We Tested the Best Makeup Brushes—These Are Our 7 Favorites

Our winner is the Lune+Aster Foundation Brush

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Best Makeup Brushes

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Virtually every beauty stan agrees makeup brushes are integral to applying a full face. 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.

Byrdie Tested & Approved

Overall, we liked the Lune+Aster Foundation Brush the best. Its dense yet soft bristles and sturdy handle make it a standout makeup tool. On a budget? You can't go wrong with the versatile, easy-to-clean Buffing Brush from e.l.f. Cosmetics.

"The first thing I look at is the shape," says makeup artist Nick Lujan, explaining that this determines where to use a brush and what product to use it with. According to celebrity makeup artist Erika La' Pearl, the bristles are what really counts. "The softness and quality of the bristles determine how the makeup applies and whether or not it will evenly distribute," she tells Byrdie.

There are nearly endless brushes out there, and figuring out which one you need can be overwhelming. To help you filter through your options, we researched today's top-rated designs and purchased 14 to try out in The Lab, our product-testing facility in Manhattan.

These are the best makeup brushes Byrdie tested.

Best Overall: Lune+Aster Foundation Brush

5
Lune Aster Foundation Brush

Byrdie / Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    5/5
What We Like
  • Dense yet soft

  • Sturdy handle

  • Smooth results

  • Easy to clean


What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

After putting 14 makeup brushes to the test, Lune+Aster was a clear winner. This round, angled number earned a perfect overall score, excelling in design, application, and ease of cleaning. Designed for liquid, cream, or powder foundation, it's round with a sloped head. The angle helps you get into all the contours of your face, while the short, thick handle offers a solid grip.

This brush has synthetic bristles, which Lujan prefers. In addition to being vegan-friendly, he explains that they're often more durable and hygienic. Our tester said the semi-short bristles are dense yet extremely soft.

She liked how the fibers allowed her to quickly apply and blend her foundation without sacrificing smoothness or a natural-looking finish. Beyond that, this makeup brush turned out to be super easy to clean. Liquids and creams squeeze right out when you run the bristles under warm water.

Bristle Material: Synthetic | Shape: Round/angled | Intended Use: Liquid, cream, or powder foundation | Vegan: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"The angled bristles made this brush easy to get around my nose and under my eyes, and the short, thick handle felt great in my hand."—Julia Fields, Product Tester

Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Buffing Foundation Brush

4.8
 e.l.f. Cosmetics Buffing Foundation Brush

Byrdie / Ulta

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    5/5
What We Like
  • Versatile

  • Smooth results

  • Easy to clean

What We Don't Like
  • Could be larger

  • Some products stain bristles

E.l.f. makes some really excellent budget beauty tools, and this makeup brush is no exception. The round, tapered shape is designed for foundation and concealer, but it also works for contouring and buffing powder products. While she prefers a slightly larger head, our tester said the medium size makes it versatile enough to use around the eyes and nose.

We loved the soft-to-the-touch synthetic bristles. In addition to feeling nice against the skin, this makes for ultra-smooth application and blending. Our tester said her foundation went on so easily and buffed out effortlessly without any streaks or blotchiness. Though some makeup products may stain the bristles, this brush was generally very easy to clean.

Bristle Material: Synthetic | Shape: Round/tapered | Intended Use: Foundation, concealer, buffing | Vegan: Yes

What Our Testers Say

 "I could apply my foundation effortlessly and quickly without streaks or blotches."—Julia Fields, Product Tester

Best Splurge: It Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Flat Top Buffing Foundation Brush #6

4.7
IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Flat Top Brush #6

Ulta

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    5/5
What We Like
  • Smooth results

  • High-quality handle

  • Easy to clean

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If you're willing to invest in a high-quality makeup brush, look no further than IT Cosmetics. This luxurious flat-top features dense synthetic bristles that feel soft against the skin. The unique head does an incredible job of picking up and buffing out pressed and loose powders, but you can also use it for applying and blending liquid foundation.

Our tester said the Heavenly Luxe #6 absorbed hardly any of her liquid foundation and left her with a smooth, streak-free complexion. She also liked how the weight of the handle felt in her hand. This makeup brush is easy to clean, too—all remaining product came right off with minimal effort.

Bristle Material: Synthetic | Shape: Round/flat | Intended Use: Liquid or powder foundation, buffing | Vegan: Yes

Best Oval: Real Techniques Blend + Blur All Over Brush

4.7
real techniques makeup brush

Courtesy of Ulta 

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    4/5
What We Like
  • Excellent coverage

  • User-friendly

  • Large handle

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly stiff

The best oval brush we tried was the Real Techniques Blend + Blur. Designed for applying and buffing liquid foundation, it has a large head with dense bristles. Though the fibers are slightly stiff, our tester said they're still plenty soft.

Since the bristles are on the side rather than the end, the shape is more reminiscent of a toothbrush than a paintbrush. As our tester notes, this makes it really easy to use when blending out liquids and creams, while the large size offers incredible coverage. Cleaning the dense bristles took a little more elbow grease than other brushes, but nothing too excessive.

Bristle Material: Synthetic | Shape: Oval | Intended Use: Liquid foundation, applying, buffing | Vegan: Yes

Real Techniques Blend + Blur Oval Foundation Brush Test

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to build up even coverage where I wanted it."—Britney Johnson, Product Tester

Best for Contouring: MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush

5
MAC 170 Rounded Slant Brush

MAC

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    5/5
What We Like
  • Dense yet soft

  • Smooth results

  • Easy to clean

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

MAC's best-selling 170 brush earned perfect scores in the lab. While it's technically designed for foundation, we found it to be a stand-out option for contouring. The synthetic bristles are dense yet soft. And while it's slightly too large for the under-eye area, the round, angled shape allows you to reach around all the curves and corners of your face.

Our tester said her makeup went on super smooth and melted into her skin as she buffed it out, leaving her with a bright, even-toned complexion. The 170 is also very easy to clean. Liquid products came right out with a bit of warm water and mild soap. Aside from the steep price, we really have no complaints about this makeup brush.

Bristle Material: Synthetic | Shape: Round/angled | Intended Use: Foundation, contour, blending, buffing | Vegan: Yes

MAC 170 Rounded Slant Brush Test

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"I could see myself using this brush every day for foundation, cream contour, cream blush, and even powder products."—Julia Fields, Product Tester

Best Cruelty-Free: Tarte Foundcealer Foundation Brush

4.8
Tarte Foundcealer Foundation Brush

Tarte Cosmetics

Our Ratings
  • Design
    5/5
  • Ease of Use
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    5/5
What We Like
  • Comfortable grip

  • Vegan-friendly

  • Smooth application

What We Don't Like
  • Too large for under-eye area

Tarte's Foundcealer Brush was also a hit with the Byrdie team. This cruelty-free tool features vegan-friendly synthetic bristles and a round, tapered head. Though the finely cut fibers are somewhat short, our tester said they're exceptionally soft and fluffy.

This brush features multiple bristle lengths, which makes it easy to blend liquids and creams. Our tester loved how smoothly her foundation buffed into her skin and appreciated the comfortable feel of the sturdy handle. The Foundcealer brush was also really easy to clean, leaving no remaining product on the bristles.

Bristle Material: Synthetic | Shape: Round/tapered | Intended Use: Foundation, concealer | Vegan: Yes

 Tarte Foundcealer Foundation Brush

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"The dense bristles are great for blending in liquid foundation and giving the skin a nice natural finish."—Elizabeth Hecht, Product Tester

Best Portable: bareMinerals Smoothing Foundation Brush

4.3
bareMinerals Smoothing Foundation Brush

Sephora

Our Ratings
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Ease of Use
    3.5/5
  • Ease of Cleaning
    5/5
What We Like
  • Packable size

  • Versatile

  • Smooth results

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Not ideal for beginners

This makeup brush from bareMinerals is smaller than average, making it ideal for travel and on-the-go use. And thanks to the versatile design, it might be the only tool you need to pack. Perfect for applying, blending, contouring, stippling, and diffusing creams or powders, our tester liked that the multi-length synthetic fibers aren't super densely packed.

While it seemed to make things streaky at first, our tester found that sweeping and tapping motions offer a stunningly smooth finish. Since it wasn't the most intuitive, this might not be the best option for beginners—but once you get the hang of it, you're golden. And although we wish the price was more accessible, we appreciate how easy it is to clean.

Bristle Material: Synthetic | Shape: Domed | Intended Use: Foundation, tinted moisturizer, diffusing, contouring, stippling | Vegan: Yes

bareMinerals Smoothing Foundation Brush

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Final Verdict

Overall, we liked the Lune+Aster Foundation Brush. Featuring dense yet soft bristles and a sturdy handle, this all-star makeup tool allows for quick, easy blending without sacrificing a smooth finish. On a budget? You can't go wrong with the versatile, easy-to-clean Buffing Brush from e.l.f. Cosmetics.

How We Tested

Byrdie editors took their time researching today's top-rated, best-selling makeup brushes before selecting 14 to try firsthand in The Lab. Each tool was tested to see how it performed for foundation application and various blending, buffing, and stippling techniques.

We also evaluated the design, including the handle, head shape, bristle material, density, and softness. We cleaned all the brushes as well to see how easily products came off. After awarding each brush a score from one to five for design, application, and ease of cleaning, we narrowed it down to our favorites.

Other Options We Tested

Anastasia Beverly Hills A30 Pro Brush

We also tried this domed kabuki brush from Anastasia Beverly Hills. While we liked the soft, synthetic Taklon bristles and found the small-ish size to be great for working around corners, it wasn't our favorite for foundation. Also, the density of the bristles makes it slightly tricky to clean.

Anastasia Beverly Hills A30 Pro Brush

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Fenty Beauty Full-Bodied Foundation Brush 110

Our tester loved the soft feel of this densely packed brush. However, she said it made her foundation look uneven, streaky, and a bit splotchy. And while we were able to clean all the product out, it took a few washes.

Make Up For Ever Buffing Foundation Brush 112

Our tester said this buffing brush is soft with a nice weighted handle, and the large size allows for quick foundation application. Though it might be OK with full-coverage formulas, we found the finished results to be a little streaky.

Make Up For Ever Buffing Foundation Brush 112

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Meet the Expert

  • Nick Lujan is a makeup artist and the director of artistry and education at Kevyn Aucoin.
  • Erika La' Pearl is a celebrity makeup artist whose main clients include Cardi B.
  • Tamekia Geer is a makeup artist at TamGee Artistry Studio.

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 Geer 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?

    Geer 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 Geer. “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.

What Is Byrdie Verified?

Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a commerce writer and editor specializing in beauty. For this story, she interviewed three 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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