A makeup brush is one of the few beauty products that you can just as easily buy for $1 or $100. So how do you know when (and if!) a luxe brush is worth the splurge? To find out, we talked to an anonymous cosmetics executive—she oversees the design and manufacturing of brushes for dozens of makeup brands—and asked her to reveal her insider secrets.
When looking for the best makeup brushes for eyes, she advises, “For concealer and for eyeliner, I would definitely recommend using a synthetic brush. These more resilient fibers don’t break or get bent out of shape as easily as animal hair."
So which are the best brushes to splurge on? She recommends that when you’re shopping “big fluffy brushes” (like powder and blush brushes), invest in natural-hair options. A plus-side to this bigger-budget investment? You’ll end up spending less on makeup if you buy brushes that pick up product well.
With that in mind, keep reading. We're rounding up the 15 best makeup brushes for every budget.
Made for powder products, this brush from Laura Mercier is made of goat hair, arranged into a wide, pillow-soft surface that picks up and distributes product beautifully. This kabuki-style brush is ideal when you're looking for full coverage.
This is the ultimate all-over coverage brush in a modest price range. Regardless of your budget, it's is a must-try. The tool has over 1300 positive reviews on Target's site alone attesting to its professional-grade quality. One fan on the site writes, "This brush is such a steal! It's dense, holds up after cleaning, and provides great coverage. This is comparable to other high-end brushes in department stores."
A dual-ended contour brush, Stila delivers what has to be one of the chicest brushes to add to your collection. The flat end creates a precise contour, while the angled edge is designed for highlighting. The different ends are made of different materials, too: synthetic bristles for the contour brush, and goat hair for the highlighting brush to prevent streaking.
If you're on the hunt for a complete collection of brushes, Sephora's starter kit is a prime option in a mid-tier price range. This comes equipped with every brush you need. If you're looking to buy a set especially for travel purposes, this collection comes with a roll-up pouch that's convenient for packing up and carrying around.
Made with soft, synthetic bristles and a bamboo handle, Tarte's Powder Brush is a soft, luxurious choice. The large pillowy brush is a frequent talking point for users. Navdeep, a fan on Tarte's site, writes, "I love how dense, large, and perfectly round this brush is. It is soft enough so it doesn't irritate the skin, but textured enough to grab onto powder as soon as you touch it to the powder. It applies powder beautifully and quickly."
Real Techniques delivers quality makeup tools in a very fair price range. The many positive reviews of the powder brush speak for themselves. One user of the product, Leslie, writes on Target's site, "You will not find a better brush in this price range currently on the market. It applies product smoothly, cleans easily, is very easy to store, and I've had no fall out as well. Highly recommended."
If you're looking for a light application from your face products, a quality fan brush is ideal. Kevyn Aucoin's Large Fan Brush is a luxurious pick, made with a combination of goat and synthetic bristles. Use with powder makeup and highlighter for a final touch to your look.
You could say E.l.f.'s Kabuki Face Brush is something of a cult favorite. Its 600+ reviews on Target's site alone is filled with fans raving about its soft bristles and full coverage application. The absorbent bristles make it a multi-use tool, good for dry or wet products.
When you need precise application, whether it's for defining eyebrows or applying eyeliner, this brush by Anastasia Beverly Hills is one of the best to pick up and distribute product evenly. This small brush is ideal for creating fine traces of product exactly where needed. The firm bristles are made with sable and paired with a wooden handle.
If you're looking to invest in a quality bundle of face brushes without a hefty price tag, Sonia Kashuk's set is a smart option. Made with woodgrain handles and soft synthetic fibers, the brushes hold up through washing and use. Their beautiful design is only a plus.
Hourglass's excellent collection of brushes are made from high-quality synthetic materials, ideal when investing in quality eye brushes. They pick up shadow well while retaining the pigmentation of the product. CLoveBeauty, a fan of the brush on Sephora, says, "They are extremely soft, heavy to the hand, and luxurious. They perform incredibly, and since they are synthetic you can clean them as often as you wish with any brush cleanser."
Vegan with an emphasis on sustainable products, EcoTools is a brand worth celebrating. All of the tools in this set are made of recycled materials and bamboo. Because they're set at a bargain price, fans of the brushes praise their high quality and even better application.
Nars's high-quality makeup brushes are made with goat hair bristles that blend and diffuse color seamlessly. While the brand's collection of tools is a splurge, they are reliable, sturdy picks that will hold up through plenty of use.
Artís's Oval 7 brush is designed for use on large areas of the face. Use it to apply foundation, bronzer, and blush. The bristles are crafted with the brand's signature "NuFibre" synthetic fibers that seamlessly blend product.
Bobbi Brown's quality products always impress, and that doesn't stop short at the makeup brushes. The super-soft bristles pick up and disperse product immaculately for true coverage. Hannah, a fan of the brand's face brush on Sephora, says, "This brush is the only one that I use and need for foundation. It applies powder or liquid perfectly, leaving your face flawless. I also love how it barely uses any product and is so soft!"
Need a reason to keep your makeup brushes clean? Read this.
This post was originally published on February 27, 2015, and has since been updated.