Best Makeup Brushes

Updated October 2023
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Best of the Best
IT Brushes for Ulta Superheroes Full-Size Travel Makeup Brush Set
IT Brushes for Ulta
Superheroes Full-Size Travel Makeup Brush Set
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Great for Traveling
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Do your makeup on the go without having to sacrifice size with this full-size travel makeup brush set.


Comes with all the essentials, including a brush for powder, foundation, and eyeshadow, and a small case for traveling. Made with synthetic bristles and are 100% cruelty-free. Each of the brushes is high-quality and can be used for long periods of time without replacement.


Because these brushes are on the denser side, they are not very soft.

Best Bang for the Buck
BS-MALL 18-Piece Makeup Brush Set
18-Piece Makeup Brush Set
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Simple & Soft
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A set of 18 makeup brushes that are affordable and serve many makeup application tasks.


A large collection of 18 brushes for numerous purposes, from applying blush to lining lips and defining eyes. Brushes have soft nylon bristles and strong wooden handles. The set comes w/case that's suitable for storage and travel.


Bristles have a chemical smell when new, and occasionally fall out with long term use.

Real Techniques Everyday Essentials
Real Techniques
Everyday Essentials
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Easy to Use
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This set includes both brushes and sponges for the ability to switch up the application method based on product or preference.


Comes with 4 brushes for a matte finish and a latex-free sponge applicator for blending a more dewy look. Handles are lightweight and made with aluminum. Products in this set are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.


Bristles tend to shed, especially after washing.

Morphe Vacay Mode Brush Set Collection
Vacay Mode Brush Set Collection
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Trusted Brand
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A set of 12 brushes for various application uses in a mix of synthetic and natural bristles.


All the essentials for a full face of makeup, including a flat foundation brush, angled shadow brush, and a blush brush. Bristles feel soft and aid in blending products properly. Comes with a leather storage case that keeps brushes upright and easy to access.


Brushes are not labeled.

Sigma Beauty Black Essential Travel Size Brush Set
Sigma Beauty
Essential Travel Size Brush Set
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Most Versatile
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A set with multiple high-quality brushes that's excellent for on-the-go application.


This set comes with seven makeup brushes, each with metal plating for superior durability and shine. The waterproof handles are made of solid polymer material. Included case is conveniently sized and shaped for easy traveling.


Brushes must be placed upside-down in the case to prevent bristles from damaging.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best makeup brushes

A good quality makeup brush will make your face look smooth and well-contoured. This is a must for any avid makeup wearer or makeup artist. Scratchy, low-quality makeup brushes not only work poorly, they can also scratch your face and cause other skin irritation.

While on the hunt for your next set of brushes, keep an eye out for the variety of the set; a good makeup brush kit should contain, at minimum, a powder brush, concealer brush, foundation brush, blending brush, and an angled brush. If you have sensitive skin, also consider the bristle material, as natural hair bristles are typically better for your skin than synthetic ones.

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A good powder brush is dense, large, and very fluffy. Kabuki brushes tend to work very well as powder brushes.

All about the brushes

When shopping for a makeup brush set, try to learn as much as you can about the quality of the brushes themselves. Quality brushes with lush, soft bristles will hold and distribute makeup better, helping you avoid that “streaky” look. A scratchy brush signals poor manufacturing and could cause skin irritation. Low-quality brushes are also more likely to shed, losing their shape and eventually becoming unusable.

We advise potential buyers to search for a set that includes a variety of both face and eye brushes. Otherwise, you may find yourself making multiple separate purchases to get what you need. A well-rounded set typically includes all of the following:

  • Foundation/all-over face brush

  • Concealer brush

  • Powder brush

  • Blush brush

  • Eye blender brush (sometimes called an eye contour brush)

  • Basic eyeshadow brush

  • Eyebrow brush

  • Small angled brush

Some of our favorite makeup brush sets (some of which are makeup kits) go beyond the basics to include non-essential brushes that, though not a requirement, are really nice to have in your collection. These may include the following:

  • Contour brush

  • Angled eye brushes

  • Small precision eye brushes

  • Liner smudging brush

  • Eyebrow-combing brush (aka spoolie)

  • Fan brush

  • Lip brush

  • Ultra-fine lip liner brush
"A fine-tip eye brush is perfect for applying winged eyeliner."

Types of bristles

Makeup brush bristles come in two types: natural hair and synthetic.

Natural hair bristles

Natural hair bristles are sourced from animals — commonly goats and horses. We encourage consumers to look for companies that are environmentally friendly and obtain the hairs in a cruelty-free manner.

The perks of natural hair brushes include the following:

  • They’re softer on the skin.

  • They absorb oil from the skin.

  • They contain a cuticle that’s perfect for picking up powder products.

  • They distribute pigment evenly across the face.

  • They blend makeup smoothly on the skin.

Synthetic bristles

Synthetic bristles are made of microfiber materials like nylon and polyester.

  • The bristles hold tightly together to help create a sharp, clean, streak-free line in one swipe.

  • Their lack of a cuticle means they don’t soak up and waste liquid and cream products.

  • They are perfect for basic eyeshadow brushes.

  • They make great foundation and concealer brushes.
"A standard eyeshadow brush is flat and thin for easy application to the lids."

The kabuki alternative

When shopping for makeup brushes, you may come across the term “kabuki brush.” This simply means that the bristles in these brushes are very densely packed together. They may contain natural or synthetic bristles.

  • Traditional kabuki brushes were dome-shaped. Today, however, there are a wide variety of shapes available.

  • Today’s kabuki brushes are most commonly used for foundation and powder application. When used correctly, the dense, soft bristles have the capacity to create an “airbrushed” look on the skin.

How long should a makeup brush last?

The longevity of makeup brushes depends on two things: the quality of the manufacturing and user upkeep. With proper care, any half-decent brush should last you at least a few years, while a high-quality brush could last up to a decade.

  • The more a brush sheds, the shorter its lifespan will be. Lower-cost brushes are often more prone to shedding because the bristles are not firmly rooted into the handle during manufacturing.
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Did you know?
It’s not the end of the world if you lose a few bristles here and there, but bristle loss can cut back on a brush’s longevity. It’s also a bit annoying to have to pluck bristles out of your makeup.
  • Handmade brushes are crafted more carefully than machine-manufactured brushes, and they’re far less likely to shed. But they also tend to cost more.

  • Regular maintenance can help prolong the life of a makeup brush. Clean your makeup brushes at least semi-regularly (around once a month) not only for the sake of your skin, but also for the sake of the brush. Natural brushes are particularly prone to clumping when not cleaned often enough.
A fan brush comes in handy when you want to quickly sweep on highlighter or create a contour.


The cost of a makeup brush set depends on several factors, including the manufacturing method (handmade or not), the number of brushes in the set, and whether the set includes a carrying case. A collection from a trusted brand name may also cost a bit more.

Less than $10

If you find a set of makeup brushes for under $10, in most cases you’re going to discover they are of low-quality. Makeup brushes in this price range tend to shed a lot. They may also scratch and irritate your skin.

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Did you know?
An eye blending brush/eye contour brush will most often be dome-shaped and very fluffy. These brushes are ideal for blending colors in the eye crease.

$10 - $50

For this type of money, you’ll find a plethora of machine-made makeup brush sets, many of which cost about $30. You may come across some makeup brushes with handmade handles.

Sets in this price range tend to be hit or miss. You might find a set on the lower end of the range ($15 or $20) that works well, and you might find a set in the $45 to $50 range that disappoints you with its subpar quality.

$50 and up

Most makeup brush sets in this range cost under $200, and they almost always come with a very nice carrying case. These are the types of brushes that a makeup artist may view as a career investment.

That said, you can find high-end makeup brush sets for as high as $500. These brushes are usually handmade and produced by a luxury brand.

"A small, angled brush is great for applying gel liner or shadow to the lash line."

Makeup application tips

  • To use an eye blending brush, move in short circular motions at the outer corner of the eye and in windshield wiper motions within the crease. These techniques help distribute color evenly and blend colors together.

  • A basic eyeshadow brush with synthetic bristles is great for packing shadow onto the lid and creating a cut-crease. If you aren’t getting the pigment payout you want, especially with shimmer or metallic shades, try adding a little bit of water to the brush first.

  • When using a kabuki brush, always apply liquid makeup in a circular motion for the most even application.

Brush cleaning steps

  • To clean a makeup brush, first rinse it with lukewarm water until the loose makeup is gone.

  • Mix a gentle cleanser (like baby shampoo) with water in a shallow bowl and swirl the brush in a circle. You can swirl the brush in your hand, too, if you want a better lather, but try to shield the base of the bristles (where they connect to the handle) from direct contact with the water and soap as much as possible to protect the integrity of the glue.

  • Rinse the brush under the faucet once again.

  • Repeat this process until you get a satisfying clean.

  • Reshape the bristles as you dry them with a cloth.
Most people don’t clean their makeup brushes as often as they should. To minimize your chance of a breakout due to a contaminated brush, clean your makeup brushes regularly.


Q. Is it better to buy makeup brushes with natural or synthetic bristles?

A. Each bristle type offers distinct advantages and functions. Therefore, the best makeup brush sets contain a mixture of both types of bristles. Ideally, the foundation and concealer brushes should contain synthetic bristles and the blending brushes should contain natural hair.

Q. Are handmade brushes always the better buy?

A. Handmade brushes are often higher in quality, and they tend to shed less than their machine-made counterparts. But they also typically cost a lot. Handmade is nice, but it isn’t essential for a good experience. There are many machine-made brush sets that not only get the job done well, but also feel good on the skin and last a long time.

Q. How many makeup brushes should I have?

A. That is entirely up to you. Some basic essentials are a foundation/all-over face brush, concealer brush, powder brush, blush brush, eye blender brush, basic eyeshadow brush, eyebrow brush, and a small angled brush. However, many brushes can have multiple uses. For instance, you could use a blush brush to apply bronzer.

If you are a makeup artist or enthusiast, you may wish to own a large collection of makeup brushes, each of which is tailored to a specific use. But if you just want a set of makeup brushes for everyday use, a well-balanced kit of ten to twelve brushes would likely suit your needs just fine.

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