a small bristled, flat-tipped brush at the other. The spooly looks like a dry mascara wand, and it works to brush out and shape your eyebrow hairs. The brush end has blunt, flat, angled bristles for using eyebrow gel, cream, or powder to draw on individual eyebrow hairs for a more natural appearance.
Your Big Brush Wash
Don’t forget that makeup brushes need to be washed. Dermatologists recommend cleaning your makeup brushes at least once a week. Some brushes, like your eyeshadow brushes, may need to be cleaned more often, since you may want to change shades from day-to-day. Because brush bristles—especially natural ones—are porous, they may hold on to product, natural skin oils, and dead skin cells, compromising the integrity of the bristles and your perfectly blended makeup.
Makeup brushes should be washed in lukewarm water with makeup brush cleanser or a mild dish soap. Some people have found that blending a few drops of olive oil and dish soap together in a bowl of warm water and swishing the brushes around cleans and conditions the bristles, resulting in softened, more hygienic bristles that function like new.
After cleansing, rinse under warm running water and then gently squeeze out water with a clean towel. Gently reshape the damp brush heads and then dry them by laying them out on the edge of the sink or countertop with the heads in the air. This ensures enough airflow for fast drying to prevent mildew.