11 Drugstore Makeup Brushes That Will Never Let You Down

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If you’re looking to spend big bucks on a makeup brush, we get it. After all, it’s something you’re likely going to use daily and will last way longer than the pan of bronzer you’re using it with, making it a worthy investment. So if you’re ready to splurge, go for it—there’s certainly no shortage of pricey picks to choose from.

But we’re going to let you in on a little secret: There’s truly no need to buy expensive makeup brushes. The drugstore is home to a litany of ah-mazing brushes that can go head-to-head with their pricier counterparts when it comes to efficacy. There are numerous things to look for in a drugstore makeup brush, and they're no different than if you were spending more on a fancier brand. You'll want a size appropriate for what you'll be using it for, as well as the right angle or taper for the job. Bristle material is an important factor, as is how ergonomic the handle is for ease of use.

Save your cash and add any (or all) of these best drugstore makeup brushes to your stash.

Best Overall: e.l.f. Cosmetics Ultimate Blending Brush

elf cosmetics ultimate blending brush

Courtesy of elf cosmetics

What We Like
  • Works with many types of products

  • Inexpensive

  • Blends seamlessly

What We Don't Like
  • Can shed

This brand repeatedly earns our praise for offering a whole host of ultra-affordable products, and tools are no exception. Byrdie’s Senior Social Manager Kelly Gallagher is a big fan of all of the brushes they make, but if you want to try just one, make it this guy. With a dome-shaped head and tightly-packed bristles, it can be used to apply—and then seamlessly blend—basically any kind of powder or liquid product.

Size: Medium | Material: Synthetic

Best Set: EcoTools Start the Day Beautifully Kit

EcoTools Start the Day Beautifully Kit
What We Like
  • Includes case for travel

  • Great value

  • Soft bristles

What We Don't Like
  • Can soak up product

Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue raves about this line of affordable brushes; try out some of their best ones with this convenient kit. It comes with five different brushes to meet all of your makeup needs, all made with eco-conscious bamboo handles. If you’re looking to revamp your entire brush collection in one fell swoop, this is the way to do it.

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best for Powder: Wet n Wild Powder Brush

Wet n Wild Powder Brush

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Versatile

  • Inexpensive

  • Cute design

What We Don't Like
  • Bristles are a little stiff

Yes, this brush costs less than an iced coffee. The large, fluffy bristles are choice for evenly dusting on any and every kind of powder product, picking up just the right amount. (And they’re completely cruelty-free and vegan, too.)

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best for Eye Shadow: Real Techniques Eye Shade + Blend

Real Techniques Eye Shade + Blend
What We Like
  • Brushes work well together

  • Quality holds up over time

  • Applies product smoothly

What We Don't Like
  • Could be softer

You don’t need 18943 different brushes for eyeshadow application. This set of two gets the job done, no matter what kind of look you’re going for. One features tapered bristles to apply shadow all over your lid, the other, softer bristles ideal for blending colors into the crease. Also nice: The synthetic bristles work well with either cream or powder shadows.

Size: Small | Material: Synthetic

Best for Foundation: Joah Beauty Foundation Brush

Joah Makeup Brush: Foundation

Courtesy of CVS

What We Like
  • Applies foundation precisely

  • Blends seamlessly

  • Great for covering detail areas

What We Don't Like
  • Can soak up product

Applying foundation with a brush is one of the pro makeup artist secrets and techniques that can make a huge difference. Try it with this brush; its domed and slightly tapered head is ideal for applying and blending in your favorite base.

Size: Medium | Material: Synthetic

Best for Brows: Morphe M158 Angle/Liner Spoolie Brush

Morphe Angle/Liner Spoolie Brush

 Courtesy of Morphe

What We Like
  • Dual-sided

  • Great for precise application

  • Inexpensive compared to similar products

What We Don't Like
  • A little flimsy

Use the firm angled side to precisely place any kind of powder or pomade throughout your arches. Then, flip it over and brush through with the built-in spoolie. Brow perfection made easy.

Size: Small | Material: Synthetic

Best for Blush: Flower Beauty Ultimate Blush & Contour Brush

Flower Beauty Ultimate Blush & Contour Brush

 Courtesy of Flower Beauty

What We Like
  • Soft, fluffy bristles

  • Angled shape defines cheekbones

  • Easy to clean

What We Don't Like
  • Could pick up more product

Forget mascara or concealer, it’s blush that would truly be one our desert island must-have. Dust it on with this beauty of a brush. Nice and fluffy bristles pick up and deposit product perfectly. And as an added bonus, the angled shape pulls double duty for dabbing contour color along your cheekbones or jawline.

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best for Concealer: Sonia Kashuk Essential Flat-Top Concealer Makeup Brush

Sonia Kashuk Essential Flat Top Concealer Brush

 Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Works with many types of products

  • Ideal for use on the go

  • Looks expensive

What We Don
  • Cap can be difficult to remove

No matter whether you’re working with a cream or liquid concealer, this brush is ideal. A flat top buffs and blends the product into skin, helping you to camouflage imperfections without calling any attention to the makeup itself. We also appreciate that it comes with a convenient cap that’s perfect for travel and keeping the brush clean.

Size: Small | Material: Synthetic

Best for Highlighter: BH Cosmetics All Over Fan Brush 1

BH Cosmetics All Over Fan Brush

 Courtesy of BH Cosmetics 

What We Like
  • Evenly distributes product

  • Large, fluffy brush

  • Soft bristles

What We Don't Like
  • Not for precise areas

Fan brushes are choice for dusting on highlighter and creating that coveted, lit-from-within glow every one craves. The flat bristles and fanned shape of this one make it easy to place product exactly on cheekbones, browbones, and the bridge of your nose, exactly where you want that glow. Bonus points for the synthetic, cruelty-free bristles.

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

Best for Lips: BLK/OPL Precision Lip Brush

BLK/OPL Precision Lip Brush

 Courtesy of BLK/OPL

What We Like
  • Stiff bristles make precise application easy

  • Versatile

  • Soft, not scratchy

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to clean

A lip brush is an ideal way to get an ultra-precise application of any bold lip color; use it to either dab on the color directly, or dab it in a touch of makeup remover and use it to wipe off any smudges of color and create a crisp border. The stiff (yet soft) bristles and rounded tip on this brush are ideal for either purpose.

Size: Small | Material: Taklon

Best for Skincare: NYX Professional Makeup High Glass Face Primer Brush

NYX High Glass Face Primer Brush

 Courtesy of NYX Cosmetics

What We Like
  • Soft on skin

  • Easy to use

  • Helps product soak in

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Believe it, brushes aren’t just for applying makeup. They’re also a great way to effectively and evenly apply any pre-makeup skincare such as serums, and/or primer. We’re fans of this totally unique-looking brush, which features bristles of various lengths to create a nubby type texture; the grooves in between make it easy to seamlessly cover your entire face with product.

Size: Large | Material: Synthetic

What to Look For in Makeup Brushes

Bristle Material and Packing

Drugstore brushes are mostly likely going to be made of synthetic material for the bristles, and there's nothing wrong with that. Synthetic bristles are easier to wash, for one thing. What matters most is that they are tightly packed, and when you run your hands through it, no bristles stray out into them. You'll want to choose ones with bristles that feel soft enough to be comfortable on your skin.

Ergonomic Handle

Because you'll be using your brushes to apply makeup, it's imperative that the handles are ergonomically designed to enable you to perform that job well. Make sure it feels comfortable in your hand, and not unwieldly. For smaller brushes, such as to apply eyeshadow or liner, check for a handle that is long enough for you to grip thoroughly.

Size

Having a set of brushes in the sizes needed for the ways you'll be using them is key to your makeup turning out nicely. For example, a brush for foundation will be entirely different in size from a brush for any eye makeup. Since drugstore brushes are relatively inexpensive, it's not too difficult to build up a collection of various sizes. Begin with ones for the cosmetics you use most often, to get the most out of them.

Angle and Taper

For certain purposes, such as applying contour, the angle and taper of a brush's bristles makes all the difference. As you learn assorted makeup techniques, such as how to apply highlighter, you'll become more adept at utilizing the varying ways brush bristles can alter a look.

FAQ
  • How can you tell if a makeup brush is good quality?

    There are several ways to tell if a makeup brush is of decent quality. First, the bristles shouldn't come off as you touch them. Next, they should be held together to the handle in a way that doesn't wobble or feel unsteady. And lastly, the bristles should feel smooth, not ragged.

  • Does it matter what makeup brush you use?

    While there is some leeway, such as using a blush brush to apply bronzer in a pinch, overall you do want to choose brushes designed for the tasks you'll be using them for. That's the best way to assure you get the results you want.

  • Is a foundation brush worth it?

    There are many ways to apply foundation, including with just your fingers. That said, if you are looking for results that appear professional, applying it with a brush is your best best.

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