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How To Shop for Drugstore Makeup Brushes

  • How To Shop for Drugstore Makeup Brushes
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    11 slides
  • Sonia Kashuk 1
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    Fabiola brought her own brush roll to our Byrdie offices, which included a few tried-and-true Sonia Kashuk brushes. “I’ve had this one for about 10 years,” Fabiola told us, pulling out a dead ringer for the brand’s Blusher Brush No. 2 ($18). “Her brushes are some of my favorites.” Fabiola suggests using this updated version for powder blush. 

  • ELF
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    The main problem with many of the brushes we tried was stiffness. “You want your face and eye brushes to be soft,” she says. “Hard brushes pick up too much product and can irritate sensitive skin.” E.l.f.’s brushes got two thumbs up, especially the Studio Complexion Brush ($3) and Eyeshadow Brush ($3). “It’s super soft, perfect for around your eyes,” she says about the latter. 

  • Sonia Kashuk 2
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    Looking for a bronzer brush? “This one is amazing,” Fabiola says about Sonia Kashuk’s Large Powder Brush No. 1 ($20). It’s large and fluffy enough to give skin and décolletage a light, sun-kissed finish. “You can apply mineral foundation with it, too,” she says. “I want this one for my kit!” 

  • Revlon
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    “This is a good concealer brush for under your eyes,” Fabiola says about Revlon’s Concealer Brush ($6). “I like the quality.” It’s the densest of the bunch, making it great for precise concealer application. 

  • Real Techniques
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    “These are really soft,” Fabiola says about Real Techniques’ line of brushes. She favors the Blush Brush ($9) for powder blush and the Travel Essentials Kit ($18) for anyone on a budget. “This set is great if you don’t want to spend the money for the Sonia Kashuk brushes,” she says. 

  • Sonia Kashuk 3
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    “This is really nice for a cream blush,” Fabiola says, dipping Sonia Kashuk’s Core Tools No. 124 ($13) into a creamy rouge and applying to her own face. “You can just swivel it on the cheeks without getting a spot of color—it’s subtle.”

  • Boots No 7
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    Fabiola immediately loved Boots’ entire line of brushes, especially the Foundation Brush ($10) and Concealer Brush ($7). “These are a really nice,” she says. “The sizes are perfect for on-the-go.” 

  • Sonia Kashuk 4
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    When it comes to covering small imperfections, Fabiola recommends Sonia Kashuk Core Tools No. 122 ($6). “You don’t have to cover your entire face with makeup to cover a blemish,” Fabiola says. “Just dab it on where you need it.”

  • Boots No 7 2
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    Looking for a multi-purpose eye shadow brush? “This is great,” Fabiola says about Boots No. 7 Eyeshadow Blend & Contour ($7). “Especially great for a wash of color,” she says. Apply a shimmery neutral for day, or darker shades at night, followed by the denser blending brush on the next slide. 

  • Sonia Kashuk - 5
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    Sonia Kashuk’s Core Tools Large Crease Bush No. 116 ($6) is a “nice blending and smudging brush,” Fabiola says. “If you do a lot of contouring on your eyes and want to blend it out, this is really soft,” she says. “I actually like this for concealer too.” (Make your brushes work double duty by cleaning them with baby shampoo between uses—more cleaning tips here.)

  • Tweezerman
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    Hate clumpy lashes? Fabiola recommends applying mascara, then combing through with Tweezerman’s Folding ILashComb ($12). “”It’s pointy and thin, which is great,” she says. “But you’ve got to be careful with it—don’t use it in a moving car!”

Like everything else at the drugstore, makeup brushes are packaged in a way that makes them impossible to try before you buy, making your purchase a gamble. So we rounded up dozens of drugstore brushes and makeup artist Fabiola (she works with stars like Katie Holmes, Kendall Jenner, and Elizabeth Moss, and made up Hannah Simone for our own editorial) to put them to the test.

What did we find? We’ve never seen such a huge divide between the good and the bad—and you know we love a drugstore feature! “A lot of these feel like the company just put a bunch of bristles together and called it a brush,” Fabiola told us as we went through the brands. The standouts, however, impressed her more than some of the most expensive brushes in her own kit. Click through our slideshow for the brushes that stand up to ones five times the price.

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