Your well-meaning aunt got you a deluxe set of makeup brushes...last Christmas. But the whole kit has just been sitting in the back of your closet because, well, you don't know how the hell to use them. (To be honest, most of us don't.) That's why we consulted the pros (and our 16-year-old cousin, who, according to her Instagram account, is basically a makeup artist) on some brush basics.
Every Type of Makeup Brush, Finally Explained
When to use it: To apply liquid or cream foundation.
How to use it: In small, circular buffing motions. Always start at the center of your face and blend outward.
Why you use it: The densely packed bristles pick up foundation easily and distribute it evenly onto your skin so you get a smooth finish.
Ulta ($18); It Brushes for Ulta ($22); Hourglass Cosmetics ($46); Chanel ($50)
When to use it: To apply powder or cream blush (though you can also just use your fingertips for the latter).
How to use it: In short, sweeping motions. Start at the apples of your cheeks and blend upwards toward your ears.
Why you use it: The soft, fluffy bristles and slightly domed shape of the brush deliver a more concentrated (and precise) application of color.
Morphe ($6); Smashbox ($34); Nars ($42); Bobbi Brown ($60)
Angled Contour Brush
When to use it: To apply powder or cream bronzer.
How to use it: Suck your cheeks in and place the angled tip of the brush head right under your cheekbones so that it's pointing downwards before sweeping it up toward your ears.
Why you use it: The angled head fits the natural hollows of your cheeks, and the soft, dense bristles pick up your bronzer and deposit it onto your skin with minimal fallout.
Luxie ($22); Sigma Beauty ($26); Laura Mercier ($46); Trish McEvoy ($50)
When to use it: To apply powder, liquid or cream foundation, blush, highlighter or bronzer—or as a finishing step to blend everything together.
How to use it: In circular buffing motions, starting at the center of your face and moving out toward the perimeter.
Why you use it: This is one of the most versatile brushes to use because the flat top and generous amount of bristles make it easy to blend out any type of product (save for eyeshadow).
Elf ($6); Bareminerals ($24); Too Faced ($34); Chanel ($50)
When to use it: To apply liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer.
How to use it: Dip the tips of the brush into your foundation. Then, dot or lightly stamp the brush along your face repeatedly to distribute it onto your skin.
Why you use it: To get sheer, lightweight coverage. Because you're pressing the makeup into your skin, rather than sweeping or buffing it on, it's also great for ladies with acne scars.
When to use it: To apply powder highlighter or to clean up any stray flecks of makeup.
How to use it: Lightly sweep the brush across the tops of your cheekbones and down the bridge of your nose, as well as, wherever you need to brush off any fallout from your other products.
Why you use it: The fanned-out bristles spread your highlighter evenly onto your skin so you get the most natural finish. And if you're using it to clean up excess powders, it acts like a tiny little broom.
J.Cat Beauty ($5); Sigma Beauty ($18); Smashbox ($26); Kevyn Aucoin ($60)
When to use it: To apply loose powder.
How to use it: Dip the brush in powder and tap off any excess before lightly sweeping it evenly across your forehead, nose and chin to set your makeup.
Why you use it: With long, fluffy bristles, this brush evenly distributes powder onto your face without dispensing too much of it (so it doesn't look cakey).
Real Techniques ($10); Sigma Beauty ($24); Clinique ($37); La Mer ($85)
All-over Eye-shadow Brush
When to use it: To apply a base color (beiges, creams or any other light neutral shades) to your eyelids.
How to use it: Swirl the brush over your eye shadow, tap off any excess and sweep it onto your lids, starting at the lashline and blending up toward your brows.
Why you use it: With a tapered head that easily fits the small space of your lids and super fluffy bristles, this brush lays down an even layer of color for any eye look.
It Brushes for Ulta ($14); Smashbox ($26); Laura Mercier ($32); Hourglass ($36)
Blending Eye-shadow Brush
When to use it: To apply (and diffuse) color to the crease of your eyes.
How to use it: Sweep the darker shade (like your browns and taupes) directly onto the crease and buff away any obvious edges.
Why you use it: With a slightly narrow tip, this brush makes it easier to get into the creases so you can add depth to the overall shape of your eyes without getting shadow everywhere.
Essence ($2); Elf ($3); NYX Professional Makeup ($14); MAC ($32)
Angled Eyeliner Brush
When to use it: To apply powder or gel eyeliner.
How to use it: Dip the brush into your eyeliner, and starting at the inner corners of your eyes, sweep it across your lid until you reach the outer corners.
Why you use it: The stiff, angled bristles make it easy to create thin, sharp lines.
Ulta ($10); Sigma Beauty ($16); Burberry Beauty ($28); Trish McEvoy ($30)
When to use it: To apply (and diffuse) liquid or cream concealer.
How to use it: Load the bristles with product and tap it over any areas that need extra coverage (like under the eyes, around your nose or over blemishes).
Why you use it: The small brush head reaches all of the nooks and crannies of your face, while the fluffy bristles lay down more concentrated pigment than your fingers.
Antonym ($15); MAC ($15); Urban Decay ($26); Clé de Peau Beauté ($34)
When to use it: To line and fill your lips with color.
How to use it: Sweep the brush over the tip of your lipstick and sketch along your natural lip line. Reload the brush and carefully fill in the rest to finish.
Why you use it: So you get a crisp, clean application that doesn't stray outside the lines. (This is especially helpful when you're using darker shades like red or burgundy.)