The 5 Essential Makeup Brushes Every Woman Should Own

Including the new smudger brush I'm suddenly in love with.
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Michelle Villett
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Including the new smudger brush I'm suddenly in love with.
backstage-beauty-makeup-brushes

You know what makes me crazy? Aside from wobbly restaurant tables and the grievous misuse of apostrophes, obviously.

It's those makeup brushes that come WITH the makeup. Blush, bronzer, eyeshadow, whatever—this practice has to be stopped. I know it's supposedly "convenient" to have a doll-sized brush on your person so as to re-apply whenever the mood strikes. But 1986 called and wants to tell you that streaky-looking makeup is no longer in style. And that you really should invest in some quality tools, bro.

I know, I know. Just like it's totally boring to have to spend money on sensible footwear when you really want to splash out on the 4-inch snakeskin cage booties, it's also a bit of a drag to spend your dough on makeup tools instead of the actual makeup.

But it will be worth it. Especially the brush I want to tell you about today. (To call it "life-changing," at least in my small, shallow, makeup-focused existence, would not be an exaggeration.) Here's the scoop—plus four more to add to your kit, if you don't have 'em already.

MY NEW FAVOURITE: THE SMUDGER BRUSH

Urban-Decay-Smudger-Brush

I'm probably VERY late to the party on this one, but I'd like you to meet my new BFF, the Smudger Brush from Urban Decay.

Why do I love him so much? Because as you may know, I'm a longtime inner-eyelid liner. (It's basically the one eye makeup trick that works for my eye shape, since I don't have much of a crease and therefore can't do many creative things with eyeshadow.) Sometimes, however, lining all the way around the inner eyelid (also known as tightlining) can look a bit hard and/or messy—especially if your eyeliner tip isn't super-fine and your hand not super-steady.

What this brush does oh-so-cleverly is help you to, well, smudge that colour in. The head is really tiny, dense and soft, so you can get right in there and gently diffuse and blend it all the way around—AND it helps ensure that there are no obvious gaps between the inner rims and the lashes.

I'm sure it has other eye-related applications, but this alone has me head over heels in love. If you've been using eyeliner alone—waterproof, of course, because any other kind is useless—then I highly suggest you try it.

A MUST-HAVE TO AVOID CAKEY-FACE: THE FOUNDATION BRUSH

We've talked about the necessity of this one before, but it bears mentioning again: a foundation brush allows you to use as little product as possible so as not to look cakey and obvious and overdone. What you want to do is apply your foundation FIRST, before anything else (especially before you apply concealer), by putting a bit of the product on the back of your hand and then dipping in the brush.

Cover-FX-Foundation-Brush

Don't think you have to apply it all over either, like a mask—you really only need it where you have redness or discolouration. (I put mine around the nose/nostrils and chin, and that's pretty much it.) Blend, blend, blend, and then you can do your concealer on the areas that still need more help.

TO MAKE SKIN LOOK 452% MORE FLAWLESS: THE CONCEALER BRUSH

MAC-Concealer-brush

If you've been applying concealer with your fingers, then please know that your skin could look a lot better if you'd just invest in a brush designed for that purpose. I know, because I am a reformed finger-applier. And you know how you sometimes catch a glimpse of yourself—say, mid-day in your horrible office bathroom with the unflattering fluorescent lighting—and see that your concealer has congealed into newfound lines (that aren't usually apparent) under your eyes?

Well, that doesn't happen when you use a concealer brush, because just like the foundation brush, it helps you get a fine, well-blended, non-cakey application. Oh, and any mention of under-eye concealer would be amiss if I didn't also remind you of the importance of INNER-eye concealing. Check this post for deets.

Concealer brushes are also ace when you have to cover up a blemish, because you can target the product on the red spot alone—not all the way around it, which tends to make the whole thing look even more noticeable. Just cover with translucent powder on top to make the concealer stay put.

MAKE IT YOURS IF YOU EVER WEAR EYESHADOW: THE ANGLED EYELINER/EYESHADOW BRUSH

Sephora-angled-eyeliner-brush

Like I said, I'm not one of those people who can wear a lot of eyeshadow, but when I do, it's usually this brush that I use. Like the smudger brush (or at least the way *I* use the smudger brush), it's designed for looks that are focused around the lashes, because the angle part helps you draw a precise line. So it's not only perfect for applying the darkest shade of your smoky eye, but also fantabulous for delivering a concentrated hit of bright colour. (Such as that yellow worn by Rachel McAdams... or you could do a bright purple or blue or green or...)

BEST FOR TRANSLUCENT POWDER: THE DOMED EYESHADOW BRUSH:

The-Body-Shop-eyeshadow-brush

So you know how I've said that hi-def translucent powder (not tinted) is the way to go? (Yes, there's been lots of bad press because of how it shows up under flash photography, but I'm still sticking with it on days when I'm not being photographed—which happens to be most days.) Well, there's one more thing you REALLY, REALLY need if you're going to wear it, and that is a domed eyeshadow brush.

A lot of people don't "get" these powders because their instinct is to whip out the oversized fluffy powder brush and go to town. Nein, nein, nein. All you need is a tiny amount—a miniscule amount!—and the eyeshadow brush is the way to apply it. Just put it on the areas where you tend to shine, like the forehead and chin and on any blemishes. Bonus: you can also use this brush for eyeshadow application, obvs.

So there you have it! These are the five brushes that I use again and again and again.

However, depending on your needs, you may also wish to invest in:

  • An Angled Powder Brush: Fantastic for bronzer, if you use it (I don't very often), because you can do a bit of contouring under the cheekbones.
  • A Kabuki Brush: Not my fave, but essential if you're one of those powder mineral makeup wearers. Although cream foundations are more "on trend" these days.
  • A Lip Brush: Great if you wear darker colours of lipstick and want a super-precise line.

Notice that I did NOT recommend:

  • A Large, Fluffy Powder Brush: Like I said, they're really not the best for powder application—at least if you're using a translucent powder, which is what I suggest.
  • A Blush Brush: They're fine, but I'm really all about the cream blushes these days (they give you a younger, prettier texture I think), and can happily be applied with your fingers.

Do you use makeup brushes or mostly your fingers?
Which makeup brush is YOUR number one essential?
Have you tried a smudger brush yet? Isn't it AWESOME???