A Guide to Makeup Brushes: What’s the Difference?

If you’re new to the world of makeup brushes, you might be intimidated by the sheer number of options available out there. Visit a cosmetics counter and they’re likely to bombard you with a dozen or so different styles, shapes, contours, and purposes.

Still, a good set of makeup brushes is an important investment no matter how makeup savvy you are, provided you choose the right styles for your needs. To get you started on your new beauty purchase, here are the basics about the types of makeup brushes you might need, divided into three key groups: face, eye, and lip.

Face/Powder Brushes
This first grouping will include the bigger brushes (and consequently, more expensive brushes) in the family. Still, these are among the most important for a good powder, blush, bronzer, or foundation application so consider investing in this key tool. There are four main types of brush within this category: powder, blush, bronzer, and foundation.

– Powder brushes are bigger and often have angled or tapered bristles, which help them to pick up and hold powder. A good powder brush should be soft and fluffy but not too dense–you want the bristles to actually move when you run it along your face. Avoid brushes that feel too hard, since these will leave your face splotchy and uneven, according to BellaSugar. You can also use powder brushes to apply cheek color as a way to save on your total costs. Clinique makes a fantastic powder brush that feels super soft on your skin but also gives you a great powder and blush application, if you want to double up.

– Blush brushes often greatly resemble powder brushes, though they’re usually smaller. They too should be soft and fluffy, with tapered or angled bristles. A rounded brush works best to evenly distribute color to your cheeks, so throw out that tiny brush that came with your blush compact and use a proper, full-size blush brush.

– Bronzer brushes are typically wider, with a shorter handle for more control, and more loosely packed bristles. These are perfectly designed to “dust” color onto the contoured areas of the face and give you that perfect glow from your bronzer. Kabuki or fan brushes are similar in style and easily interchangeable.

– Foundation brushes, the last of this category, are much thinner with tightly packed bristles. Again, bristles should be soft and tapered, but much more dense than the dry-product brushes listed above. Foundation brushes give you a smooth, even application of your liquid foundation. Not only will your complexion be more even after using such a brush, but you’ll also lose less product in the transfer. Maximize your makeup with this handy tool. Try the MAC Cosmetics MAC 190 Foundation brush for a perfect application every time.

Eye Brushes
Special, much smaller brushes designed for the eye area can give you a flawless look every time. If you find yourself wearing eye makeup every day or using multiple colors, an investment in some good eye makeup brushes is a smart move. There are three main types of eye makeup brushes: eye shading brushes, angled eyeshadow brushes, and eyeliner brushes.

– Eye shading brushes are the most basic and sometimes look like tiny powder brushes. The handle should be as long as your other brushes but the head will be much smaller to apply makeup to the eyelid area. Bristles should be loosely packed, angled, and very soft. It should be easy to use and slender enough to apply color without getting it all around your eye.

– Angled eye shadow brushes are similar to the shading brushes, but specifically designed to apply makeup to the crease at your brow bone. These are a handy tool to have if you blend a darker color into this crease, a look that can create depth and a more dramatic look. Angled brushes are a favorite among makeup artists, according to Bella Sugar, and give you precision and definition.

– Eyeliner brushes should be tiny and have very precisely angled tips. In order to give you an easy and accurate application along the lash line, the brush must be very narrow with a long handle that fits comfortably in your hand. I like the EcoTools all-natural eyeliner brush with its finely tipped angled bristles.

Lip Brushes
Finally, the lip category of makeup brushes is another important family to mention. If you wear lip gloss, lipstick, or lip liner regularly, using these professional-grade brushes can increase your efficiency applying your products and also extend your look for longer throughout the day. Get a perfect application with the two main types of lip brushes: lipstick and lip liner brushes.

– A lipstick brush should have a soft, delicate tip that picks up the lip color (either gloss or lipstick is fine) and smooths it along the lip evenly. It should be small enough for precise application but thick enough to actually pick up color from your product.

– A lip liner brush is very similar to an eyeliner brush but even more narrow at the tip. Many lip liner brushes have a pointed tip for maximum control over where the color goes when you apply it.

Shopping for brushes should be a fun experience. Armed with the above knowledge and recommendations, choose the brushes that will make sense for you. If there’s a brush you won’t use, don’t buy it yet. Concentrate on investing in the beauty tools that will make your daily makeup application easier and go from there.


BellaSugar. Tools of the Trade: Guide to Makeup Brushes.
Life, Love, Beauty. Types of Makeup Brushes and Choosing Good Makeup Brushes.