Best make-up brushes 2021: highlight eyes, sculpt cheekbones and add some shadow to your face

The ultimate tools of the trade will ensure you create a sleek and polished finish to the skin when applying make-up

Best make-up brushes
(Image credit: Getty)

Your makeup application is only as flawless as the tools you use to sweep, swirl, and blend it in place. Whether creating smouldering eyes or smoothing on foundation, the right make-up brush can transform the way that a product performs on your skin.

Even the best make-up artist is nothing without their tools. While foundation, primer and powder all play their part, if applied incorrectly, they’ll only look flat, flaky, patchy or cakey on the skin. Here’s our guide to the best brushes to keep you well covered.

How to buy the best make-up brushes

There are so many different make up brushes on the market now, and you don’t necessarily need to have all of them, unless you’re wanting to practise different techniques or you’re a makeup artist. 

However, there are a few different make up brushes that everyone should own to ensure they achieve an effortless every day look. The brushes you buy will depend on which products you use the most, so here’s a breakdown of the most common make up brushes and their uses. 

Buffer brush: A buffer brush is a great all-rounder that you can use for a number of different products. With this brush you can apply foundation, powder, blusher, bronzer – you name it! It’s great for blending and giving you a finished look. If you don’t want to invest in lots of brushes then the buffer brush will at least provide multiple purposes for you. 

Foundation brush: A foundation brush is an absolute staple in your beauty bag. If you like to apply a base before anything else then ensure you invest in one of these brushes as they will help you achieve a streak-free finish.

Powder brush: Powder brushes are the big, poufy ones and they’re great for applying powder to set your foundation as they cover a lot of ground. You can also get bigger and smaller versions of this brush – the smaller ones being ideal for blusher or bronzer. Not highlight though – this is a separate form of mastery.

Highlight brush: To get the perfect highlight on your cheekbones you’ll want to invest in a good highlight brush. These are somewhere between a foundation brush and a blusher brush, but they have a slanted angle which provides perfect precision when applying to your cheekbones.

Contouring brush: We can’t tell you how to buy the best make up brushes without telling you that you need a contouring brush in your life! These are the thinner, fan like brushes which allow you to create lines and shadows on the face which will give you a strong look. Contouring brushes are a little bit of a step up from the basics, but are still very much a staple in your beauty bag.

Eyeshadow brushes: It’s important to invest in a good eyeshadow brush and not use any other brush in replacement of this, due to cross contamination. You’ll need a small fluffy brush (not like the old school sponge applicators you used to get in teen make up sets). These can easily be swept across the eye and are great for blending too. 

Other brushes you may want to invest in include lip brushes, which are good for lip colour palettes, and eyebrow brushes, which can help you define and shape your brows. You’ll find that all of the above come included in most makeup brush sets these days, so you can be fully equipped to create the perfect look.

How to use the best make-up brushes: tips and tricks

Now, you don’t need to be a professional to use make up brushes! As long as you have a few basic techniques then you’re all set. The general rule of thumb when using make up brushes is that less is more. 

When applying foundation with a buffer brush or a foundation brush, be sure not to put too much product on the brushes to begin with. Apply a small amount and apply in a circular motion, or with light brush strokes. Then, you can build upon your coverage by adding more product to the brush. Be sure to use the brush over your entire face, neck, and even ears to ensure even coverage. 

Blusher, bronzer and highlight should all be applied with upwards sweeps across the cheekbones. Again, only apply a small amount to the brush, and blow or tap any excess product off before applying to the face. The same goes for eyeshadow brushes. Excess product will leave fall out on the face, potentially ruining your base make up, so make sure you are frugal with the product. 

Caring for your make up brushes is really important to make them last. You’ll need to give them a good wash at least once a week with some make-up brush solution. This will keep them fresh and like new. Dirty brushes can lead to breakouts or even infections. Over time, depending on the quality of the brushes, they may become discoloured or start to shed, in which case it’s time to invest in new ones. Makeup brushes should ideally be replaced every 3-6 months. 

The 7 best make-up brushes you can buy today:

Best make-up brushes: Morphe Deluxe Buffer Brush

(Image credit: Morphe)

1. Morphe M439 Deluxe Buffer Brush

The best makeup brush – a great all-rounder

Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Chunky and solid
Reasons to avoid
-Not as soft on the skin as other brushes-Difficult when cleaning it to remove all traces of make-up

Used correctly, make-up brushes should help you achieve a flawless finish. And with that, you most certainly need a buffer brush in your kit. Morphe is known in the business for its make-up brushes and this surprisingly affordable product remains a best-seller. Why? Well, it does everything it is designed to do by buffing powder into the skin and helping blend it into your foundation lines. The brush has a good grip to it, making it easier for you to pick up a good amount of the product and distribute it evenly over the face, to make it look as natural as possible.

Best make-up brushes: Artis Elite Black 3 Brush Set

(Image credit: Artis)

2. Artis Elite Black 3 Brush Set

The go-to-brushes for pure indulgence

Reasons to buy
+Very luxurious+Looks sleek and stylish on your make-up counter
Reasons to avoid

A good make-up brush doesn’t have to look stylish but it certainly helps. And once you’ve got your hands on these sleek, Instagram-worthy brushes, you won’t want to let go. Seriously! The three brush set – that can be used to apply your foundation, eye-make-up and blusher – contain oval heads made with thousands of fibres for a seamless application. Unlike other brushes, the super soft bristles only pick up the bare minimum of product, helping blend it onto the skin with an almost air-brushed finish.

Best make-up brushes: Lily England Marble Brush Set

(Image credit: Lilly England)

3. Lily England Marble Brush Set

The perfect selection to cover all bases

Reasons to buy
+Comes with brush holder pot+Vegan and cruelty-free brushes
Reasons to avoid
-Tiny bit of shedding on one of the larger brushes

Marble and rose gold; a perfect combination. And if you are a clean freak, and like to keep your make-up in immaculate condition, this product comes with a gorgeous leather-effect white box that provides the perfect container to keep them upright in. For a very inexpensive set, every type of brush is covered here and the quality of each simply luxurious and soft against the skin. Only the largest one shed a tiny bit as I used it to apply foundation but that was most likely because I pressed too hard as it didn’t happen again. The powder brush picked up the product easily and if you are someone who is fairly new to applying make-up, the contour brush is the perfect fit to help provide a dab of bronzer under the cheek bone. The fact it is also animal-friendly is a huge bonus.

Best make-up brushes: Chantecaille Kabuki Brush

(Image credit: Chantecille)

4. Chantecaille Kabuki Brush

Cute and compact – ideal for travel!

Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous zebra print+Very small so good for the hand-bag
Reasons to avoid

Chantecaille is somewhat of an A-list brand when it comes to make-up, so you would expect its brushes to blend in just as nicely. What sets this brush apart from others is not just its cute zebra pattern but the fact it is dome-sized and chunky enabling it to sweep powder and blusher across the face in one go, rather than have to criss-cross it numerous times. The shape of the product also means it can sit solidly on your make-up counter.

Best make-up brushes: Celebrity Brushes Luxe Brush Collection - Full Set

(Image credit: Celebrity Brushes)

5. Celebrity Brushes Luxe Brush Collection - Full Set

Best bargain buy

Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Designed by a make-up artist
Reasons to avoid
-Slim handle so grip not as strong as others

With 130 sets of the luxe set being sold a day, the creative pair behind the new brand have every reason to blush. For make-up artist Harry Derbidge – and his fiancé Dean Rowland, used lockdown to push out their new line of make-up brushes which have become an instant success. The set of 11 different brushes covers all bases - Harry has used his make-up experience to create a line of professional but affordable makeup brushes. They are quite slim to hold so you need a stronger grip if going in for a more defined look.

Best make-up brushes: Brushworks Multi-tasking Brush

(Image credit: Brushworks)

6. Brushworks Multi-tasking Brush

A great brush if you are in a hurry

Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Always in stock
Reasons to avoid
-Not aesthetically pleasing-Cheap packaging

For those days when you are in a rush and just want to ensure all your face base is nicely blended in and no chalky streaks are left, reach for brushworks. An excellent brush for the price and the dome shape lets it buff products well together, rather than a flat one which can create sharp edges. Good for carrying in your bag if you need a quick touch-up.

Best make-up brushes: Trinny London T-Kit

(Image credit: Trinny London)

7. Trinny London T-Kit

The perfect brush to impress your friends

Reasons to buy
+Portable and stackable+Very good on the eye
Reasons to avoid
-The magnetic rings that hold the three brushes together can sometimes get unstuck

Trinny London has built up an amazing reputation and this brush – three stacked within each other – compliments the brand perfectly. Not only does it look sleek and stylish, but it incorporates three brushes in one, with each cleverly designed to fit into one another, making the product extremely portable and ideal for travelling. The brushes are so soft on the skin and come in a great shape to help you get to the more defined areas of your face, such as the lips and eyebrows.

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