Essential makeup brushes: your go-to guide

Don't know where to start with makeup brushes? Check out our easy guide to which brush to use for what - and why they'll make your makeup application easy.

Do you ‘really need’ makeup brushes? No way, Ho-zay! But I tells ya, once you have a couple of good ones and start using them, you’ll realise that they are mighty handy. And you know, I’d like to aspire to only ever buy what I ‘really need’ but not today. So sue me. Sometimes I like stuff.

My brush kit. Complete with crocodile.


Why are brushes useful? Well as you know, most makeup artists use brushes. It’s because they honestly make application of makeup way easier, more accurate and much quicker. Additionally you lose less product and reduce waste. And they are more hygienic, as long as you clean them and treat them nicely.

If you’ve never used makeup brushes, the vast array of shapes, types, sizes and materials can be pretty horrifying. There’s bullet tipped, angled and chiselled. Sable, cruelty-free, goat and sea pig (actually I may have made that up, I don’t think sea pigs have hair). You don’t need everything. Just a small handful of brushes will actually make the application of your makeup, quicker and easier. And we love that.

In terms of what kind of hair, I personally love sable brushes, I think it goes back to my days at art college. But honestly just buy whatever you can afford. As with most things, the better the quality, the longer they will last (and the less hairs they’ll drop). I’d avoid the super-cheap, black nylon brushes though, they are shit. And extremely hard to get the product on and you’ll lose most of it on your face and then you’ll want to smash it’s little back head in.

My top four most useful makeup brushes


The most basic and useful brush is an eyeshadow brush. I use quite a large, reasonably firm, flat brush with a rounded/curved top, it’s about a centimetre wide. If you are just starting out, I’d recommend a rounded shape about half the size as its easier to control. When you are applying your makeup with your brush, just gently press it onto your eyeshadow, tap off any excess and gently stroke across the area.


Blending is a great way to get a polished look with your makeup. You can quickly smudge off the hard lines or messy edges, making application of perfect makeup, super fast. My tool of choice for blending is a Napoleon angled blending brush and I basically just put some of the light coloured shadow on the brush and then smudge the area in question. Think of it like an eraser, you can repair any wrong bits by rubbing away the mess with your blending brush.


If you are into lipstick, I highly recommend a lipstick brush. Even if you’re not a major lipstick fan, a brush is a great way to keep your lip glosses free from gross finger nosepick and bum bacteria. A retractable one is a great option – small enough to fit in the tiniest of evening bags! A brush will neaten the edges of your lipstick and create a very defined edge, if you are using reds or rich matt colours, you’ll love using a brush.


A beautiful big, fluffy powder brush is a great multi-purpose tool. I use mine for bronzer on my face and decolletage and for highlighter or sparkle on the high points of my face. You can also use a powder brush to apply mineral foundation or your translucent powder. Don’t confuse a powder brush with a kabuki brush. Unlike a powder brush they are very firm, with a short handle, and although great for buffing large areas, I’d really only bother if you are into mineral makeup.


Makeup brushes for beginners. The four you need and why they'll make life easier.
EYESHADOW (from left): Napoleon Tapered Shadow Round Brush 9B ; Ere Perez Vegan Eye Brush ; Mecca Smudge Shadow Brush ; Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow Brush  ; The Body Shop Eye Shadow Brush  BLENDING (from left): The Body Shop Blending Brush ; Mecca Domed Blending Brush; Napoleon Sculpting Contour Brush; Napoleon Sable Brush 10b  LIPSTICK (from left) Mac Retractable Lip Brush  ; Mecca Retractable Lip Brush ; Priceline Retractable Lip Brush ; Kit Cosmetics Retractable Lip Brush POWDER BRUSHES (from left) Priceline Bronzer Brush ; Nars Bronzing Powder Brush ; Mac Large Powder Brush ; Nude by Nature Mineral Brush 

 Looking after your brushes

When you buy your brush, make sure you know what it is made of as some brushes need specific treatment. Most brushes require an occasional wash with a small amount of baby shampoo in warm water. Rinse them well and leave them to air dry. In between you can clean with a specific brush cleanser. The best way to do this is spray the brush cleanser on a tissue, then rub the brush gently backwards and forwards in the wet spot (mmmmm).  There’s loads of brush cleaners on the market, just depends on what you what to spend.

Hey so would you like me to do some video on brushes and how to use them?



Written By

Gillian is a marketing savant and brand strategist with over 20 years of experience in above and below the line marketing, digital strategy and creative direction. She is an exceptional people person who loves to collaborate with clients every step of the way to achieve the best possible outcome. Gillian is also a successful makeup-artist and make-up obsessive who loves to share her tricks of the trade and help women to look good and feel great.


Leave a Reply