The best make-up brushes, recommended by beauty experts: Fenty Beauty, Real Techniques, Bobbi Brown and more
We spoke to leading beauty experts to hear their thoughts on what makes the perfect make-up brush. We got their take on what to look out for and avoid when shopping for make-up brushes, plus answer your top questions with a handy buyer's guide.
We all know that a good craftsman never blames his tools, but that saying pretty much goes out of the window when it comes to make-up brushes. It’s true that great make-up artists create incredible looks with skill and talent, but they’d be the first to tell you that it's pretty much impossible to paint a make-up masterpiece with a low-quality brush and sub-par cosmetics.
Even if you’ve found the perfect foundation for a flawless base and the ideal mascara for your classic smokey eye, that’s only half the battle. With more makeup brushes on the market than there are shades of MAC lipstick, how do you know where to start? Well, that’s where we come in.
Here at The Recommended, we've rounded up some of the top make-up brushes out there for all eventualities and compiled a handy buyer's guide for all the tips you need to know. We also spoke to leading beauty experts to get their professional advice, from what to look out for, to things to avoid when shopping for your perfect make-up-brush-match. Read on for the full lowdown.
The best make-up brushes at a glance
- Best affordable brush set: Real Techniques Everyday Essentials, £16.79 at Look Fantastic
- Best vegan make-up brushes: EcoTools Start The Day Beautifully make-up Brush Set, £13.99 at Look Fantastic
- Best eyeshadow brush set: Real Techniques Enhanced Eye Set, £20 at Boots
- Best angled brow brush: Docolor Duo Eyebrow Brush, £2.99 at Amazon
- Best contour brush: e.l.f Contouring Brush, £7 at Feel Unique
- Best blush brush: EcoTools Precision Blush Brush, £6 at Boots
- Best powder brush: Sigma Large Powder Brush, £25.20 at Look Fantastic
- Best foundation brush: Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush, £32.85 at Look Fantastic
- Best highlighter brush: Fenty Beauty Cheek-Hugging Highlighter Brush, £25 at Boots
- Best premium brush set: Spectrum x Katie Janes Hughes 25-piece brush set, £169.99 at John Lewis
The best make-up brushes
For an everyday masterpiece
This everyday essential set covers all bases with four brushes and a sponge blender, helping you to create your favourite looks with minimal faff.
A one-stop shop for base, blush and eyes, this affordable make-up brush set delivers on our expert’s recommendations without breaking the bank. Equipped with the soft, flexible bristles our experts swear by, these brushes promise to help you look and feel your best.
Reliable, vegan and cruelty-free
Recommended by our make-up expert Amber, this set contains a core collection of five essential brushes designed to help you simplify your beauty routine without compromising on results.
EcoTools is PETA certified and 100% vegan and cruelty-free: these make-up brushes help keep your complexion and conscience clear. The hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested bristles are non-irritating and safe for even sensitive skin and are designed to help you put your best face forward.
Best eyeshadow brush set: Real Techniques Enhanced Eye Set
For eye-catching looks
The Real Techniques Enhanced Eye Set comes with eight super-soft brushes designed to help you achieve everything from a subtle blended wash colour to a killer cut crease.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, we’d better make the most of them. This eyeshadow brush set aims to help you do just that with eight brushes, each designed to help you create the perfect eye look, from understated elegance to a bold smokey eye. Each brush is made with soft, synthetic bristles, and their lightweight handles ensure ease of use.
Best angled brow brush: Docolor Duo Eyebrow Brush
Docolor Duo Eyebrow Brush helps you keep your brow game strong for the price of a cappuccino. With an angled brush for product application and a spoolie for grooming, this brush does it all.
Durable and easy to clean, this angled brow brush does what it says on the tin. Affordable and lightweight, this dual-sided brush can be used with a variety of product formulations, from powder to pomade, and the spoolie brush helps to keep your brows groomed for a polished look.
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Best contour brush: e.l.f Contouring Brush
For a chiselled look
The e.l.f Contouring Brush aims to pave the way to professional standard contouring without the premium price tag. Densely packed bristles and a structured shape aim to deliver flawless dimensions for a sculpted look.
This versatile contour brush can be used with powder, cream, and liquid formulas and is designed to add definition to any makeup look. Cruelty-free and vegan, this brush is made with 100% synthetic bristles, and the crafted handle is lightweight for easy use and precise application.
Best blush brush: EcoTools Precision Blush Brush
For controlled colour
Designed with a unique square cut to control colour application, the EcoTools Precision Blush Brush helps you brighten up your base for a fresh-faced look.
Suitable for use with both powder and cream blush, this blush brush promises to stand the test of time if cared for properly. With soft, flexible bristles and a lightweight yet durable handle, this blush brush promises to help brighten up any look.
Best powder brush: Sigma Large Powder Brush
For an even finish
Made with high-quality antimicrobial fibres and a durable, lightweight handle, this powder brush has been designed to give a natural, even finish every time.
Coming highly recommended by our expert Amber, Sigma brushes have asserted themselves as industry favourites and are made to stand the test of time. The super-soft, flexible bristles of the Sigma Large Powder Brush work to ensure uniform blending and a flawless finish.
Best foundation brush: Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush
Versatile, reliable quality
This high-quality, professional-grade brush can be used with powder, liquid, and cream formulas and promises to help you achieve a flawless base every time.
Equipped with short, ultra-soft, tightly packed bristles, the Bobbo Brown Full Coverage Face Brush comes highly regarded by our expert Jaz who tells us it’s “amazing not just for foundation but also makes applying cream bronzers and blush super quick and easy”, which really speaks to Joy’s love of a multifunctional brush, win-win!
Best highlighter brush: Fenty Beauty Cheek-Hugging Highlighter Brush
Get your glow on
This highlighter brush is certainly true to its name with angled bristles that work to quite literally your cheekbones for ultimate precision.
Suitable for use with both cream and powder products, this brush’s innovative design is extremely versatile. The larger sides of the brush are designed for use on cheeks and cheekbones, while the small tip helps you to illuminate the details, such as the brow bone and cupid's bow.
Best premium brush set: Spectrum x Katie Janes Hughes 25-piece brush set
A worthy investment
Our expert Jaz recommended these pro-approved brushes, and we can see why. With soft synthetic bristles and sustainably sourced wooden handles, these brushes are kind to your skin and your conscience.
Designed with precision, artistry and education in mind, this 25-piece make-up brush set is recommended by Jaz for including ‘every brush you’ll ever need’. Housed in a sustainable, vegan leather case that doubles as a storage and display case, these premium make-up brushes were made for ease of use.
What to look for when choosing a make-up brush: three make-up experts share their advice
Having worked on global advertising campaigns, been featured in some of the world’s most iconic titles and served as a BAFTA jury member, Joy Adenuga is certainly a seasoned professional. With over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, Joy is an expert make-up artist whose skill is recognised on an international scale.
From the famous faces of Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie to the glossy pages of Forbes, GQ and Billboard (to name a few), Amber Amos’ work has seen its fair share of the spotlight. With over nine years of experience in the beauty industry, the LA-based make-up artist has a thing or two to teach us about what to look for when filling our make-up bags.
Affiliated with the prestigious Bobbi Brown studio, Jaz Crush has quickly become one of London’s most sought-after make-up artists. Known for her signature glowy bases, smokey eyes, and statement looks, Jaz is a real rising star in the industry, named one of London’s top make-up artists by Glamour magazine.
We put three questions to each of our make-up experts to understand precisely what you need to know when shopping for make-up brushes, from what to look for, what to avoid, and which they consider the best of the bunch.
What should you look for when buying make-up brushes?
When it comes to buying make-up brushes, Amber tells us to “should pay attention to the brush hair quality”. Joy agrees and adds that “your make-up brushes should be made of either synthetic or natural bristles that are great for providing a flawless finish and provide durability too”. Joy also highlighted the importance of a ‘sturdy handle’ and the versatility of the brush, telling us, “to buy brushes that are multi-functional, so for instance, they can double up as both a brush for contouring as well as adding foundation”.
As far as Jaz is concerned, with make-up brushes, you get what you pay for. She tells us, “a good quality brush can last up for 10+ years if looked after correctly! Therefore, when looking for make-up brushes, I always advise spending a little more, and in the end, you’ll have to buy them less often!”.
What should you avoid when looking for make-up brushes?
Jaz and Joy both touched on the importance of soft, flexible bristles and told us to avoid anything that feels ‘coarse’ or ‘rough’. Amber told us to “avoid any brushes that shed” and to consider size (it turns out it really does matter); “You don’t want brushes too big or small for your hands”.
Which is the best make-up brush?
Amber recommends both Sigma and EcoTools, telling us, “currently, I’m loving my Sigma Brushes” and “of course, you can’t go wrong with EcoTools”. Jaz gives her vote to the “Spectrum x Katie Jane Hughes collection”, commenting on their “really beautiful quality”. Jaz also says if you’re looking for “a fabulous foundation brush, then you really can’t beat the Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush”.
Make-up brush buyer's guide: top tips and things to consider when browsing through make-up brushes
We've rounded up some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to make-up brushes and done our research to answer them - from what features to look for and how to clean them to how much you should be spending.
What features to look for in a make-up brush
When it comes to make-up brushes, we're spoilt for choice - from angled and fluffy shaped brushes to ones specifically designed for eyeshadows and lip liners. There is something for every make-up need. We've had a look into some of the various features to take into account when shopping for your next make-up brush to help you along the way:
- Brush material: Check out the materials of the brush's bristles - from synthetic to natural, eco-friendly options. Choose which is best for you and your needs.
- Brush shape: Look at the shape of the brush to ensure it aligns with your application needs - we've got more on this below.
- Handle design: A comfortable handle will enhance your application experience and help put you in complete control for easy usage.
- Use: Decide what you'll be using your make-up brushes for. Some can serve multiple purposes, whereas some are more fine-tuned for specific make-up applications.
The different types of make-up brushes
Whatever your make-up routine, when it comes to achieving a flawless result, having the right brushes to apply your foundation, concealer and eye shadows is key. Here we've looked into a selection of make-up brush types and their specific purposes:
- Foundation brushes: Use to blend in your foundation for even coverage and a smooth finish.
- Blush and contour brushes: Use to apply blush and bronzer, and contour products with precision.
- Eyeshadow brushes: Use to enhance your eyes, from flat shader brushes to fluffy blending brushes.
- Eyeliner brushes: Use to create a smudged effect or for a precise line.
- Lip brushes: Use for a precise lip colour application and prevent feathering.
The different brush shapes: which is best?
Make-up brushes come in various styles, often featuring different brush shapes. Here are some of the most common types and what they are best for:
- Flat brushes: Ideal for packing on intense pigments, such as eyeshadows and concealers.
- Angled brushes: This style is great for contouring, highlighting and creating defined lines.
- Tapered brushes: Perfect for precise application in small areas, such as the corner of the eyes.
- Fluffy brushes: Ideal for blending harsh lines, for example, with eyeshadows.
Tips for applying your make-up with a make-up brush
Knowing how to use makeup brushes correctly can elevate your application, providing a polished finish to your skin. Follow these tips for some professional-looking results:
- Start lightly: Apply a small amount of makeup to begin and gradually build it up. This will prevent a heavy, caked-on appearance.
- Blend properly: Ensure you blend your products in properly to give a seamlessly smooth finish. Use gentle, circular motions to blend.
- Clean brushes: Make sure to regularly clean your brushes to prevent product build-up and maintain their performance. There's more on that below.
How to clean your make-up brush
It's important to keep your make-up brushes clean for both hygiene reasons as well as achieving optimal application. Follow these simple steps and keep your brushes in top condition, bacteria-free and ready for smooth application.
- Gently wet the bristles of the brush, keeping the handle dry
- Rinse through soapy water (use a mild soap and warm water), swirling the brush around
- Rinse the brush in clean water until the water runs clear.
- Reshape the bristles of the brush, and lay flat on a clean towel to air dry
How much do makeup brushes cost?
As you can see from our product round-up, make-up brushes totally vary in price, with some costing as little as a couple of pounds to premium ones wearing higher price tags of over £40/£50. The cost of a make-up brush can depend on several factors, such as the brand, material and quality.
On a tight budget? Affordable options are available, from about £5 to £15. For a wider selection, with a slightly higher price, mid-range brushes can cost between £20-40. For high-quality designs and materials, high-end brushes can be £50 plus.
Want to read more expert-recommended beauty product round-ups? Check out our cosmetics page for a full list of recommendations, including our list of the best mascaras, best concealers, best foundations and best eyeshadow palettes – all recommended by professional make-up artists.
Isobel Nutbrown is a Staff Writer at The Recommended and works with leading industry experts to help readers make informed decisions and shop smarter online.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.