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Favorite Eye Makeup Brushes and Tools

July 19, 2017

Best Eye Makeup Brushes | The Beauty Look Book

By popular request I have an updated roundup of my beauty tools. So many of you have asked me what the best tools are for eye makeup and I’ve often referenced older posts. I was going through some recently and it’s hard to believe the last round up posts were done three years ago! Time literally flies! I’ve been building my brush collection for many years (for over a decade) and yet I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the tools out there. When it comes to makeup brushes and tools I’m a creature of habit. For the longest time I’ve stuck with tried and true staples from MAC because they’re consistent in quality, they have kept the same designs for years and they get the job done. I have explored a lot of other brands over the years and today I have an updated roundup of the best eye makeup tools I own.

If I could just stick with one collection/brand I would – unfortunately no single brand has everything I want. I’ve split these into categories by shape/function. Also note that I don’t have a crease on my lids so I don’t use a crease brush like most would. I do a lot of blending to get a gradient or wash with neutral colors and then I also have a lot of detail brushes I use. I do realize this is a bit of a long list – I’ve included different options from a small handful of brands I really love as some of you may have different preferences for shape, brush size, handle size/width etc.  I’ll round up my top picks at the end of the post as well.

Up first are the basic shadow/lid brushes. I like ones that are soft but somewhat dense so I can pick up powders. A lot of these I use for creams as well even though synthetic brushes often work better – I like the soft texture and feel. Shown below from left to right:

  • Hakuhodo J242G ($18) is a hybrid goat and synthetic fibers making it versatile for all products. It’s a smaller size making it easy to pack on color on the lids.
  • Hakuhodo B J004G ($20) is my favorite one for the lids, it’s made of goat hair and extremely soft. This is the best lid color brush I have – it picks up the perfect amount of color and blends powders seamlessly.
  • MAC 239SH ($25) is also another favorite, it’s one of my most-used brushes, the SH version is exclusive to MAC stores and online. It’s soft and dense and perfect for packing product on the lids. It’s not as soft as the Hakuhodo but still very good.
  • MAC 239 ($25) is the full size version, I like that both the full and short handle have the same size bristles.
  • Chanel Blender/Shader ($42) is a new double ended brush that’s super soft with a nice fluffy feel. The small end is also dense but fluffy, the larger side is perfect for blending.
  • Wayne Goss 18 (old, discontinued) is unfortunately discontinued but was the best option that was slightly larger than the MAC 239.
  • Chanel Large Eye Shadow Brush #25 ($38) is another great option that’s larger than the MAC 239, it’s not as dense and slightly more loose in how its packed, note that all the Chanel brushes with the silver handles (ones in the current collection) are going to be discontinued. New ones will be introduced around the 24th so if you have any current options on your wishlist you should buy them soon.
  • Marc Jacobs Beauty The Conceal ($30) is actually a concealer brush (which it’s great for) but I really love this one for cream shadows. It has a beveled/angled tip so it makes the creams apply easily to the lids.

Eye Makeup Brushes Lids and Wash | The Beauty Look Book

Out of all of these my top two are the MAC 239 and Hakuhodo B J004G. I have multiples of both kinds and they’re probably the most versatile brushes I own.

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Next are the blending brushes good for a light sweep of color, for blending or a nice wash. With some of these you will probably be able to use as a crease brushes too. I prefer the ones with white hair as they’re usually soft and super fluffy. They’re small enough so there’s some density to them. Often times I find the darker ones are a bit too loose in the way they are designed. Shown below from left to right:

  • Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush ($40) is my favorite large domed fluffy brush because of the density. It’s perfect for sweeping color on the lids for a nice wash and it’s also a great blending brush.
  • MAC 217 (also available in 217SH) ($25) is another great basic blending brush because of the softness. It’s perfect for blending out colors. For the longest time this was my favorite until I tried Tom Ford, Hakuhodo and Wayne Goss.
  • Wayne Goss 18 (from the Eye Set $130, individual $27) in terms of quality, I feel Wayne Goss has among the best brushes. They’re right up there with Tom Ford. #18 is the closest option to MAC 217.
  • Hakuhodo J5523 ($19) is made of goat hair and the equivalent of MAC 217. This one is far better in terms of how it picks up color and blends it out.
  • Wayne Goss 17 (from the Eye Set $130, individual $28) is a smaller sized fluffy brush, good for detail blending or crease blending.
  • Wayne Goss 16 (from the Eye Set $130, individual $30) is a bit longer and bigger than #18. This is a good all around blending brush.
  • Tom Ford 13 ($57) is a fluffy blending brush good for blending things up on the lid for a nice gradient. In my opinion Tom Ford brushes are the best brushes I own.
  • Tom Ford 11 ($57) is the ultimate wash brush. It applies the perfect amount of color to the lids and is super soft in feel. They’re really well made. The ones I have are made with natural bristles – at an event in the spring I was told Tom Ford was moving towards making brushes with synthetic materials but I haven’t received confirmation of when or if it has happened yet.
  • Hakuhodo J220G ($24) is a larger fluffy flat brush made of goat and synthetic fiber. I like this one and use it a lot but it’s not as dense as other ones so I prefer the other ones for density and this one for it’s size on some occasions.
  • Bobbi Brown Eye Sweep ($37) is a classic large dense fluffy round brush.
  • MAC 227SH (discontinued, $32) has been discontinued unfortunately, it’s more dense than the Bobbi Brown, but for now the BB is the next best option.

Best Blending Brushes MAC, Hakuhodo, Bobbi Brown | The Beauty Look Book

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For detail brushes my long-time go to has been the MAC 219 Pencil Brush which I’ve had for years. Unfortunately I lost mine either in the move or while traveling (but sometime in the past few months) and never got around to replacing it. It’s the best all around smudge or lining brush I’ve had but there are still quite a few others that are really good. Shown below from left to right:

  • Wayne Goss 08 (from the Anniversary Set $225, individual $17) is the tiniest detail brush I own. It’s perfect for getting into the tiny corners of the line or right along the lashes. It’s stiff but not harsh on the eyes.
  • Bobbi Brown Eye Definer (one shown is a special-edition one from a holiday set, but same as regular one) ($34) is a classic angled brush you can use for powder or gel liners. It’s also a good one for brows.
  • Wayne Goss 07 (from the Anniversary Set $225, individual $17) is the softest mini smudge brush, perfect for a smokey eye or blending out colors along the lash line.
  • Tom Ford 15 (discontinued) is the best smudge brush I have, unfortunately it’s discontinued.
  • Wayne Goss 05 (from the Anniversary Set $225, individual $20) is a super soft pencil brush, it picks up color a lot better than the MAC Pencil, but it’s smaller in size so not quite the same.
  • Laura Mercier Corner Eye Brush ($26) has been discontinued in most places, you can still find it online at a few stores right now like Bluemercury. It’s a good corner eye brush that gets color in tiny spaces with precise application but it’s large enough you can blend it out a little.
  • Hakuhodo G5514 ($17) is another great detail pencil brush to get that soft smokey eye.

Best Detail Brushes | The Beauty Look Book

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Misc brushes and tools shown below:

  • Chanel Large Tapered Blending Brush 19 ($38) this originally came in the brown natural hair, then was released in a white version, but not it appears it’s back to the brown. I have both and they both perform the same. This is a good detail blending brush – I use it for under the eye when I want a very soft diffused line or to blend out shadows along the upper lash line. It’s soft and blends colors perfectly. The shape is perfect. At this time I don’t have the full list of what brushes will be coming out around the 24th, but if this is on your list I recommend you get it soon as Chanel will be phasing out their current brushes and replacing them with a new line.
  • MAC 226 (discontinued) is the best small to medium blending brush, why they discontinued it is a mystery to me because there’s none other like it! For now one of the Wayne Goss brushes from The Eye Set (scroll up) will perform the same way, if not better because of the material it’s made of. However this one is still a really good one.
  • Wayne Goss 21 (from The Brow Set, $55) is the best brow brush for powders for me. I love that it’s wider than most and it’s super dense making it easier for me to get even application for both sides.
  • Surratt Eyelash Curler ($30) is one of the best curlers I own. It took me some time to learn to use because it’s so much wider than other brands. It performs really well.
  • MAC Eyelash Curler ($22) is my most-used lash curler. It always curls perfectly and I really like the shape.
  • Charlotte Tilbury Eyelash Curler ($22) is another good one that gets the job done without any pinching.

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That wraps up my favorite eye makeup brushes and tools post! I hope you found this helpful in case you’re looking for new tools. If I had to pick just one brand it would be nearly impossible to do – but at the moment it would probably be Wayne Goss but I’d have to add a couple from MAC. Overall great basics can be found from MAC – it’s easiest to find at stores and counters which means you can actually see and feel the brushes. For the longest time I didn’t buy brushes unless I could try them in person, but even when I lived in San Diego, I couldn’t find them all so finally had to order some sight unseen. There are a lot of great brush blogs out there so if you need more reference or comparison a google search will bring up some amazing reviews. Best quality and performance goes to Tom Ford, Wayne Goss and Hakuhodo. If I had to pick only 10 brushes to use for the rest of my life, it would be: MAC 239, MAC 217, Hakuhodo B J004, Hakuhodo J552, Edward Bess Luxury, Wayne Goss 07, Wayne Goss 08 and Wayne Goss 18.

What are your favorite tools?

Press samples include the Charlotte Tilbury Eye Lash Curler, Wayne Goss Eye Set and Anniversary Set brushes.

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  • Cheryl Parker Smith

    Thanks for the heads-up about the Chanel brushes. I need another #19. It’s my favorite eye brush. I use it with the cream eye shadows.

    • You’re welcome – it was a surprise to me! I have no idea if they’ll slowly phase them out or pull them once the new ones are launched, but yes it’s a good idea to stock up on ones you love.

  • nic

    I love my Trish McEvoy brushes, I got one 15 years ago and it is still amazing. Love a few Chanel too, thanks for the info!

    • Trish McEvoy was one of my first loves – I too have older ones. I stopped buying because she kept revamping everything.

  • Cristina Planter

    Thank you very much, I love your round ups of your most used brushes! As you say, it is hard to find excellent brushes across the board in a single brand or collection, and so having you mention your best and most used brushes and what they are great at doing is incredibly helpful!

  • You have amazing collection of brushes! x

    • Thanks Angelica! It’s taken quite a long time to build!

  • Love your brush collection! I’m addicted to my MAC 217 brush!
    Kisses,
    Sarah
    EverydayStarlet

  • DB_Boston

    Brush porn!! I could look at your brushes all day. In my experience, Chikuhodo excels with squirrel hair, and they’re the brand to go to for squirrel hair face brushes. Hakuhodo and Koyudo are better with goat hair. Hakuhodo has the best eye brushes; Koyudo has the best kabukis.

    I believe Chikuhodo OEMs Tom Ford’s brushes, and Hakuhodo for Goss.

    I need a new eyelash curler, and will definitely be looking into Surratt or Mac. Thanks for the reviews!

    • Thanks for the info on Chikuhodo, I have a few but haven’t really explored them in depth. Thanks for the tip on kabukis! Will have to look into them 🙂

  • Ahh a girl can never have too many brushes.. I would love to the wayne goss brushes, heard so many positive things about them! x

    Sam Hodgett || Beauty, Food & Lifestyle

  • Carolina Pereira

    This post was very helpfull, just saved it for when I want to buy new brushes I have to read this again!

    carolinasmakeuplife.blogspot.pt

  • Trudi

    Sabrina, Uh oh…I purchased the Chanel Eye lash curler based upon your recommendation as I too have small lids and I’m not Asian. I’m a fair faced redhead with smaller eyes very similar to your own. You stated it did not pinch, so I did purchase it and have not used it yet because I am having a tearing issue in my left eye due to Trigeminal facial pain. I hope that when I can use the Chanel eye lash curler I get no pinching. Please tell me I made the right purchase? I always purchase items based upon your rigorous recommendations. I believe you really put every item thru the excellent-use ringer. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Trudi – you made the right choice, Chanel has been a staple go-to but it kept going on and off the Chanel website so I assumed it was just discontinued and being phased out. I included some discontinued items but for the most part tried to keep it current so readers wouldn’t be upset they couldn’t find something.

  • I’m in awe!

    This spread is incredible! I love how much choice you have and there are so many great brands here. Everyone says Wayne Goss brushes are amazing, but I haven’t tried any yet.

    I mostly rely on Sigma eye brushes but it’s time to branch out a bit.

    slovesautumn.com

  • I really think the MJB ones are under-rated!

  • Woah, I’m very jealous of your brush collection! You have some great picks here; I especially love the MAC 217 and the Bobbi Brown eyeshadow brushes. In fact, every type of brush I’ve tried from them has been great.

    Louise | Lipstick & Luxe

  • Carly Becker

    I’m surprised Sigma brushes aren’t on here. I seem to see them everywhere on the Internet. I bought some recently and really do think they are worth the hype, although I haven’t used many other brush brands to know the difference between a great brush and an ok one.

  • Jenny

    This post is really helpful!
    I have to read several times when I need new brushes!
    Thank you for sharing! :))

    https://www.oneirojewelry.com

  • I love this post, very helpful. http://www.mrsqbeauty.com

  • This was such a great and detailed post! I love having different blending brushes too as it just helps having different sizes and its best for a more smooth application! I will take a look into buying white brushes as they do look like they leave a smoother finish, really tempted to buy some Wayne Goss brushes now!

    http://www.kristinawilde.com

  • The duo chanel brush really intrigues me!!

    Mikixx
    http://littletasteofbeauty.blogspot.it/

  • Heeyoung

    I am curious your favorite bronzer brushes you recommend. Tomford? In your recent post, I see you like glossier’s new pink one and am curious how much it is difference in quality.