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Best makeup brushes: Luxurious makeup brush sets, makeup sponges and more

Jade Vincent
10 Sep 2019

Brush, blend and buff your base to perfection with our pick of the best makeup brushes

There is no one beauty secret that guarantees a flawless finish – getting the most out of your makeup routine really is as simple as investing in the right tools. And while it doesn't sound like the most glamorous of accessories, choosing the right makeup brush can make the difference between catwalk-worthy makeup that stays put all day, and a beauty-related disaster. 

With influencers wielding a different makeup brush each 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 chiseled contour and create a sultry smoky eye, whatever your skill level and whatever your budget.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best lipsticks

How to choose the right makeup brushes 

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.

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. 

The best makeup brushes

1. Real Techniques Expert Face Brush: Best budget foundation brush

Price: £9.60 | Buy now from Amazon

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 Rose Golden Luxury Brush Set: Best makeup brush set

Price: £65 | Buy now from Cult Beauty

Beauty buffs and newbies alike need a do-it-all brush kit and this beauty from Zoeva is the best of the bunch. Unlike many capsule sets, there's not one brush that you won't find yourself reaching for 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 handcrafted with a mix of synthetic and natural bristles, finished with a wooden handle and rose-gold ferrule, and then neatly stowed away in a brown travel case. But the Zoeva Rose Golden Luxury kit isn’t just a stylish buy - the brushes buff and blend products into the skin beautifully. The set is great value, too, especially since Zoeva brushes start at £13 when sold separately.

Buy now from Cult Beauty

3. Kevyn Aucoin Duet Concealer Brush: Best concealer brush

Price: £26 | Buy now from 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.

Buy now from Space NK

READ NEXT: Our selection of the best concealers

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

Price: £21 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

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.

Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

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

Price: £35 | Buy now from Charlotte Tilbury

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. 

Buy now from Charlotte Tilbury

6. EcoTools Bamboo Powder Brush: Best powder brush

Price: £9.99 | Buy it from Feel Unique

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

Price: £4.50 | Buy now from Feel Unique

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.

8. Beauty Blender Makeup Sponge: Best makeup sponge

Price: £13 | Buy now from 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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