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The 11 Best Makeup Brushes You Need in Your Arsenal

Consider this Makeup Brush 101.

Art Partner

If you've ever wandered through an aisle full of makeup brushes and felt completely overwhelmed, then you're not alone. Yes, there are a ton of options out there, and it can be hard to tell which is for what—until now. We got Sephora Pro National Makeup Artist David Razzano to spill all of his beauty brush secrets, meaning that after this you'll never be brush-confused again.

"This is your universal face brush," Razzano shares. You should look for one with medium-length, dense bristles, which are well suited for distributing liquid products across your skin. Because those bristles are dense, make sure you're not applying your foundation directly to the brush. Instead, dip the brush into the foundation. And remember—you only need a small amount of foundation. "Probably around pea-size for your whole face," Razzano says. A thick bristle brush puts down a lot of product, and you want your foundation light, not heavy. The brush should also have angles that fit to the contours AKA the ins and outs of your face, created by your unique bone structure.

John Picklap

Used here: Marc Jacobs The Face II, $48

If you've got places to go, people to see, and don't want to spend time thinking about your makeup, you'll be all set with a multitasking brush. Synthetic bristles mean the brush can be used for liquid, cream, or powder foundations. A longer, looser bristle than you find on a traditional liquid foundation brush will give you a sheerer coat, so you can build your product if you want to. "With a bristle that's longer and a little bit looser, you're going to have a more natural effect that's also quicker, because it covers a larger area," Razzano says. Also look for a domed top, which will give an even distribution of foundation, with the shorter bristles on the edges doing the blending and buffing for you.

John Picklap

Used here: Sephora Pro Airbrush #55, $34

For concealer, you won't need a big brush–instead, look for something on the smaller side. Depending on the kind of coverage you want, choose a brush with either an angled edge, or a straight one that comes to a point. An angled edge will provide more coverage, and is perfect for the under-eye area and blending. If you're looking for a precision brush, try a straight edge. Razzano explains: "With the sharper edge, we are allowed to go into the crevices, like the nose. If you have a pimple, you can spot-place with precision." As for bristles, make sure to pick synthetic ones, since most concealers are liquids.

John Picklap

Used here: hakuho-do +Sephora PRO Angled Concealer Brush, $30

Don't know what "setting" means? Razzano has you covered. "If you've used a cream or liquid on your face, especially under the eyes where you place concealer, you're going to want to use a powder to set that product," he says. You don't want your makeup sliding or creasing, and a setting powder, which is often translucent, can solve that problem. Because you likely aren't setting your whole face, skip a big, oversized brush and go for a teardrop-shaped one instead. This shape will allow for serious precision, so you can target under your eyes and nose (where setting powder is usually needed the most).

John Picklap

Used here: hakuho-do + SEPHORA PRO Large Teardrop Pointed Powder Brush, $49

The contouring craze is far from over, so it only makes sense that there would be a whole plethora of brushes dedicated to sculpting those cheekbones. One of Razzano's favorites is a brush in the shape of an S-curve. "It works as a natural fit with the contours of the face. There's a larger end that has a rounded shape and there's a shorter end that has a concave shape to it." Apply makeup to the larger end and follow the lines of your face. The other end blends, softening the lines of the makeup to match the roundness of your face.

John Picklap

Used here: Sephora Pro Countour Kabuki #82, $38

Get the best of both worlds with a brush that's both big and tapered. Why, you ask? Razzano says, "The tapered shape allows you to still get some sense of precision, but because the brush is so big, it's not going to be harsh." A bigger brush will diffuse your bronzer or blush, so you don't have to worry about harsh lines or ending up with wayyyy too much product on your face. Still, you can get your contour on with that tapered, angled side.

John Picklap

Used here: Marc Jacobs Beauty Bronzer Brush No. 12, $78

The '70s are back in a big way, and brows or no exception. To get a full, feathered look, find a brow brush that also has a spoolie. The brow brush bristles should be short, angled, and hard (for reference: more stiff than an eyeliner brush). This will make it perfect for applying powders and pomades of your brows are sparse. But the spoolie is essential. "I can't do a brow without a spoolie," Razzano says. "It makes sure your product doesn't go on too heavy and you don't end up with a caterpillar effect."

John Picklap

Used here: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12, $18

This brush should have "a square, flat shape to it, so it's really good for packing product on," Razzano says. That's the key here—you want to press your shadow on, not sweep it. This will spare you the dreaded fallout, where you find tiny flecks of eyeshadow under your eyes. Keep in mind, the size of your brush should be proportional to your eye. Put simply: "This is your basic, must-have eyeshadow brush and the brush you're going to start your eyeshadow applications with," he says.

John Picklap

Used here: Sephora Pro Shadow Brush #14, $20

So you've mastered packing on your eyeshadow and are ready for step two. Cue the blending brush. These tend to be fluffier, looser brushes with a dome shape on top and aren't meant to be used with any product on them. Not convinced it's necessary? Razzano warns against using the same brush to apply and blend shadow, which will cause the colors to run and fallout to occur. He says, "I feel that the minimum amount of brushes is two. You want a general placement brush and a general blending brush. If you have two brushes that suit those needs, you can accomplish almost anything you want in an eye look."

John Picklap

Used here: Sephora Pro Blending Brush #27, $20

Cat-eye enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief. There's a liner brush designed so that you no longer have to bend your arm at weird angles to get a precise application of eyeliner. Firm, dense bristles that come to a point will give you an exact, straight line with cream and liquid liners. Razzano promises that a bent tip will make your job easier. "When clients use it, they end up saying, 'It changed the way I do makeup. The line is smoother. My hand doesn't shake as much because I'm not holding it in awkward positions.' That makes self-application so much easier."

John Picklap

Used here: Sephora Pro Bent Liner Brush #23, $17

If you're used to applying lip color straight from the tube, you may want to reconsider. Doing that will wear down the shape, and then—according to Razzano—"you just get that general line that doesn't always fit, especially in the Cupid's bow area and the outer corners where you really want precision for a clean look." A good lip brush will have a sharp edge and firm bristles that will hold their shape for a precise application of lip color.

John Picklap

Used here: Sephora Pro Lip Brush #81, $14

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