Makeup Brushes 101

BlogHer Original Post

After recently writing a post here about my "morning hair and makeup in under five minutes" routine, I received a number of questions/comments about what makeup brushes I use and like. This is possibly the worst (best?) question to ask me, seeing as this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I can (and WILL) hold forth endlessly on this topic, sharing my research for hours on end, not noticing that the person who initially posed the question has long since fled, leaving a Kool-Aid Man-like hole in the wall.

Fortunately for you all, I've done my best to distill my (Many! Detailed!) thoughts on the matter down to one concise post. I'm letting you in on all my secrets; my favorite brushes, philosophies (OH YES, I HAVE THEM), and suggestions:

For starters, with rare exception, I loathe the makeup brushes that come with even the best products. Love Benefit's blush cubes (Dallas, Dandelion, et. al.), hate the stiff, stubby brushes that come with them.  Adore Chanel's eyeshadow quad palettes, abhor the dinky foam applicator included inside. (Which, by the way, is the exact same dinky foam applicator that comes with a Cover Girl eyeshadow compact, which is like, TEN TIMES CHEAPER. What up with that, Chanel?)

The First Rule of Brush Club

And so, the first thing I do upon purchasing a new product is toss the brush/applicator it comes with. Yes, I know it seems harsh, but I firmly believe that the beauty of a product can be further enhanced with proper application. I hate extraneous crap gunking of the Magical Mystery Feng Shui of Metalia's Makeup Bag, and I would much rather have a few brushes of high quality in there, as opposed to 1,684,537 ineffectual ones, streaking my foundation and making racing stripes out of my blush.

The Exception (of course)

The only exception I've made to this rule is Giorgio Armani's Designer Compact Foundation ($60).
The foundation itself is fantastic, and unlike with other products, the brush here doesn't seem like an afterthought, but rather, seems truly tailored to the product. It's tapered and rounded, and applies the foundation beautifully.

And while we're on the subject, I never, EVER apply foundation with a cosmetic sponge. (MY GOD, WOULD YOU THINK OF THE GERMS? SO! MANY! GERMS!) Foundation brushes (made of synthetic bristles, so as not to absorb the product) are key, and, by the way, do a much better job in terms of seamlessly applying the foundation. If the price of the Armani foundation/brush combo is too steep, I also recommend the Sephora Professionel Platinum Foundation Brush ($30). My method involves quickly swiping the brush of your choosing through running water, and then dipping into the foundation for smooth, streak-free application.

The Second Rule of Brush Club

While supercheap brushes will shed like a feral cat and should be avoided at all costs, don't be afraid to look for reasonable brush bargains. I was obsessed with my Bobbi Brown eyeliner brush for YEARS, until I recently forgot it on a trip and replaced it with the hilariously named "Essence of Beauty" eyeliner brush, which I purchased for about $5 at my local drugstore. I love it even more than the Bobbi Brown one, and haven't looked back. (Sadly, their brushes don't appear to be available online, but you can buy them at CVS and Rite-Aid.) Other favorite bargains include this lip brush from Sephora ($12) which is retractable, tapered, and has NEVER ONCE shed a bristle in my lip gloss (EW), and a TON of the Sonia Kashuk brushes from Target, most notably, her powder brush, which blows most of the competition away.

The Third Rule of Brush Club

For God's sake, WASH YOUR BRUSHES. For one thing, it will keep them in good condition, flawlessly applying your carefully-edited selection of blushes, liners and powders. For another, it will keep your skin in good working order. Do you really want last week's Oily Forehead Molecules (AN ACTUAL SCIENTIFIC PHRASE!) being smoshed about your face with your fabulous new powder brush? I didn't think so! I wash my brushes at least once a week (depending on usage) with (don't laugh!) Cetaphil. It's gentle, but gets the job done. And yes, I use it on my face, as well. (I've said it before, I LOVE a good multi-use product.)

The Fourth Rule of Brush Club

Talk about Brush Club! What are your favorite makeup brushes? Least favorites? Any essentials for you that I haven't covered here?

Metalia also blogs at



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