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37 Best Makeup Brushes for 2021

makeup brushes

Cindy Ord

Every makeup lover has to start somewhere to build their collection. Foundation? Check. Neutral eyeshadow palette? A pre-requisite to a professional-level lineup. Eyeliner? Whether you prefer a winged or classic tightline look, you have options. All of these essentials are great, but no makeup collection—or look, really—is complete without a handy batch of quality tools. Figuring out what types of makeup brushes to have on hand can be overwhelming, especially with all of the different options out there. Start by assessing the level of face painting you plan to do regularly. Then you can decide if you want to splurge on a professional set or work your way up to becoming an expert using frugal finds.

To help sort things out, we turned to the makeup pros to get tips on which brushes are a must for your kit. There are brushes for literally every part of your face, so there is no need to use your fingers to smudge your eyeliner or lipstick. Shop the best makeup brushes below, from Mac Cosmetic classics to must-have sets you can grab from your nearest Ulta Beauty store.

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For Body Makeup

Foundation Blender

Beyond the face, Jenny Patinkin says, “The Real Techniques Foundation Blender Kabuki is great for applying body makeup because it’s small and dense and gives good coverage. This is the one I use when I’m on-set at a photoshoot, particularly on the legs.” 

For Glittery Eyeshadow

Essential Small Eyeshadow Makeup Brush

“The Sonia Kashuk Essential Small Eyeshadow Brush is excellent if you like shimmer or glitter on your lids because the dense shape helps to pack makeup onto your lid without a lot of fall off on your cheeks.” — JP

For Powder Bronzer

Powder – Bronzer

Lazy Perfection by Jenny Patinkin

“This is my go-to for a natural, soft wash of bronzer and powder. There are two and a half times more bristles in this brush than in others, so it blends seamlessly and effortlessly and makes it hard to over-apply . Plus it feels really soft.” — JP

For Brows

322 brow line brush

“Not only can it be used for brows, but I also use it is as a smoky winged liner brush,” says Cara Lovello. “Dip it into shadow and wiggle it at the outermost part of your lower lash line towards the tail of your brow for a perfect smokey wing. It’s longer and denser than most angled brushes, which allows the brush to do most of the work for you.” 

For Liquids and Powders

PRO Foundation Brush #55

“This is the best brush for the face. It can be used for both liquid and powder products. I can literally do my entire face with just this one brush.” — CL

Best Indie Brand

1.2 Large Duo Fiber Brush

“Say Me is a small brand that carries some of my most used makeup brushes. The hair on these brushes are incredibly soft so everything applies seamlessly and blends out with minimal effort,” says Melissa Hurkman.

For a Pro Finish

Morphe x Ariel X Siganture Eyes 8-Piece Set

“I have already purchased the full face and the eye brush sets. They’re incredible! I love these brushes for how perfect they all blend out your makeup no matter the formula. If you’re torn between the two brush sets, the full or just the eye, try out the eye set first because this will give you a taste of what you’ll be getting with the face set when you’re ready to splurge. These brushes will leave you feeling like you’re a professional makeup artist!” — MH

For Vegan Bristles

Basic Eyes Kit

“My favorite makeup brushes are Sigma makeup brushes because they’re are vegan and [the brand has] always been ahead of the curve in developing amazing brushes for artists,” says Ashunta Sheriff, the go-to makeup artist for actress Taraji P. Henson.

For Eyeliner

Eyeliner Brush N° 24

Sabrina Bedrani, whose brushes have touched the faces of Gal Gadot, Michelle Williams, and many more of Hollywood’s finest, says the star of her makeup brush collection is the Dior Backstage Eyeliner Brush #24.  “This brush is perfect for smudging pencil liner onto the lash line, as well as tracing the perfect eyeliner,” she says. Plus, the brush’s sharp edge creates polished and clean stripes “by just dabbing the shadow along the lash line, especially when wet.”

For Eyeliner

212 Flat Definer

According to Sean Harris, makeup artist to stars like Laura Harrier, Lori Harvey, and Kristen Noel Crawley—”this brush does it all.” The flat brush “lines your eyes, fills in your brows, and adds definition to your eyeshadow.”

For Makeup Primer

All-Over Care Brush

“This domed shaped brush is a must for applying all of your favorite skincare products. Applying skincare with a brush will help conserve the amount of product you use considerably,” Harris adds. 

For Concealer

S165 Magic Blending Brush

“The S165 by Cozzette is a dome-top brush that is really great for concealer application because it’s light and the right size for the under eye,” Raisa Flowers, the makeup magician known for her eccentric eye looks, says. “It is a must-have for makeup artists, especially if you don’t use beauty blenders. I love these brushes because I think skin is so important to your look so having the best tools for skin application makes sense.”

For Cream Makeup

Lock-It Setting Powder Brush

Ask Brittany Whitfield to explain why KVD’s powder brush is a good investment and she’ll put it plainly, “If you need one brush for everything, she’s your girl.” Whitfield adds that the brush is amazing for cream products, and “applies incredibly well in all of the beautiful crevices of the face better than any sponge or flat foundation brush ever could.”

For Budget Brushes

Ombre Brush Set

As someone who likes to have fun with her makeup looks, Amber Amos likes her tools to match the vibe. But don’t let the pretty pink packaging deter you. “The synthetic hairs are super soft, and the set pretty much covers all your blending needs,” she explains. “Added bonus: it’s inexpensive and super cute.”

For a Luxurious Feel

118 Blush/Powder Brush

“For a more luxurious option, Smith Cosmetics makes great brushes. Although they’re pricey, they last long, and blend like a dream. The cute wooden handle is an added bonus,” Amos adds.

For Finishing Powder

No. 14 Powder Brush

“I love the round fluffy shape of this brush and also how super soft the fibers are,” Keita Moore, who does makeup for a number of stars including Iman, Janet Mock, and Halima Aden. “Each stroke feels luxurious. I like to use the brush for applying blush and as an all-over finishing powder brush.”

For Multipurpose Blending

188 Synthetic Small Duo Fibre Face Brush

Moore reaches for this brush a lot. From applying foundations to cream blushes to powder highlight, this brush is versatile and can be used for many things. I carry maybe three or four in my kit.” 

For Eyeliner

1.21 My Flat Definer

Molly R. Stern, who works with Reese Witherspoon, Cara Delevingne, Maya Rudolph, and Julia Roberts says this detailing brush is “amazing” when it comes to precision for eyeliner or brows.

For Buffing

Highlighter Brush Small 140

This is the best buffer brush, according to Stern: “I use it to smooth under the eye and apply a small amount of powder to control the T-zone.”

For Eyeshadow

Eye Brush #10

Stern says this basic eyeshadow brush from Shu Uemura is “the best for blending and applying eyeshadow and concealer.”

For Contouring

Cheek Brush 06

“I use this for an all-around blending after I’ve applied my foundation and contour,” Jessica Elbaum, a makeup artist and hairstylist who currently does hair on Modern Family, says, “you can also use it to apply bronzer.”

For Eyeshadow

Eyeshadow Smudge Brush

Elbaum uses this brush to apply eyeshadow. “It’s a perfect gradual angle eyeshadow brush that is almost fool-proof when it comes to applying that perfect, smudgy, eyeshadow fade.”

For Cream Blush

954 Synthetic Brush

“It’s more effective to use a synthetic bristle for cream blushes,” says Elbaum about this slanted kabuki brush. “They blend soft and flawlessly.”

For Lashes

LY53 Eyelash Fan Brush

“Louise [Young] is a brilliant makeup artist so I was so happy when she brought out this range,” says Nadia Stacey, who did the hair and makeup on The Favourite and won the BAFTA for it. She loves several of Young’s brushes, but specifically calls out the fan brush for period makeup. “Her fan brush LY53 is a thing of beauty, I use it to push color onto the lashes for period pieces when I don’t want it to look like the actors are wearing mascara,” she says.

For the Eye Crease

1.20 My Precise Crease

“This is a lovely little blending brush; perfect for softening the crease,” Stacey says. “I use it for creamy concealers for a softer look.”

For Eyeshadow

217S Blending Brush

Stacey calls this a “kit staple” and says she uses it for everything, even to create special effects bruising. “Which means I’ve ruined lots of them, but I always replace,” she says. “Makes a smokey eye so much easier.”

For Foundation

190 Makeup Brush

“M.A.C. brushes have been in my kit since I was a trainee and they are still going strong,” Stacey admits. “I love these foundation brushes. They are big enough to carry a good amount of product, but allow you to be delicate with the application. They never lose bristles, either.”

For Multipurpose Blending

Blush Brush

“I’ve used this Blush Brush since it first came out and I actually use to swirl and buff in cream bronzers, powders, and skin care — not blush at all!” Emma Willis, the makeup artist for JoJo Fletcher, Ashley Greene, Jana Kramer, Audrina Patridge, and Giuliana Rancic says, adding, “That’s the fab thing about brushes; finding which ones works best for your own individual style and technique. What it says on the box doesn’t have to apply at all. I use it to seamlessly buff product from the face into the neck and décolletage areas, too!”

For Concealer

Pro Concealer Brush #71

Willis counts this Sephora Collection brush among her go-tos and says it’s a perfect size. “I’ve been using this brush for concealer around the eye area and T-zone specifically for a long time now and love it!” she says. “It has a tapered brush head and dual usage; one side to place and smooth, and another I use to sheer and blend. It helps me to blend so well!”

For Eyeliner

Flat Eye Liner Brush

Park recommends this brush for tight-lining with cream, gel, or cake liner. “It’s perfect for stippling on products as close to the lash line as possible,” she says. It also does double-duty to create “sharp edges around the mouth for a clean, perfect lipstick pout.”

For Finishing

M310 Large Soft Fan

Park uses “this brush to dust off any excess powder” and to “strategically place [a] pop of color at the apples of the cheek.” The natural “goat bristles are perfect to create a diffused, natural-looking highlight along the top of the cheekbones, bridge of [the] nose, and collarbone.”

For Blending

Yachiyo Kabuki Brush

“It is great for blending and diffusing color around the eyes and cheeks,” Ardoff says.

For the Eye Crease

E25 Blending Brush

“This brush is great for blending in the crease or socket of the eye,” Ardoff says. It “helps to distribute product densely and evenly” and is “great for softening and blending in areas where you [generally] would require a smaller brush.”

Kristina also always uses a metal eyelash comb after she applies mascara. “I like a whispie feathery lash and it always helps to take out chucks,” says Kristina. Her go-to choice is this pink eyelash comb by Hakuhoda. 

For Eyeliner

Angled Cut Brush Small 15

Kristina is also obsessed with Anastasia’s Angled Cut Brush’s bristles. “The synthetic hairs keep this brush sturdy and stiff for the most precise lines,” explains Kristina. “I use it to create hair like strokes with powder on brows and also for the sharpest pointed cat eyeliner.” 

For Eyeshadow

217S Blending Brush

The MAC 217 Blending Brush is a staple for Jamie Greenberg, Busy Philipps and Rashida Jones’ makeup artist. According to Greenberg, the brush can turn a novice into a pro in no time. 

For Eyeshadow

Hood Eyeshadow Brush 13

Kira Nasrat, who has painted the faces of Jessica Alba and Sophie Turner says she has a bunch of these Utowa Hood eyeshadow brushes in her makeup bag. “The brush is fluffy, flat, and with a gradual point,” she adds. “It’s perfect for adding eyeshadow onto the lids, contouring into the crease, and great for blending.” She also uses it to set makeup with translucent powder in concentrated areas of the face, especially the t-zone. 

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