The 12 Best Makeup Brushes, According to Pros and Editors

The Kevyn Aucoin The Duet Foundation Brush is our desert island pick.

the best makeup brushes on a cream background
(Image credit: Getty)

Application is everything when it comes to makeup. Having the right tools at your disposal makes the difference between blotchy blush and perfectly rosy cheeks, glaring bronzer lines and a sun-kissed complexion, or patchy eyeshadow and a cut crease blended to perfection. Your fingers and a makeup sponge have a time and place, but if you’re chasing a professional-grade finish, enlisting the help of the best makeup brushes is the logical solution. 

"Makeup brushes provide a more precise and controlled application. They make your makeup look more natural and refined. Brushes are designed to target specific areas of the face, such as the eyes, cheeks, or lips, with greater accuracy than sponges or fingers," explains Benjamin Puckey, Clé De Peau Beauté's Global Color Director. "Brushes allow for better control over the amount of product applied because they let you pick up the desired amount of product and evenly distribute it onto the skin." 

Curating a well-rounded lineup can be an intimidating task—I get it. That in mind, I’ve tapped the best makeup artists in the business to break down the makeup brush landscape—starting from the basics. From how to decide what type of brush fibers will work best for you to knowing what density brush plays best with powder, cream, and liquid formulas, everything you need to know about selecting the best makeup brush is ahead. 

What to Look For in Makeup Brushes

  • Design

You want to pick a brush that makes since for the area you're working with. The two main factors: Size and shape. "For larger areas of the face, I like to use a larger fluffier brush," explains makeup artist Lisa Aharon. Flat or paddle-shaped brushes will be your go-to for foundations and powders, but dome shapes are more versatile and ideal for blending products like blush or bronzer

  • Fibers

Makeup brushes are going to fall into two camps: Natural and synthetic. Natural brushes are known to be softer finish, however many times they're made from animal hair. "Synthetic brushes don't shed hair like natural bristles tend to do," explains Puckey. "They give me the same results as natural bristles and are typically made from materials such as nylon or taklon, while natural bristles are derived from animal hair, such as goat, squirrel, or sable." 

  • Density 

The formula you're working with (cream, powder, or liquid) will determine how dense of brush you should look for. "The more dense the makeup the firmer the brush, as it needs to pick up the heavier product," explains Aharon. That being said, a denser brush will be ideal for pressed powders, whereas a less dense brush works well for loose powders or cream formulas. 

The Best Makeup Brushes

The Best Foundation and Concealer Makeup Brushes

“For liquid or cream foundations, synthetic brushes with densely packed bristles are preferred. These brushes provide a smooth and even application, allowing you to blend the foundation seamlessly into the skin,” explains Puckey. “For powder foundations, a large, fluffy brush is ideal for a lightweight and natural application.” 

The Best Powder Makeup Brushes

"For powder, I prefer a medium-sized domed brush with soft bristles that give a light and even application," says Puckey. The density will vary depending on the shape of the brush and desired finish. 

The Best Bronzer and Blush Makeup Brushes

“Powder bronzer is best applied with a large and soft domed brush because a bigger brush gives a lighter and instantly blended application,” says Puckey. “Cream bronzer and blush are better applied with a denser synthetic brush to seamlessly blend them into the skin.” 

The Best Eyeshadow Makeup Brushes

At a baseline, you need two distinct eyeshadow brushes—a fluffy brush and a firm brush. “Firm brushes will deposit color and fluffy brushes will blend and diffuse,” explains Anastasia Beverly Hills Pro Artist Talia Cich. “Great eye brushes will make your makeup application faster and easier.” If you really like to play up your artistry, you may want to scope out the scene for a defining brush that can perfect pigment on the lash line or cut crease. 

The Best Eyebrow Makeup Brushes

Tapered or angled brushes are going to be ideal for eyebrows, according to Puckey. They’ll provide increased control and precision, so you can deposit products exactly where you want them. Firm, synthetic fibers are going to be your best bet, according to Clich. 

Meet the Experts

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Benjamin Puckey

Benjamin Puckey is a New York-based makeup artist. Born in London and raised in Amsterdam, Puckey’s visionary talent grew from a lifelong love for fashion and art. Puckey’s conceptual approach to makeup has since launched his career into high fashion titles and leading designer brands around the world. Since his breakthrough fashion spread with W Magazine in 2011, Puckey’s work has appeared across international editions of numerous publications such as VogueDazediDW MagazineAllure, and Harper’s Bazaar.

He has also worked with brands including Ralph Lauren, Versace, and Oscar de la Renta, as well as jewelry houses David Yurman and Van Cleef & Arpels. Puckey’s trademark approach to enhancing natural beauty and his pursuit of uncompromising quality resonates deeply with Clé de Peau Beauté, where he now serves as the brand’s Global Color Director.

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Lisa Aharon

Lisa Aharon is a New York-based, Vancouver-born makeup artist. She specializes in highlighting her clients’ natural beauty by creating flawless skin looks, working regularly with a wide variety of high-profile clientele, the likes of Rachel Brosnahan, Florence Welch, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Bock, and Anna Kendrick, among others. Her work lives in the pages of Cosmopolitan, L'Officiel, The New York Times, Elle, Schön! Magazine, et al, and Aharon has worked with major brands and photographers such as Ralph Lauren, David Yurman, Annie Leibowitz, and Jurgen Teller.

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Talia Cich

Talia Cich has more than 14 years of experience in the cosmetics industry, working for top beauty brands as well as gaining exposure in the world of freelance. The makeup guru’s expertise includes beauty, editorial, special FX and body painting—which eventually helped her land a director position at major beauty label, Anastasia Beverly Hills. Cich’s passion for makeup is driven by the power of transformation and empowering others to feel their best.

Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, Delish.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.