Sunday, October 9, 2011

Makeup Brushes 101: Face Brushes

Similar to eye brushes, face brushes vary in shape and bristles. The same general rule applies; if you are applying a cream or liquid product, synthetic bristles tend to soak up less product and are also easier to clean. Natural bristles tend to pick up powders and spread them a bit better, although many synthetic brands today have really stepped up their game when it comes to producing fluffy brushes that match natural ones in performance.
Unlike eye brushes, I’m going to break these down into sections based on their usage purposes:
  • Foundation and Concealer
  • Setting Makeup
  • Blush and Contour
  • Highlighting
If you are just starting out, I recommend getting brushes from ECOTOOLS or Sonya Kashuk because these are very affordable and great quality. It will be a good way to get an idea of how different shapes work before you decide to invest in more expensive ones.

  • Good for quickly sweeping on liquids and creams over a wide area.
  • Uses/wastes the least product
  • Can be used for blending concealer and cream blushes as well
  • Con: Not so good for layering, and may cause streakiness

  • Flat top synthetic brushes are great for giving an airbrushed finish as you can stipple foundation on like with a duo-fiber brush, so it won’t be streaky like a flat brush can sometimes be
  • Bristles are more firmly packed than duo-fiber brushes so your application is a whole lot faster and easier, and the coverage is higher
  • Allows layering to build up to heavier coverage
  • Cons: Not as easily accessible as other foundation brushes (I shipped mine from Sigma)

  • Basic small concealer brush with a tapered tip to conceal tiny spots and blemishes
  • Reaches the hardest-to-reach places
  • Can be used as a lip brush
  • Not needed if you only need to even out skin tone in a larger area

  • Round-ferrule, over-sized brushes allow you quickly sweep a very light and even layer of powder over your entire face in just a few strokes.
  • You don’t have to get a huge one (like the one in the image above). Just the same general ferrule shape and very soft and loose bristles will do.
  • Great for all-over bronzing as it’s much harder to apply too much in too small an area.
  • Cons: Not good for packing on a lot of coverage

  • Kabukis are great, general-purposes brushes for both foundations, setting powders, as well as blushes. Most have a short ferrule and no handles, so you are forced to grip it in a way that encourages buffing (circles) and stippling (pressing), rather than sweeping (side to side).
  • Good ones should have a round ferrule and cottony-soft bristles to allow for buffing (circular) application. Buffing allows powders to fuse into your skin and is especially important for heavier mineral powders, which can sit like a mask over your skin.
  • If you need to cover an uneven surface, matte mineral powders are great for coverage and finish, but you should AVOID BUFFING and just gently stipple powder onto your skin with the very tops of the brush so you can keep things matte and diffuse the contours. You will need a flatter-topped kabuki (just avoid anything too pointy).
  • Cons: cannot be kept in a brush holder with your other brushes!
  • Blushing, contouring and highlighting require more precision than applying powder over your whole face, so the only difference is that while your brush should still be fluffy and soft, it should preferably also have an oval ferrule (has a “flat” side) to allow sweeping motions.
  • For precision, your brush head should be no wider than the apple of your cheek.
  • Cons: does not diffuse and spread color as well as a kabuki, so avoid if you are heavy-handed or often see streaky, uneven color on your cheeks!


  • Some makeup artists consider this a must for applying highlighter or blush on cheekbones. I personally consider it totally optional for that purpose, and find normal brushes much better at preventing streaky application than this. 
  • This does a good job of sweeping away any fall-out after you complete your eye makeup.
  • You can deposit and spread a nice layer of glitter over your skin without wasting too much product.
  • Cons: Not easy to control.


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