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Remember the time when the more expensive thing was better? These days, especially in the world of beauty products, that’s no longer the case. In fact, every luxury item has a comparable dupe—and they almost always end up being a fraction of the price. The same can be said for makeup brushes. To put it simply, the affordable makeup brushes of today have evolved—we’re talking high-quality bristles, sleek styles, and designs that make them easy to clean.
“Makeup brushes are a must,” says celebrity MUA Nydia Figueroa. “Applying makeup with a brush is better than fingers alone because you’re able to achieve seamless results." Figueroa suggests having at least five brushes in your arsenal: a foundation brush, a concealer brush, a tapered eyeshadow brush, a blush brush, and an angled contour brush.
To make life easier for you, we researched the best cheap makeup brush sets on the market now.
Best Overall: e.l.f. Cosmetics Precision Brush Collection
Give an airbrushed, soft-focus finish
Helps you achieve a great contour
Some brushes are rough
You’ll have what you need and more with this nine-piece brush set. Our favorites are the stipple brush and the airbrush blender, which are both effective at giving you that airbrushed, soft-focus finish. And if you’re a big contour fan, you’ll love the sculpting brush, which gets into the hollows of your cheeks. Did we mention these brushes are all 100% vegan and cruelty-free, too? Score.
Number of Pieces: 10 | Skin Tone: All | Bristle Material: Synthetic Fibers
Best Budget: Akstore 14-Piece Makeup Brush Set
Includes pieces for wet and dry application
Soft in feel
Large variety for different needs
Need a good scrubbing to clean
With 14 pieces in this brush collection, there's a tool for every situation—trust. From a flat angled brush for highlighting to a classic detail brush for filling in your lips, you'll be able to create looks for all occasions. Highly rated, reviewers love the variety, how soft the bristles are, and the perks of a cleaning mitt and makeup sponges.
Number of Pieces: 14 | Skin Tone: All | Bristle Material: Soft Synthetic Fibers
Best Face Set: EcoTools Start the Day Beautifully Kit
Provides the key pieces for everyday routines
Could blend makeup better
If you’re a minimalist, you only need a few key brushes to execute your everyday makeup routine. Included in this essential kit is an angled foundation brush, blurring brush, crease brush, angled liner, and blush brush. What I love about this set is that you can interchange brushes, too—I find that the angled foundation brush works great as a contouring brush and the crease brush moonlights as an eyeliner brush.
Number of Pieces: 10 | Skin Tone: All | Bristle Material: Recycled Plastic
Best Eye Set: Sephora Collection Eyes Uncomplicated Brush Set
Portable, eco-friendly faux leather pouch
Included tutorial insert provides application tricks
Bristles could be softer
This brush set lives up to its name: uncomplicated. Super easy to use, this eye kit houses everything you need for the ultimate eye makeup look. Reviewers love the quality of the bristles—a mix of natural and synthetic—and the chic carrying case, which is perfect for travel.
Number of Pieces: 5 | Skin Tone: All | Bristle Material: Natural Fibers
Best for Skincare: Real Techniques Prep + Prime Set
Includes latex-free foam sponge for smooth finish
Easy to clean
Includes some harsher brushes
We all know the golden rule: Skincare first, makeup second. This brush set takes that to another level. There’s a dry facial brush to exfoliate and get your blood flowing, a prep brush to use with your moisturizer or serums of choice, an under-eye massager to use with your eye gels and creams, and a lip exfoliating brush that’ll pair nicely with your lip balm. Taking care of your skin, after all, is the best first step to any killer makeup look.
Number of Pieces: 4 | Skin Tone: All | Bristle Material: Synthetic
Best Variety: BS-MALL Makeup 18-Piece Brush Set
Perfect for beginners
Plethora of brushes for multiple applications
Gentle for sensitive skin
Quality could be better
If you’re looking for a brush set to end all brush sets, here it is. With a whopping 18 pieces, this set literally has everything you could need. From a lip brush to a blender brush to a flat angled brush, this kit has you covered from top to bottom. Reviewers love the lush, soft nylon bristles as well as the champagne gold details. Perfect for a beginner or intermediate, you can’t go wrong with it.
Number of Pieces: 18 | Skin Tone: All | Bristle Material: Soft Nylon
Best Portable: BH Cosmetics Travel Series 7 Piece Face & Eye Brush Set with Bag
Comes with convenient traveling pouch
Plays well with liquid, cream and powder formulas
Quality could be better
While traditional makeup brushes are still slim enough to tote around, sometimes you need something smaller to make room for everything else you need on-the-go. Enter this seven-piece travel kit, which has mini versions of the makeup brushes you need and a travel pouch. Whether you love contour or a bold lip, these vegan essentials will keep you looking on point wherever you are.
Number of Pieces: 7 | Skin Tone: All | Bristle Material: Synthetic
If you're on the hunt for an affordable makeup brush set, you can't go wrong with e.l.f. Cosmetics' Precision Brush Collection. If you're looking for a set to use for skincare pre-makeup, reach for Real Techniques' Prep + Prime Set, which includes ingenious products that focus on prepping your skin before applying makeup. Lastly, if variety is what you're after, opt for BS-MALL's Makeup 18-Piece Brush Set, which includes a wide array of brushes for every type of look.
What To Look For in a Cheap Makeup Brush Set
You'll want the bristles of your makeup brushes to feel soft and dense and have bend to them. You'll also want to take note of any bristles shedding. If you do observe any fall-out, pass on them. And if you’re an animal lover, brushes that are marked vegan are animal hair-free and usually cruelty-free, as well.
Some people may want three brushes, while others may opt for a set of 13. Think about your makeup needs and go from there. The more you spend on your makeup look—whether it’s a smoky eye, bold lip, or immaculate contouring—chances are you’ll need a substantial kit.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Syden Abrenica has years of experience in the editorial beauty industry. She’s written for magazines like Health, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, and more. When she’s not testing out innovative makeup brushes, she’s renovating her century-old home and watching Disney movies with her husband, son, and three rescue dogs.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any cheap makeup brush sets from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
Is it bad to use cheap makeup brushes?
Choosing a less expensive option when it comes to makeup brushes doesn't have to mean sacrificing quality. Thanks to today’s technology, there are a wide variety of brushes and brush sets that offer great results without a high investment.
What are cheap makeup brushes made of?
Nylon is the most common material used to make makeup brushes that don’t command a high price tag. Slender, resilient and super soft, nylon bristles make easy work of applying color and blending, and since they’re synthetically produced, they’re also vegan.
What makeup brushes should a beginner buy?
Figueroa recommends starting with five basic brushes: a foundation brush, concealer brush, tapered eyeshadow brush, blush brush and an angled contour brush. Fortunately, many starter sets come with these and then some, giving you plenty of variety.
Are synthetic brushes better than natural?
The most noticeable difference between synthetic and natural brushes comes down to softness, as the former tends to be not as soft as the latter. Fortunately, there are a slew of synthetic brushes that come pretty darn close to their natural counterparts, and do just as good a job.