Brush It Off

There are some makeup artists who do not use brushes. I’m not one of them. I use a combination of brushes and my hands to apply makeup, depending on the client I am working with, the look I am creating and the products I am using. When it comes to brushes, I do have my teacher’s pets. Read on as I share my faves.

1) Flat Foundation Brush. I use my hands when applying moisturizer, primer and foundation on my own face, but on clients, I use a flat foundation brush. The one I reach for most often is from Crown Brush, but I bought it so many years ago that the exact name has rubbed off of the handle. I can tell you that it is a medium-sized, flat, non-angled brush. I use foundation brushes to paint on products, then I buff/blend them in with either a buffing brush, a sponge, or my hands. This is similar to the one I have:

2) Buffing Brush. I am very serious about using only my best tools on my clients, so sometimes I put the brushes that don’t make the cut into my personal kit, because I know I can adjust to make them work on me. But the Real Techniques Buffing Brush is so good and so versatile that I bought one for my personal kit. I have used it to apply cream blush and foundation, but I most frequently use it for blending. After I apply foundation on a client or my own face, I use this brush to blend it in. It helps give a flawless finish, and who doesn’t want that? I use it to blend the edges of bronzer, contour powder and blush, and to push powder onto the skin to set foundation. I have also used it to buff skincare products in. This brush is, in my opinion, an essential. It is not sold by itself, but the Core Collection four piece kit it comes in (which contains another two of my favorite brushes) is $17.99 at Ulta–totally worth it.

3) Small Concealer Brush. I like this one for concealing blemishes, because it is small and easy to do detail work with. It can also be used as a lip brush. It comes in the Real Techniques Core Collection kit too.

4) Large Concealer Brush. I like the Bare Minerals Large Concealer Brush for applying eye primer, cream shadow and undereye concealer. A larger brush covers a larger area, so think about that when you pick up a brush to apply a product.

5) Contour/Blush Brush. Another Real Techniques fave from the Core Collection. The pointed shape makes it perfect for contouring, but the soft bristles make me want to use it for powder blush too, so I just turn it on its side to do that. So many of my clients have commented on how soft the Real Techniques brushes are, which is important to me. I like soft brushes for the same reason I like products that aren’t sticky or strongly scented–I want my clients to feel relaxed during a makeup application, not like they are being accosted.

6) Fluffy Eye Shadow Blending Brush. The MAC 217 is a makeup artist favorite for a reason–it blends like no other. This is the brush to use to get those blurred lines (I know you want it), and it also works great under the browbone. When I want more of a wash of color, I use the 217 to apply shadow to the eyelids. If you buy no other eyeshadow brush, this is the one to get.

7) Dense Eyeshadow Brush. For packing eyeshadow onto the lid, the MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush is my jam. It’s soft, but the bristles are tightly packed, allowing for an even application.

8) Fluffy Angled Brush. For detailed crease and outer-V work, I like a fluffy angled brush. The e.l.f. Essential Defining Eye Brush is the perfect width and fluffy-ness, and it’s only $1! Makeup artists, stock up.

9) Angled Eyeliner/Eyebrow Brush. I multi-task my angled brush because I have found that in most cases, the angled brush that can be used for eyeliner (to apply or blend it out), can be used on the brows too. One of my favorite angled brushes comes from Michael’s Craft Store. It’s a thin, soft angled paint brush, but I can’t find it on the website. My other favorite angled brush is the MAC 263 Small Angle Brush.

10) Pencil Brushes. I like to use a small pencil brush for smudging eyeliner lines and to apply shadow to the inner tearducts, and a large pencil brush for outer-V work. My two besties in this category are both by the CVS Essence of Beauty line. They call them Crease Brushes and although I often use the larger one for crease work, I don’t think I have ever used the smaller one for that job. You can cop these–so affordable!–in this two pack:

11) Gel Liner Brush. When I want a super thin line of gel liner (often when lining close to the tearducts) I reach for another brush from Michael’s Craft Store. It’s the Spotter Brush by Simply Simmons, a line sold at Michael’s. It works well with gel liner and although I have had it for a while, it has not frayed yet, as fine brushes tend to do. For makeup artists, this a great brush for creative detail work (think designs, freckles, or beauty marks). 

12) Lip Brush. I don’t have a favorite regular lip brush, but I can tell you that I use ones from e.l.f., Essence of Beauty, Sonia Kashuk and Michael’s. I do have a favorite retractable lip brush though. Retractable lip brushes are important to me professionally, because a big part of my job on photoshoots, television and film sets is touching up lipstick. I keep the products I would need for touchups in an individual small, zippered bag, with their own lip brush. And a retractable lip brush, which won’t transfer lipstick onto everything else in the bag, is the smart choice. (I have to give credit to my makeup artist friend, Katie “Puff” Middleton, for this one.) I like the e.l.f. Studio Retractable Brushes for this.

13) Small Fluffy Brush. It’s technically an eyeshadow brush, but I use the MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush to blend concealer and powder under the eyes and to spot powder (yup, coined that term) other areas of the face. I like a fluffy brush for doing work on the undereye area because that skin is so thin and sensitive. And because the brush is small, it’s easier to control. Some people–rightfully so–will flinch if you come at their undereye area with a big fluffy brush, but the 224 is not scary. This is another one of the brushes I keep in my personal kit.

14. Spooly Brush. Honestly, I’m not picky with these. But a spooly brush (to brush through eyebrows and mascara clumps) is an important part of the essential brushes I use. It is basically a standard mascara wand, so even a clean disposable wand will do the trick.

None of the brushes I love are pokey, rough or in any way uncomfortable. When properly taken care of, they won’t shed or otherwise disintegrate on you. These are my personal favorites, but they are not the only ones that work. I just wanted to give this info because so many clients and beginner makeup artists ask me about brushes. And as I’ve said before, I don’t believe in keeping beauty secrets. If I know about a product or tool that could help someone else, eventually it will end up on this blog. You’re welcome.

If you have any awesome brushes that you think I should try, please leave a comment!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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