There are so many types of cosmetic brushes out there and they all have different uses. They come in natural or synthetic fibers, and vary from soft to firm, and small to large. The quality of my makeup doesn't matter if I’m using a brush incorrectly—or if it’s poorly made. It will show in my makeup application. When I’m choosing which kind to invest in, the first thing I look for is what the bristles are made of. I’ll only purchase a brush that’s cruelty free and composed of synthetic fibers. Back when I switched from natural to manufactured bristles it was tricky trying to find brushes that produced the same results. Since then, the beauty industry has evolved and name brand retailers are taking advantage of high tech manufactured materials to duplicate brushes generated from natural hair, and they often produce better results. Here are 25 vegan cosmetic brushes (along with their uses), and what to look for when you’re shopping for a specific type.
Foundation brush (for liquid): Select a brush with an oversized head and tapered synthetic bristles.
What it’s used for: Blending liquid foundation for an airbrushed finish.
How to use: Pour a modest amount of foundation onto your hand; lightly immerse the brush into the foundation; apply makeup starting at the center of your face and blend outward using broad stocks.
Foundation brush (for powder): Choose a brush with a flat top and a dense inner and outer core.
What it’s used for: Buffing powder foundation onto your skin for buildable coverage and a satin finish.
How to use: Buff in a circular motion.
Try: Smashbox Powder Foundation Brush, $38
Beauty Blender: Pick a blending sponge that’s shaped like an egg.
What it’s used for: Creating a full coverage base and a smooth complexion. It’s also excellent for layering and contouring.
How to use: Apply liquids, creams, foundations, concealers, and blushes. The base of the sponge is for larger areas (forehead, cheeks, and chin), and the smaller tapered part is for hard to reach areas (under eyes, corners of eyes, and sides of the nose). Use it dry for full coverage or wet for sheer coverage. It’s also optimal for blending, contouring, and highlighting. Clean it often and replace every three months.
Try: The Original Beautyblender, $20
Mini blending sponges: Opt for latex free sponges that are hypoallergenic.
What it’s used for: Applying makeup in hard to reach areas.
How to use: Manipulate into small areas like under eyes, inner eye corners, lids, brow bones, sides of the nose, and to cover up blemishes.
Try: Ulta Mini Sponges Super Blender, $5.99
Silicone makeup sponge: Choose an applicator that contains a hypoallergenic silicone.
What it’s used for: Applying liquids, creams, and skin products. It’s a great addition to anybody’s makeup arsenal, but especially those who suffer from acne or breakouts. The MakeupDrop is nonporous which means it doesn’t soak up the product or bacteria.
How to use: Apply a modest amount of product to the drop and draw or outline onto your face. Use the tip to reach the corner of your eyes and to draw sharper lines.
Concealer brush for blemishes: Pick a brush with a rounded flat tip.
What it’s used for: Pairing with liquid concealer to hide spots and blemishes, and to even out skin tone.
How to use: Cover up blemishes by using small stokes or apply in a circular motion.
Try: Kjaer Weis Concealer Brush, $32
All-over setting brush for powder: Purchase a double-ended brush with soft Taklon.
What it’s used for: Setting makeup so it lasts all day (or night) and generates a crease-proof looking skin texture.
How to use: Lightly dab into translucent setting powder, tap off any excess and dust all over your face. Use the large rounded side for all over coverage and the smaller tapered side for setting the eye area.
Fan brush: Opt for a brush with a flat fan shape and soft bristles.
How to use: Dust away excess powder without ruining your makeup, or use it to apply powder-based makeup below your cheekbone for a sculpted look.
Try: Luxie Medium Fan Brush, $18
Contour brush: Choose a dual-sided brush with a mix of soft and firm fibers.
What it’s used for: Blending contour powders along your cheekbones.
How to use: Use the angled edge for a sharp contour; use the softer slanted edge for a subtle contour.
Try: Stila Shape and Shade Custom Contour Brush, $21.50
Bronzer brush: Select a brush with a dome shape and long fluffy bristles. The fluffier the brush, the less product it will pick up making it ideal for when you want that just got back from vacation glow.
What it’s used for: Creating a healthy sun-kissed glow.
How to use: Think of the number 3. Start at your forehead and sweep down to your cheekbones, and then to your jaw line—creating a “3” pattern.
Try: Lilah B Retractable Bronzer Brush, $42
Blush brush: Purchase a brush with soft and fluffy bristles.
What it’s used for: Applying a splash of color to your cheeks.
How to use: Smile to detect the apple of your cheeks and apply in an outward motion until you hit your hairline.
Try: Lime Crime Stylus Blush Brush, $14
Highlighter brush: Choose a brush with short and long bristles.
What it’s used for: Buffing and blending highlighter and creating a shimmery glow.
How to use: Sweep on the highlighter with the flat side for an illuminating highlight.
Try: Smashbox Precise Highlighting Brush, $28
Under-eye concealer brush: Select a multifunctional dual-tip brush.
What it’s used for: Giving the look of wide-awake and bright looking eyes.
How to use: The flat rounded side is ideal for applying concealer under your eyes and hard to reach areas. The soft dome tip is optimal for buffing and blending and producing even coverage.
Eyeshadow shading brush: Opt for a multifunctional brush with soft and dense bristles.
How to use: Apply powder or cream eye makeup in a tapping motion for a bold look, or apply in a brushing motion to blend or smudge. Then, gently sweep back and forth to defuse the color. You can also use it to blend eyeshadow primers.
Angled shadow brush: Select a brush with an angled shape.
What it’s used for: Shaping, blending, smudging, and contouring powder eyeshadow.
How to use: Wing out eyeshadow to construct a cat eye; mix darker and lighter shades from the outer corner going inwards; or draw a diffused cut crease.
Try: Smashbox Easy Angled Eyeshadow Brush, $24
Eyeshadow brush for cut creases: Purchase an angled brush with flexible bristles that perfectly fits into the crease.
What it’s used for: Making your eyes look bigger and brighter—the brush easily blends eyeshadow and contours, defines, and adds dimension.
Try: Chantecaille Eye Definer Brush, $30
Eyeshadow blending brush: Pick a dome-shaped brush with soft fibers.
What it’s used for: Diffusing shadow and producing a smooth shade transition for a delicate eye look.
How to use: Use with powders (especially dark hues) to blend over-applied shadow and to tone down your look.
Try: Smashbox Eyeshadow Blending Brush, $24
Gel eyeliner brush: Select a brush with firm, synthetic bristles, and a slim and tapered tip.
How to use: Dampen the brush and dip the tip into your formula and apply as close to the lash line as possible.
Try: Bobbi Brown Ultra Fine Eyeliner Brush, $31
Winged eyeshadow brush: Purchase a brush with a super-fine, angled tip.
What it’s used for: Creating perfect winged liner and obtaining a feline flick.
How to use: After applying eyeshadow, dip the brush in a creamy gel formula. Hold it like a pencil to create stability and draw a thin line along the lash line. Next, extend the line angled towards the tip of your brow and stop at your lash crease. Once you have created the tip, draw another thin line to connect it to your upper lash line. Then fill in the small space with your gel formula.
Try: Sigma Winged Liner Brush, $14.96
Pencil brush: Opt for a brush with soft and silky fibers, and a pencil-shaped tip.
How to use: After you applied both your eyeshadow and eyeliner, take the brush and blend your liner upwards and outwards so it meets your eyeshadow.
Try: MAC Cosmetics 219S Pencil Brush, $26.50
Eyelash curler: Select an eyelash curler with silicone pads and an edge-free design.
What it’s used for: Lifting and curling your lashes.
How to use: Place the curler in between your lashes and get as close to the lash line as possible. Clamp the curler and squeeze three times while moving from the base towards the tip. To keep your lashes curled all day long, I love this tip that involves a Q-Tip and lighter.
Try: Shiseido Eyelash Curler, $22
Lash fan brush: Choose a flat-shaped brush with synthetic bristles.
What it’s used for: Drawing on a superfine dose of color by adding the product onto each hair and creating a fluttering effect.
How to use: Sweep your mascara wand (choose a dark black shade) along the tip of the lash fan brush. Place the edge of your brush along the base of your upper lashes and apply from root to tip. Do the same for your bottom lashes but opt for a brown color.
Try: Sigma L04 Lash Fan Brush, $12
Eyebrow sculpt and groom brush: Pick a dense angled and dual-sided brush with 2-in-1 features.
What it’s used for: Skillfully filling, drawing, and setting brows.
How to use: Apply brow powder to the brush side and use straight strokes working outwards towards the arch. Dip the wand in your powder and brush in an upward motion to shape and set.
Try: PUR Brow Sculpt and Groom Makeup Brush, $16
Lip liner brush: Purchase a pointy shaped brush with synthetic bristles.
What it’s used for: Blending bright shades of lipstick (pinks, reds, and purples), and to keep your color from smudging.
How to use: Apply a shade that’s slightly darker than your lipstick onto the tip of the brush. Trace along your lip line and accentuate your cupid's bow.
Try: Morphe M443 Pointed Liner Brush, $5
Lipstick brush: Choose a brush with a synthetic bristles and a flat shape.
What it’s used for: Blending lipstick with lipliner.
How to use: Dip the brush into your lipstick (a slightly lighter shade than your lip liner color) and apply in the center of your lips. Then use the brush to blend the two tints.
Try: Sephora Pro Lip Brush #85, $16
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