Not all brushes were created equal, nor does every brand get every brush right.
You probably wouldn’t buy all of your cosmetics from just one brand, right? Not every brand nails every niche. MAC have killer foundations, but Kat Von D makes the best black liquid liner and Laura Mercier has the best loose powder on the market. So just like the way you buy what each brand does best, your entire brush collection probably won’t be at its best if it’s all from the same brand.
Some brands have a brush (maybe two) with a cult following because, for whatever reason, with the creation of the aforementioned brush, they absolutely nailed it. MAC’s 217 is iconic (and featured in the below list) for that reason, and the very fancily named Pinceau Fond de Teint by Chanel is a makeup artist staple. Here are those and more for the next time you're making a brush decision.
My obsession with Real Techniques started about eight years ago when I was lucky enough to interview the sisters behind the brand, Sam and Nic Chapman (or Pixiwoo, as they’re known collectively online). The first brush of theirs I picked up was this one in Boots - I was an instant convert, and a little disbelieving that a brush that good could be so reasonably priced. It was the first purchase of many!
MAC do so many things well. Any makeup artist you speak to will have a solid base of MAC foundations in their kit. They’re loved by session artists, models, celebrity makeup artists and non-beauty professionals alike. All of their brushes deserve their share of praise, but the 217 is renowned as a kit hero because of its almost magical blending abilities.
Blank Canvas Cosmetics
With its flat and super soft kabuki-style head, this brush buffs on liquid foundation like a dream. Just tight enough for flawless blending but loose enough that it doesn’t pull on the skin (or worse, pull makeup from one place to another) it’s a quick and easy, foolproof option for those who can’t spend 20 minutes on their base alone. It’s multifunctional - I have three. One for foundation, one to blend in cream contour and one to press cream blush into my skin.
I always think of flat foundation brushes as a real makeup artist's tool - they're not for makeup rookies for sure. The Chanel one is not only very aesthetically pleasing but also features the ideal bristle texture - soft but not so soft it soaks up foundation and creates streaks.
I had never heard of Suquu until one of my beauty heroes, Lisa Eldridge, mentioned them (and kept mentioning them) in her YouTube tutorials. This one is super soft, the perfect blush brush and yes it's pricey (the most expensive on the list by far) but it's an investment piece. Side note: If you aren’t acquainted with Lisa’s brilliance, get on to her YouTube channel pronto.
Okay so it's not technically a brush. But no makeup bag is complete without the revolutionary (and the original - none of the pretenders compare really) Beauty Blender. It's a tool used best wet and squeezed out, and it will give your skin a finish like nothing else. And it's more versatile than you might think!
Irish brand Nima compete in a very serious way with the longer-established and big name brands out there. Their 'Harley' brush is super soft and perfect for highlighter and bronzer. The brand also makes a stellar vegan brush set which we're big fans of.
Similar in style to the 217 from MAC, this brush is another kit essential for me. While it’s billed at a blending brush, I use it as an application brush for my base colours, and to do really quick one-colour looks. It picks up and deposits colour from palettes perfectly, as ‘Naked’ intended, and works as a blender too, should it be required. I’ve even been known to use this to apply powder highlighter to more intricate places.
It’s got a spoolie at one end for brushing your brows up, and on the opposite end sits the thinnest of the thin brow brushes. Its super fine point makes drawing life-like hair strokes easy, even for the clumsiest brow artists (hands up, I’m awful). My top tip? Rinse it after every use (if you can) to keep it pristine and to make for seamless brow application.
Make Up For Ever
A real pro brand, Make Up For Ever are the makers of my forever love - Ultra HD foundation. In my eyes, it’ll never be beaten. They’re seriously underrated when it comes to brushes, however. And so a shout-out must be given to the softer than soft Precision Powder brush. I use it for gently applying loose setting powder, as it glides across skin like a kitten kissing your face.