Makeup Brush Sets for Creating the Perfect Looks

Options for makeup experts and beginners alike.

Makeup brushes are seen backstage at the Tokyo James Fashion Show during the Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 on September 24, 2022 in Milan, Italy.
(Image credit: Ferda Demir/Getty Images)

When it comes to applying an impeccable face of makeup, your brushes are crucial. Think of yourself as a painter and of your face as a pristine canvas: The tools you're using are bound to impact the thickness, saturation, and depth of the colors you apply. That's why, when investing in a makeup brush set, you should pay attention to details like brush types and bristle quality to ensure that you have the best products possible to achieve your ideal look.

But with all the types and brands of makeup brushes on the market, you can easily feel overwhelmed while trying to find the best makeup brush set for you. Thus, I've asked celebrity makeup artist Elaina Badro for her top tips on how to select, use, and care for your makeup brushes. Plus, we've combed the internet to bring you makeup brush sets that are well worth your investment.

Caring for Your Makeup Brushes

Badro reminds us that makeup brushes don't last forever, but you can get more bang (and years) for your buck by investing in premium products.

"Cheap quality makeup brushes barely last due to poor quality bristles and handles," she explains. "They tend to break and shed much more. Quality makeup brushes can last anywhere from two to five years. Some individuals take such good care of their brushes, or barely use them, that I've heard of them lasting for even seven years, although I would opt for new ones by then!"

No matter the quality of your brushes, though, she says that you should learn how to take care of them, especially if you want them to last. "Keeping makeup brushes clean allows for the longevity of the bristles," she says, "especially because it will prevent mold growth as well."

And caring for makeup brushes doesn't just extend their shelf life—it also keeps your skin clean and clear.

"It’s essential to wash makeup your brushes!" stresses Badro. "Opting out from washing your makeup brushes can cause blemishes, allergic reactions, and can even result in an infection." In that vein, she also advises, "To help avoid skin infections, do not share your makeup brushes!"

Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes

When it's high time to clean your brushes, you're going to need to do more than a simple rinse. We asked Badro about the best strategy for thoroughly cleansing makeup brushes, and she delivered.

"Wash your hands first," she begins, and advises that you then "pour mild shampoo into the palm of your hand or into a bowl, then run bristles under lukewarm water." One the brush is soaked, she says to "dip bristles into the shampoo and swirl in a circular motion. Lather repeatedly to ensure that all makeup residue comes off." Be sure to repeat until your water starts running clear!

Once you no longer see pigment coming off of the brush, Badro says, "Rinse the bristles under lukewarm water. Steer clear of immersing the entire brush, as this can cause the adhesive/glue to break down, resulting in the ferrule to disassemble from the bristles and/or handle."

Once you're sure that the brush is clean and that the water is running clear, Badro says, "Squeeze the water out of the bristles. You can also use a paper towel to squeeze out excess water."

Finally, it's time to let dry! "Shape and smooth the bristles with your fingers to make sure they are not bent and/or warped," says Badro. "Lay each brush flat to dry horizontally on a paper towel or towel, ensuring that they are not touching each other. Refrain from placing wet brushes in a vertical container. This can also cause the adhesive/glue to dissolve resulting in the ferrule to disassemble from the bristles and/or handle."

What to Look for In a Makeup Brush Set

When shopping for a makeup brush set, it's important to consider a number of factors. First, shoppers should realistically assess how many makeup brushes they need in their sets. For instance, someone who doesn't wear much makeup or who likes a pared-down routine might not opt for a set with over 10 brushes in it. On the other hand, if you like to blend, contour, and experiment, it may be best to look for a set with more brushes in it so you can achieve the exact look you're going for.

One should also know what kinds of brushes they need. Makeup brushes can be used for the face, eyes, or brows, and you can find collections that focus on one particular part of the face as well as ones intended to meet every need.

Brushes for the Face

If you're in need of brushes for face makeup like foundation, blush, bronzer, and highlighter, there are a few options that Badro says you should start with.

"The best types of makeup brushes to cater to your blush, bronzer, and highlight should be an angled multi-purpose brush," she says. "The angled brush allows you to sculpt and define the facial features." Foundation brushes, meanwhile, are wider, focused less on precision and more on distributing product for an airbushed look.

Brushes for the Eyes

"Eye brushes that are smaller allow for precision, which are ideal for smaller eyes," says Badro—but that doesn't mean that eye makeup brushes are one-size fits-all. There are several types of eye makeup brushes on the market, each of which has a particular use.

"Shader brushes help to pat shadow onto the lid and/or brow bone," Badro explains. Meanwhile, flat tip brushes are made for precision.

"If you have hooded eyes, use flat tip brushes that will allow you to create a 'cut-crease,'" she says. "Typically, the tighter the bristles on the brush, the higher the coverage."

And when it comes to eye makeup, Badro stresses, "It's very important to blend, blend, blend!" Therefore, she says, "Blending brushes are great for the crease of the eye"—this way, your makeup looks soft and smoky rather than jarring.

Best Makeup Brush Sets

Meet the Expert

Elaina Badro
Elaina Badro

Elaina Badro is a makeup artist from Southern California who has worked with celebrities, fashion brands, and magazines. She founded her eponymous beauty brand to include high-quality tools and skincare, including makeup brushes, and is committed to providing beauty enthusiasts with makeup tips that bring results. She is currently based in California.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at