Beauty Guide: What Makeup Brushes Do I Need?

The beauty world can be a mesmerizing place. With thousands of products, hundreds of categories and an innumerable number of “rules”, it can be difficult to nail down what is true and what is up for debate. In this series, “Beauty Guide”, Elsewhere Magazine will act as your navigator to break down terms that you need to know, help you decide where to begin if you’re just starting out and pull back the curtain to bring you behind the scenes of this glamorous industry.

Makeup brushes are one of those products that can be confusing, seem unnecessary or make a beauty beginner feel like they’ll never be able to master the art of makeup. There are so many variations in shape, bristle type and application that it can be overwhelming and impossible to pin down what you’re looking for. What brushes do you actually need in your kit when you’re just starting out, and which ones will you need when you’re ready to step up your game? Which bristle type is better for what product application? How are you supposed to take care of your brushes once you have them? If these questions alone give you anxiety, no worries – we have the answers.

Necessary Makeup Brushes

Buffing Brush – This is the most important brush to have in your collection in our opinion. We like to use ours to blend in any liquid face products we may be using – foundation, blush, bronzer, you name it. A buffing brush has densely packed bristles, which keeps it from leaving streaks on your face during application.

Beauty Blender – While not technically a brush, this little sponge is basically magic. The original Beauty Blender is by far the best out there, but you can find some dupes at the drugstore. We use it for the same products we would use a buffing brush for, but it can also be used for concealer and contouring products. The reason that a Beauty Blender is so important to a beauty beginner is that its material soaks up excess product, so you’ll never look cake-y.

Fluffy Crease Brush – This is the only eyeshadow brush that a beginner could ever need. Our favorite is the MAC 217 brush because it has perfectly fluffy natural bristles. This brush applies a sheer wash of color into the crease of your eye, adding depth and dimension. After using this brush to put a matte shade into your crease, and blending it out, you can simply use your finger to apply any other shimmery (or matte – you do you!) shadow to your lid.

Large Powder Brush – To set your makeup, and to apply powder products like blush and bronzer, you’ll need to use a powder brush. You can identify one of these by their large amount of bristles that are relatively loosely packed in order to apply only a light layer of product.

Next-Level Makeup Brushes

Pencil Brush – When you’re looking to step up your game, investing in a pencil brush is a good idea. It is a small, often pointed brush that can be used to apply eyeshadow under the bottom lash line, or to create an extremely defined cut crease. If you’re into a smudgy, almost grungy look, this brush will be your best friend.

Blush Brush – When you want a more sophisticated look, you’ll need to graduate from using a large powder brush for all of your powder product needs to adding a blush brush to your collection. A blush brush will be loosely packed like a powder brush, but will often be smaller (small enough to fit on the apples of your cheeks) and tapered. You can use this brush to apply powder blush, as well as highlighter and powder contour products.

Detail Brush – This is the brush that you’ll want to have if you’re looking to emulate Jaclyn Hill or Carli Bybel. It is tiny, flat and tapered, and can be used to clean up your lip line after applying a dark lip color or to use concealer to fix a mistake in your eyeshadow that may have occurred when trying to follow one of their expert tutorials.

Bristle Types

Natural – Natural bristles are best for products that you want to be sheer and beautifully blended, like powders and eyeshadows that you blend into your crease. The reason they apply such a light amount of product is because of their ability to absorb excess product. Natural bristle brushes should not be your pick if you are looking for precise application or detail work, but rather blown out, blended looks.

Synthetic – Look for synthetic bristles in your eyeshadow brushes that you use to pack on color (typically flat and densely packed). Other uses for synthetic bristles could include stippling brushes for blush, highlighter and even setting powder. Use a synthetic brush for areas of precise application, like with concealer to clean up the shape of your eyebrows or for detail work.

Taking Care of Your Makeup Brushes

You need to clean your makeup brushes – often. We’ve gone over how gross it is to put old makeup on your face, and the same goes for putting makeup brushes on your face that have old makeup on them. Think about how much bacteria has grown on your makeup brushes since the last time you cleaned them! We recommend cleaning brushes once a week, or every other week at least.

The simplest way to do this: use baby shampoo and warm water. You can purchase other brush cleaning products from Sephora and Ulta, but baby shampoo will work just fine. Put a dime sized amount of shampoo in your hand and swirl your brush in the shampoo before adding a bit of warm water into the mix. Continuously work the shampoo into your brush and rinse until the water you’re using comes out clear. Remember to keep the part of your brush where the bristles go into the neck out of the water. If water gets into your brush, it can make the glue inside less effective and cause your brush to molt. Once clean, tilt your brushes downward to dry, so that they will retain their natural shape.

Whew! That was a lot of brush talk. Do you still have questions? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll be sure to respond!

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