It’s been a while since I’ve done a makeup brush roundup so I have an updated one for you this week! I’ve always loved trying new brushes and makeup tools, even long before I started this beauty blog. Over the years I’ve tried a wide range of high-end brushes and because of the product testing and swatching I do I’ve acquired more than the average beauty lover. Many brushes can be multi-taskers these days so there is definitely no need to purchase a lot. I’d recommend building your tool set over time. Try a couple from a few brands and see how you like them, then build from there.
I’ve split the ones I use the most by category to help you find the tools best suited to your needs. Over the years many of my tried-and-true lines have revamped their makeup tools and changed materials to synthetics. Since I do take good care of my tools there are a number of older ones that I’ve kept and still use but in today’s roundup I’ve included ones you can still find.
To care for my brushes I’ve tried a number of brush cleaners: liquid, solid, gels, baby shampoo, etc. To this day I find MAC’s Brush Cleaner to be one of the best as it truly cleans the brushes well, doesn’t leave a residue or lingering scent and doesn’t damage the brushes. However with the frequency I have to wash my brushes purchasing and repurchasing it gets really spendy. I tried Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soaps as there were so many positive reviews about how good these were to clean your brushes. I tried the Unscented and Lavender, unfortunately my skin had an allergic reaction to both from residue that was on the brushes (they didn’t rinse out all the way, even with multiple rounds of warm water rinsing under the faucet). These days I rely on the Dawn Dish Soap diluted a with warm water in a bowl or the Dishwashing Foam and this gets my brushes clean without any residue. For sponges I still rely on the beautyblender solid as the best solid cleanser.
Onto my favorite brushes, up first are the ones I love for powder!
Above from left to right:
- Hourglass Ambient Powder Brush ($38) is one of the softest short-handled brushes I’ve used. It works well to dust any kind of powder evenly all over the face.
- MAC 140S ($42) is the best dense powder brush, the fan shape allows you to cover larger areas of your face in fewer stokes.
- La Mer Powder Brush ($85) was one of my biggest brush splurges, it’s so soft and plush! Works best for loose powder for me, but can also work with pressed.
- Hourglass Veil Powder Brush ($64) has two ends, the larger side is for setting the entire face with loose (or pressed) powder, the smaller is designed for under the eye. I also use the small side for contouring powders. It’s soft and so fluffy.
- Laura Mercier Powder Brush* ($52) is one of the nicest flatter wide brushes I’ve tried. A lot of flat/wide brushes I’ve tried in the past aren’t dense enough for my liking and don’t pick up enough product. This one has the perfect density.
Blush and Highlighters
For me I will use a blush brush for highlighter and vice versa. Some of you may prefer a smaller brush for highlighter and that’s perfectly ok! The first three are ones I reach for the most for cheeks, the last three are smaller and less dense to apply a softer wash of color. Above from left to right:
- Wayne Goss 11* ($48) is one he calls a buffing brush, all of his brushes are ultra soft and plush and pick up the perfect amount of product to apply to the face. You can use for powder or cream, I prefer for powder blush for the perfect wash of color.
- Laura Mercier Cheek Color Brush* ($46) is a great synthetic cheek brush, it has a classic shape, runs on the flatter side, applies powder really well.
- Chanel Blush* ($50) is a super dense and soft plush brush, I love that it’s dense but still flexible.
- Laura Mercier Fan Brush* ($32) there are a lot of fan brushes on the market, to me they’re all pretty much the same for the bristles, but the handles are often super skinny and don’t feel hefty enough. Still there are a lot of excellent options to choose but I like Laura Mercier’s the best for dusting highlighter on the cheekbones.
- Wayne Goss 14 Cheek Brush* ($33)
- Chanel Precision Powder Brush* ($60) is a soft rounded brush perfect for soft contour or highlighting.
Above from left to right:
- MAC Angled 168SH and 168 ($35) have been in rotation for as long as I can remember! The short handle one has been discontinued but it comes back every once in a while. You might still be able to find it MAC stores. The current version is called 168S because they’ve changed to synthetics. I have tried the new version and it performs just as well as the originals.
- NARS 21 Contour Brush ($42) is the brush I’m asked about the most anytime it’s featured in a blog post, on Instagram or stories. It’s one of the best dense angled brushes I’ve tried. I like that the size is a little wider than most making for easier application. I love a precise brush but sometimes I want something a little bigger for an easier sweeping motion.
- Laura Mercier Angled Cheek Contour* ($46) is another great angled brush that’s nice for contouring.
Skunk Brushes / Blending
These fluffy duo fiber brushes are nice for soft buffing. You can use them for powder or creams. I was surprised to learn you can use these to buff in foundation! Above from left to right:
- Laura Mercier Finishing* ($46) is the fluffiest, after washing it fluffs out the most.
- MAC 187S* ($42) has changed slightly from the original 187, the S version is more dense vs. fluffy now. It’s still an excellent brush but these days I find it better for foundation or cream bronzers rather than powders.
- Chanel Foundation Blending* ($50) I find this to be the best alternative to the original MAC187, it’s soft, fluffy and I prefer it for powders (but you can also use for foundation).
Above from left to right:
- Wayne Goss 00 White ($85) is in my top two biggest splurges, next to the La Mer one. This was the first Wayne Goss brush I tried. I bought the black one many years ago and it served me well until I used a new brush cleaner (I can’t remember which one but it was a liquid one I got at a trade show) and it made the black color bleed. Even after it dried it left streaks on my skin. I bought the white one when it came out the next year and it’s one of the softest tapered brushes I own. It is 100% worth the splurge.
- Tom Ford Foundation ($72) is also another spendy splurge, I bought this as part of a brush set many many years ago and it’s held up remarkably well. It’s one of the best streak-free brushes I own.
- Laura Mercier Bronzer Brush* ($46) is the second most asked about brush I have. Anytime it’s featured dozens of you want to know which brush it is. I’ve gone through so many bronzer brushes and there are a lot of excellent options. My most reached for is this one.
- Laura Mercier Blending Brush* ($46) is a smaller denser version of the bronzer option, it’s smaller so better for buffing and blending.
- beautyblender Nude ($20) is my favorite foundation tool for any foundation formula. I like the nude the best because the dye never bleeds into the sink. I’ve never had issues with any of the other ones staining the skin, but sometimes with the pink ones you will see pink color run through the sink with the first rinse.
I hope this roundup with side by side photos helps give you a reference point on size and density! While there is no single brand that has all the tools I want, if I had to pick one brand of face brushes to use for the rest of my life it would either be Wayne Goss or Laura Mercier.
When it comes to travel a lot of you want to know how I pack my brushes. There’s no hard set rule I go by when packing tools. I’ve tried a number of brush pouches like the MustaeV Bloom Pouch, Make Up For Ever Pouch, the Clearly MAC Rectangle etc. For the past few trips I’ve thrown my tools into the Truffle Clarity Jetset Case and it’s perfect for my needs (see it in action here). I fit everything shown below into the pouch without any issue. If you’re worried about the debris getting the case dirty just layer in a little tissue. The plastic cleans easily from powder contact. If you use anything cream based though I recommend you wrap those tools in tissue if you can’t clean it before you pack.
That wraps up my favorite brush tools post! What are your favorite tools?
Press samples have a * next to them. Others purchased by me.