Remember Legos? They always gave you the exact amount of little plastic blocks you needed to make the picture on the box—no more, no less. But somewhere between the ages of six and up we become obsessed with having extra. Just in case. Buy a tool kit with three sets of pliers you'll never use. Hit pan on half a palette without touching the other shades; in the kitchen, chef's knives get all the action. It gets really crazy when you think about makeup brushes. A set may come with 20, when you probably only need one or two.
Brushes are helpful when you want to achieve a soft, even blend. But instead of letting a makeup brand tell you which ones you need, think about how you'll actually use them. A quick conceal? A seamless smoke? An everyday bronze? You can really just buy the necessities a la carte. It saves money, because value sets aren’t valuable if they're not used, and you’ll also feel less overwhelmed. ITG asked seven makeup artists to rummage through their kits and share their favorite brush—the one they use the most and think everyone should have. From their recommendations, it’s easy to build your own perfect collection. Here’s where to start:
The one for eyeshadow lovers: MAC 217
“This is one of the first brushes I ever loved and still love. It's a brush that can be used to apply eye shadow on both the lid and the crease. You can pack on the color or blend it out very softly. I'm obsessed!”
"The MAC 217 is definitely one of my top picks because it’s a great multitasker. It holds and deposits eyeshadow perfectly, and blends powder and creams equally well."
The best one to spot-conceal: Setting Brush from Real Techniques
"This is my favorite makeup brush in my kit. While its intended purpose is setting powder, since it's made of synthetic hairs this brush is also great for applying cream products. It is on the smaller side, so while it's not the best for full-face foundation it’s perfect for concealing and highlighting. It gives a beautiful blurred effect, and best part of all, it’s super affordable at $7.99."
The one for powder (or quick contour): Real Techniques Sheer Radiant Fan Brush
"This brush is the gift that keeps on giving, and what I love about it is that I use it a couple of different ways. I can use it to contour by creating little lines with the tip of the brush, and when I flip it to the side, it makes a great blending brush. I also love to use it as a powder brush. It can hug the side of my nose, it can dust the middle of my forehead—it's just very easy to manipulate."
The one to buy if your whole routine is creamy: Mykitco Pro 0.11S
"This is the number one makeup brush everyone who uses makeup should own. The magic of this brush is that it’s incredibly soft, but firm enough to apply liquids, creams, lotions, balms, and oils seamlessly. The hairs are expertly designed to pick up and blend product on the skin effortlessly. I carry multiples in my professional kit, and absolutely have one in my personal makeup bag too! I literally use it for almost everything!"
The one to use wet and dry: Jane Iredale Blending/Contouring Brush
"A Jane Iredale brush is a staple in my kit. It’s extremely versatile because I can use it with wet products like a creamy foundation, and with dry products like face powder or bronzer. The shape of the brush gives the cheeks and jawline chiseled definition when I contour, and it's a convenient size for a generous all over swipe. Or, you can use the tip for more precise application, like putting highlighter along the top of the cheekbone."
—Min Min Ma
The ultra durable one: Cozzette S140
"The first brush I grab in any makeup process is usually a foundation brush, and my favorite has to be this one. It deposits liquid and cream foundation smooth and seamlessly, without absorbing too much product. The bristles are synthetic, so the brush lasts and lasts through many cleanings. I have four of them, and now that I think of it, I ought to buy a couple more."
The cheekiest one: Westman Atelier Blender Brush
"Brushes are my most important tools because I think of them as an extension of myself, so it's hard to pick just one! If I had to, it would be our Blender Brush. Its shape envelops your cheeks and intuitively guides your hand in an upwards motion, creating perfectly enhanced, chiseled cheekbones."
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Photo via ITG