Makeup Brushes: What do you need?


This post is inspired by a very special birthday girl who shall remain anonymous so that I don’t cause her brush shame haha 😉 Sometimes I overlook simple posts because I forget that my audience doesn’t always have the experience or knowledge that I’ve acquired thru years of trying out and researching beauty products and watching countless hours of YouTube reviews! So, I figured before I start posting about specific makeup categories I would do a basic post about makeup brushes to explain all that I know. This should be useful no matter what your experience level with makeup. I will discuss different brands of makeup brushes and my opinions/reviews of them, which specific brush shapes I think you need to buy, and also the most important thing that oftentimes goes very overlooked: brush cleaning!!! (Can you tell this is something I’m passionate about? haha!)


The photo at the beginning of this post shows my entire makeup brush collection. I’ve acquired these over the last few years from drugstores, Ulta, Target, Kohl’s, Ipsy, Influenster, and TJ Maxx. Often you can find brushes at discount stores like this, Ross, Marshall’s, etc. but they are usually off brands so it is pretty much a risk if you want to buy and experiment with them. My everyday bronzer brush (above left) is actually one I got from Burlington Coat Factory on a whim and it turned out to be a fave! Also, a fluffy brush (above right) I use for highlighter or sometimes setting powder. Below I’ll discuss some specific brands, where you can buy them, pricing, and my favorite brushes from each:


Real Techniques: This is a brand sold at Ulta, Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, and others both in-store and online. Overall, I would say this is my favorite brand of brushes! They have a huge variety and actually have some that are more “lower end” (the orange and pink handle ones you see in my photo – these range from $5.99-9.99) and the Bold Metals Collection that are “higher end” and range from $12.99-20.99. One perk is that this brand is alwayysss on sale so I would say you should definitely not pay full price for them unless you’re in a bind! A lot of times they are “Buy one, get one half off” at Ulta. Kohl’s and Ulta also sometimes have other sales on them – just the other day they had 30% off Real Techniques brushes on a random weekday. Another hot tip, if you are reading this currently, download the Ibotta app and you can save with these cash back deals:
This brand also has a lot of brush sets that you can purchase where you get a few brushes together for a slightly discounted rate. The first brush set I ever bought was their Core Collection. My favorite Real Techniques brushes are:

  • Blush Brush – this is so fluffy and perfect to pick up just a bit of blush and swirl onto the apples of your cheeks! ($8.99)
  • Powder Brush – this is just the best brush for applying setting powder or anything you need to apply to a big area like your whole face! ($9.99)
  • Stippling Brush – this is great for buffing in foundation for more of an airbrushed look ($9.99) I use it with my Dior Airflash spray foundation
  • Also worth mentioning is the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge which is a great affordable alternative to the the Beauty Blender. ($6.99 each or 2 for $10.99)image
    Elf: This brand is sold at Target, Ulta,, and many drugstores. Brushes range from just $1 up to $6. This is such low pricing, but a lot of these brushes are actually great quality! And honestly, even if you only get a year out of them it would be worth it anyways! But I have had some of them for a few years now. In all of the brushes linked by product at the bottom of this post, the elf ones will always be the least expensive 🙂 My favorites are:
  • Blending Eye Brush – this is pretty self-explanatory haha! I use it to blend my eyeshadow out, usually around the crease and outer corner areas where I want colors to naturally transition and not have any harsh lines ($1)
  • Small Angled Brush – this is great for doing brows with a pomade or powder. Also it would work for doing eyeliner out of a pot ($3)
  • Flawless Concealer Brush – this is my absolute favorite for under-eye concealer application! ($3)
  • Complexion Brush – this is a super affordable choice for applying powders such as setting powder, or even blush or maybe a highlighter ($4)
  • Powder Brush – contrary to its name, I actually use this one to apply foundation and buff it in all over my face ($4)
  • Ultimate Blending Brush – this is great for applying/buffing in foundation. It is a bit stiffer than the brush above so it depends what type of foundation you’re using ($6)
    Foundation: Below are my favorite brushes for applying foundation. There are a lot of brushes out there labelled for foundation that are actually much smaller and I find that they don’t do as good of a job at blending in the foundation to look natural as these larger brushes do. From top to bottom: Hourglass Brush, elf Blending Brush, Real Techniques Buffing Brushelf Powder Brush, Real Techniques Stippling Brushimage


  • Bronzer/Contour: I like a fluffy brush for bronzer and I usually hold the bristles tight with my fingers so that they are packed more tightly to make a more contoured bronzer look on my cheekbones and forehead. Top: random brand from Burlington Coat Factory , Bottom: Real Techniques Contour Brush. This one is great for contour.


  • Blush: A fluffy but smaller than powder size brush like the Real Techniques Blush Brush is ideal for applying blush – apply to the apples of your cheeks only! I do this after bronzer and before I highlight.
  • Highlighter: I love to use my Crown Duo Fiber Blush Brush to dust highlighter on the tops of my cheekbones after I have set the rest of my makeup (I don’t set this because that would dull the shine!)
  • Brows: Small angled brushes are great for applying brow powder or pomades. My favorites are Elf Small Angled Brush and Beau Gachis Eyebrow Brush
  • Eyeshadow-base: A small, compact brush that is flatter is great for packing on shadow to the main part of your lid:  Elf Eyeshadow C Brush, Elf Eyeshadow Brush,
  • Eyeshadow-crease: A longer, rounded top brush that is still a bit compact is my personal preference for applying shadow to the crease and outer V of the eyelid. Some favorites are:  Royal and Langnickel Crease/Smudge Brush, Elf Crease Brush, Elf Blending Eye Brush, Luxie Small Tapered Blending Brush
  • Eyeshadow-blending: To blend in my shadow and avoid harsh lines, I like a brush that is similar to the crease brush described above, but with bristles that are slightly less compact and tight. One that I love to use is the  Crown Pointed Crease Brush
  • Eyeshadow-lower lash line: A tight, short flat shaped brush is perfect for packing some shadow under the lower lash line. I am so obsessed with the double-ended Royal and Langnickel Crease/Smudge Brush that I got in my June Ipsy bag!
    Daily: I am a big advocate of cleaning your makeup brushes after every single use. Makeup and skin both harbor bacteria which can cause breakouts if you keep dipping a brush from makeup to skin and back again or letting it sit and sink into the brush without cleaning after every use. This is fairly easy and cheap so you have no excuse not to do this!! 🙂 This is my favorite product to use: elf daily brush cleaner . After using a brush, I spray (1 pump) the brush with this and wipe it out on a tissue so that all the color comes out. Then the brush is pretty sanitary for your next use. Some people use wipes for this instead.

 Deep Cleaning: I advise to deep clean your brushes once every week or two depending how often you’re using them. A great tool I’ve found to simplify this process is the Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Palette . I slip this onto my hand as shown, and run warm water over it. I first dip my brush into a brush cleaner (my fave right now is the Beauty Blender BlenderCleanser Solid but you could easily use any soap, shampoo, or conditioner you have – something is better than nothing, people!) Then, I swirl the brush around in this mitt that way the grooves in it are getting all into the brush’s bristles and really cleaning it out. There are also smaller little Brush Eggs sold for $1 that you can use as opposed to a big mitt like mine. Basically I will repeat this process until the water runs clear (initially you will see the water is running the color of whatever product you are washing off the brush – so, beige for the brushes I use for foundation). Then, I run the brushes back and forth across a towel to get most of the water out and lay them flat on a towel to dry. The very best way to dry your brushes is by hanging them upside down so that the water runs out of them and is not sitting in the base/handle of the brush at all. For that there are some totally cool, helpful products like these Benjabelle Brush Trees.
Hope you all enjoyed this post! Please leave a comment and let me know any other wonderful brushes I need to try! xoxo, Nicole

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