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I was right where you are, once. Looking at brushes left and right and not knowing which ones were essentials and which ones I might as well skip.
But before I’d even reached that point, I seriously couldn’t have cared less about brushes at all. The horror!
I’ll just tell you now- brushes do matter. Let me repeat that. Brushes matter.
Yes, you can technically use any brush that fits in the pan and then onto the desired spot on your face, but is it really giving you the best possible result? Likely not. Using the right brushes transforms a makeup look from “satisfactory” to “outstandingly gorgeous.”
With the wrong brushes, you’ll end up looking like you tried super hard to wrangle those cosmetics into a good look, without much luck. With the right brushes, your makeup will look effortlessly natural, and you won’t even break a sweat doing it.
Common misconception: you need every style of brush out there in order to have the “right” brush. Sure, you can purchase every kind of brush known to woman, but that’ll get real expensive, real quick. And it’s totally unnecessary. Instead, a small collection of brushes is more than adequate. You just need to select the right ones.
I’ll show you how.
A small, but curated collection of beginner makeup brushes
I’ve created a curated brush collection that travels with me everywhere, whether I’m traveling across the world or away from my vanity and into the living room to do my makeup. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, this is my perfect brush collection that get’s it all done, no questions asked.
Now, this isn’t always the exact collection I use. It changes as I acquire new brushes, and as my favorites wind up in the dirty bin before washing day. For me, the specifics don’t matter. As long as the brush is soft, strong, and doesn’t shed, it’s all good.
These are the brushes I’m really using at the moment, which is why some of them appear used. This is real life, people.
A large powder brush
So many things are possible with a fluffy powder brush. It’s a must-have.
Choose a full brush with with medium density. If it’s too sparse, blending will be difficult, and if it’s too dense, you’ll end up with too much color where you don’t want it.
Use this brush for all over setting powder, finishing powders, bronzer, and perhaps for blending out a too-heavy blush job. I’ve even highlighted with it in a pinch.
I prefer the E.l.f. Complexion Brush because if it’s fluffiness and inexpensive price. Grab a couple while they’re on sale during the holidays!
E.l.f. Complexion Brush >> Purchase at Elfcosmetics.com
An angled face brush
If you plan on contouring, an angled face brush is a must. Even if you don’t plan on contouring, I find that these brushes are good for so many things, and it’s definitely worth adding into your collection of beginner makeup brushes.
The denser texture lends itself well to precise color placement. Good for contouring, obviously, but also great for baking specific area such as your under-eyes or just below your cheek contour.
The E.l.f. Angled Blush Brush stands out because of the awesome price, (this goes for all the E.l.f brushes,) and because it’s the perfect size to fit right in the hollows of your cheeks or under your eyes.
E.l.f. Angled Blush Brush >> Purchase at Elfcosmetics.com
A stippling brush
Stippling brushes often confuse those unfamiliar with makeup, but really, they’re super useful for tasks that other brushes have difficulties accomplishing.
There’ll be a time when you want to apply a cream blush, or a liquid bronzer, or a mousse foundation. Especially with the first two, a brush that applies the color gently is a must. Stipple brushes don’t make as much contact with your skin, making it much easier to avoid going overboard.
E.l.f. sells stipple brushes in small and large sizes. I prefer the small one, but they work basically the same.
E.l.f. Small Stipple Brush >> Purchase at Elfcosmetics.com
E.l.f. Stipple Brush (Large) >> Purchase at Elfcosmetics.com
A fluffy blush brush
This one is pretty self explanatory. Everybody needs a blush brush.
When it comes to blush brushes, the fluffier, the better! Dense brushes really concentrate the color, and then make it difficult to blend out. A fluffy brush will blow out the color evenly and help you create a nice, blended look. If not enough color shows up the first time, you can always go over the area with another layer.
Medium sized brushes work well because they aren’t so large that they get color everywhere, but they aren’t so small that it’s difficult to achieve even color distribution.
My favorite at the moment comes from the brand slmissglam beauty (the Blusher Brush.)
However, that particular brush is sometimes difficult to come by. I find that any light and fluffy brush does the trick, like this brush from Eco Tools. Plus it comes with a brush roll!
Eco Tools Collectors Brush Roll >> Purchase on Amazon
A fluffy crease blending brush
This is probably the most important eye brush of all, yet it’s the one most often forgotten by beginners. Having a quality crease brush is what takes your eyeshadow from looking amateur to awesome.
Look for something soft and fluffy, with a gently domed top. As the first eye brush you pick up when starting an eye look, you want this brush to disperse the color all over your crease, not concentrate it all in one spot. That defeats the purpose.
The one pictured above is from Revlon. (I think this particular brush is discontinued, but here you can find a similar brush from Real Techniques)
To see this kind of brush doing some serious magic, check out some of my tutorials!
Real Techniques Bold Metals 203 Tapered Shadow Brush >> Purchase on Amazon
A medium flat shader brush
For packing on eyeshadow, nothing beats a simple flat shader brush.
It’s also the first thing many look for when first starting out with beginner makeup brushes. For that reason, these often end up labeled as “beginner makeup brushes,” and not in a good way. Rest assured, there is nothing amateur about flat shader brushes.
I recommend selecting one in a medium size, not too big and not too small. The right size allows you to apply shadow precisely, but not spend all day doing it because your brush is so dang teeny. Trust me, I’ve learned that lesson.
In addition to applying basic lid shadows, flat shader brushes work marvelously for smudging out your lower lash line, applying your inner corner and brow bone highlights, and perhaps meticulously drawing on your nose contour.
The brush shown in the photo came in a Walmart holiday brush set several years back, so I don’t have a link for it. However, these are quite easy to find as nearly every brand sells them. Real Techniques carries one the is inexpensive and great quality. If you’re into sets, I really like the Sephora Collection Here’s the Skinny Brush Wrap. It comes with a great shader brush, and the other brushes are great too.
Real Techniques Shading Brush >> Purchase on Amazon
Sephora Collection Here’s the Skinny Brush Wrap >> Purchase at Sephora
A small dome brush
Dome brushes are perhaps the most underrated brushes, and people searching for beginner makeup brushes don’t often go for this one. Big mistake.
Done brushes can accomplish so much, and they can replace most other brushes in a pinch.
My favorite use for the dome brush is for defining the outer corner of my eye and upward into the crease. The small size keeps the color exactly where I want it, and the straight (not fluffed out) bristles always allow me to see what I’m doing. I also like it for blending out my lower lash line.
Use this brush to add “scary” colors like dark brown, black, or bright colors to your look without fear that things will get out of hand.
I constantly reach for my dome brush from E.l.f. It’s great quality and inexpensive, so needless to say, I keep quite a collection on hand!
E.l.f. Studio Contour Brush >> Purchase at Elfcosmetics.com
A small angled eyeliner brush
Admittedly, I don’t use this brush as often as I should, but it sure is a lifesaver when I do need it. You’ll definitely want it in your collection of beginner makeup brushes.
Uses include but are not limited to: applying gel eyeliner, drawing wings, applying shadow as liner close to the lash line, smudging out liner on the top and bottom lash lines, applying shadow precisely to the bottom lash line, filling in your eyebrows with powder or pomade, and probably more.
With all these options, I don’t know why I use it so scarcely.
Purchase the smallest one you can to maximize its usefulness. Right now, I’m loving the E.l.f. Small Angled Brush, which is pictured above.
E.l.f. Small Angled Brush >> Purchase at Elfcosmetics.com
The brushes you don’t need
Now, after all this talk of what you do need, I must tell you what you don’t need. Sure, these are fun to have, but they’re not necessary when you’re first starting out with your beginner makeup brushes.
Fan brush: When I was a kid, I always wanted a fan brush. When I finally got a set the contained one, I felt like I’d just turned professional. Until I realized that these don’t actually work that well. Yes, fan brushes look impressive, but it’s just easy to achieve that lightweight, wispy highlight with your stipple brush.
Highlighting brush: This basically goes along the lines of the fan brush. You don’t need a dedicated brush for highlighting, because highlighting need not be that precise. Your blush brush or stipple brush work just fine.
Lip brush: Even now that I’ve got just about every kind of makeup brush, I never use lip brushes. I find them difficult to wash and easily replaceable by a cotton swab or your finger if you decide you need some blending.
Synthetic vs. natural bristles
Now that we know which styles of brushes prove most useful, we’ve got just one more thing to think about.
Both synthetic and natural bristles brushes have their pros and cons.
Natural bristles brushes generally tend to be softer than synthetic brushes, although improvements in brush technology are swiftly closing that gap.
They also shed much more than synthetics, take longer to dry after washing, and absorb protect, making them very inefficient for cream and liquid formulas.
And not to mention, these brushes are created from real, living animal furs. If you’re vegan, or just ethically against animal cruelty in general, natural brushes aren’t the way to go. Some people may also suffer from allergic reactions to the natural hairs, so that’s something to be wary of.
Synthetic brushes eliminate many of the aforementioned issues. The polyester and nylon bristles are devoid of pores, so soaking up your cream products isn’t a worry. Also, allergy sufferers need not worry.
Personally, I use synthetic brushes (almost) exclusively. I own a few natural bristle brushes, but honestly, they’re more of a pain to deal with than they’re worth.
Especially for beginners, I recommend synthetic brushes all the way. They’re more affordable too.
Want more info about the pros and cons on natural and synthetic brushes? I’ve got an entire post dedicated to the subject! It’ll answer all your questions. Right this way >> Natural vs. Synthetic Makeup Brushes — What’s the Diff?
So what’s the takeaway?
When you’re just starting out with makeup, it’s super tempting to run out and buy every kind of brush. I’m here telling you that’s totally unnecessary. Honestly, having a boatload of brushes is highly overrated.
I use my small collection pretty much every day, and it’s very rare that I’ll go out of my way to grab something different.
Now that I’ve given you all the tools and reasoning, go and curate a beginner makeup brushes collection for yourself. Let your makeup life transform itself from hectic and stressful to streamlined and simplified!
That’s all for today!
Like this post on beginner makeup brushes? You’ll probably like this post too >> How To Build Your Personalized Makeup Starter Kit
If you find this post informative, interesting, or just plain entertaining, tell me about it in the comments below! And don’t forget, sharing is caring. Share this post!
Till next time. ♥︎
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FTC- Not sponsored. I purchased all products myself. All opinions are my own. Some links may be affiliated.
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