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 to find the best drugstore makeup brushes out there.
What did we find? You know we love a drugstore feature, and the standouts impressed Fabiola more than some of the most expensive brushes in her kit. Click through our slideshow for the best drugstore makeup brushes that stand up to ones five times the price.
Sonia Kashuk Blusher Brush No. 2 ($18)
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.
E.l.f. Studio Complexion Brush ($4)
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 ($4) and Eyeshadow Brush ($1). “It’s super soft, perfect for around your eyes,” she says about the latter.
Sonia Kashuk Large Powder Brush No. 1 ($20)
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!”
Real Techniques Blush Brush ($9)
“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 ($19) 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.
Boots No. 7 Eyeshadow Blend & Contour ($10)
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 Core Tools Large Crease Brush No. 116 ($6)
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.)