Fingers or Brushes: What's Really the Best Makeup Application Method?

Lindsey Metrus

Recently, when we sat down with Coco Rocha to hear her fabulous fitness and beauty tips, she told us how much she loves celebrity makeup artist Pat McGrath's method of application: "Her technique is in using her hands, so there are people out there who go out and buy a ton of brushes to put lipstick on, to contour—whatever it is. And this woman uses her hands all over your face, and that is pretty amazing. She can do the best red lipstick on my lips without any sort of pencil. It’s just her fingers—it’s pretty amazing." McGrath is known for her flawless application technique using her hands (albeit mixed with some brushes), which made us want to investigate whether using your fingers is actually the best method. We turned to two experts, celebrity makeup artist Fiona Stiles and Jessica Scantlin, director of artistry for Blushington.

Keep reading to find out their verdict!

Turns out, the jury on whether fingers or brushes are best for makeup application was split—but for good reason. These pros let us know that you can't just use one method for every product, and that the product consistency and the area in which the makeup is being applied to greatly accounts for what tool to use.

“This is a pretty personal debate, and it really boils down to what products you are using. Think of it this way: If it’s creamy, you can use your fingers or a brush. If it’s powdery, you need a brush for application," says Stiles.

"You are not going to get the perfect cat-eye using your fingers, but you can get a good application of foundation using your digits. There’s always been a lot of talk about using your fingers to ‘warm up’ a product before applying it, and there is truth to that, but I still prefer to apply foundation with a brush (either a flat, wide foundation brush or a densely packed foundation brush). I think you can get a better, streak-free application that way; one that looks more like your skin," explains Stiles.

Scantlin also believes in the brush method for foundation application: “For foundation, I love using a fiber brush for an airbrushed look. For concealer, I use a foundation brush to smooth out under the eyes, so it tends to crease less because you tend to remove the concealer and spread it out better with the brush.”

For cream blushes, Stiles and Scantlin both agree that using your fingers works amazingly well (Scantlin likes to work the cream between her thumb and middle finger before applying), but Stiles says she also likes to use the MAC Duo Fiber Brush from time to time.

For eyes, Stiles says there's no way around using a brush (unless you're using a cream shadow; then your fingers will do): "I like a fluffy domed brush for applying color and a smaller domed brush for creases and for getting shadow tight to the lashes." She recommends domed brushes from Jenny Patinkin.

Lazy Perfection by Jenny Patinkin Domed Multi-Blender Brush ($34)

As far as lips go, Stiles prefers brushes: "In my personal life, I always apply straight from the bullet, but for work, I always, always, always use a brush. Small lip brushes are a pain to use; I like a bigger brush, like for concealer or a flat eye shadow brush." However, Scantlin says applying a little of that leftover cream blush with her fingers creates that "pouty look."

What's your favorite tool for applying makeup? Please share below!

Opening Image: Pinterest

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