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Q: Hi Sheri,
This is a pretty straight-forward question, so I’ll keep it short. I need makeup brushes, but I don’t know what to purchase, and I don’t want to end up with a bunch of them that I never use. What brushes do you recommend to the ‘everyday woman’ who wears a medium amount of makeup?
Esther, Nova Scotia
A: Hi Esther,
I think this is a question that many women can relate to. While your question is short and to the point, I’m afraid my answer is going to be a wee bit longer. I think most women actually own way too many makeup brushes that go unused, for various reasons.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the (few) brushes you will end up using the most.
Foundation Brushes :: Do you need one? No. Do some women like to use them? Yes. As a makeup artist, I have a few that I find essential for doing someone else’s makeup, but do I use one on myself? Occasionally. Depending on just how much and what type of foundation you’re using, your fingers may suffice for a flawless application.
A good brush, however, can really come in handy for additional blending. It will help to spread the product, and you will end up using less. Start by dabbing your foundation/tinted moisturizer in the middle of your face, and use your fingers and brush to blend outward, toward your hair and jaw lines. This ensures coverage where you need it most, and keeps your jawline demarcation free.
- Giorgio Armani Beauty Blender Brush:: Use in short, blending strokes to ensure even, flawless coverage. This brush can also be used to blend concealer under the eye and around the nose.
- EcoTools Bamboo Finishing Kabuki :: I use this brush in a circular motion to do a final blend of foundation once it’s been applied with the fingers. It buffs away lines and creates a smooth, even base.
Sponges :: While I’m not a fan of disposable sponges, I am a fan of having one really great (washable) sponge for blending everything once finished.
- The Original Beauty Blender :: This sponge is now a cult-classic and has spawned many followers (and knockoffs).
Blush/Bronzer/Powder Brushes :: Do you need one for each? Not really. It’s fun to have scads of brushes that can look oh-so-pretty arranged on your vanity, but if you’re really looking to streamline your routine, I’d say you can get away with one great, medium-sized brush. Some may worry about transferring leftover blush or bronzer onto your face when using one or the other, but a quick swipe or dusting on a clean tissue or towel will remove most superficial residue (do this gently please; you want your brushes to last).
I’m a fan of using both bronzer, for a bit of natural contour under the cheekbones, and blush, for a slight hit of colour on top of them. But, of course, you can also use either/or. I will also admit that I’m not the hugest fan of face powders, as they usually just make your skin look dull and lifeless. Yes, there comes a time when you may need to tame that crazy shine, but brushing on tons of powder is only going to add years to your face. This is one of the reasons you don’t need a gigantic fluffy powder brush. If you feel that you really need some powder help, just ‘dust off’ your brush, and spot apply a bit of luminous finishing powder where needed. For this type of application, I like to recommend a soft brush with a more tapered end; one that will pick up enough product, but not too much (remember, it’s always best to start off with less, and add more if needed).
- Quo Professional Blush Brush :: Clients comment on this brush all of the time because it’s so soft.
- Make Up For Ever Fan Brush :: A fan brush can come in handy for cleaning up excess eye shadow or powder that has fallen onto cheekbones. Not essential, but nice to have around.
The sheer multitude of eye brushes out there is kind of insane. Yes, all of these brushes do different things, and some are better than others, but you can totally get away with just a few good ones. This not only saves counter space, but also your sanity and your hard-earned money.
NOTE: You can ignore what a brush is “supposed” to be used for. Just because it says “crease” doesn’t mean you can only use it there. I use all different brushes all over the face. It’s a personal preference. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Crown Studio Pro Blending Crease C330 brush :: For all-over colour and contour, a longer, soft, tapered brush is best. It will deposit just enough shadow without creating severe, un-blendable lines.
- bdellium tools Small Shadow Brush #772B :: For detailing, a small shadow brush lets you add more pigment, and, therefore, definition to the eye. I use a brush like this to add a soft line under the eye, instead of eyeliner. I also use it on the lid to bump up application and add dimension.
- Quo Professionals Angled Contour Brush :: Blending brushes are my absolute favourite. Even though this brush is called a contour brush, I prefer to use it to blend out eyeshadow. Blending brushes are essential because they allow even the most technically un-savvy to create a beautifully blended eye. It is the difference between looking like a contestant on Toddlers and Tiaras and…a human? In a sweeping or windshield wiper motion (in the direction you’d like your shape to go), brush eyeshadow over any hard lines. Voila, it’s magically blended and magazine cover-worthy, rather than beauty pageant-scary.
- EcoTools Bamboo Eye Shading Brush :: This brush has a different shape, but does the same wonderful job as the brush above.
These brushes make the honorable mention category, for women who wear cream or gel liners (brushes are a must with these):
Lips are another area where I either cheat with brushes that aren’t necessarily for the lips (I find concealer brushes more comfortable), or completely forgo brushes all together. If you desire super-precise lips, a great brush will make all of the difference. If not, you might be able to skip the brush. I’m more partial to applying lipstick straight from the tube and blending with my finger, but everyone is different. Here are a few I like:
Brush sets are also a great idea and usually come with mini versions of the brushes you will need. Since they’re smaller, they can be easier to use and are of course great for travel. A lot of the time, these sets can be found during the holidays, but you can usually find them online or at specialty cosmetic counters and stores. Brands to look for include Bobbi Brown, Eco Tools, MAC, Quo, and bdellium.
On a final note, I’d like to touch on brush maintenance. It is imperative that you take care of your brushes and keep them as clean as possible. This is what will help them to last years. Believe me, I have 10 year old brushes still kicking around because I wash them with a mild soap/shampoo and occasionally condition them. Obviously, my kit brushes are washed after every use, but I also like to shampoo my personal brushes every week or two to keep them fresh and to minimize bacteria. Here’s a soap I love that is gentle, yet gets the grease out:
So, there you are: all the brushes you need to round out your own little (or large) kit. Of course, you can modify your kit to your liking by adding or subtracting from this list, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that buying brushes doesn’t need to be a giant migraine anymore. Keep it simple.