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Best makeup brushes 2023: Individual brushes, sets and sponges for every task

The best makeup brushes blend and buff your makeup to perfection – these are our tried and tested favourites for every task

There is no one beauty secret that guarantees a flawless finish, but getting the most out of your makeup is easy when you have the best makeup brushes. While it doesn’t sound like the most exciting accessory, choosing the right makeup brush can make the difference between catwalk-worthy makeup that’s beautifully blended and a splotchy disaster.

With influencers wielding a different makeup brush every week, it’s hard to know which brush suits you best – after all, fads come and go pretty quickly in the beauty industry. Read on and we’ll help you choose the tools you need to blend your foundation flawlessly, carve a chiselled contour and create a sultry, smokey eye, whatever your skill level and budget.

Best makeup brushes: At a glance

How to choose the best makeup brushes for you

How much should I spend on makeup brushes?

The right brush will help your makeup reach its full potential without costing a fortune. While expensive brushes often use higher quality bristles with better design details, some brands try to capatilise on their reputation and charge extra. On the other end of the spectrum, spending fewer pennies can often buy you a stiff brush that sheds very easily. It may seem like a bargain but you’ll have to replace the brush a lot sooner costing you more in the long run. Here we’ll help you make the right choice first time.

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What is the best way to clean makeup brushes?

Cleaning your makeup brushes is a crucial step in your beauty routine; not only will it keep your brushes in tip-top condition but it will ensure your makeup is applied smooth and even.

You should clean your tools at least once a week to prevent a buildup of dirt and bacteria, to reduce the risk of skin irritation and acne. A regular deep clean will also keep the bristles soft, which helps to prolong the lifespan of your brushes, too. Our personal favourite is bareMinerals’ Well-Cared For Brush Conditioning Shampoo as it conditions while it cleanses and is non-irritating.

What different types of makeup brushes are there?

There are heaps of makeup brushes available, which can make it difficult to know which brushes will be best for you and your makeup routine. Broadly speaking, makeup brushes can be split into two categories – face and eye makeup brushes. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s available.

Face makeup brushes

  • Foundation brushes traditionally have densely packed bristles arranged in a flat shape, which allows you to achieve an even blend of foundation across your face. Other foundation brushes, such as the expert face brush, will have densely packed bristles but blend makeup using the fluffy ends of the bristles, rather than the flatter part. Many users find this shape quicker and easier to blend with but this is down to personal preference. These brushes are also ideal for applying and blending cream products.
  • Powder brushes tend to have longer, less densely packed bristles than foundation brushes. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but you’ll often find that wider, thicker brushes are perfect for setting powders while thinner, sparser brushes work beautifully with blush and highlighters. Angled powder brushes can be helpful when applying bronzer and blush to the high points of the cheek.
  • Concealer brushes can resemble a small powder brush or a small foundation brush. The aim of these is to get a seamless and precise blend without moving too much product away from the area you’re trying to conceal. Whichever style you choose, a light hand is best when blending concealer.
  • Lip brushes are much smaller than other face brushes but if you’re into lipstick, they’re no less important. These pinky-nail-sized brushes can be used to precisely apply lipstick or to apply concealer around finicky areas like the eyebrows and cupid’s bow.
  • Makeup sponges aren’t technically brushes, but are widely used by makeup aficionados to achieve a glowy, flawless base. Simply tap them on your face, wet or dry, to apply cream products like concealer, foundation, liquid blush and bronzer, and you’re good to go. They’re a great catch-all if you’re struggling to justify splashing out on a full set of brushes.

READ NEXT: The best eye makeup brushes you can buy

Eye makeup brushes

  • Eyeshadow brushes come in all shapes and sizes – some apply lots of shadow in a concentrated area, others are less densely packed to blend out eyeshadow. There’s no way to predict which brushes will be best for you, but it’s a good idea to have at least one of each until you know what you prefer or need. Once you’ve got your routine down, you might choose to invest in more brushes, so that you can dip into more colours without needing to wash the brushes in between shades.
  • Eyeliner brushes are thin brushes that can be used to apply gel or liquid eyeliner. They’re thin enough to get close to the lash line and versatile enough to apply winged and graphic styles with relative ease.
  • Angled, or flat brushes are perfect for those of you who apply eyebrow pomades, or tend to use eyeshadow as eyeliner. Flat and angled eye makeup brushes allow you to get the product right into the lash line, or to draw on precise brow-like hairs.
  • Eyebrow spoolies are an often overlooked essential that makes styling your brows and separating out clumpy mascara a thousand times easier. While you’ll sometimes find them in a complete makeup brush set, you can also buy spoolies super cheaply online, so this isn’t an essential part of a set.

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The best makeup brushes to buy in 2023

1. Real Techniques Expert Face Brush: Best foundation brush

Price when reviewed: £9 | Check price at Boots

Don’t discount the Expert Face Brush because of its bargain price. Designed to build a custom coverage, this buffing brush works with your foundation to leave a natural, fresh and streak-free finish. The ultra-plush synthetic bristles are dome-shaped to make easy work of blending liquid and cream foundations into the skin, as well as cream contour and highlight. While a long, lightweight aluminum handle helps to precisely target specific areas.

We’re fans of the Expert Face Brush’s recent peachy-gold makeover and have found the synthetic bristles are built to last and don’t shed on application, which is a rare find in makeup brushes at this price. For best results, concentrate the foundation at the centre of the face and use the brush in circular motions to blend the product outwards. We can see why the Expert Face Brush is Real Techniques’ best-selling tool.

2. ZOEVA The Complete Brush Set: Best makeup brush set

Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at LookFantastic

Beauty buffs and newbies alike need a do-it-all brush kit and this set from Zoeva is the best of the bunch. Unlike many capsule sets, you’ll probably find yourself reaching for most of these brushes on a near-daily basis. There is a foundation buffing brush, powder brush, slanted blusher brush, a small contour brush, concealer brush, wing liner brush, an eyeshadow blending brush and a crease brush. All brushes are handmade with synthetic bristles and finished with a wooden handle and silvery ferrule. Neatly stowed away in a grey travel case, the Zoeva Complete Brush Set isn’t just a stylish buy – the brushes buff and blend products into the skin beautifully.

Check price at LookFantastic

3. Kevyn Aucoin Duet Concealer Brush: Best concealer brush

Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Space NK

Ideal for cream or liquid concealer, the Kevin Aucoin has cleverly designed a two-in-one tool that precisely applies and seamlessly blends. The flat, tapered end conceals hard to reach areas with ease and is small enough to deposit concealer right up to the lash line underneath the eye. It’s also dense enough to conceal any spots and blemishes. While the fluffy, round side buffs the product onto the skin for an even and natural-looking coverage. It’s also soft enough to set your under-eye concealer to minimise creasing. The Duet Concealer brush is made of synthetic bristles and has a long handle to give you control during makeup application. And considering you’re getting two brushes in one, we think the price is pretty justifiable.

Check price at Space NK

4. MAC 217S Blending Eyeshadow brush: Best eyeshadow blending brush

Price when reviewed: £21 | Check price at Boots

The MAC Cosmetics 217S Blending Eyeshadow Brush is a firm favourite with many professional makeup artists. The ultra-fluffy brush blends cream and powder eyeshadow evenly and without fallout – so you don’t have to worry about eyeshadow dropping onto your base – and with natural bristles which don’t shed, the brush is built to last, too.

It’s a pricy tool but trust us, the Blending Brush makes a huge difference to the application of your eyeshadow. We like to dampen the brush before swirling in the eyeshadow pan to get a richer colour pay-off. A word of advice? Give the brush a regular deep clean as the white bristles stain if you’re using bold colours.

Check price at Boots

5. Charlotte Tilbury Powder & Sculpt brush: Best contour brush

Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at Sephora

The Powder and Sculpt brush is a multi-use tool, so you’re getting a lot of brush for your money. The natural bristles are hand-pulled into a tapered shape by an expert brush maker for increased precision, and the rose gold and crimson handle is faceted to not roll off the table. Use it to evenly apply powder, expertly contour and add a subtle highlight for a naturally chiseled and glowing look. It’s on the small side compared to other contour brushes on the market, but this allows you to highlight your cupid’s bow and contour your nose without dispensing too much product. Overall, the Powder & Sculpt brush is a must-have tool for your makeup arsenal if you want to achieve a flawless base – and it’ll look great on your makeup counter, too.

Check price at Cult Beauty

6. EcoTools Bamboo Powder Brush: Best powder brush

Price when reviewed: £9 | Check price at Boots

The EcoTools Bamboo Powder brush picks up just the right amount of product for a polished complexion that doesn’t look powdery or too ‘overdone’. The brush is great for blending out pressed and loose powder and the bristles are soft enough to set your makeup without disturbing your expertly applied base. However, while it’s perfect for gently dusting powder to set your base, a powder foundation will require a denser brush for better blending.

As the name suggests, EcoTools is an eco-friendly brand which uses natural, recycled materials that don’t drain the Earth’s resources. The brush’s handle is made from sustainable bamboo and recycled aluminum, while the synthetic bristles are naturally cruelty-free. The result? A brush which doesn’t have a big impact on the Earth or your bank account.

7. Spectrum 10-piece Essentials set: Best value makeup set

Price when reviewed: £45 | Check price at Beauty Bay

If you’re just starting out your makeup brush collection and don’t want to break the bank, this set from Spectrum covers all the essentials at a reasonable price point. It comes with a fluffy powder brush, a lip brush, a blending brush for cream product, as well as an angled cheek brush to help you get the perfect base. For eyes, you’ll get a precise eyeliner brush, four eyeshadow brushes and an angled brush that can be used on the brows. Better still, they’re super easy to wash and don’t shed brush fibres easily. If that doesn’t have you covered, we don’t know what will.

Check price at Sephora

8. e.l.f Blush Brush: Best blush and bronzer brush

Price when reviewed: £5 | Check price at Sephora

This affordable synthetic brush from e.l.f can be used to seamlessly blend blush and bronzer onto the apples of the cheeks and forehead for a healthy and sunkissed glow. Its super-soft bristles and large, domed shape, help to naturally swipe a pop of colour onto the skin without patches or streaks. All it takes is a gentle swirl in the makeup’s pan to pick up enough product; then, blend with a light hand until you’ve reached your desired finish. Overall, the e.l.f Blush Brush is a great multipurpose tool: it’s got a simple design, can be used with powder and cream products, and costs under a fiver, what more could you want.

9. Beauty Blender Makeup Sponge: Best makeup sponge

Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at Amazon

It didn’t take long before every blogger, celeb and makeup artist had a beauty blender in their kit. The appeal is easy to explain: the egg-shaped sponge hugs the contours of your face while delivering a streak-free finish; the round surface seamlessly bounces product into the skin, and the pointed edge delivers ultimate precision around hard to reach areas. The sponge is soft and gentle on your skin, too, and easy to clean as you simply squeeze the sponge underwater with a solid cleanser.

It is a bit of a pain to dampen the sponge when you’re getting ready at your makeup dresser, but the results are worth it. The Beauty Blender gives a natural and even finish, and as the open cell structure absorbs water, the product sits on the Beauty Blender’s surface for minimum wastage. As a great all-rounder tool, the Beauty Blender is tough to beat.

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