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How to Buy Makeup Brushes

By Lisa Cohen LeeSHOP.COM Beauty Editor

Want a gorgeous, flawless face? Then you need makeup brushes, otherwise known as the tools of the trade. But whether youve taken a master class in makeup application or winging it, finding the right ones for your needs can be a bit of a puzzle. Even if youre clueless about a Kabuki brush, this guide will give you low-down to rounding out your tool set, ensuring you beautiful results. Read on before you start practicing your technique:

The Basics

Step 1Type: The brush type depends on what type of makeup formula you are going to use. A fluffy powder brush is best with loose powder or mineral makeup; a flat shadow brush helps lay down eye shadow evenly on lids; a thin lip liner brush is a smoother way to apply lipstick (as opposed to your finger). To determine your brush needs, look at your cosmetics, your price point and what you want to accomplish. Keep in mind, youll probably need more than one brush to finish your face.
Step 2Bristles: There are two types of bristlesnatural and synthetic. Natural bristles are culled from animal hairs, including sable, beaver, pony or goat and are the choice of makeup artists for powder applications, like shadows, blush or mineral makeup. Synthetic bristles are man-made fibers like Taklon and are used mostly for cream-based cosmetics, like lipstick or concealers, because they dont absorb the makeup and are easier for blending. Some synthetic brushes closely resemble and feel like natural hair, which make them a good option for powder cosmetics too.
Step 3Handles: Handles on the brushes vary in size and materials, so its usually based on your needs and what you like. Ask yourself, what do you prefera lightweight, small-sized brush or a larger, weighter one that feels more solid in your hand? Or maybe you are going for looksbeautiful wood or polished silver is pretty displayed on a bathroom counter. If youre planning to carry it with you, look for one with a shorter handle thats easy to stash in a makeup bag or purse.

The Lingo

Sable: Fine mink hair used for fluffy powder and blush brushes thats known for being super-soft and expensive.
Kabuki: Type of brush that has a flat or rounded head with a curved edge and the handle is usually short. Its best for applying powder makeup like blush or foundation, because it deposits a concentrated amount of color onto skin.
Fan Brush: Shaped like a fan, it lightly blends just the right amount of powder onto your face. Use it also for cleaning up and dusting off excess makeup.
Blush Brush: One of the essential brushes for anyones makeup kit, this head is a dome shape and sometimes has an angular or tapered edge for contouring around the cheek area.
Liner Brush: A fine, thin-tipped brush to apply liquid liner or shadow along the upper and lower lashline.
Crease Brush: An angled, eye-shadow brush for applying darker colors in the crease to give eyes depth and definition.
Foundation Brush: A wide, flat brush with a rounded edge that resembles a paint brush. Use it with liquid foundation to get an airbrushed, flawless finish on your skin.
Smudge Brush: A small blunt edged brush with stiff bristles thats used for smoky eye looks, by blending the color along the lash line adding depth and softness.

The Experts

The editors at Allure Magazine had this to say about the Dior Powder Brush: Its compact enough to tuck in our makeup bag, but beefy enough to apply the perfect amount of blush or bronzer.
Raychel Wade, a makeup artist, recommends Sonia Kashuk Makeup Brushes for being a top beauty bargain, and for the handles, which fit comfortably in your hand, making them easy to hold.

The Brands

Shu Uemura is a Japanese-based brand that features gorgeous handmade brushes with high-quality natural and synthetic hairs that are crafted by Japanese artisans and used by pros everywhere.
Paula Dorf is a professional makeup artist brand known for their collection of handcrafted brushes in custom designs.
Bare Escentuals has exquisite brushes for applying mineral makeup, including a refillable blushing brush that can hold your favorite face formula (in the handle) and be used whenever youre on the go.
Bobbi Brown has an extensive portfolio of brushes for almost every inch of your face, including eye brushes for powder shadow and ones for cream shadow.

The Price

$: Brushes at this price point are usually lightweight and have a mix of synthetic and natural fibers. Stock up on inexpensive brushes that can harbor bacteria (like lip and eye) every six months. Try Studio Basics Mineral Makeup Brush, $4
$$: Most brushes in this range have high-quality natural and synthetic hairs , a bit of weight for better control, and last longer than less expensive ones. Try Stila Retractable Brush, $26
$$$: This price category features investment, makeup-artist brand brushes that are handcrafted with luxurious natural hairs and wood handles. Try Trish McEvoy Mini Powder Brush, $52