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A Guide to 16 Types of Makeup Brushes and How to Use Them

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 4 min read

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There are as many makeup brushes as there are makeup products. The brush landscape can be very overwhelming and can get very expensive, with price having a lot to do with the materials involved—animal hair brushes will be more costly than synthetic fiber brushes, but the latter won’t be necessarily more effective. Many cruelty-free and vegan beauty brands are making high-performance synthetic makeup brushes that are affordable. According to makeup artist Bobbi Brown, good brushes feel soft and full and should not shed hairs on your face when using them.

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Bobbi Brown Teaches Makeup and BeautyBobbi Brown Teaches Makeup and Beauty

Bobbi Brown teaches you the tips, tricks, and techniques for applying simple, natural makeup that makes you feel beautiful in your own skin.

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11 Face Brushes and How to Use Them

There are so many different types of makeup brushes for your face that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The best makeup brush is one that you’ll actually use—and a lot of brushes are multipurpose. Just remember to clean your brushes regularly.

  1. Concealer brush: A fluffy, tapered concealer brush is best for blemish-concealing because your fingers may smudge the makeup out of place.
  2. Foundation brush: A large, flat brush used to apply cream foundation or liquid foundation. Great if you’re going for full coverage or blending large areas. Easy for applying precisely around the nose and under the eyes. Before using your foundation brush, dip it in warm water and carefully squeeze out any excess water into a towel, to prevent the brush from soaking up your makeup.
  3. Blush brush: A medium-sized, round, fluffy brush. A blush brush is smaller than a powder brush, allowing for concentrated application on the apples of your cheeks.
  4. Velour powder puff: Used to lock your foundation in place with an even dusting of face powder.
  5. Powder brush: A fluffy brush that isn’t very dense, so it won’t deposit too much product. Once your foundation and concealer are on, you can use a fluffy powder brush to set them with a light dusting of face powder. This will prevent your makeup from sliding around, and it’ll cut excess shine. Use for powdered foundation, blush, or any other loose powders.
  6. Bronzer brush: You want a wide, rounded brush with a dense but soft head to be able to pick up and deposit a bronzer powder onto your skin as well as buff it out.
  7. Fan brush: A brush with fan-shaped bristles used for applying sheer powdered highlighter with a single sweeping motion. An alternative is a highlighter brush, which is tapered and dispenses more product.
  8. Kabuki brush: A large brush with a flat top used for applying powder foundation and highlighter, or as a blending brush.
  9. Stippling brush: A brush with two different lengths of bristles, used for blending different layers of cream makeup. Tap the brush onto your face to deposit product, and then gently blend with circular motions.
  10. Makeup sponge: It’s not technically a brush, but makeup sponges can be an important part of your brush set. Like a foundation brush, you’ll want to wet the sponge (and squeeze it out) before applying makeup, so that it won’t absorb product. Use for liquid foundation and for blending.
  11. Contour brush: A densely packed brush with soft bristles and an angled head ideal for applying bronzer or other contouring makeup to cheekbones.

4 Eye Brushes and How to Use Them

Depending on your eye look, you might need just one brush—or four.

  1. Eyeshadow brush: Eyeshadow brushes come in a variety of shapes, so choose the one that works best for your eye shape. A fluffy, wide eyeshadow brush helps deposit and blend the shadow on your lid; A small fluffy, rounded brush (aka eyeshadow crease brush) helps blend shadows into your crease; A flat, rounded eyeshadow brush helps deposit and blend thicker cream formulas.
  2. Eyeliner brush: An angled liner brush helps create definition along your lash lines. Use the top of the brush to dot your lash line, then sweep the brush along the lash line to blend. Eyeliner brushes can also be used for smudging a smoky eye.
  3. Spoolie brushes (aka eyebrow brush): For grooming your brows, separating eyelashes, and generally helping with anything related to tiny hairs. Keep clean spoolie brushes on hand to separate lashes that have been stuck together right after applying mascara.
  4. Liquid eyeliner brush: A very fine-tip brush for applying liquid or gel eyeliner.
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2 Lip Brushes and How to Use Them

Most of us apply lip products straight from the tube, or with a finger. But for dramatic lip looks, you’ll want brushes.

  1. Lipstick brush: A firm-edged brush for precise application of lip color.
  2. Lip liner brush: A small tapered brush for applying lip liner.

Want to Learn More About Makeup and Beauty?

Whether you already know a blush brush from a bronzer brush or are simply looking for tips on bringing glamour into your daily routine, navigating the beauty industry takes knowledge, skill, and practical experience. No one knows their way around a makeup bag better than Bobbi Brown, the makeup artist who built a career and a multi-million dollar brand with one simple philosophy: Be who you are. In Bobbi Brown’s MasterClass on Makeup and Beauty, learn how to do the perfect smoky eye, find the best makeup routine for the workplace, and hear Bobbi’s advice for aspiring makeup artists.

Get the MasterClass Annual Membership for exclusive access to video lessons taught by masters, including Bobbi Brown, RuPaul, Anna Wintour, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, and more.

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