Having the right brushes is everything. With the right tools, you’ll spend less time applying makeup and it will look better and wear longer. A great brush is the difference between a streaky looking mess and perfectly blended watercolor eye shadow. Some I’ve had for 20 years, others just 2- but I have a pretty good grasp on which ones are worth the money and which you should skip. Also, if you haven’t bought brushes in a year or two, you’ll be happy to know that you can get a set of 4 or 5 for under $10.
1. M.A.C These brushes seem to hold up and some I’ve had for 17 years. Back then they were the go-to for brushes but now there are so many less expensive options that I never think to shop M.A.C anymore. If you’re a Makeup Artist (or have a cosmetology license) you can apply for a discount for all of M.A.C which makes the price a little easier to justify.
2. Stila Smudge and Line #23: I got this brush when I worked for Stila at Nordstrom almost 20 years ago and I can say that it looks and feels the same today as it did back then. This duel-ended brush has a great smudger as well as a precision liner brush which I actually never use. There isn’t any peeling or cracking on the handle and the bristles are all laying down and not shedding, but the shape of the brush isn’t the most modern. I love how it has held up, but there are better options for how we’re applying makeup today.
3. Crown Brush: It doesn’t matter what brush this is from Crown because (aside from their pro line) what I’ve bought is all crap. I have a few of their less expensive brushes and a some of their ‘better’ ones (where #4 came from) and they all fell apart- not just at the handle but the hairs split and were awkward to work with. Their pro line seems to have better quality, but still isn’t worth the $15-$20 price.
4. Crown Brush: See above. I’m too irritated with them to say anything else.
5. Morphe G18: Now I love my (out of stock) Gunmetal crease brush which was just under $10 as most of that line is, but I’m not the only one. This is a fave of YouTube makeup gurus and pros alike because it’s a lower priced brush that doesn’t behave like one. Well worth checking out especially the gunmetal line which won’t chip or flake the way wooden handles do. I’ve only had this brush for a year or two, so I don’t know what it will look in 10, but I’m happy for now.
6. Real Techniques: This is one of my fave brushes which comes in THIS set along with 4 others for just $8. Honestly, this line carries some of my favorite brushes with handles that never crack or peel and the hair stays perfect without shedding. They’re a must-have especially if you haven’t upgraded your brushes in a while. These face brushes ($3-$7) sold as singles are amazing too- their powder one I use every day.
7. IT Cosmetics Blurring Concealer Brush #103 $16 It’s an Ulta exclusive and well worth a trip to check it out. I LOVE this (and my other) IT brushes. It’s well made, never sheds, and has a completely unique shape that I use to apply concealer and powder to under eye areas. It’s holding up wash after wash and the narrow handle fits easily into my already packed brush roll.
8. Princeton Art & Brush CO: I found this taklon brush at an art store about 15 years ago and though it’s now a little ragged from the washing and wear, it has been a fave. It’s like the No6 from THIS set but I couldn’t find the same exact one sold solo. HERE are all the Princeton brushes Amazon has, but I found this one at Michael’s if you want to take a look in store. Taklon brushes are synthetic (not real hair) and they’re used to apply creams like liners, concealers, and foundations. What made this one great is how fine the tip is, so I can draw a thick wing liner or a tight one with equal precision. If you can’t get your liner straight and love those gel pots, this would make the application so much easier.
9. Art Brush Loew-Cornell 4400-3/8: This one fell apart pretty quickly as you can see from the paint chipping, but I can still use it for concealer under the eyes. It’s not my fave and apparently it’s a pretty low end art brush that I would probably skip buying in the future. When I started buying art brushes years ago it was because actual makeup brushes were all expensive or cheap crap that looked like ragged old doll hair. Thanks to companies like Morphe and Real Techniques, I don’t need to buy art brushes anymore. Brushes that are actually meant for the face make all the difference.
10. Real Techniques: This was a brush in THIS set that I bought recently which comes with 3 others for $8! Yes $8 total for the entire set. I just love this brush for contouring or blush and the thick handle is easy to hold and maneuver. I reviewed these brushes when they first launched years ago and those all look like the day I got them. The handles, hair, everything. Awesome line and even better prices.
If I had to pick top faves, I’d go with Real techniques and IT for quality, and Morphe for price and a huge selection and ability to pick up brushes a’la carte as well as vegan offerings. Yes, real hair brushes are from animals like pony, goat, and squirrel. I have no idea where specifically on the animal they source the hair, but those tails do look pretty fluffy. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I’ll go vegan only for lip brushes because no amount of Chanel lipstick can outweigh the disgust of rubbing it on using hair from a goat’s ass. Just a thought.
But I digress.
If you’ve heard of a Beauty Blender (and who hasn’t?) Real Techniques has 2 sponges that are a little larger with a better shape and feel (I think) than the round pink Beauty Blenders. They’re also $8.50 for a 2 pack HERE versus $19 for just one which is what you’ll pay for the original.