The industry-approved edit of the brushes you need to get your paws on, stat
Ask any good make-up artist and they’ll tell you that, for the perfect finish, you need the best make-up brushes you can get your hands on.
But it’s a bit of a minefield out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of brush choices on the market. That’s where we, your handy make-up brush testers, step in with this shoppable guide to the best make-up brushes money can buy.
From the best vegan make-up brushes to the best make-up brush for the best blusher, the best foundation, eyes and more, we’ve handpicked this edit for all budgets, for all of your make-up needs. Keep reading for your induction to the very top tools out there.
Make-up brushes: the bare essentials
Whether you’re a contour connoisseur, or you take the naturally does it approach, there are some make-up brushes that everyone should have in their kit.
‘Really you only need a few brushes,’ says Zoë Taylor, CHANEL Make-up Artist. ‘I really couldn’t live without a fluffy brush for eyeshadow; a foundation brush (consider your skin type when deciding which is the right brush for you); a powder brush; and of course, a brow brush, unless you like to use gel.’
Should I opt for natural or synthetic brushes?
It’s the great make-up brush debate: natural or synthetic, and what’s the difference?
Well, it’s all about the bristles. Natural brushes are typically made from various animal furs and hairs, while synthetic brushes are usually made from plastics like nylon.
‘Natural brushes are best used with dry products and water-based products as it is easy to clean these formulas off the brushes without damaging the hairs,’ explains Taylor. ‘Synthetic brushes are far more robust but they often lack the finesse and finish of a natural brush. You can use anything with synthetic brushes, they are far more versatile. It is worth investing in synthetic brushes as you really want the ones with the finest hairs, to get a truly flawless finish.’
Best way to clean make-up brushes
You’ve spent all your money on these beautiful tools, now you want them to last. And one of the best ways to prolong their life is by ensuring you clean them – properly and regularly. If you use your brushes daily, washing at least once a week is a must. Wondering how to clean make-up brushes properly? Swot up with our handy guide to make sure you’re doing it right.
Cinema Secrets Professional Make Up Brush Cleaner –from £13 | Beauty Bay
Cinema Secrets’s make-up brush cleaner went viral on Tik Tok for transforming a manky make-up brush into a sparkly white like-new one in just a few seconds. Naturally, it’s flying off the shelves as a result – and it’s fast becoming one of our make-up bag essentials.
Ready to take the plunge? Scroll down for our pick of the best make-up brushes to transform your kit. Enjoy!
Best make-up brushes to fill your beauty tool kit
CHANEL Make-up Artist Zoë Taylor's top foundation brush pick for dry skin, NYX's soft, full brush gives an airbrush finish while going easy on sensitive skin types. 'For dry skin I like to use a flat brush. Probrush foundation brush by NYX is so neat and gives a great finish without disturbing any dry patches.'
If your skin is oiler and you're struggling to get your make-up to stay put, try using a brush that allows you to press your foundation in so you can get even coverage that lasts all day. Taylor reckons this one is the best she's tried – and we trust the woman who's made up everyone from Rihanna to Bella Hadid.
Looking for the perfect all-rounder? Look no further. This flat top vegan foundation brush is great for quick and easy application thanks to its high bristle density.
This base brush regularly pops up in conversation as a beloved foundation tool, and for several good reasons. Dense brush head, sturdy handle, lovely finish. What more could you ask for, really?
Next up? Concealer brushes. "For concealer I prefer to use a flat brush to apply the product onto the skin, but then I like to blend in using a fluffy brush, so the CHANEL Retractable Dual-Ended Concealer Brush is perfect as it does both jobs and it has lids, which keep the brushes hygienic when not in use," says Taylor.
This short, dense buffer brush is perfect for getting a flawless finish in precision areas – think around the eyes and nose.
Ideal for even distribution and blending, this classic MAC flat concealer brush is a great all-rounder to add to your arsenal.
No matter how much (or little) you like to labour over your eyeshadow, having one good, basic brush is a must. We love Illamasqua's large eyeshadow brush because it can be used with both cream and powder shadows, is hyper-allergenic (so suitable for all skin types), and 100% cruelty free.
Another eyeshadow essential is a feathery crease brush for flawless blending. We love this one from MORPHE because it's full and firm while still allowing for seamless product distribution. A make-up bag must-have.
It doesn't matter how much time and effort you put into your eye looks, everyone needs at least one good, basic shadow brush. This should be dense enough to pick up pigment, but loose enough to blend shadow across the eye. This is exactly that. The angled version is also useful for applying darker colour into the outer corner and crease of your lid.
Our Senior Beauty Editor Katie Thomas wouldn't be without this brush in her kit and won't apply eyeshadow with anything else. Its fluffy head also makes it great at blending different shadow shades into one seamless eye look.
This double-ended brush has soft and silky bristles for a perfect blend every time. We love that it has lids, too, so is perfect for keeping your brushes clean when not in use. If you're looking for an excellent multitasker, we couldn't recommend this one highly enough.
'This dual ended beauty is soft and makes all eyeshadows look flawless,' say Taylor. 'I also adore the CHANEL Retractable Dual-Ended Eye-Contouring Brush N°201 – this is small and far more precise, great for smudging, and again it’s dual ended. With lids, hygiene is everything to me.'
Finding the perfect blush brush is no mean feat – you want one that distributes product evenly, while allowing you to build your colour gradually (no clown cheeks, please). This one from Bobbi Brown is shaped to pickup just the right amount of product – and frankly, we're obsessed.
No make-up kit would be complete without a great powder brush. Lightly does it when it comes to finishing powder, and we reckon this one from Charlotte Tilbury is the perfect size for getting it just right.
"I always use a small brush and apply only around the nose and any other areas which I don’t want shine. But I love shine, so it’s never a lot!," says Zoë Taylor, CHANEL Make-up Artist. "Often I like to use a medium size artist brush."
All great makeup looks begin with a flawless base. Melding high-quality with affordability, Real Techniques's A-Z base kit is the perfect starting point. Containing a square foundation brush, a fluffy buffing brush (perfect for getting a flawless powder finish), a contour brush and a detailer brush perfect for spot concealing. Consider your kit (almost) complete.
Having a good selection of eyeshadow brushes at hand gives you so many more options. Containing everything from a shader brush to a liner brush and lash separator to get rid of pesky mascara clumps, this kit has it all.