Powder, liquid or cream? Here are the best foundation brushes for a flawless base
Choosing the right foundation for your skin is the first step to achieving a flawless complexion, but there’s no disguising a badly applied base. Use the wrong foundation brush – or worse, your fingers *shudder* – and you run the risk of a patchy finish that won’t last past lunchtime.
A quality foundation brush will smooth out your foundation to create a well-blended base that’s ready for your contour and blush. Not only will the right brush save you time but it’ll even prevent you from wasting excess product and rubbing all the dirt and oil from your fingers into your skin – provided you’re working with a clean tool, of course.
Below, we’ve compiled a buying guide to help decipher some beauty jargon before putting together a list of our favourite foundation brushes. From buffing brushes to flat and angled tools, our pick of the best foundation brushes is guaranteed to get your makeup looking pixel perfect.
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How to choose the best foundation brush for you
Buffing, flat or stippling?
The world of beauty can be a daunting place, but with regards to brushes, it’s really quite simple. First, remember that different brushes create different finishes. Use a stippling, or duo-fibre brush, to achieve a sheer coverage – they’re perfect for working with dewy foundation formulas. Buffing brushes or makeup sponges are best for high-coverage foundations. Comparatively, a flat foundation brush is ideal for precise application, and angled brushes are superb for blending around trickier areas.
Our advice is to consider the coverage you want, as well as the product you’ll be using, and pick the type of tool that suits best.
Anything else I need to know?
It’s worth getting in the habit of cleaning your brushes once a week. Not only will it rid your tools of the nasties that cause acne, blackheads and skin irritations to appear, but it’ll help keep your foundation brush in tip-top condition, too. Who doesn’t want clear skin, better foundation application and a brush that lasts longer?
Johnson’s Baby Shampoo works well for cleaning. It’s reasonably easy to find and afford, too. Simply lather up the shampoo in your palm and gently work the product into the brush, being careful to not misshapen the bristles.
How we test foundation brushes
We’ve personally tested all of the foundation brushes in the roundup below, using each brush to apply the same medium-coverage foundation to skin.
We start by confirming the materials from which a brush is made, the shape of each brush’s bristles and the recommended use for each tool. Next, we apply foundation to the whole face, working from the centre of the face outwards, and note the coverage and finish delivered by each brush. As well as assessing how the bristles feel on the skin and any issues with shedding, we consider how balanced and comfortable the brush handle feels in the hand, and how easy it is to achieve precise coverage around tricky areas such as the nose. We then observe how that foundation wears over a typical day, noting how well each application lasts.
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Best foundation brushes you can buy in 2023
1. Real Techniques Expert Face Brush Mini: Best foundation brush for full coverage
Price when reviewed: £5 | Check price at Amazon
You carefully applied your base in the morning, but by 5pm your foundation has slipped – and happy hour awaits. What to do? You need a foundation brush that doesn’t take up too much space in your handbag, and which will quickly tidy up your makeup without disturbing your careful contouring work. You need The Real Techniques Mini Expert Face Brush.
Identical to its full-size sibling, but with a smaller handle, this rose-gold buffing brush beautifully builds a custom coverage without caking or creasing your foundation. The ultra-plush, synthetic bristles are shaped like a dome for easy blending of liquid and cream foundation, and it can be used to top up liquid blush or bronzer, too. Despite its bargain price, we found the brush to be soft on the skin – and there was no sign of any bristles shedding during use. Overall, all good things come in small packages and the Mini Expert Face Brush is no exception.
2. Zoeva Silk Finish Brush (102): Best buffing foundation brush
Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at LookFantastic
Find yourself regularly switching up your foundation routine? Zoeva’s pretty-in-pink foundation brush seamlessly buffs liquid, powder and cream foundations into the skin. The vegan-friendly, Taklon bristles are shaped into a dome to amplify blending power for a streak-free finish. Just lightly dab the brush into the liquid foundation or powder, and blend out the product in a circular motion. A word of advice: we like to pay close attention to the jawline because no one wants a horrid tidemark.
Novices and beauty buffs alike swear by the Silk Finish Brush for blending their base, and it’s easy to see why. Offering professional results at an affordable price, this foolproof tool has a lightweight handle and soft, feathery bristles. While we love Zoeva’s Rose Golden collection, the Silk Finish Brush is also available in classic Black.
3. MAC 159S Duo Fibre Brush: Best stippling foundation brush
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at LookFantastic
Fresh, glowing skin is what we all strive for in summer. So, once the warmer weather rolls around, you’ll want a versatile tool that will enhance and not mask your sun-kissed skin. The MAC 159S works best with dewy formulas – particularly tinted moisturiser, BB and CC creams – to create a sheer-to-medium coverage that looks natural and polished.
Using a mix of synthetic and natural bristles of varying length, the duo-fibre foundation brush evenly picks up, deposits and diffuses the product across the skin. And, unlike many stippling brushes, this brush’s bristles are molded into a sturdy paddle shape – instead of a circular shape – to help speed up blending and ensure a streak-free finish. Our thoughts? While MAC’s duo fibre brush is great for creating a glowing canvas, fans of a matte, full-coverage look should look elsewhere.
4. Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Brush: Best luxury foundation brush
Price when reviewed: £45 | Check price at John Lewis
The Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Brush is one of the best tools for achieving an even and well-blended base. Its angled shape ensures the brush hugs the curves of your face for controlled and precise foundation application, including around the eyes and nose. The brush’s synthetic bristles feel silky soft on the skin and its compact size means it’s great for stowing in your handbag for midday top-ups.
The ultra-dense brush head makes easy work of blending cream and stick foundation – which is no easy feat – as well as traditional liquid formulas. While the Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Brush looks similar to a buffing brush, be sure to use the tool in a sweeping motion to keep its shape intact. After all, it isn’t cheap and you want to ensure it lasts you some time.
6. bareMinerals Original Powder Foundation Brush: Best powder foundation brush
Price: £21 | Check price at Lookfantastic
Most foundation brushes aren’t going to cut it when it comes to loose powder. Unlike liquid and cream formulas, a powder foundation works best with a large brush to gently buff the product into the skin. Our favourite is the bareMinerals Original Powder Foundation Brush because its unique convex centre and silky soft brush head both help to provide an even and smooth finish. The crimped bristles pick up just the right amount of powder for custom coverage and it’s easy to keep a firm grip when blending thanks to the tool’s chunky handle.
Overall, the Original Powder Foundation Brush is the quickest and easiest tool of the bunch. To avoid a flat, powdery finish, bareMinerals advises swirling the brush in the lid of the foundation, tapping off the excess and then applying the product to the face.
7. HAUS LABS Cruelty-Free Foundation Brush: Best for building foundation
Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at Sephora
This super-soft but densely bristled brush from Lady Gaga’s HAUS LABS range has a softly angled shape that mimics your finger, so it’s easy to sweep foundation into tricky corners around the nose or under the eyes. The brush gives a soft, streak-free finish that’s ideal for layering medium-to-full coverage foundation; it’s easy to build a little more foundation over areas of redness or hyperpigmentation that may need more coverage, and it also effortlessly blends your favourite foundation over concealer or colour corrector. The synthetic brush fibres are 100% vegan and – like all HAUS LABS products – certified as being cruelty-free. A great-quality tool for blending and building coverage where you need it, at a good price.
8. Morphe M439 Deluxe Buffer Brush: Best for a natural finish
Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at Lookfantastic
If you’re looking to create a dewy, natural finish, where foundation blends seamlessly into your skin, then a fluffy buffing brush such as the M439 from Morphe is certain to be your best friend. The handle is thick and easy to grip, but light enough to be manoeuvred easily around the face, allowing you to blend and buff your light-to-medium coverage foundation into the skin for a soft finish. The M439 can be used with liquid, cream or cream-to-powder foundations, and will leave your skin looking like you, but better.