When you’re just diving into the big, beautiful, occasionally intimidating world of makeup, having the right tools on hand can make you feel a lot more confident. Broadly speaking, the best makeup brushes for beginners are easy to handle, and perform their jobs well enough that your technique doesn’t need to be perfect for your makeup to look great. But they should also be multifunctional — like a powder brush that can be used for setting powder, bronzer, and blush, for instance — so you don’t need to worry about buying a million separate products. Need a more specific makeup brush prescription? Celebrity makeup artist Joanna Simkin, who spoke to Elite Daily for this article, has you covered.
Simkin says: “Everybody needs a small, tapered, fluffy blending brush (which is great for eyeshadow blending and highlighter application); a larger, domed or angled fluffy brush for bronzer and/or blush; a small, stiff angled brush for brows and liner; and a small, flatter brush for eyeshadow placement."
Brands like Real Techniques and Sigma make some excellent all-in-one brush sets, but for the most part, Simkin suggests taking an “à la carte” approach to stocking your kit. That way, “you can go high/low with your collection and not break the bank,” and curate your tools to suit your makeup routine. Also, don’t feel limited by the makeup aisle — Simkin says she “loves finding cool detail brushes at art supply stores."
Bottom line: Stick with good-quality brushes, don’t buy brushes that don’t actually fit into your makeup routine, and have some fun mixing and matching. But the eight best makeup brushes for beginners, listed ahead, will give you a solid jumping-off point as you shop.
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1. Best Eyeshadow Brushes
Miraculously, this set of EcoTools brushes includes all of Simkin’s three recommended eyeshadow brushes (plus a smudger brush), thanks to its intelligent, dual-sided design. This also happens to be an environmentally friendly option, as all EcoTools products are cruelty-free and made of recycled cotton and bamboo. Easiest $6 you’ll ever spend.
2. Best Powder Brush
Never have I ever used a powder brush as soft as this one from Real Techniques. Though it’s not so soft that it’s basically useless — instead, the large, plush head picks up the right amount of product to apply a sheer, even layer on your skin, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally caking it on. I use this to apply setting powder across my T-zone, but you can use it for any powder or mineral makeup you want, including bronzers and blushes.
3. Best Kabuki Brush
Kabuki brushes are dense and squat, which allows them to pick up and distribute more product across larger areas of your face. So if you wear powder or mineral foundation especially, this is the tool you need in your arsenal. This kabuki brush from e.l.f. is a bestseller on Amazon, where reviewers rave about how well it holds product and its streak-free application, while also noting that it doesn’t molt. The short handle gives you more dexterity, too — a bonus for beginners.
4. Best Sponge
If you’re a liquid foundation person, you need a classic Beautyblender for smooth, flawless application. These sponges are the easiest and most effective way to seamlessly blend in your concealer, foundation, or any other liquid or cream product, with zero risk of streaking. They’re also a must-have if you’re venturing into the world of "baking" your makeup.
5. Best Contour Brush
The angled bristles on this Sigma brush are designed to fit around your temples, cheekbones, and jawline, so applying and blending your contour could not be any easier. (Though this is great for applying bronzer and blush, too.) It’s on the pricier side, but Sigma brushes are built to last, and the super-soft bristles feel like a real treat. Those bristles are also antimicrobial and hypoallergenic, which helps mitigate the risk of breakouts and rashes.
6. Best Concealer Brush
As far as I’m concerned, this concealer brush from Real Techniques is the holy grail; Simkin, too, calls it “a must.” It’s exactly the right size to fit snugly under your eyes and into the inner corners, but it can tackle larger areas, too, like around your nose and chin. The densely packed bristles help evenly distribute and blend in your concealer, without kind of just smushing it around (or wiping it off entirely). And like all Real Techniques brushes, the bristles are divinely soft and don’t lose their shape after washing.
7. Best Highlighter Brush
Simkin likes this tapered Sigma brush for applying powder highlighter to the inner corners of the eyes and the high points of the face, like the cheekbones, brow bone, Cupid’s bow, and bridge and tip of the nose. You could also use it to sweep setting powder over smaller areas of your face, like under your eyes, down your nose, and across your chin.
8. Best Budget Brushes
If you’re seeking some low-commitment/high-reward experimentation, wet n’ wild brushes are the way to go. With over 30,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, this collection of makeup brushes is by far the most popular; and with prices as low as $0.95 and as high as $3.50, they’re by far the cheapest, too. You have nine brush types to choose from, from necessities like eyeshadow brushes to specialized tools like the flat-top stippling brush linked to here.
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