Whether you prefer drugstore sets or individual designer brushes, the best makeup brushes should be functional and stylish. Reviews.com spoke to dermatologists and makeup artists to understand what to look for, and then hand-tested 70 brushes from 16 popular brands.
They said their favorites were lovely to look at and easy to hold, with soft, yet durable bristles.
- Charlotte Tilbury
- Tom Ford
- Marc Jacobs
- Bobbi Brown
- Sephora Collection
- Real Techniques
- Sonia Kashuk
- Skinny Dip
Best Makeup Brushes
Sephora Pro Collection
“Sephora’s brush line hit all the notes we wanted: soft, dense bristles that applied makeup evenly, plus handles that were elegant and easy to grip,” Reviews said. “The brand’s wide variety of brush types and finishes make it a great option for makeup enthusiasts who want to begin building their brush collections, with individual brushes ranging from $20-40. Sephora also offers a variety of gift sets for special occasions.”
Of the brushes we tested, Sephora’s eyeshadow, foundation, and blush particularly excelled, applying makeup with light, even coverage. Our eyeliner was the only selection that fell slightly flat: While decent, it lacked the razor precision of pricier options like NARS and Chanel.
Sephora was also the only brand we tested to provide a reusable, locking plastic cap with each brush. Even high-end brands like Marc Jacobs and NARS just used plastic tubes or sleeves. Sephora’s design keeps the brushes clean and prevents them from getting crushed if you’re traveling.
“Astoundingly soft bristles plus well-balanced handles give these brushes a level of precision we didn’t find at lower price points. But their luxe performance will run you $50-$115 per brush,” Reviews said.
For luxe gift-giving (to others or yourself), it doesn’t get much better than these brushes, which are handmade in Japan, where artisan brush-making is a centuries-old tradition. With extremely dense, soft white bristles and lacquered mahogany handles, they serve double duty as both tools and decor on your makeup vanity. The biggest con is price: For most people, these are an investment piece rather than an impulse buy.
Reviews said that these brushes had the densest bristles of all the brands that were tested, drawing high praise from their at-home tester, who loved that it didn’t soak up any makeup, allowing her to make the most of every bit of product.
They were also blown away by Tom Ford’s handles — they feel expensive, one in-office tester noted, with the type of carefully balanced weight you might expect to find in a concert violinist’s bow or the paintbrush of a master artist. The end result is that these brushes do the work for you, providing breathtakingly natural results with minimal effort.
On a more pragmatic note, despite Tom Ford’s white bristles, we found the brushes easy to clean. They retained their creamy color and lost zero hairs when we washed them, springing beautifully back into shape when dry.
Tom Ford’s main weakness is its lack of eye makeup options. The brand offers four lovely eyeshadow brushes, but its single eyeliner brush has been discontinued. So if you’re an eye makeup junkie, we’d suggest supplementing your collection with NARS or Chanel.
Best on a Budget:
“We found this brand’s handle design less comfortable than our other picks, but the $2-$20 brushes offer even makeup application for those on a budget,” Reviews said.
If you’re a makeup enthusiast, you know that the best makeup brushes can give your daily routine an invaluable precision boost. A well-designed brush will have soft, springy bristles that hold their shape well — allowing you to apply just the right amount of product — plus a comfortable handle that lets you adjust your grip from the tight control of applying eyeliner to the looser application of blush or finishing powder.
Sonia Kashuk’s foundation and blush brushes were outstanding, easily the best of all our budget contenders, providing a smooth, non-streaky application. And the dense, angled eyeliner brush allowed us to apply a thin, dark, precise line quite easily, unlike Real Techniques’ ($6-$21) angled liner, which was so soft that it lacked precision.
The Sonia Kashuk brushes were also refreshingly easy to clean — while we had to dig out pigment stuck in the Real Techniques and Skinny Dip foundation brushes, Sonia Kashuk was pigment-free with a few swipes of cleaning solution.
For more in-depth information about the best makeup brushes on the market and how they figured it out visit Reviews at https://www.reviews.com/makeup-brushes/