The Best Makeup Brushes To Buy Right Now, According To A Top Makeup Artist – Forbes

The difference between makeup that does what you want it to—make your skin glow, brighten your eyes, lift your cheekbones—versus makeup that falls short of your expectations often comes down to your application technique and, more importantly, your brushes. The right dome-shaped powder brush, for example, will spread particles evenly across your complexion without obvious streaks while a tapered eyeliner brush will enhance your gaze rather than make you look tired by transferring flecks of dark pigment under your lashes.

Look for powder brushes with soft, fluffy bristles—stiffer types don’t blend as well.


Like any beauty tools, makeup brushes vary enormously in price. Pro makeup artist Fiona Stiles has tested out literally hundreds of brushes after decades of working on set with celebrities for editorial shoots and campaigns and even developed her own line of highly-coveted brushes (that is, sadly, no longer available). In her current kit, Stiles has brushes at all price points—from budget drugstore finds to handcrafted pieces that cost in the hundreds. So which are makeup brushes are truly the best?

“That depends on your goals,” says Stiles. If you just want an everyday makeup look, a set of basic, affordable brushes is the way to go. If you want to contour and sculpt, or take a certain feature (such as your eyes or brows) to the next level it makes sense to invest in high-performance tools specific to those areas that will deliver results. Ahead, the makeup brushes that Stiles swears by—from a $7 concealer brush to a $125 contouring wonder, as well as the best all-in-one sets with the go-to brushes you’ll get the most use out of.

Best Foundation Brush

“Most people don’t apply foundation with a brush, but they should so the pigments won’t sit on top of your pores but mesh with your skin. I like this dual-fiber one from RMS—it’s dense so you can push it evenly over your complexion and get into the corners around your nose and cheeks. With any foundation, you want to start in the center of your face and feather it out to the perimeter for a natural finish,” says Stiles.

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Best Concealer Brush

“I’m a late convert but I have to say that Real Techniques makes the best concealer brushes. They are stiff but not too dense and so affordable, which is truly remarkable. I prefer synthetic bristles for concealer—natural hair types hold too much product and prevent it from sweeping evenly across your skin. With this one, you can buff in the concealer easily, especially if you have a spot to cover up,” says Stiles.

Best Powder Brush

“I like a soft and very fluffy brush for powder, which is key when I don’t want to apply a lot of powder. With a stiffer brush, you can end up putting down too much powder, which can cause streaks and look obvious. A big, airy brush like this, though, ensures you won’t deposit too much and you can control the effect,” says Stiles.

Best Blush Brush

“This brush is very versatile whether you want to apply cream or powder blush. It has dual fibers—meaning there are dense bristles in center and fluffier hairs at the top so you can really feather out your blush. Everything in makeup is about buffing and making your face products look as realistic and skin-like as possible,” says Stiles.

Best Contour Brush

“In order to contour well, you need a brush that’s tapered—it should be flatter and wider in shape so you can gently build your color in a smaller area. Whereas blush brushes are generally more fanned out, contouring ones should be dome-like so you don’t deposit the product in a place you don’t want to. Surratt Beauty makes beautiful natural hair brushes that last,” says Stiles.

Best Eyeshadow Blending Brush

“To buff eyeshadow onto the whole lid you want something fluffy—and the bigger the brush the more area you can cover. This is one of my favorite MAC brushes for that, and it’s also great for blending multiple eye-shadows on the base of the lid,” says Stiles.

Best Eye Definition Brush

“To get into the crease of your eyes, use a smaller pencil-like brush, which gives you the most precision. This is also great under the eyes, if you want to get eyeliner right next to the lash line, where you need a stiffer tip,” says Stiles. Bonus: This pick doubles as a lip brush as well, says Stiles, since the rounded tip blends in lipsticks and pencils and helps clean up the edges for a defined mouth.

Best Eyebrow Brush

“You don’t need to go expensive for your brow brush—I use a cheap nylon brush with tight and narrow bristles, which Tweezerman is good for. The angled brush part is great for applying brow powders and creams and the spoolie end is perfect for blending in brow pencils,” says Stiles. Something you can skip entirely? A lip brush, which Stiles feels is unnecessary.

Best Vegan Makeup Brush Set

Makeup artist Jenny Patinkin’s vegan brushes have tapered tips that pick up the right amount of makeup and weighted handles for extra balance and control. This set includes 11 brushes (covering everything from blush to bronzer to eye-shadow to brows) and can be used with liquid, cream or powder makeup.

Best Luxury Brush Set

Handcrafted by artisans in Japan, Hakuhodo makes stunning natural-hair brushes that makeup artists obsess over and collect (Stiles has had some of her brushes for 20 years!). The beauty lies in the softness of the bristles, the feel of the handles and the highly-skilled designs that perfectly distribute any type of makeup. This six-piece set is splurge-worthy and includes the brushes you’ll get the most mileage out of (for eyes, lips, cheeks and skin).

Best Brush Set for Pro Eye Looks

If you like experimenting with cat-eyes and smoky effects, this limited-edition, eight-piece eye set—created in collaboration with beauty influencer Victoria Lyn—has everything you need for lining, blending, smudging and more. The cleanser in the tin also makes it easy to remove particles from bristles and keep your brushes pristine.


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