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The Best Makeup Brushes for Every Task in 2021, From Foundation to Blush

When it comes to finding the best makeup brushes, consumers are spoiled for choice. Thanks to the internet and the plethora of beauty companies in existence, there are thousands of options on the market. All that variety can be overwhelming, but thankfully experts can demystify the process. Here, a guide to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about makeup brushes, from the tools every beginner should test out to how to clean and maintain your investments. 

The Perfect Starter Kit

Unless you’re a dedicated collector, professional makeup artist, or beauty junkie, you don’t need to have many brushes. According to the experts, only a handful are necessary. “I think there are five essentials, maybe six if you factor in a concealer brush,” says makeup artist Troy Surratt, whose eponymous brand includes a lineup of ultra-luxury brushes handmade in Kumano, Japan. The trick to keeping things simple is finding tools that multi-task. “A good starter kit would be a medium density face brush that can be used in a multitude of ways,” says Surratt. “That can be used for powder, bronzer, powder foundation, and even blush.” 

After investing in a powder brush, Surrat suggests a petite face brush and three dedicated to eyeshadow. “You’ll want to have a fluffy brush that can lay color on the lid, a smaller one that is more of a pencil shape, and then a domed brush for adding color to the eye’s crease or definition to the lash line.” The final essential? A well-designed lip brush for perfecting your pout. “Some people are great at just swiping on their lipstick straight out of the tube, but the lip brush gives you that added precision,” says Surratt. “You’re able to create a sharper lip line and work the color into the texture of the lips, which results in a longer wearing, indelible look.” 

Kjaer Weis Beauty Clutch Kristen’s Essentials

Luxie Glimmer Set

Luxie Glimmer Set

Natural vs. Synthetic

One of the most important things to consider when selecting a makeup brush is the quality and type of hair it is made of. Many natural options include Saikoho goat, gray squirrel, silver fox, and even Kolinsky sable. Each type of material serves a different purpose, and it varies in terms of softness. 

Increasingly, brands are using synthetic materials like Taklon and Micro Crystal fiber that mimics the functionality of natural hair. “The technology behind synthetic hair brushes is so incredible [and] I can achieve a beautiful, refined application on myself and my clients working with them,” explains Gucci Westman, whose Westman Atelier range is handmade by Japanese artisans using cruelty-free nylon bristles and sustainably sourced birchwood from an FSC-certified forest. “Synthetic brush fibers can be shaped more like virgin hair [which] results in a soft feel and smooth application. The quality can so closely mimic natural ones that it can be hard to tell any difference upon the skin.”