The 17 Best Makeup Brushes for Pro-Level Application

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The 17 Best Makeup Brushes of 2022

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Virtually every beauty enthusiast agrees makeup brushes are integral to applying a full face. To be sure, there's a lot you can do with your fingers and a blending sponge. But when it comes to achieving a pro-level finish, brushes are the name of the game.

"The most important quality of a makeup brush is the bristles," offers celebrity makeup artist Erika La' Pearl. "The softness and quality of the bristles determine how the makeup applies and whether or not it will evenly distribute."

According to makeup artist Nick Lujan, Director of Artistry and Education at Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, these essential tools help with precision application to achieve a seamless gradient. "The first thing I look at is the shape," Lujan tells Byrdie, explaining that this determines the area and type of makeup to be applied.

Most modern makeup brushes feature synthetic bristles, though fluffier styles sometimes have natural hairs. Lujan prefers synthetic, noting that they're often more durable and hygienic. With pointers from La' Pearl, Lujan, and other makeup pros in mind, we rounded up standout options for every purpose.

Scroll down for the best makeup brushes currently on the market.

Best Overall: Makeup By Mario F1 Makeup Brush

Makeup By Mario F1 Makeup Brush

Courtesy of Makeup by Mario

What We Like
  • Double-ended

  • Multi-use design

  • Sustainable materials

What We Don't Like
  • Semi-short handle

Our number one pick is this dual-ended showstopper from Makeup By Mario. With tapered heads on both sides, the F1 Brush can be used to apply and blend all types of products—from foundation and concealer to contour and highlighter to bronzer and blush.

Featuring a blend of synthetic and natural fibers, the bristles are designed to mimic the effects of natural hair. Whether you're swiping, buffing, or blending, you can expect an even finish. We also like that the lightweight birchwood handle is certified sustainably sourced by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Brush Material: Synthetic/natural blend | Handle Material: Birchwood | Size: Medium

"Feel the fibers. Softer fibers are ideal for applying, buffing, and blending powder products (powder, blusher, bronzer). Straight firmer fibers lend well to applying, stretching, and buffing creamier and liquid products." — Nick Lujan, makeup artist and Director of Artistry and Education at Kevyn Aucoin Beauty

Best Budget: Real Techniques Powder + Bronzer Brush

real techniques powder brush

Courtesy of Amazon 

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Multi-use design

  • Streak-free finish

What We Don't Like
  • Too large for some applications

Real Techniques is an excellent fallback for babes on a budget. The brand's beloved Powder + Bronzer Brush picks up any powder with ease, dusts it evenly over your skin, and delivers a stunning streak-free finish.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Aluminum | Size: Large

Best Drugstore: EcoTools On-the-Go Style Kit

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Four brushes included

  • Sustainable packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Bristles may shed

When it comes to the best makeup brushes, EcoTools reigns in the drugstore aisle. The brand's On-the-Go Style Kit comes with not one but four application tools, including a foundation brush, a blurring brush, and two eyeshadow brushes.

Brush Material: Taklon (synthetic) | Handle Material: Wood, aluminum | Size: Varies

Best Splurge: Artis Elite Oval 8 Brush

Artis Elite Oval 8 Brush

Courtesy of Artis

What We Like
  • Dense fibers

  • Multi-use design

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Recommended by La' Pearl, the Artis Elite Oval Brush is a go-to for makeup artists and beauty aficionados alike. From applying and blending to blurring and sculpting, there's not much this splurge-worthy brush can't do.

Brush Material: CosmeFibre (synthetic) | Handle Material: Thermoformed resin, metal finish | Size: Large

Best Kabuki: Sigma F80 Flat Kabuki Brush

SigmaF80 Flat Kabuki Brush
What We Like
  • Flat head

  • Soft, dense fibers

  • Two-year warranty

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky to clean

La' Pearl is also a fan of the F80 from Sigma Beauty. This flat-head kabuki brush boasts soft yet dense fibers for blending and buffing your favorite liquid or cream.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Wood, metal | Size: Medium

Best for Foundation: Senna Cosmetics Face Blur 47 Brush

Senna Cosmetics Face Blur 47 Brush

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Good for liquids or powders

  • Streak-free finish

  • Sustainable materials

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Lujan suggests the Face Blur 47 when applying foundation. Whether you're partial to liquids, creams, or powders, this eco-friendly makeup brush blends effortlessly for a streak-free finish.

Brush Material: Synthetic fibers | Handle Material: Wood | Size: Medium

Best for Powder Foundation: bareMinerals BarePro Core Coverage Brush

bareMinerals BarePro Core Coverage Brush

Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Retractable

  • Portable

  • Airbrushed finish

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky to clean

Those in the powder foundation camp will love bareMinerals BarePro Core. Designed for maximum control and blendability, this retractable brush delivers quick, detailed coverage and an airbrushed finish.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Not listed | Size: Medium

Best for CC Cream: IT Cosmetics Heavenly Skin CC+ Skin-Perfecting Brush #702

IT Cosmetics Heavenly Skin CC+ Skin-Perfecting Brush #702

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Infused fibers

  • Hygienic

  • Promotes healthy-looking skin

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

IT Cosmetics makes some of the best makeup brushes out there today, but the Heavenly Skin #702 stands out from the rest. Designed for CC cream stans, the hygienic fibers are infused with skin-loving silk, peptides, and niacin for a healthier-looking complexion and a beautiful finish.

Brush Material: Natural | Handle Material: Metal | Size: Medium

Best for Powder: Glossier Wowder Brush

Glossier Wowder Brush

Courtesy of Glossier

What We Like
  • Fluffy fibers

  • Tapered design

  • Includes travel pouch

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for finishing powder

Glossier's cheekily named Wowder Brush flaunts silky synthetic fibers and a chic metallic handle. The fluffy, tapered design works great for all-over powder, as well as precision applications and blending to boot.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Metal | Size: Medium

Best Large: Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Powder Brush

Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Powder Brush

Courtesy of Pat McGrath Labs

What We Like
  • Fluffy fibers

  • Dome head

  • Luxurious feel

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

La' Pearl also likes the Pat McGrath Sublime Perfection Blush. The ultra-soft, incredibly fluffy synthetic fibers and dome-shaped head make it easy to diffuse your favorite powders—the luxurious feel doesn't hurt either.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Wood | Size: Large

Best for Touch-Ups: BLK/OPL Kabuki Brush

BLK/OPL Kabuki Brush

Courtesy of BLK/OPL

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Compact

  • Multi-use design

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky to clean

When you're on the go or need a quick touch-up, reach for the ​​BLK/OPL Kabuki Brush. Don't let the compact design fool you—the large brush head goes above and beyond to apply and blend the liquid or powder of your choice.

Brush Material: Not listed | Handle Material: Not listed | Size: Large

Best for Concealer: Cozzette Beauty P345 Oval Concealer Brush

Cozzette Beauty P345 Oval Concealer Brush

Courtesy of Cozzette Beauty

What We Like
  • Tapered design

  • Conceals blemishes

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky to clean

"If you're looking for a concealer brush, I like a small tapered brush for buffing and blending under the eyes," offers Sesnek. Lujan often reaches for the Cozzette P345, which does an excellent job covering blemishes and blending products.

Brush Material: Faux sable | Handle Material: Wood | Size: Small

Best for Contouring: Morphe M164 Small Flat Angled Contour

Morphe M164 Small Flat Angled Contour

Courtesy of Morphe

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Flat-angled design

  • Precision application

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky to clean

When it comes to defining and sculpting your face, the Morphe M164 is tough to beat. This flat-angled contour brush features super-soft and notably short bristles for precise placement and easy blending.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Not listed | Size: Small

Best Precision: Fenty Beauty Precision Concealer Brush 180

Fenty Beauty Precision Concealer Brush 180

Courtesy of Kohl's

What We Like
  • Rounded head

  • Soft bristles

  • Precise application

What We Don't Like
  • Tricky to clean

We're also loving Fenty's 180 Brush. This super-soft precision brush can be used for cream contour, liquid concealer, under-eye powder, you name it. The rounded head makes it easy to get into the dips and curves of your face with fingertip precision.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Not listed | Size: Small

Best for Blush: e.l.f. Cosmetics Blush Brush

 e.l.f. Cosmetics Blush Brush

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Tapered head

What We Don't Like
  • Bristles may shed

Blush brushes don't need to be anything fancy. That's why we appreciate this simple black number from e.l.f. Cosmetics. The tapered head and soft synthetic fibers provide beautiful definition and soft sculpting on your cheekbones.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Not listed | Size: Medium

Best Fanned: Wet n Wild Fan Brush

Wet n Wild Fan Brush

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Fanned head

  • Ergonomic handle

What We Don't Like
  • Bristles may shed

When applying powder highlighter, we recommend a fanned design, like this wallet-friendly option by Wet n Wild. Mimicking the consistency of natural hairs, the extra-soft synthetic bristles effortlessly pick up shimmery pigments, while the ergonomic handle makes it easy to dust powder across the highpoints of your face.

Brush Material: Polymax (synthetic) | Handle Material: Plastic | Size: Medium

Best for Eye Shadow: Smashbox All-Over Shadow Brush

Smashbox All-Over Shadow Brush

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Tapered head

  • Foolproof application

  • Good for blending

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for precision application

Lori Taylor Davis, Global Pro Lead Artist for Smashbox Cosmetics, stands behind the All-Over Shadow Brush. "Makeup brushes should be thought of as an extension of your hand," she tells Byrdie, and this innovative tool makes it easy to apply and blend your favorite mattes and shimmery eyeshadows.

Brush Material: Synthetic | Handle Material: Not listed | Size: Small

"The most durable type of makeup brush is the high-end synthetic version in classic shapes for the eye, face, brow, etc. Although, I believe newer shapes that have dual functions or that can be used in unconventional ways are the best!" — Lori Taylor Davis, Global Pro Lead Artist for Smashbox Cosmetics

Final Verdict

The best option overall is undoubtedly the F1 Makeup Brush from Makeup By Mario, a dual-ended beauty tool that can be used for everything from foundation and concealer to bronzer and blush. However, if you're on a budget, we recommend the Real Techniques Powder + Bronzer Brush, which effortlessly picks up powder and dusts it evenly over your skin.

What to Look for in a Makeup Brush

Quality

Some makeup brushes can cost a pretty penny, but that’s because it can be quite the process to make a quality brush. Consider the sturdiness of the handle and how soft the bristles feel against your skin—these are both factors that will affect how long the brush lasts and the standard of your makeup application. The best makeup brushes should feel soft but with enough texture to blend your powder and products properly.

Synthetic vs. Natural

It might feel luxurious to have a fluffy makeup brush sourced from the finest animal hair or fur, but it’s not the most sustainable or cruelty-free option. Synthetic brushes have come a long way, and there are plenty of options to consider that are both earth and wallet-friendly. It’s also important to inquire whether or not a brand conducts animal testing. So, if you want to be kind to animals, cruelty-free is the way to go.

Application

All brushes are not created equal. In fact, they are usually designed with very specific uses in mind, and it’s important to use brushes for their intended use. If you’re new to the makeup world and you’re not quite sure where to start, makeup artist Tamekia Greer of Tamgee Artistry Studio recommends beginning with a foundation brush, powder brush, and a blush brush. A flat and a crease eyebrow brush are also good tools to have on hand.

FAQ
  • Do makeup brushes really blend better?

    The answer is a resounding yes. While fingertips get the job done for low maintenance looks or multi-purpose pigments, brushes will help you achieve a streak-free, even application.

  • How do you clean makeup brushes?

    Greer says, "For deep cleaning, I use an antibacterial bar soap combined with olive oil to help condition the brushes. In between deep cleaning, I use Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner."

  • How often should you clean your brushes?

    “For all brushes, especially any brushes used for cream products, I recommend once a week to prevent possible skin breakouts and buildup on your brushes,” says Greer. “The cleaner they are, the better the application and the longer your brushes last.”

  • How do you store makeup brushes?

    As long as your makeup brushes are kept dry and clean, feel free to get creative with brush storage. Try a marble or ceramic jar for an aesthetically pleasing option, or, if you prefer to tuck your tools away or take them with you on the go, opt for a brush roll.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Theresa Holland is a commerce writer and editor specializing in beauty. For this story, she interviewed four makeup artists to gather product recommendations and insight into the various types of brushes. Before landing on her final picks, she considered the size, shape, material, bristles, handle, and price of dozens of products. From this list, Theresa is fond of Makeup By Mario, EcoTools, Real Techniques, Wet n Wild, e.l.f., bareMinerals, and IT Cosmetics.

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