Have you ever looked at a wall of makeup brushes at a beauty store and thought, These look pretty, but do they come with an instruction manual? With countless shapes to choose from (not to mention fiber types and other nuances), we’ll be the first to admit that it’s really overwhelming—and the thought that choosing one over another can be the difference between cakey foundation and a flawless finish takes it to the next level.
Which is why we called on some of the industry’s top makeup artists to give us the inside scoop on their tools of choice, specifically when it comes to creating a smooth base for the rest of your look with foundation, concealer, powder, and more. (There’s some kind of cheap analogy here regarding brushes, makeup artists, and a primed canvas, right?) Here, they reveal the face makeup brushes they always have on hand—as well as additional tips on how to copy their expert application techniques at home.
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When applying foundation, one of the most important things to remember is that it’s not just about putting on a wash of color—with the right brush, you’re also boosting circulation and really blending the formula (ideally with other creams or skin primers) so it melts right into the skin. For makeup artist Ermahn Ospina, that brush is Urban Decay’s Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush ($32). “It has a perfect round shape, and its vegan bristles help you to apply any cream or liquid foundation seamlessly,” he says.
For a flawless application, Ospina says to brush in circular motions around the face. “Clients say that it feels like getting a face massage when I use this brush on them,” he adds.
A zit is not the same as a dark circle (duh), so you’ll need to approach it differently. For scars, pimples, and other small blemishes, your aim is to find a brush that’s accurate but thorough. “I love Laura Mercier’s Secret Camouflage Brush ($26) because of its flat, pointed shape,” says Hinako, whose clients include Miranda Kerr and Leighton Meester. “It’s perfect for tiny areas.”
“It’s synthetic, so it picks up heavy cream-based products easily,” adds Ashleigh Louer, who works with Katie Cassidy and Caitlin Fitzgerald. “The tip is pointed and firm, so you can perfectly cover any imperfections.”
For concealing general discoloration, choose a brush that can navigate the contours and crevices of your face. Ospina recommends Sigma’s F70 Concealer Brush ($14). “Its small size makes it very easy to reach around the eye and nose areas,” he says. “The brush is also flat and slightly tapered, helping to give you even coverage.”
Daniel Martin, who works with Kate Bosworth and Jessica Alba, likes Kevyn Aucoin’s Beauty Contour Brush ($40) to help sculpt the face. “I love the size of the brush head because you can build the color much easier as you go,” he says.
Want to avoid harsh streaks of rouge? It’s all in the brush. “Chanel’s Blush Brush #4 ($55) is beautiful and silky, with almost invisible tapered bristles,” says Ospina. “It helps you to softly accentuate the cheekbones and contours of your face.”
“My all-time favorite brush is Make Up For Ever’s Highlighter 140 Brush ($34),” says Louer. “I could do a full face with just this brush. Mostly, I use it for buffing concealer in areas that need more coverage and for under-eye concealing. I love the softness of it and the tapered edges, perfect for creating a flawless, airbrushed-looking makeup.” That’s always the goal, right?
The key to avoiding that dreaded cakey look is to only put powder exactly where you need it—and for that, you need an accurate brush. Martin likes Dior’s Blush Brush No. 16 ($55). “The angle on this powder brush makes for an easier deposit around the nose and helps localize placements on the rest of the face,” he says.
What are some of your favorite brushes for face makeup? Sound off in the comments below!
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.