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Makeup Tools 101: A Beginner's Guide


Make-up brushes
Steve Allen/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Written by Karen, Makeupandbeautyblog.com

Girlfriend, I know your makeup bag is bursting with, well, makeup, but to get the most out of your cosmetics collection, you need the right tools for the job. Take your makeup application to the next level. Behold: Makeup Tools 101.

Makeup Tools

Remember using those tiny sponge applicators with play makeup when you were a kid? It's time to ditch those wee makeup brushes and wands that come packaged with compacts and eyeshadow palettes. Sure, they'll work in a pinch, like when you're running late for work or need a quick pre-date touch-up, but to get the most out of her makeup collection, a girl really needs the right tools for the job.


To create a work of art, whether on canvas or your eye crease, artists will often reach for a brush. Specialized makeup brushes exist to help us apply and blend colors to create different makeup looks. When it comes to makeup brushes, hoard them like pirate treasure! Buy as many different brushes as you can comfortably afford. You'll use your brushes every day, and you won't regret having a variety from which to choose.

Makeup brush design varies across brands and according to function. Brush heads may be made from natural fibers like squirrel (yes, squirrel), goat, sable, or horse hair, while others are made from synthetic fibers. Don't be afraid to experiment with a variety of brushes made from different fibers. There's no better way to find your ideal brush, but be aware that some people are allergic to certain animal hairs. Try to use just a single new brush or beauty product at a time, and limit its use initially. That way, if your skin does react, you'll know which product to blame.

Face Brushes

We use 'em to apply foundation, concealer, powders and blush.

Foundation Brush: Used to apply foundation to the face and typically made from synthetic fibers. Most foundation brushes have a small, rounded brush head shaped like a tiny spatula.

Concealer Brush: Concealer brushes look like mini foundation brushes. Being smaller than foundation brushes makes them better suited for covering blemishes or for applying liquid concealers in hard to reach places like the corners of the eyes.

Powder Brush: With a large, fluffy brush heads and soft bristles, powder brushes are ideal for applying loose powder to the face.

Blush Brush: They resemble smallish powder brushes with either a sloped or rounded tip. Great for applying blush or bronzer to cheeks.

Eye Brushes

There are lots of eye brushes to choose from, which is a blessing for brush hoarders like me (I own over 30, yikes) but a curse for makeup newbies. Start your collection with the essentials.

Eyebrow Brush: Eyebrow brushes have firm, angled brush heads like the tip of a marker. Use them to apply powders, creams or waxes to brows.

Eyeshadow Brush: Not as stiff as an eyebrow brush, eyeshadow brushes have square heads used to evenly apply both powder and cream shadows to eyelids. I reach for this brush so often that I might as well have it permanently attached to my hand! Expect to use these a lot.

Blending Brush: Like the name implies, blending brushes are used to blend different colored products and to wipe out harsh lines. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Not as firm as eyeshadow brush heads, the heads of blending brushes are usually tapered. This will be your second staple brush (behind your eyeshadow brush).

Concealer Brush: Used to cover blemishes and imperfections on the face, concealer brushes have a thin, pointed tip, much like a fine-tipped paintbrush.

Crease Brush: Fluffy and soft, crease brush heads come in several different shapes, from thin and tapered to round and fluffy. The shape you choose will depend more on personal preference than anything else. Look for a brush head that feels soft against your eyelid and fits into the hollow of your eye.

Lip Brushes

At one time or another, most of us have applied lipstick straight from the tube. As much as I love my brushes, I have to confess: I do this all the time! Let's face it, applying lipstick straight from the tube is much easier than reaching for a lip brush, and sometimes you just don't have the time. However, when you feel like rocking a deep, dark scarlet or a bright matte fuschia, a lip brush is the only way to go. It provides more control and precise lipstick application than a tube. Like concealer brushes, lip brushes have a firm, thin tip. For on-the-go lipstick application, look for a covered lip brush, which comes with a cover to protect the brush head while you're traveling.

Choosing the Right Brush

Brushes range from budget-friendly (less then $10) to uber-expensive ($250, ouch!). Save for 'em and cough up the dough, girlfriend, because they'll get plenty of use. Buy the best brushes you can afford. MAC Cosmetics brushes have a good reputation, but shop around. Sonia Kashuk, sold at Target stores, is another good brush brand for the money.

How to Clean Your Brushes

Regularly cleaning makeup brushes extends their useful life. Some makeup lines sell liquid brush cleaning solutions, but baby shampoo and water also work well. Antibacterial wipes provide a quick way to clean brush heads in the car or wherever water would make a mess. After cleaning your brushes, reshape the brush heads with your fingers and line them up on the edge of a shelf or sink to dry.

Short- Versus Long-Handled Brushes?

Brush handles come in different lengths and weights, and which one you choose depends on your personal preference. Small hands might prefer short brush handles.

How to Store Your Brushes

For cheap, easy brush storage at home, stand them up in a glass (brush heads up). When you're on the road, use a brush roll, which is a folding bag with slots for each brush. It rolls up like a sleeping bag.

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