It's Entirely Possible That I Would Die Without These 5 Makeup Brushes

Beyond holy grail. We're talking desert-island status.

If there was a fire in your house and you had enough time to grab a few makeup essentials (a very hypothetical situation here), which ones would you be clutching in your little fists?

Honestly, I'm not quite that evolved a species to have a completely tool-free makeup style so a few brushes would be coming with me.

I'm not really a "full face" type of person when it comes to makeup. I'm a face-toucher, so throughout the day, all that face makeup is likely to be swatted away by my hands and under my fingernails. (Gross.) But when it comes to my routine makeup look, these guys are pretty much indispensable for their versatility and quality.

Speaking of quality, what I look for in a good makeup brush is fiber density (how many hairs in the brush), shedding (is no bueno), and texture (the softer the better). Fiber density differs depending on what the brush is for, but for face brushes I like a medium weight and for things like eyeshadow and liner, they should be really packed. The fewer the fibers, the less it messes with the makeup and lends a lighter touch for blending. Dense fibers are for really packing on makeup and distributing.

A good brow brush will make your life a million times easier. Brow pencils and pens are great for travel, but I don't really ever get the realistic effect I want unless I'm using a stiff angled brush and then brushing/blending it out with a spoolie. Anastasia Beverly Hills Mini Duo Angled/Spooley Brush #7 has both.

The thin, angled tip makes it really easy to stamp a hair-line mark with either powder or cream brow stuff — much easier than drawing in hairline strokes, since pencils tend to get dull quickly. Brushed out, the hair stamps blend in and become more "suggestive" than blatant markings.

I don't usually do complex eyeshadow layering, so I like a one-and-done when it comes to shadow brushes. Sigma Domed Utility E34 Brush rules because its round domed shape and dense fibers can load on pigment while also blending quite nicely.

I tend to use it as a smudger brush, too, smoking out kohl or pencil liner or just dusting a brown shadow over my lash lines for a hazy look. It does it all if doing it all just involves those three things!

I know everyone uses a flat angled liner brush for winged liner, but this Sigma E05 Eyeliner Brush actually is way more versatile. For one, you aren't stuck only to drawing straight lines. This liner brush is stiff enough that it can paint really opaque lines with a gel liner formula but it's got a nice flexibility to it for more artsy uses, like painting designs on your eyes or face, or dotting even. It's like a calligraphy brush for your face.

Once I discovered stippling brushes, it was like meeting someone you really like who shakes you out of your dull relationship with your blush brush that is fine for the most part, but is just... okay.The duo-fibre nature of MAC 187 has to do with the white hairs being longer than the black, if you can picture that. So it's dense and full, but the ends are airier, like a layered cut. This lets you pick up powder pigment much more lightly and blend it into a softer finish.

I like this one way better than a traditional blush brush since those tend to have a single density in a rounded shape that mostly serves to give me clown cheeks because I apparently still can't get the hang of portion control when it comes to swirling a brush into a blush pan. This duo fibre business makes that a nonissue for me.

True, Kat Von D's Shade + Light Contour Brush is meant to be paired with its eponymous palette, but it can of course be used for any other contour/highlight situation. The soft domed "light" end is great at picking up pigment only on its tips so when you sweep it on, it's not a harsh streak, but rather a soft diffused blending.

The "shade" side of this brush is angled and slightly denser so you can really sculpt a contour with it. I rarely use this side unless I'm contouring (which is almost never, but it does apply bronzer well) but it picks up pigment a lot more than the other side, and the angled head lends to carving out them cheekbones.

Makeup tools can be tricky, but you just need to try lots of them to figure out which ones work the best for you. I still have a huge collection of makeup brushes — some of which I do use as well — but these five are always at the front lines. I'm probably not the type of person who will ever own a lip brush, and kabuki brushes still confuse me but whatever — I'll get around to it maybe later when people start blotting out their brows and just go full-on lip look (which at the rate makeup trends are going probably isn't too far off).

  • Are you guys makeup-brush fiends, or are you like me, coming late to the game and not that hungry?
  • What makeup stuff would you save in a fire?