The 12 Best Kabuki Brushes of 2023

These brushes ensure flawless makeup application

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Best Kabuki Brushes

Byrdie / Jaclyn Mastropasqua

Let's chat kabuki brushes—they’re compact, cute, and incredibly versatile, perfect for applying all kinds of face makeup. Fun fact alert: They were originally named after the Japanese theatre, where actors used them to apply heavy layers of white rice powder across their entire faces.

So, what defines a kabuki brush? First, the short handle (technically called a stem, FYI) and large, dense head of bristles. The bristles can be either flat, rounded, angled, or slightly tapered at the tip but either way, they are chosen for seamlessly applying makeup over large surface areas. In other words, a kabuki brush is ideal for buffing on foundation, layering on powder, dusting on blush and bronzer, or using it as a finishing step to ensure all of your face makeup is perfectly blended. One brush, so many possibilities.

Ready to add one to your makeup brush arsenal? We tapped an expert for recommendations and tried a few top-rated options ourselves. The result: This curated list of kabuki brushes that effortlessly applies, blends, and buffs makeup. We considered each tool's angle, how easy it is to hold, and how well it deposits makeup onto the skin. We also took into account the size and type of bristles of each one. We then cross-referenced our expert-recommended picks with the top-rated options we loved (and that have garnered five-star reviews).

Best Overall

Dior Kabuki Brush 17

Dior Backstage Kabuki Brush N 17

Saks Fifth Avenue

What We Like
  • Retractable for on-the-go use

  • Rounded, dense bristles

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel brittle after washing too harshly

Drawing inspiration from backstage Dior runway shows, this kabuki brush is ideal for powders—specifically bronzing powders. It features a rounded shape and dense synthetic bristles that pick up the right amount of powder and blends it into the skin for a subtle touch of dimension. Just keep in mind that the bristles can feel brittle after washing with a too-harsh soap. Opt for a gentle formula to keep the bristles nice and soft.

Price at time of publish: $60

Size: Medium | Material: Synthetic

Best Drugstore

Real Techniques Foundation Blender

Real Techniques Foundation Makeup Blender,

Amazon

What We Like
  • Covers large areas

  • Cute design

  • Inexpensive and high-quality

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave streaks with liquid products

Ultra-plush bristles blend, press, and buff on any complexion product. With a wider surface, we especially like this for full-face foundation application, particularly since it works with liquids, creams, or powders. Also nice: Because the handle isn’t made of wood, you don’t have to worry about it getting wet and damaged when you clean your brush.

Price at time of publish: $9

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best Budget

e.l.f. Kabuki Face Brush

e.l.f, Kabuki Face Brush, Synthetic Haired, Versatile, Compact, Applies Bronzer, Powder, or Highlighter, Soft, Absorbent, Wet or Dry Product, Compact,...

Amazon

What We Like
  • Works wet or dry

  • Feels soft on the skin

  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like
  • Can shed

You could easily spend big bucks on a kabuki brush, but if that’s just not in your budget, this mega-affordable option will most definitely get the job done. The synthetic bristles are as soft as those found in much more expensive brushes and can be used with either wet or dry formulas.

Price at time of publish: $4

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best for Foundation

Fenty Beauty Face & Body Kabuki Brush 160

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Face & Body Kabuki Brush 160

Sephora

What We Like
  • Great for sculpting the face

  • Beautifully designed

  • Feels soft on the skin

What We Don't Like
  • Can shed

With an angled brush head and synthetic bristles, this option from Ri-Ri’s line works equally well with either powder or liquid foundation formulas. Happy users repeatedly call out how well it applies and buffs in makeup, and love how easy it is to hold thanks to the rounded handle. Plus, how pretty are the pink bristles?

Price at time of publish: $34

Size: Medium | Material: Synthetic

Runner-Up, Best for Foundation

Sigma F80 Flat Kabuki Brush

Sigma Beauty F80 Air Flat Kabuki Brush - Foundation Brush & Professional Grade Makeup Brush to Blend Liquid & Cream Products - Skin Safe Kabuki...

Amazon

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Doesn't shed

  • Great for packing on product

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

The brand’s best-selling foundation brush, this one is also a favorite of Byrdie Associate Editor Eden Stuart. The bristles are unlike those you’ll find on any other brush, given that they’re made of the brand’s proprietary synthetic fibers, which are ultra-soft. No matter whether you’re using a liquid or a cream base, buffing it on with this guy yields a perfectly airbrushed finish every time.

Price at time of publish: $25

Size: Medium | Material: Synthetic

Best for Blush & Bronzer

Nars Ita Kabuki Brush

Ita Kabuki Brush

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Ideal for precise application

  • Great for sculpting the face

  • Blends product well

What We Don't Like
  • Could be softer

With a longer stem than many kabuki brushes, this is choice for those who may find traditional ones tough to hold. The small, flat head is designed for controlled color application and medium coverage, perfect when you’re trying to add a targeted flush to the apples of your cheeks and some dimension to your cheekbones, jawline, and forehead.

Price at time of publish: $40

Size: Small | Material: Synthetic

Best for Powders

IT Cosmetics Airbrush Essential Kabuki Brush #145

Airbrush Essential Kabuki Brush #145

ULTA

Makeup artist and beauty expert Nick Stenson loves this pick, raving about the luxuriously soft bristles and weighted handle. This brush was created especially for Ulta, and works just as well on the body as it does on the face. It pairs perfectly with your favorite mineral or powder foundation, finishing powder, bronzer, and blush for a flawless, airbrushed finish.

Price at time of publish: $23

Best for Body

Goerti Professional Body Makeup Brush

GOERTI Body Makeup Brush Self Tanner Brush for Body Kabuki Foundation Brush Makeup Brush for Bronzers Blend Self Tanning Applicator for Face Leg Makeup...

Amazon

What We Like
  • Cute design

  • Great for sculpting

  • Works with a variety of products

What We Don't Like
  • Can soak up product

Kabuki brushes aren’t just for the face. They’re also the perfect tool for applying concealer, highlighter, or bronzer on the skin-below-your chin, think to add a glow to your collarbone or camouflage imperfections on your legs. One of Amazon’s top-rated kabuki brushes, this has a curved shape that hugs contours and makes this type of application easier than ever. The oversized handle is also great for covering larger areas of your body.

Price at time of publish: $15

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best Angled

Real Techniques Angled Kabuki Brush

Real Techniques Angled Kabuki Brush, For Body Bronzer or Foundation Application, Handless Makeup Blender, Dense, Synthetic Bristles, Aluminum Handle, Vegan...

Amazon

What We Like
  • Feels soft on the skin

  • Distributes product evenly

  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like
  • Could be denser

Kabuki brushes are most often touted as best for all-over makeup application, as is the case with powders and foundations. But they can also be used for contouring and highlighter, particularly when they’re angled like this one. “This super-soft brush is extra versatile and works well with liquid and powders alike,” says Stenson. Synthetic bristles make it easy to clean, he adds.

Price at time of publish: $10

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best Wet/Dry

BLK/OPL Kabuki Brush

BLK/OPL Kabuki Brush

Black Opal Beauty

What We Like
  • Good for creams, liquids, and powders

  • Compact design

What We Don't Like
  • Too big for precise application

This all-star kabuki brush is designed for both wet and dry uses. You can use it for creams, liquids, and powders, whether you're applying, blending, or touching up. Though the compact size is great for travel and on-the-go use, we should note the brush itself is slightly too large for precise applications.

Price at time of publish: $10

Size: Medium | Material: Synthetic

Best Splurge

Jane Iredale Kabuki Brush

Jane Iredale Kabuki Brush, Naturon

Amazon

What We Like
  • Soft, natural bristles

  • Picks up lots of powder

What We Don't Like
  • Too large for many purposes

Jane Iredale's take on the kabuki brush is this large goat hair number. Though it's not as versatile as other options, this makeup tool effortlessly picks up loose powder, allowing you to sweep it across your face as a finishing touch to your glam routine. It is on the pricier side, but we say it's totally worth it.

Price at time of publish: $38

Size: Large | Material: Goat hair

Best Retractable

EcoTools Retractable Face Brush

EcoTools Retractable Face Makeup Brush, Kabuki Brush for Foundation, Blush, Bronzer, & Powder, Travel Friendly & Perfect for On The Go, Eco Friendly...

Amazon

What We Like
  • Travel-friendly

  • Prevents bristles from crushing

What We Don't Like
  • Aluminum case may rust

This travel-friendly kabuki brush from EcoTools has retractable bristles and a handy lid that prevents them from crushing in your purse or makeup bag. It's generally easy to clean, but you'll want to be careful to prevent the aluminum case from rusting if it gets wet.

Price at time of publish: $9

Size: Medium | Material: Synthetic

Final Verdict

Kabuki brushes are much more of a versatile makeup tool than you might think. The Dior Kabuki Brush 17 is our favorite, a great choice for both foundations and powders of all kinds. You can also find top, affordable picks at the drugstore. The Real Techniques Angled Kabuki Brush is one of our go-to's, with angled bristles that are perfect for contouring and/or highlighting. And keep in mind that you can use a kabuki brush, like the Goerti Xuweigood Professional Body Makeup Brush, for applying body makeup on arms, legs, and décolletage. 

Meet the Expert

  • Nick Stenson is a beauty expert, licensed hairstylist, esthetician, and makeup artist. Stenson is currently an Ambassador and celebrity stylist for L’Oréal and Matrix, as well as Ulta Beauty’s Senior Vice President for Store & Service Operations. He’s also the founder of Curious Brushes.

What to Look For In a Kabuki Brush

Shape

Angled shapes like the Real Techniques Angled Kabuki Brush are better for precision techniques, such as contouring or applying bronzer. Rounder shapes like the E.l.f. Kabuki Face Brush offers a softer, seamless blend.

Density

According to Stenson, the density of the bristles will dictate how solid your product application looks. The denser the brush, the more pigment is applied with each swipe, so keep that in mind. The NARS Ita Kabuki Brush has super dense, tightly packed bristles. But if you prefer something fluffier, go with the IT Cosmetics Airbrush Essential Kabuki Brush #145.

Handle

While a traditional kabuki brush has a very short handle or stem, they can still vary in shape and length. Make sure you feel comfortable holding and maneuvering the brush,” suggests Stenson. If you want a traditional short handle, the Real Techniques Foundation Makeup Blender is an excellent choice. For those more comfortable with a longer stem, we recommend the NARS Ita Kabuki Brush.

FAQ
  • How do you use a kabuki brush?

    If you’re using it with a powder product, start by swirling it in a circular motion in the product, then tap off the excess and swirl it onto the skin. If you’re using it with a liquid or cream, dip it into the formula, then buff it onto your complexion.

  • How do you clean a kabuki brush?

    Combine a dedicated brush cleaner with water to form a solution in the palm of your hand, then swirl the brush bristles in the solution and rinse. Repeat until the water runs clear, then blot dry with a paper towel and lay over the edge of a counter to let the bristles dry without getting smushed.

  • What is a kabuki brush made from?

    It depends. Handles are usually made from wood or plastic, while bristles can be either made from animal hair or synthetic fibers, or a mix of both.

  • What does a flat kabuki brush do?

    A flat-top kabuki brush helps apply liquid or cream products, like a cream blush, bronzer, or foundation.

  • What is a domed kabuki brush used for?

    A round (or domed) kabuki brush is great for applying powder makeup (like powder foundation, blush, or finishing powder) on large areas of the face. These types of brushes help to blend makeup evenly for natural-looking coverage.

  • What's the difference between an angled kabuki brush or a flat kabuki brush?

    An angled kabuki brush is ideal for contouring with powder. The bristles are typically dense but soft and are angled at a perfect degree to sculpt the cheekbones and jawline for natural definition. A flat-top brush is better for applying liquid or cream products, like foundation, cream blush, or bronzer.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. While she tries to keep her stash of makeup brushes fairly streamlined, a kabuki brush is always in the mix.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough kabuki brushes from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Updated by Caitlyn Martyn

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