To make the application of make-up easy, great tools like brushes are necessary. There are so many brands, qualities, shapes, seizes and purposes that this can be quite confusing. Here is all you need to know about brushes.
Natural fibers used to make the bristles have different grades of quality.  A professional makeup brush will be made from the highest grade.  These quality fibers will be much softer than a lower grade fiber.  A higher grade natural fiber should also make the brush last longer and maintain its shape better over time.  Most professional grade makeup brushes will be made of natural fibers, with only a select few made from synthetic fibers.  Makeup artists tend to find that natural fibers do a better job of holding just the right amount of product and smoothly blending it for a flawless application.  Synthetic fibers have become more popular with consumers and as a result their are now high quality brushes made with synthetic fibers that mimic the look, feel and performance of natural fiber brushes.


Goat hair is the most common fiber used for makeup brushes. The bristles are not quite as soft as squirrel and some of the other natural fibers, but they are good at holding large amounts of powder. Goat hair is a good choice for blush, bronzer and face powder brushes because you’ll get an even application and the makeup won’t get trapped in the brush. The softest goat hair is known as capra, or the first-cut with the tips still intact. 

Kolinsky makeup brushes have the best porosity for application of the most intense, truest form of color. Kolinsky, sometimes referred to as kolinsky sable, is not  from a sable at all, but comes from the tail of a species of mink that is a member of the weasel family found in Siberia and northeastern China. It is generally conceded to be the best material for precise layering of color, especially for creation of specific gradations due to its strength, spring and ability to retain its shape ("snap").  It holds a very fine point or edge for precise application that is favored by professional makeup artists around the world.  This is considered a professional grade of hair, and if properly cared for, Kolinsky will last for many years.

Stiff enough to define and shape, thin enough to fill in sparse brows.  Badger bristles provide the coarseness necessary for firm brow feathering and a more natural-looking eyebrow pencil application.  Badger hair is an age-old tradition. It comes from various parts of the world and is more readily available than most animal hair, although the quality varies greatly. Badger hair is thickest at the point, and relatively thin at the root, so it has a distinctive bushy appearance.


Sable hair is soft and fine and makeup brushes made of this hair typically have pointy tips. The pointy shape and softness of sable hair makes it an ideal choice for eyeshadow and eyeliners. As with most natural fibers, the powder is easily transferred to your skin and doesn’t get left behind on the makeup brush. Red Sable is obtained from any member of the weasel family with "red" hair, not at all from the animal known as the sable. It is found in a variety of brush styles for many varied mediums, with quality and characteristics varying greatly. A good quality pure red sable makeup brush is an alternative to the more expensive Kolinsky, with slightly similar performance and durability. Often, weasel hair is blended with ox hair to make a more economical brush, but the fine point is sacrificed.


Pony Hair is soft but strong, from mature animals at least two years of age. It is primarily used for blush or eye brushes.  The wonderful bristle strength and strong snap makes the bristle prefect for contouring.   The versatile bristles can s create a variety of different captivating looks.  Dampen the brush to provide opaque coverage or use dry to create a light wash of color or a soft, foiled effect  The versatile bristles give the flexibility to achieve dramatic matte color or a soft, smoky look. Pony makeup brushes are often blended with other hairs such as goat. 


The softest, gray or blue squirrel (Talayoutky), provides a soft, natural wash of color.   Native to Russia and nearly always in short supply. Brown squirrel (Kazan) is more readily available, and is used mainly for medium quality makeup brushes. A very fine, thin hair, taken from squirrel tails, it points well, but has very little "snap" because the hair is not very resilient. It works best for contouring and blending shadows to perfection.   Perfect for detailing and for using in the crease. It gives more definition because of the compact head.


These brushes are less absorbent than natural hair fibers. Because they are less absorbent, synthetic brushes are typically used for applying liquid-based products. Synthetic brushes typically do not last as long as natural fiber brushes.
Synthetics are man-made of either nylon or polyester filaments. They can be tapered, tipped, flagged, abraded or etched to increase color carrying ability. Often, synthetic filaments are dyed and baked to make them softer and more absorbent. The common filament are taklon and nylon. Advantages of synthetic brushes are: 
1: They are less prone to damage from makeup and solvents. 
2: They are easier to keep clean than natural hair brushes because the filaments don't trap or absorb pigment. 
3. They dry faster than natural fibers after cleaning
4: They are better suited for for soft layering of powder color or cream color and concealer.


A mix of natural and synthetic fibers is typically referred to as duo fiber brushes. This mix of fibers increases the durability, stiffness and liquid handling ability of the makeup brush. One common type of duo fiber brush is a stippling brush, which is very popular with people who want an airbrushed quality application of their liquid foundation.


The majority of makeup brushes sold today have a wood handle.  However, some may have a plastic or composite handle.  While there are certain types of wood that can make brushes more ecologically friendly, in general the type of wood that is used won’t significantly affect the quality of the brush.  The type of handle is more of a personal preference.  Handles can come in any shape, color and style, so it is the one component of the brush where a person can express her personal style.  A professional makeup brush will tend to have a long handle because makeup artists find a long handle to be easier to use with clients.  However, brush lengths can vary and this too tends to be a personal preference.
The ferrule is the piece of material that connects the brush handle to the bristles.  A professional makeup brush will have a nickel or aluminum ferrule.  Nickel is considered the highest quality ferrule material and aluminum can be a good alternative.  A makeup brush should be cleaned on a regular basis and because of this wear and tear on the brush, a quality ferrule is one of the most important components of a makeup brush.  A quality ferrule will maintain a tight fit between the bristles and handle; it will prevent the bristles from shedding and it won’t tarnish or rust.


This brush is used to apply eyeshadow or pigments to the eyelid. The brush should be dense and soft in order to shade and blend the eyeshadow. It can be used to build intense color in the eyelid, thus perfect smoky eye, for feathering in darker eyeshadows, and for applying more color to the crease.  

This brush is just like the stiff dome brush but much softer- it creates a much softer blended look.   It is used for blending shadow under the brow, applying a softer amount of color in the crease, and even for applying powder under the eyes to prevent that creasing throughout the day.


 Similar to the stiff dome brush but allows for a more controlled eye shadow application. Creates a softer blended look. Great to blend the shadow under the brow and applying a softer amount of color in the crease.


This brush is used for smudging eyeshadow under the lower lashline, for smudging eyeliner, or for creating a very defined crease.  The smaller tip allows for more precise lines.



has many uses. You can use a brush like this to apply foundation, creams, and powder products. A stippling brush makes is easier to apply liquid foundation with a more airbrushed finish. The bristles need to be stiff in order to hold up to the foundation and not streak.


This brush should be soft to smoothly blend color into the face and is used for applying darker powder under the cheekbones to create a contoured effect- it makes the cheekbones stand out and your face look slimmer.  This brush isn’t absolutely necessary unless you want to contour your cheekbones.


This brush is used for applying powder blush to the cheeks.  It needs to be angled so the blush is easier to blend, and it needs to be soft so it doesn’t pick up too much color.


This brush can be used for many things- light application of foundation, applying a small amount of blush to the cheeks, or for highlighting the top of the cheekbones.  Common favorite use is for highlighting as the bristles are soft and pick up little color, and it is small enough to not cover the whole face with shimmer.  It is nice to have, but not necessary.



Kabuki brushes are a must-have tool for anyone's makeup kit. If you wear blush or bronzer, owning a soft kabuki brush will make application easy and even. Keeping these makeup brushes clean will also help you apply less makeup, while giving you the coverage you need. Whether you are a professional makeup artist, a fashionista, or just someone who likes to experiment with new makeup techniques, adding a kabuki brush to your makeup brush collection is a great idea. 

This one is from NARS


This brush is used to apply and blend all concealers. Using a concealer brush will give you more coverage. Great for covering spots, pimples, or any other imperfections.


This is a synthetic, flat angled brush designed specifically for flawless application of brow definer.
  • Fine tip precisely delivers pigment
  • Places each brow hair in its rightful place
  • Use the tip to fill in small holes and sparse areas

This one is from Laura Mercier


Double-Ended Eye Brow Brush is perfect for precisely shaping and filling in larger areas on eye brows.
  • Small pointed bristles on one end are ideal more precise work
  • Stiff, angled bristles on the other end fill in larger areas
  • Ideal for use, wet or dry, with brow powder 

This one is from Laura Mercier

Is a synthetic fiber brush with stiff bristles in a "mascara spool" that maintains well-groomed brows throughout the day.
  • The "mascara spool" shape provide the ideal stiffness to brush brow hairs in place
  • Grooms even the curliest, most unruly brows

This one is from Laura Mercier


Is used to keep eyebrow hair in place. You can use eyebrow gel to shape your eyebrows and direct the hairs in particular direction. Eyebrow gel comes in small glass or plastic bottle with an attached brush, similar to mascara. The attached brush can also work as a small comb; it's designed for grooming the eyebrows. Clear eyebrow gel can be used for a natural, everyday look. 

This one is from ELF


Handheld crimpers used to curl the upper eyelashes. The better eyelash curlers won’t pinch as they curl your lashes. Always curl your lashes when they’re dry and clean. Curling lashes with mascara on them may leave you with broken lashes.

This one is from Shu Uemura


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.


ROUND AND WEDGE SPONGES: are handy for blending and smoothing out makeup lines on the face and around the eyes.

COTTON PADS, TISSUES AND Q-TIPS:  to remove excess makeup around the eyes or lips.


The ultra thin and clear medical grade strips placed on the upper eyelid are suitable for everybody with drooping, sagging, or hooded eyes and give an immediate lift of the upper eyelid. Lily is a great tool to create a visible crease in case the crease is not showing, because it is covered by upper eyelid skin (hooded eyes). Lily can also be used to shape and brighten the eyes. Lily is a must have for every make up artist to boost their clients eye make up or makeover even more dramatically. The results are amazing! Read more about Lily Leading Instant Eye Lift.


Cleaning makeup brushes is a necessity. Each time you use a makeup brush, it picks up both makeup and any natural oils on your face, as well as any other products that are on your face. Then there is the dust in the air that just lands on a resting brush. Bacteria can make a home in dirty makeup brushes, so this buildup must be removed on a regular basis. Regularly cleaning makeup brushes extends their useful life. 

Here's how to clean makeup brushes correctly (one a month or every 2 weeks):

  1. Remove excess color from bristles by wiping them back and forth on a paper towel.
  2. Immerse bristles in a warm bowl of water, being careful not to immerse the metal casing, known as the "ferrule." Bristles are glued to the base and you want to avoid getting the glue wet. You can also wet bristles by running them under warm water just enough to get dampen the bristles.
  3. Squeeze a few drops of mild shampoo (baby shampoo works great, too) into the palm of your hand. Swirl the brush into your palm, being careful not to rough up the bristles too much. You can also put a few drops of detergent in the bowl of water and swirl the brushes in there instead of using the palm of your hand.
  4. Hold the brush, bristles down, under running water until the water runs clear.
  5. Gently squeeze out excess water. Reshape bristles and let the brushes dry hanging over the edge of your sink overnight. You can also place them on a towel, but I find air drying over the sink works best because it doesn't mess up the shape of the bristles.

Natural brushes take about 24 hours to dry. For a quick fix, or while traveling, you can wash brushes with wet (antiseptic) wipes or spritz bristles with makeup remover and wipe off on a paper towel.

There are fast ways to clean your brushes you might consider doing regularly:
Sable Brushes
  1. Mix lukewarm water with a small drop of your chosen cleanser and swish it. Swish your brush through the foamy water and then dump the water out. Keep making a new mix and swishing the brush through it until the water no longer gets discolored.
  2. Rinse the brush gently under softly flowing water. It is also OK to swish the brush through plain water in a separate cup.
  3. If the brush is really thick, squeeze hard between a folded lint-free cloth.
Nylon Brushes
  1. Wet the brush and take a dollop of your chosen cleanser and gently work your cleanser into the bristles with your fingers. Do not rub up the shaft of the bristles, either go down repeatedly or gently rub from side to side.
  2. Rinse under softly flowing water.
  3. If the nylon brush is thick, it is OK to squeeze it between the folds of a lint-free cloth.

  • If you don't know what sort of brush you have, poke the brush into a small drop of water. Nylon brushes do not absorb very well, which is why they're preferred for liquid makeup. A sable brush will pick the water right up.
  • If it's possible, brushes love to be hung up so bristles point to the floor.
  • If you are in a hurry, makeup remover wipes can be used as a quick way to clean brushes, but the wipes will not work as well as a good washing.
  • Never set a wet brush upright on its handle!
  • Do not use heat on your brushes! Let them dry at their own pace.


High quality sponges can be washed many times in a solution of baby shampoo (mild shampoo or Ivory soap works too) and water. Cheap disposable sponges can be washed a few times as well before they fall apart.


Eyelash curlers come with rubber pads that will last quite a long time before they fall apart and need to be replaced. Typically curlers come with replacement pads, but you can usually pick them up from any drugstore or beauty supply store.


You can handwash it using mild shampoo and warm water. Let powder puff dry on a towel overnight after squeezing out excess water. Makeup artist Bobbi Brown also suggests throwing the powder puff in the top rack of a dishwasher.


It's best to store makeup brushes upright in a holder or in a makeup case . For travel use a brush roll, which is a folding bag with slots for each brush. It rolls up like a sleeping bag. Never place brushes bristles down in a holder or you risk damaging the shape of the brush and the bristles themselves.

    • Buy a set of brushes and use the roll-up storage bag that comes with them. You can also buy these storage bags at most beauty supply stores, drugstores and cosmetics counters. Look for a roll-up bag with separate compartments for each brush.

    • Save money by using one of those bags you get free with makeup purchases. Make sure to keep the area completely clean or you run the risk of harboring bacteria. Be sure to keep brushes used for liquid makeup away from powder brushes.

    • Hit one of those container or storage stores and pick up a clear plastic or glass jar. Look for a holder with at least three separate sections so you can sort your brushes by size and function.

    • Store makeup brushes out of direct sunlight. Don't set them on the ledge in the bathroom if it's next to a window. Natural and synthetic fibers wear down over time when exposed to direct sunlight. Avoid heat as well. If your brushes have any leftover product on them, heat may cause them to cake up.

    • Store extra brushes in a clean, clear plastic bag. When you buy cosmetics that come with brushes, hang onto them. You can pack them up and use them when you travel or carry them in your purse.

    • Cover portable makeup brushes and store them in a clean, empty pocket in your purse. Unprotected brushes are germ and dirt magnets, especially if they're used to apply liquid makeup or lipstick.

    • Remove brushes from storage every 3 weeks and give them a thorough cleaning. Use a gentle baby shampoo or your facial cleanser. Pat them dry and leave them out on a clean, dry washcloth overnight.

    • Pick up stackable containers, bins or baskets and organize the rest of your makeup. Keep lipsticks, eyeliners and eye shadows away from other makeup brushes so they don't stain them.
Tips & Warnings
  • Tap your powder brushes on the counter or a hard surface before you store them. This helps to prevent excess powder and dust from building up.
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