If you want to get the most out of your makeup, you ought to think about not just what you’re applying to your face, but what you’re applying it with. “Investing in good brushes/tools is a must, and essential for great makeup application,” celebrity makeup artist Dionne Wynn tells SELF.
I have found that this is particularly true when it comes to contouring. If you’re trying to get that sculpted-out-of-marble definition, the brushes you use can make all the difference—and these four will get you there. (TBH, I own more than a dozen makeup brushes, and these are the ones I use pretty much every single day, whether I have less than 15 minutes to get ready or have all afternoon to copy makeup looks from YouTube.) Here are the brushes makeup artists recommend for achieving a perfectly contoured look every time, plus their tips on how to wield them like an expert.
1. Foundation Brush
Foundation brushes are designed to evenly disperse liquid or cream products on your face. They can be rounded and fluffy, with a flat top or domed shape, or they can be flat (more like a paintbrush), like the Sigma F60 brush, $15, shown here. They are the essential first step to a contoured look, helping you create a smooth, even base on top of which you’ll accentuate depth and highlights. (Editor tip: Make sure to moisturize your skin prior to applying foundation to help it glide on more easily and look more natural.)
“I prefer a flat, stiff foundation brush,” explains makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci. “You have a lot of control over your liquid or cream with the firm bristles, and you can ‘choose your own adventure’ by changing up your technique: Build coverage by stippling, get sheer coverage with soft sweep.”
2. Contour Brush
I can’t create a full makeup look without the assistance of a contour brush. It is undoubtedly my favorite out of all the brushes in my collection because it’s so versatile. Not only do I apply my blush with this brush, but it will forever be a staple in my contouring routine. The contour brush’s angled shape hugs the hollows of my cheeks, so I can put my bronzer right where I need it to be to get that chiseled effect.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Sigma Beauty’s Large Angled Contour Brush, $23 (above). Pro makeup artist Mia Yang tells me she turns to MAC brushes to get that Kim K. contour look. “MAC makes a range of great contouring brushes,” she explains. “I prefer a large brush with a slanted tip, which gives me a range of widths to work with to create a flawless contour application.”
3. Fan Brush
What’s the perfect companion to a deep contour? A beaming highlight on the high points of the face, including but not limited to: down the bridge of your nose, on the very top of where your cheek starts, and along the eyebrow bone. Although my rose gold version (above) is no longer in stock, you can still get your hands on the classic version of the Zoeva #129 Luxe Fan brush, $12, for an expert-level highlight. “A fan brush has the softest touch and sweeps your highlighter perfectly to your cheekbones, brow bone and down the bridge of the nose,” explains Ciucci. This type of brush is awesome for creating a glow-from-within look without making it seem like you’re glowing in the dark. Its thin, flat row of gentle bristles adds just a light dusting of product.
As an alternative to the fan brush, celebrity makeup artist Joanna Simkin uses a tapered rounded brush to not only apply her clients’ highlighter, but other contouring products as well. “The Nars yachiyo brush is my favorite face brush of all time,” she says. “The shape and fibers are perfect for setting powder, bronzer, contour, blush, and highlighter. I often use the same brush on one face without cleaning it off, as the colors help blend the face together even better in my opinion. I have four of them and I can’t do a face without it.”
4. Powder Brush
This might seem like a optional step but trust me, it’s an important one. Setting your face with powder is like putting a lock on all the hard work you’ve done crafting your makeup. Admittedly I don’t always set my makeup powder and when I don’t, I can definitely see the difference in how long my makeup lasts throughout the day—and how shiny my forehead looks by lunchtime. “A smaller brush—[like one] usually used for blush—is great for the T-zone where you need a little more powder punch,” says Ciucci. “A large powder brush will set your foundation with the lightest touch.” To set your makeup, dust a fluffy powder brush (like this Zoeva #106 Powder Brush, $15) in loose translucent powder, then sweep under your eyes, across your forehead, and any other place you tend to get shiny.