Ah, brush it. B-brush it real good.
You: have 3 brushes that swim around inside your makeup bag and have never been washed.
Me: buys 300 brushes because I don't ever feel like washing them.
Look, none of us can be perfect. But we can definitely be better. And, "the first step to a better life is getting your makeup brush situation in order," - Gandhi.
Here's what you need. Straight up.
1) Flat Eyeshadow Shader
USES: Patting on lid colour, brow bone highlight, smudging lower lash line
So multi-purpose and so essential its not even funny. So much so, that you probably already have a brush that resembles this one. Definitely traditional, and highly necessary. Fin.
PHOTO: (left) from a small Sephora brush set, (right) absolutely ancient travel-sized Sigma brush set that has stood the test of time!
2) Medium-Sized Fluffy Blender
USES: Blending crease colour, blending out lower lash line, applying highlight to cheek bones
Nowadays maybe most of you have a blending brush. I wish we all had an eye blender brush back in high school. If you don't, there are lots of options out there now - look around and find one that isn't too small/big/fluffy/dense - real middle of the road type stuff. If I had to choose one, I prefer knock-off's of the MAC 217 (for example, far right: Sigma E25).
PHOTO: These are all Sigma brushes - each have a slightly different shape, but serve a similar purposes and you'd be fine having one of any! Left is the E45, middle is the E35, right is again an ancient version of E25.
3) Angled Eye Brush
USES: Eyeliner for either upper or lower lash line or waterline, eyebrows
Definitely killing some birds with some stones here. Gruesome, but practical. Having at least one brush for more detailed work will take your makeup game up a notch. Use eyeshadow or pomade to fill in your brows with an angled brush, attempt winged liner, or pop a little shadow on the lower lash line. You'll find some of this type of brush to be thicker or thinner - try for as thin, dense, and small as possible.
PHOTO: another from a small Sephora eye brush set (left), and a $2 ELF steal!
4) Small-ish Rounded Synthetic Brush
I can't live without several of these brushes and neither should you. I don't like to get concealer all over my hands, and I don't like to put my germy hands all over my face. These smaller buffing brushes blend in liquid and cream products like concealer so well. Pat/dab to spread the product out and then buff lightly a bit - be gentle ("visualize the blend" - quote from international bestseller The Secret) and the makeup gods will bless you.
PHOTO: good ol' Amazon or eBay sell dirt cheap synthetic brush sets - I wouldn't recommend them for heavy use and washing (the ferrules' glue - ie. the shiny silver or gold part of the handle - often doesn't hold up well).
5) Large, Dense Synthetic - rounded, angled, or flat-top... whatever.
USES: Foundation, tinted moisturizer
Up until about 5 years ago, the go-to "foundation" brush was the one that looked like a big paint brush. This is really not practical for personal use: as a makeup artist working on someone else's face - yes. But it is not going to work out for self application. It's just not. Luckily, times have changed! Now, foundation brushes are bigger, denser, more foolproof, and apply product much easier and faster. Hallejula.
PHOTO: These are from Amazon again - and were rumoured to be made in the same factory as the more expensive Sigma brushes, but I can vouch that they are definitely lesser quality in terms of durability, however, still very much usable for the average person!
6) Angled Face Brush
USES: Bronzer, contour, blush, setting powder
This is definitely my most multipurpose and reached for face brush. Just works for everything. Total no brainer. Y'all know I love to pack on powder so I'd probably use a puff or a sponge, but I'd use this to blend off excess and you could totally just use this for a light dusting of setting powder if you're a normal person.
PHOTO: this is actually my one and only MAC brush, the 168. I think there are a lot more affordable options out there for the average user, but if you're looking for a long-lasting investment, a higher-end (ie. more expensive brush) is worth your buck.
And that's all 6 - essential - non-negotiable, must-have makeup brushes! You could do almost anything you want with JUST these. Although, there are about a thousand additional types of brushes that have amazing, convenient uses, if you care. Maybe I'll add to this list one day soon!
DISCLAIMER: if you are going to use your brushes for multiple purposes, as I've described above, be sure to clean off your brush in between using a paper towel and ideally some brush cleaner (put a squirt of instant brush cleanser on the PT and gently rub the brush clean, it will dry in about 10 seconds). You do not want to move on from applying black shadow as liner with your Angled brush and move directly onto your eyebrows. Hello Groucho Marx.
... DISCLAIMER #2: brushes can be used for anything. Just like there is no crying in baseball, there are no rules in makeup (also no crying in makeup either). You can use your fluffy shadow brush to blend in your concealer if you want, or you can use whatever weird brushes you have in weird ways that I don't even know about yet, and good on you.