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Different types of makeup brushes explained

From face sponges to eye brushes, this is the guide you need to understand all the kinds of tools in makeup.

Updated

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If you’re trying to figure out the beautiful world of makeup brushes, we don’t blame you. It can be incredibly tricky trying to sort out what every single makeup brushes purpose is. Good thing we’ve taken all the hard work out of it and created your very own makeup brush bible for everything you need to know. Not only do we break down what brush is what, but we’ve worked it into the order of how you can apply your makeup!


Makeup sponge explained

Makeup sponges are perfect for applying any kind of cream product. The debate between using a sponge or a brush for applying foundation comes down to personal preference. Sponges are incredibly versatile and work best when wet. Wetting it allows you to get a slightly more sheer finish and will make your foundation look more natural and seamless. You can also use it for primer, concealer or even powder.

Real Techniques Miracle Finish Blush Sponge
Real Techniques Miracle Finish Blush Sponge

Adore Beauty


Foundation kabuki brush explained

A kabuki brush is perfect for buffing in foundation. Paddle brushes that swipe the foundation down your face can leave streaks and are designed for a heavier applications . You’re much better off using a buffer brush with dense bristles in order to seamlessly blend your liquid foundation. This kind of brush really works the product into your skin allowing for a medium coverage that appears very seamless.


Flat paddle brush explained

Probably one of the most familiar brushes is a flat paddle brush. One of these bad boys is going to apply your foundation with ease. If you enjoy quite a full coverage look then this is probably a good option for you. The flat dense nature of this brush allows you to apply the foundation without the liquid getting soaked up, hence why it can pack on a fair amount.


Small dome-buffer brush explained

For concealer, you can either choose to use a beauty blender or a concealer buffer brush. This kind of brush is similar to your foundation brush but on a much smaller scale. Once you've applied your concealer in the desired areas, you can use this brush to buff the product into your skin for a natural looking finish.

Real Techniques Expert Concealer Brush
Real Techniques Expert Concealer Brush

Adore Beauty


Stippling brush explained

A petite stippling brush is one of those brushes you didn’t realise how much you needed until you get one. It’s not a dense brush and is perfect for blending in cream products. This can be used for a cream blush or even working in your darker contour shade. This brush is perfect as it’s light on the product and skin and due to its size keeps the product exactly where it needs to be.


Setting brush (baking) explained

This is the perfect brush for setting your concealer areas. It's fluffy but tapered. Thanks to the shape it’s fabulous for dipping into small pots of setting powder. It also allows for strategic placement like under your eyes as well as your forehead, nose and chin. Neither dense nor bare, this brush is just right for powder products.

Face Bake & Blend Dual-Ended Setting Complexion Brush
Face Bake & Blend Dual-Ended Setting Complexion Brush

Cult Beauty


Fluffy bronzing/blush brush explained

This is of course a brush to apply your key powder products. Now depending on the size of your actual face or the amount of product you want to place, the size of the brush is up to you. However, fundamentally you want this brush to lightly brush your bronzer or blush onto your cheeks and a little on the sides of your forehead. It’s quite a fluffy brush which allows the product to be well distributed. A denser brush would put way too much product on your face and leave you looking similar to an oompa-loompa.


Angled contour brush explained

Different to bronzing is an angled contour brush. The shape of this brush allows you to really work powder contour products strategically under your cheekbones and give the illusion of a sharper more angled face. These tend to be more denser than a bronzer brush but less so than a foundation kabuki. You wouldn't want something like this to be too dense or you’ll just end up with lines on your face.

Fenty Beauty Cheek-Hugging Highlight Brush 120
Fenty Beauty Cheek-Hugging Highlight Brush 120

Sephora

Morphe Brushes Elite Angled Contour Brush
Morphe Brushes Elite Angled Contour Brush

Cult Beauty

Sigma Beauty Large Angled Contour Brush (F40)
Sigma Beauty Large Angled Contour Brush (F40)

Cult Beauty


Angled eyebrow brush explained

An eyebrow brush can look a little similar to an eyeliner brush. It angled but a little more flexible and most good ones will have what’s called a spoolie on the end of it. This allows you to place the product in your eyebrows in sharp lines and with the spoolie, brush it through. You can use the angled sign to either outline your brows or mimic brush hairs, it depends on the look you’re after.

Benefit Cosmetics Brow Defining & Blending Tool
Benefit Cosmetics Brow Defining & Blending Tool

Sephora

Anastasia Beverly Hills Large Synthetic Duo Brow Brush (#12)
Anastasia Beverly Hills Large Synthetic Duo Brow Brush (#12)

Cult Beauty


Large fluffy blending brush explained

Probably one of the most used and essential makeup brushes. A blending brush for your eyeshadow is always needed. If there is ever a rule for eyeshadow it’s that you need to blend, because patchy eyeshadow or harsh lines definitely don’t look good. This brush is perfect for applying your transition shade as well as blending different shades together after applying them onto the lid. When blending you want to go back and forth in windshield wiper motions pressing lightly.


Crease brush

Similar to the above brush, this is just a blending brush for a smaller area such as your crease or outer corner. This allows you a little more precision. A crease brush is more tapered and will let you pack the eyeshadow colour inside the transition colour you placed with the larger blending brush and blend the two together. In doing so, you create a seamless gradient and flawless look with no harsh lines! Again, when blending you want to go back and forth in windshield wiper motions.

Crown Brush Deluxe Blending Crease Brush
Crown Brush Deluxe Blending Crease Brush

Adore Beauty

Morphe Brushes Pro Firm Blending Crease Brush (M441)
Morphe Brushes Pro Firm Blending Crease Brush (M441)

Cult Beauty


Flat-top shader brush explained

A flat top shade is for when your want to pack on a lot of colour. For instance this could be if you’re placing a shimmer shade onto your lid or when you’re trying to create a dark smokey eye! The flat and dense nature of this brush allows you to pick up a lot of product and place it on your lid. However, do remember to blend the edges with your blending brush.


Small pencil brush

This is another one of those brushes that can be used for multiple different things, so it definitely comes in handy! A pencil brush looks exactly what is sounds like. A small dense tapered brush that comes to a slight point. You can use this brush to highlight smaller areas like your nose, brown bone, inner corner or cupid's bow. Plus you can use it with shadows on your waterline or under your eye to complete your eyeshadow look! The dense and small nature of this brush allows an amount of precision when packing on product to smaller areas.

Sephora Collection Pro Brush Precision Smudge #29
Sephora Collection Pro Brush Precision Smudge #29

Sephora


Eyeliner brush explained

The word eyeliner can quite easily strike fear into the hearts of any makeup lover. It’s not the easiest trick to do but with a good eyeliner brush, it can be made a lot simpler. An eyeliner brush is usually quite small, very thin and has a sharp angle. This allows you to create a precise line and wing. The brushes tend to be on the more dense sigh as well so they don’t spread the product too thick.

Nude by Nature Angled Eyeliner Brush 17
Nude by Nature Angled Eyeliner Brush 17

Adore Beauty


Fluffy highlighting brush explained

The trick to a good and glowing highlight is a fabulous highlighting brush. Getting one that’s the right size is incredibly important. You want to place your highlight on the tops of your cheekbones, which is a precise area. A medium to small sized fluffy brush is perfect to apply powder highlight. When choosing the density, it depends on how blinding you like your highlighter. If you want to be beaming to the gods, go for a more denser brush, if you want a subtle glow, something on the fluffier side won’t pack on the product.


Fan brush explained

Probably one of the most popular brushes is a fan brush. These little brushes are a viral sensation but you may actually find yourself asking the question “what is this actually for?” Short answer is that it’s just another type of highlighter brush. The nature of this brush is that’s its thin, so it doesn’t disperse product everywhere and due to its length, places it along your cheekbone easier with minimal effort.


How to clean makeup brushes?

There are a number of ways to clean your brushes. You can buy products specifically made as a brush cleaner, something like the Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser or the Sephora Solid Brush Cleaner. If you're on a budget, you can even use household supplies! One of the most popular methods is just with some lukewarm water and baby shampoo. We recommend the Johnson's Baby Shampoo. It's super effective at cleansing your brushes and keeping them soft and fluffy!

How often should you be doing it? At least every two weeks. If you have the time, or are concerned about your skin, doing it once a week would be ideal too.

You can also try spot-cleaning brushes after each use - this can especially help with your eye brushes. There is nothing worse than planning to blend out a coloured eye look, only to find there was some excess black shadow left on the brush. We recommend the Sephora Daily Makeup Brush Cleaner for spot cleaning.


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