Behold, the Only Makeup Brushes You Need in Your Beauty Bag

Alex Warner
Behold, the Only Makeup Brushes You Need in Your Beauty Bag

Many beauty gurus will tell you that the amazing makeup products you may (or may not) have spent a fortune on are nothing unless you have the right beauty tools to apply them with. But with what seems like a million different makeup brushes to choose from, it can be hard to sift through all the options and find the very best options for your needs. 

We’re tired of wasting money on makeup brushes that don’t hold up (i.e. lose their bristles in less than a month or don’t keep their shape after being washed), so we decided to search high and low for the best ones on the market, based on customer reviews. 

What to Look for When Buying Makeup Brushes 

When it comes to buying makeup brushes, there are a few things to keep in mind. Natural brushes (i.e. made from blue squirrel hair, pony hair, etc.) are going to have the softest and fluffiest bristles, making them ideal for applying powders. Their natural bristles help to seamlessly and evenly distribute product, and therefore, they often come at a more expensive price point. But don’t let that discourage you — synthetic brushes can be just as effective, but are a much more affordable alternative. Plus, synthetic fibers are especially great for applying liquid and cream products (like foundation and concealer), and they’re super easy to clean.

And while it can be great to have a full brush set from the same brand, many people prefer to mix and match their collection instead. The good news? Most beauty brands sell their makeup brushes both individually and as part of a complete set, so you have more flexibility to choose the right combination of brushes for your makeup routine.

To help us crown the best makeup brush winners, we combed through hundreds of customer reviews on Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, and Amazon to find the top contenders for everything from the best foundation brush to the best eyeshadow brush. The perfect makeup brush may never exist, but the sheer number of positive reviews on each of the brushes below make us believe they are pretty darn close to it. Scroll down to read more about our top picks  and learn why each brush is a must-have in your beauty bag. 

  1. Best for Foundation: Sigma Beauty F80 Flat Kabuki Brush
  2. Best for Concealer: Sephora Collection PRO Concealer Brush #71
  3. Best for Powder: Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder Brush
  4. Best for Contour: Tarte Bronze & Glow Contour Brush 
  5. Best for Blush: Real Techniques Blush Brush
  6. Best for Eyeshadow: Hourglass All-Over Shadow Brush
  7. Best for Blending Eyeshadow: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Tapered Blending Brush 210
  8. Best for Highlighter: Wet n’ Wild Pro Brush Line Tapered Highlighting Brush 
  9. Best for Eyeliner: Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine Eye Liner Brush  
  10. Best for Eyebrows: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12

Editors’ Note: These rankings were determined by compiling user reviews on several websites. Editors may not have tested each brush to verify quality/accuracy.

Best for Foundation: Sigma Beauty F80 Flat Kabuki Brush

Nordstrom

It seems like everyone is seeking that flawless finish with their makeup, and customers say the Sigma Beauty F80 Flat Kabuki Brush will deliver just that. The brush has a flat head that makes it easy to buff liquid or cream foundation onto the skin, and its dense, synthetic bristles will help you to build your preferred coverage (it’s specifically best for medium to full coverage). It’s no wonder why more than 1,000 Nordstrom shoppers have left this brush beaming reviews, with some reviewers even calling it the “best foundation brush out there.” The brand behind the brush, Sigma, recommends using the brush only on the flat areas of the face (like the chin, cheeks, and forehead), but reviewers say it can be used all over. 

“I bought this a few weeks ago and I can’t tell you how happy I am. It offers the best application and result,” one customer wrote. “Even though it is recommended only for flat areas of the face, it does a great job around the eyes and nose area as well. It also leaves no lines, it blends amazingly resulting in a flawless natural look. I’m absolutely delighted about this brush!” 

Buy It! $25; nordstrom.com

Best for Concealer: Sephora Collection PRO Concealer Brush #71

Covering up tired eyes can be tricky, unless you have a great concealer and the proper tool to apply it. There are a number of tools you can use, but concealer brushes are quickly becoming the favored choice because they’re more hygienic than using your fingers, and they’re designed to reach smaller crevices on your face that can be tough for sponge blenders to get to (like around your nose or eyelids). So if you’ve never considered a brush for concealer before, now may be the time to rethink it — especially when there are so many great options on the market, like Sephora’s PRO Concealer Brush #71

The under-eye concealer brush may retail for just $22, but after reading its glowing reviews and seeing that more than 10,000 Sephora customers have “hearted” it, we’re convinced it’s necessary to have in our beauty bags. The brush uses a unique tapered shape that allows for precise, custom application — one side can be used to place and smooth product, while the other can be used to sheer and blend it. Plus, it’s multi-functional in that you can use it to apply everything from correctors to eye primers to creme eyeshadows. 

Buy It! $22; sephora.com

Best for Powder: Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder Brush

Sephora

A flawless complexion isn’t complete until you set it with powder — and at least 1,000 Sephora customers suggest investing in the Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder Brush to achieve that locked-in perfection. Its rounded silhouette features long, tapered bristles, which, according to the brand, are “an artist’s secret to efficient-yet-seamless, all-over setting.” The brush’s dense, fluffy bristles help powder glide on perfectly, so you can get an even, pixel-perfect finish every time. 

Despite being pricier than many other options at just under $40, shoppers say it works so well that it’s worth every penny. “I was skeptical about buying this brush because of the high price point, but after reading the reviews I decided to purchase and am so glad I did,” one reviewer wrote. “The brush picks up so much product and feels so soft. I’ve washed it a handful of times and have not seen any hairs fall out.” 

Buy It! $38; sephora.com

Best for Contour: Tarte Bronze & Glow Contour Brush

Two is better than one, which is especially the case for a dual-purpose makeup brush. The Tarte Bronze & Glow Contour Brush features a smaller, precision end that’s designed to help you flawlessly sculpt and highlight your cheekbones, while the other side has a larger, fluffy brush that can be used to buff and blend powders (like blush) on your cheeks. The brush is so popular amongst shoppers that one said it’s always out of stock when she tries to buy it in stores. (However, the brush is still available online at Sephora — but more than 30,000 customers have their eyes on it, so you’d better move fast.)

Other reviewers questioned how they’ve ever done their makeup without this brush. “The absolute best loose powder brush I’ve ever used! I bought it for contouring, but quickly fell in love with it for powder,” one happy shopper wrote. “One dip and it covers your entire face — huge time saver — and it doesn’t get the powder everywhere but on your face. I also love how soft it is and the fact I’ve never found a stray hair on my face!! The other end is great for under your eyes and blending powder around your nose — so I find that to be an added bonus! How did I live without this brush?” 

Buy It! $34; sephora.com

Best for Blush: Real Techniques Blush Brush

Ulta

The final step for achieving that perfect complexion? Blush. Hand-cut for precise results, the budget-friendly Real Techniques Blush Brush is crafted to deposit the perfect amount of color on your cheeks. Even shoppers who own multiple high-end blush brushes say they continue to go back to this Real Techniques one. “Bought this brush on a whim and must say have fallen in love,” one reviewer wrote.”I own over 50 brushes from all price points (Tom Ford, Hakuhodo, Becca, Mac, Crown Brush and a whole lot in between) and I reach for this brush daily to apply my blush. It works perfectly with highly pigmented blushes.” 

Not only can you use it to apply blush, but the brush’s tapered silhouette makes it easy to dust bronzer on the cheekbones, too. The best part? This brush only costs $10 at Ulta. 

Buy It! 9.99; ulta.com

Best for Eyeshadow: Hourglass All-Over Shadow Brush

Sephora

A neutral-colored eyeshadow can add a little oomph to your everyday eye makeup and help brighten your eyes on days when you want to look more awake. For best results, you’ll want to scoop up an all-over eyeshadow brush that can easily layer on shadow — and, as its name implies, the Hourglass All-Over Shadow Brush can help do just that. It has luxuriously soft, synthetic bristles that pick up pigments and deposit them seamlessly (and evenly) onto your lids. In general, reviewers say the Hourglasses brushes are all under-rated. 

“Hourglass brushes are SUPER soft. I don’t know why they don’t get more recognition,” a customer wrote. “Even though this is a synthetic brush, I used this with my Urban Decay palette and the color payoff is perfect and it packs on color on the eyelid perfectly! I love this brush and will be buying more from them.” 

And if you’re looking for a cheaper option, we recommend this $13 set of eyeshadow brushes  on Amazon that comes with seven synthetic brushes and has more than 5,000 positive reviews

Buy It! $36; sephora.com

Best for Blending Eyeshadow: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Tapered Blending Brush 210

The secret to every sultry eye makeup look is to blend, blend, blend! To create that perfect shadowed look, you need a brush that expertly blends out pigments — and Sephora shoppers have discovered that brush for you. Introducing the Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Tapered Blending Brush that more than 10,000 customers “love” on the beauty retailer’s website. What’s great about this eyeshadow brush is that its ultra-soft, synthetic bristles are custom cut, making it easy to apply and blend your desired shadow anywhere on your eyelids — even in typically hard-to-reach places, like your inner eye creases. 

With its long, fluffy bristles, this do-it-all brush allows you to buff out a smokey eye just as easily as you can achieve a neutral everyday look. Plus, the brush can be used to set concealer, too. 

Buy It! $24; sephora.com

Best for Highlighter: Wet n’ Wild Pro Brush Line Tapered Highlighting Brush

If you want you want your cheekbones to look radiant, then you need the Wet n’ Wild Tapered Highlighting Brush. Its soft, densely-packed bristles are great for evenly dispersing glowing powder and cream pigments on your cheekbones, cupid’s bow, and the bridge of your nose. Best of all is the fact that it costs under $7 on Amazon. 

Amazon shoppers love it so much, they have collectively given the highlighting brush an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, and one person even called it their “soul-mate in brush form.” While many love the highlighting brush specifically, lots of reviewers are also obsessed with all of the brushes made by Wet n’ Wild. “I had gotten the full set for Christmas and the brushes are sooooo soft and effective,” one shopper wrote. “This is my favorite highlighter brush I’ve ever owned. I’m so happy it’s sold separately. I highly recommend it, especially when it’s so affordable.

Buy It! $6.49; amazon.com

Best for Eyeliner: Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine Eye Liner Brush  

Sephora

From pencil to liquid to gel, there are many different types of eyeliners on the market — and if gel happens to be your favorite, you’ll need a trusty eyeliner brush to apply it. Enter: Bobbi Brown’s Ultra Fine Eye Liner Brush that nearly 20,000 Sephora shoppers have shown their love for. The brush’s super slim shape has tapered bristles that make it easy to precisely draw the liner on your eyelids for a flawless, smudge-free application (even if you have shaky hands). 

It’s designed to be used in conjunction with Bobbi Brown’s best-selling Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner (that Kate Middleton used on her wedding day), but you can use it with practically any other gel liner that you choose — we recommend the Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner that offers highly-pigmented, long-lasting color for just  $10.

Buy It! $31; sephora.com

Best for Eyebrows: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12

The key to creating bold, beautiful brows is having the perfect tool to do it with. If you’re specifically looking to fill in sparse brows, you’ll need a brush that can create precise angles and evenly distribute the product — and more than 1,200 Sephora shoppers say Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Brush #12 is the only brow brush you’ll ever need. One end of the dual-sided brush has slightly-angled, synthetic bristles that can be dipped into brow powder or gel, while the other side features a spoolie that helps to evenly distribute the brow color after application, and in turn,  creates a more natural look. 

In case you need justification for dropping $18 on this little brush, check out any of the 1,200 perfect five-star reviews, and take this customer’s word for it: “So upon purchasing this little brush I asked myself, ‘Won’t this thing be like just any other brush? What’s so special about it?’ And after countless studies (applications), I’ve come to the conclusion that this brush is great for the following reasons: #1 the brush collects as little product as possible so when you apply the product to your eyebrows, it doesn’t give you harsh lines like most angle brushes do. And #2 this brush minimizes the look of sharpie eyebrows because of the way it applies product and gives you a very natural eyebrows.” 

Buy It! $18; sephora.com