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Make up brushes 101: what they’re all for and where to start

Head over to YouTube and we bet there’s vid after vid of talented beauty gurus applying some seriously amazing, enviable looks. Whether it’s a dramatic eye look, glowing natural skin or doughnut-glaze highlighted cheekbones, falling in love with make up has never been so easy.

But if you fancy getting creative with contouring and mastering mascara, dipping your toes into the world of make up for the first time can definitely seem kinda daunting – especially when it comes to brushes.

There are TONS of different ones, and what are they all even for?

From super floofy big ones, to teeny tiny artist styles, here’s a handy guide to the make up brushes you might actually need, what they’re all for and where to actually start.

Foundation brush

Starting out with the big’uns, the foundation brush is pretty much the bread and butter of any gal or guy’s make up bag. You could opt for the standard shape – big and flat – which is great for smoothing out liquid or cream foundations into a streak-free base. Some people prefer a buffing brush style though, with a round and dense shape to swoosh in small circles across your face for a flawless finish.

Spectrum A03 So Oval You – £7.99 / Real Techniques Buffing Brush – £21.99 for set / e.l.f. Studio Selfie Ready Foundation Brush – £7.50

Make up sponge

If you wanna get really fancy, you could ditch the foundation brush altogether and try a Beauty Blender or similar make up sponge instead. A damp sponge can leave your foundation looking beyond PERFECT, by using the broad, bouncy sides to smooth out product on your face and the pointed tip to squish into the nooks around your nose. If it’s good enough for Insta beauty gurus, it’s good enough for us.

Kabuki brush

The big boy of the make up brush world, a kabuki brush will probably look huge next to the rest of your future collection, but don’t be intimidated by it. With a short handle and densely packed hairs, it’s perfect for applying a soft, natural-looking sweep of bronzer or powder around your face. A kabuki brush is also great for buffing out any awks harsh lines when you’re basically doing your make up in the dark.

Real Techniques Retractable Kabuki Brush – £8.95 / Kiko Kabuki Brush – £9.70 / Sigma F80 Flat Kabuki Brush – £20.00

Powder brush

Feeling like a human disco ball right now with all the shine you’re rocking? Don’t be scared by how huge it might look in your make up bag – a powder brush is the one for you. Just swirl this genius invention into your favourite pressed or loose powder, and watch the long, fluffy bristles evenly diffuse the product across your base. Bye bye oily skin, we never liked you anyway.

ZOEVA 90 Luxe Grand Powder Brush – £19.00 / Morphe Pro Tapered Powder Brush – £13.50 / MAC 150 Large Powder Brush – £34.50

Blush brush

When you start playing around with make up a little bit more, you’ll soon find out exactly how you prefer to apply all the bits and bobs in your cosmetics bag. When it comes to blush, some people prefer a fluffy rounded top brush just to hit the apples of the cheeks, while others go for a more angled shape to get a chiseled look. Either way, they’ll pick up just the right amount of product to give you a pretty and girly flushed glow.

Eyeshadow brush

Venturing into the world of eyeshadow can be overwhelming, but remember that practice makes perfect. Start out by finding the perfect all-rounder eyeshadow brush which will probably be fairly flat and relatively fluffy to pack on colour. Try either a simple windscreen wiper motion across the lid, or small circular motions to get an evenly applied wash of eyeshadow. You can never go wrong with a shimmery champagne colour, btw.

Spectrum MA08 Happy Medium – £5.99 / Makeup Geek Foiled Brush – £6.50 / Spectrum A06 Shady Lady – £4.99 / Morphe Oval Shadow Blender Brush – £4.00

Blending brush

It’s probably worth investing in an eyeshadow blending brush, too. While the first one will be perfect for applying the colour to begin with, following up with a large and fluffy blending brush on the edges will eliminate any harsh lines and get you smoothly blended to perfection.

Concealer brush

Tbh, you might find that dabbing on your concealer is most easily done with your fingers. They’re warm to melt the product, they’re soft for blending and they’re the best natural tools you could imagine. But alternatively a small, precise concealer brush could be really handy. It’ll allow you to be a lot more exact with your product application and will perfect the final look under your eyes, around your nose and over any pesky spots.

Morphe Mini Concealer Brush – £3.50 / ZOEVA Rose Golden Concealer Buffer Brush – £9.00 / Real Techniques Bold Metals Triangle Concealer Brush – £10.00

Fan brush

Wanna feel like some kinda professional beauty YouTuber who’s best friends with Zoella and gets 10 million likes per photo? A fan brush will help with that. Sure, it’s a little bit extra and OTT, but it’s amazing for applying the perfect diffused cheekbone highlight. The soft, spread bristles can result in either a natural, sheer radiance, or a metallic finish that even the man on the moon will be able to spot.

Contour brush

While the kabuki brush is perfect for adding an all over warmth with your bronzer, a contour brush will help you take things to the next level when you wanna try sculpting out those cheekbones like a true Kardashian. The slanted bristles make it easy-peasy to apply products perfectly just below your cheekbones to emphasise your natural, oh so lovely face shape.

Lip brush

Dreaming of rocking the perfect peachy colour, the ultimate dark vampy shade or the classic red lip? If bold lippie is kinda your thing then you’ll probably want to arm yourself with a good lip brush. It can be a total lifesaver for complete precision, accurate application and achieving the perfect pout. Mwah.

Brow brush

Usually either in the form of a fluffy spoolie, or a double-ended duo with brush and comb, a brow brush is always useful to have close by if you’ve got wild eyebrows that need a little bit of taming every now and again. Unleash your inner werewolf.

e.l.f. Eyebrow Duo Brush – £4.50 / Benefit Angled Brush And Spoolie – £15.50 / Real Techniques Lash and Brow Groomer – £7.99

A million more eyeshadow brushes

When it comes to starting an eyeshadow brush collection, it’s kind of like chucking yourself down a bottomless black hole. They come in every single shape, size and fluffiness rating that you can possibly imagine, but trust us when we say that you definitely don’t need them all.

Start out with the essentials, and when you decide that make up is something you wanna stick with, gradually build up a few more types for your stash. An angled liner brush, a smudging brush and an angled fluffy brush will all be great to have when you’re venturing into smokey eye territory.

Spectrum Brushes The Glam Clam – £59.99

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