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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 face.
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 choice 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 as a finishing step to ensure all of your face makeup is flawlessly blended. One brush, so many possibilities.
Don’t yet own one? Take your pick from any of our favorite kabuki brushes below.
Best Overall: Tarte Airbuki Bamboo Powder Foundation Brush
Reviewers rave about how well this works with both powders and all types of foundations, also calling out the ultra-soft feel of the bristles. We agree on both counts, and also appreciate that not only are those bristles vegan and cruelty-free but that the handle is made from sustainable bamboo, too. It also works particularly well to build up layers of powder or foundation, blending them all together (without ever looking caked on) until you reach your desired level of complexion coverage.
Best for Foundation: Fenty Beauty Face & Body Kabuki Brush 160
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?
Best Splurge: Shiseido Hanatsubaki Hake Polishing Face Brush
Not only is the flower-shaped head (and red bristles) super pretty, it has a unique and distinct function. The four petals deliver controlled pressure, ensuring a completely smooth, seamless, and undetectable application every time. It’s pricey, yes, but considering that it works with all types of makeup and makeup textures, from liquids to powders, it’s the only kabuki brush you’ll need.
Best Drugstore: Real Techniques Foundation Blender
Ultra-plush bristles blend, press, and buff on any complexion product. With a wider surface, we especially like this for full-face application of foundation, 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.
Best for Bronzer: EcoTools Bronze Buki
Long and soft bristles (which are also cruelty-free, we should add) deliver just the right amount of color without ever leaving tell-tale streaks. The curved handle also allows for maximum control as you dust on bronzer. The result? A gorgeous, sun-kissed, ‘just got back from the islands’ glow.
Best for Powder: Gee Beauty Kabuki Foundation Brush
Whether you’re just touching-up your T-zone or powdering your whole face, this brush—with its firm, flat-top bristles—gets the job done. Not to mention that those bristles are also vegan, hypoallergenic, and ultra-durable. We also like using it as a finishing step to blend and buff in a finished makeup look.
Runner-Up, Best for Powder: Too Faced Retractable Kabuki Brush
Another great pick for powders, this option is slightly fluffier, using the brand’s ‘teddy bear hair’ for the bristles. An exclusive, mega-soft fiber (hence the name) it grabs and blends powders perfectly. We also appreciate that the brush is retractable, keeping those bristles intact and damage-free. It’s no surprise this is one of the brand’s most popular brushes.
Best for Blush: Nars Ita Kabuki Brush
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.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Kabuki Face Brush
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.
Best for Body: Xuweigood Professional Body Makeup Brush
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 to 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 on your body.
Best for Travel: Hourglass Retractable Kabuki Brush
There’s nothing worse than opening your makeup bag and finding that all of your brush bristles got smushed. That’s why we appreciate that this travel-friendly pick is retractable and comes with a cover. Couple that with its compact size, and you’ve got the ideal brush to toss in your purse for on-the-go touch-ups. It also touts synthetic Takelon bristles, which harbor fewer bacteria than natural bristles, choice for those who aren’t the best at regular brush cleaning (guilty as charged).
Best Angled: IT Brushes for Ulta Airbrush Blurring Kabuki Brush
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. The IT Cosmetics-Ulta exclusive is also nice and lightweight, and super comfortable to hold.