You can exclusively stick to prestige makeup (or, as TLC once sang, you can buy all the makeup that MAC can make), but without the right tools to apply that makeup, the results will likely be lackluster. While the products you use and how you apply them take a pretty individualized approach, one thing everyone can agree on is that makeup should be properly blended. Whether for foundation and eyeshadow or bronzer and highlighter, the best blending brushes are made with synthetic bristles that are either densely packed (for fuller coverage creams and liquids) or fluffier (for lighter coverage powders). You'll also want to opt for a brush that’s the correct size for the area of your face that you plan on using it on (for example, don't expect a large fluffy brush to give you the precision you need when applying highlighter along the high points of your face).
Makeup Brush Basics
Makeup brush preferences will certainly vary from person to person, but in general, here's what to consider to help get you started:
- Foundation: For liquid formulas, try a flat-top brush, and for cream and stick foundations look for something dome-shaped (both with densely packed bristles).
- Powder: Whether it's a powder foundation or an all-over setting powder, you can opt for a larger brush that's fuller and fluffier.
- Blush: Keep your brush on the fluffier side, but make sure it's a smaller size better suited for your cheekbones.
- Eyeshadow: This is where your tiny brushes come in, and you'll typically want a few options depending on what kind of eyeshadow look you're creating. A flat brush is ideal for sweeping shadow across the lid, while a slightly fluffier brush that's angled or tapered will help with defining the crease.
- Contour: For cream contour products, try a smaller dome-shaped brush that will give you more precision with your blending. And for powder contouring, try an angled blush brush, which will help you create a more sculpted finish.
- Highlighter: Look for something fluffy that's smaller than a powder blush or blush brush.
Caring For Your Brushes
One last piece of advice (something that you probably already know, even if you don't like hearing it): Be sure to clean your makeup brushes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, you should aim to wash your brushes using warm water and a makeup brush cleanser or gentle clarifying shampoo every seven to 10 days. This will not only remove product buildup from your brushes, but more importantly, it will keep your brushes clean from bacteria that can cause breakouts and rashes — or even lead to a more serious skin infection. To prevent the glue from loosening the brush head from the handle, lay your brushes out flat to dry, rather than standing them upright.
Shop The Best Blending Brushes
In a hurry? Here are the best blending brushes:
- Best Splurge: Artis Elite Oval 7 Rose Gold
- Best Blending Brush For Liquid & Powder Products: Wet N Wild Flat Top Brush
- Best Blending Brushes For Cream Products: EcoTools 360 Ultimate Blend Makeup Brush Kit
- Best Blending Brush For Powder Blush: Laura Geller Angled Blush Brush
- Best Blending Brushes For Eyeshadow: Real Techniques Everyday Eye Essentials Makeup Brush Kit
- Best Blending Brush For Highlighter: Sigma Beauty E50 Large Fluff Brush
- Best Dual-Sided Blending Brush: Daubigny Dual-Ended Makeup Brush
- Best Blending Brush For Travel: e.l.f. Kabuki Face Brush
1. Writer’s Pick: Best Splurge
I didn't know what to make of this brush when I first got my hands on it, and was convinced its unique design was a gimmick. But over five years later, and I haven't used another foundation brush since — it's really that good. The Artis Elite Oval 7 Rose Gold brush is definitely a bit of a splurge, but it blends in my liquid foundation better than any other brush or sponge that I've tried. You don't need any special makeup skills to use the brush, which is as simple as gliding it over your face until your makeup is blended. And the synthetic bristles are incredibly plush, thanks to the brand's CosmeFibre® technology, which includes a tapered tip for better blending. Designed to be used with liquid, cream, and powder formulas, the larger size of the Oval 7 is best for applying foundation, blush, bronzer, and setting powder.
Relevant Review: "The first thing I noticed was the handle of the brush, it’s perfect and you can get a good grip on it. The brush head is super soft and when applying my liquid foundation it is spread out nice and even. This brush helps me achieve a flawless look and doesn’t leave streak marks as others. Really recommend for liquid foundation."
2. Best Blending Brush For Liquid & Powder Products
A brush with a flat top will help you get an airbrushed finish when using liquid foundation. The synthetic pink ombre bristles on this Wet N Wild Flat Top Brush are packed densely enough to give you a streak-free finish with liquid formulas, but the brush was also designed to work with powder foundation and setting powder, too (though you can also try the brand's Powder Makeup Brush if you prefer lighter coverage from your powder). The brush has thousands of five-star ratings on Amazon, with several users noting that it's also a great tool for blending in self-tanner and even sunscreen.
Relevant Review: "I've tried sponges, blenders, silicone applicators, stippling brushes, my hand, and none of them have made foundation application any easier for me. I am in complete shock and awe that a simple, $2.00 flat brush made my makeup routine 100x easier. It glides on the foundation in even strokes and makes it much easier to blend. I'm SO SO SO happy with this brush! WOW!"
3. Best Blending Brushes For Cream Products
If you prefer cream formulas, a densely packed brush that's dome-shaped or angled will be your best tool (particularly if you're using a cream product to contour or as a full-coverage concealer). The EcoTools 360 Ultimate Blend Makeup Brush Kit comes with three domed brushes in different sizes to target specific parts of the face: the largest brush is recommended for applying cream or stick foundation, the medium-size brush is great for contouring larger areas, and the smallest brush works well with concealer or contouring smaller areas like the nose. In addition to using synthetic Taklon bristles that are vegan and cruelty-free, the brushes also use wood-plastic composite handles that are made from recycled materials, in keeping with the brand’s eco-friendly ethos.
Relevant Review: "These brushes basically do all the work for you. [The] bristles are so soft and you get three for a decent price. If you are new to makeup, these will be especially helpful with buffing and blending."
4. Best Blending Brush For Powder Blush
A slightly fluffier brush can help disperse powder blush without leaving a flush of color that's too intense. The Laura Geller Angled Blush Brush blends your powder blush as it helps to sculpt your cheekbones with its angled shape (this also makes it a great multi-tasking brush if you want to contour with a bit of powder bronzer, too). To make blending even easier, tap off the excess powder before sweeping the brush over your face.
Relevant Review: "This brush is soft but dense, and just the right size to blend blush, bronzer, or contour without disturbing the foundation underneath. This is a very good quality brush."
5. Best Blending Brushes For Eyeshadow
This makeup brush set was previously given the makeup artist seal of approval (particularly for cream eyeshadows), so you know it's a good one. No matter what look you're going for or your level of expertise, the Real Techniques Everyday Eye Essentials Makeup Brush Kit comes with eight different brushes to help you out. From setting shadow to defining your crease to blending product along the lash line, you can use these cruelty-free and vegan brushes with any eyeshadow formula (you'll even find a few brushes designed to be used with eyeliner).
Relevant Review: "[...] They blend like a dream and never shed their bristles. Super soft and easy [...] A perfect starter kit for anyone. Treat yourselves ladies you won’t regret it. These take your makeup look to another [level]."
6. Best Blending Brush For Highlighter
Fluffy, fan-shaped brushes can certainly be used to apply highlighter along the cheekbones. But the smaller, more compact size of this Sigma Beauty E50 Large Fluff Brush makes it a more versatile choice if you're someone who likes to add a touch of shimmer under your brows, at the inner corners of your eyes, down the bridge of your nose, or across your cupid's bow, too. Made with synthetic bristles, the fibers on this brush are also antimicrobial to inhibit bacteria growth (though that doesn't mean you never have to wash them).
Relevant Review: "[...] This brush is so so soft, and has endless uses! I got it to set under eye concealer but it has so many more uses. [...] It blends shadows, can be used to prime the lid, contour the nose and sharpen up contouring on the cheeks (for precise contouring), used for highlighting, setting concealer, blending concealer and I'm sure many more! I am very I'm with this brush. I really can't recommend it enough!"
7. Best Dual-Sided Blending Brush
If you're looking to streamline your makeup collection, consider adding a few dual-sided brushes to your kit. The Daubigny Dual-Ended Makeup Brush will take care of your foundation and concealer application with its two-in-one design. The larger, densely packed foundation brush can be used to apply liquid, cream, and even powder foundation, while the opposite side holds a shorter brush for applying your concealer.
Relevant Review: "Arrived on time and as described! Does a beautiful job blending out liquid and powder. Small side is perfect for contouring the nose! Definitely recommend!"
8. Best Blending Brush For Travel
This e.l.f. Kabuki Face Brush gets bonus points for being small enough to throw in your makeup bag when you're doing touch-ups on the go or when you're traveling. But it's also effective enough to be used as part of your everyday routine. For less than $5, this mini, synthetic bristle brush can be used to buff out bronzer, highlighter, and powder products like foundation and setting powder. The brand recommends using circular motions to better blend in your makeup when applying it with this brush, and they also suggest using their Makeup Brush Cleaner Shampoo, which was formulated to clean and condition the bristles to keep them soft.
Relevant Review: "One of the best brushes I've used, and that price is unbeatable! I like this brush better than some of my higher end brushes. It's soft and versatile. I use it for both blending and all over powder/bronzer application. It works great for both, giving an even distribution. It's great for those of you that are looking for a good brush at a lowwwww price."
About The Author:
Marissa DeSantis has worked as a beauty writer and editor for nearly 10 years. Her pieces can be found across print and digital publications like Bustle, Evening Standard, Teen Vogue, and InStyle.