They’re a stroke of genius

When it comes to getting the most out of our make-up, the tools that we use can make all the difference. Our beauty aisles are brimming with options, which is wonderful, but it can be a little tricky to know where to start and what we’ll actually use.

Feeling overwhelmed? Your search has brought you to the right place. Here, we explore what really makes a good make-up brush and have compiled our essential edit to cover all bases.

Whether you’re looking for the best make-up brushes for beginners or the best make-up brush sets that cover everything from eyes to lips to cheeks, these are the picks that could take your skills to the next level.

The best make-up brush sets

Take the stress out of your shop by opting for a make-up brush set. Today’s offering of expertly curated collections work great for beginners and professionals alike to provide variety and results in spades.

If you’re looking to experiment with your make-up at home or away, here are three of our favourites to try. Explore more amazing options here.

Best for value

Try: Real Techniques Everyday Essentials Set

• Five tools

• Make-up brushes contain synthetic bristles

If you’re looking for the best make-up brushes for beginners, this set is a must-try. Its assortment of tools designed for face, cheeks and eyes make your routine all the more streamlined, to provide a selection of daily staples that you’ll use on repeat. As well as a foundation brush, it also features blush, crease and soft setting brushes for powder products. Plus, you’ll also find the brand’s Miracle Complexion Sponge, which can be used dry or damp depending on the finish that you’re after.

Best for a gift

No7 Core Collection Brush Set

This curated edit features four No7 brushes to help you achieve a flawless finish – including a foundation brush, concealer brush, eye colour brush and face brush.

Best for variety

Try: Morphe Vacay Mode 12-Piece Brush Collection + Case

• 12 brushes

• Case included

• A mixture of natural and synthetic bristles

This 12-piece set covers everything from base to blush and beyond. Its angled, flat, chubby, blender and detail brushes are certain to make the most of your eyeshadow palettes, while its powder, blush and flat foundation brush answer a range of complexion needs. Lips are also well taken care of thanks to two different sized tools that are ideal for creating sharp, slick lines.

The best foundation brushes

What should you look for in a foundation brush? It depends on the type of base that you're using and the finish that you’re aiming for. To reach every nook and cranny, opt for an angled brush head; if you’re applying a powder foundation, try something fuller and larger to buff it in. For an almost airbrushed finish, look to ones that have densely packed bristles.

Here are four great options to try. Looking for the perfect base? Check out our guides to the best foundations for dry skin and best foundations for oily skin.

Best for hard-to-reach areas

Try: NYX Professional Makeup Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation Brush

• Synthetic bristles

• Angled top

The reviews for this foundation brush speak for themselves. From its soft feel to the airbrush effect that it gives your liquid base, customers are full of praise for its ability to serve up a streak-free finish and how its dense, angled bristles hug every contour.

Best for building up coverage

Fenty Beauty Full-Bodied Foundation Brush 110

• Synthetic bristles

• Paw-shaped brush

The fluffy domed brush head of this pick is perfect for blending and building up coverage seamlessly. It's also ideal for perfecting Rihanna’s go-to method for applying base - simply press the brush into skin, roll off, and repeat (*makes mental note*).

For the inside scoop on the star’s regime, check out our interview with Rihanna’s aesthetician, Sean Garrette.

Best for liquid & powder foundations

Try: Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush

• Synthetic bristles

This tool’s a firm favourite of ours - and for good reason. As well as pairing brilliantly with both powder and liquid formulas, its super soft, tightly packed bristles pick up and dispense the perfect amount of product for a natural finish that looks smooth and even and is long-lasting. Its talents also go beyond your base - from foundation to bronzer and blush, it’s a hardworking multi-tasker.

Shop more top foundation brushes here.

The best eyeshadow brushes

Long gone are the days when we’d dip a single dual-ended sponge applicator (remember those?!) into all of the shades of our eyeshadow palettes. Thanks in large part to social media, blending, cut crease and smudging come as second nature to many of us, and there’s a huge range of eye defining brushes to choose from to help unleash our inner make-up artist.

Whether you’re looking for the best eyeshadow brush set or the best eyeshadow brushes for beginners, these are the tools that can help top up your technique.

Best for blending

NYX Professional Makeup Pro Brush 16 - Blending

• Synthetic fibres

This fluffy bristled number works a treat for creating a gradient wash of colours across lids for a soft focus effect. It’s also brilliant for applying contouring powder to emphasise bone structure thanks to its flexible fibres and small head.

Best for variety

Try: Real Techniques Everyday Eye Essentials Set

• Eight brushes

• Synthetic fibres

• Vegan*

Come liquid or powder, eyeliner or eyeshadow, this set provides all the tools you’ll need to perfect your eye look of choice. Comprising of shading, crease, defining, smudge and liner brushes as well as a lash separator, there’s something for everyone. Plus its ferrules (the metal section of a make-up brush that sits between the brush hair and handle) are made of lightweight aluminium to make them super easy on the wrists too.

Best for shading

MAC 239S Eye Shader Brush

• 100% synthetic bristles

If you like your shadow intense and matte, opt for this round edged eye make-up brush. Its smooth, firm fibres pick up product with ease and, when pressed onto lids, serve up pigment that looks just like it does in the pot.

Best for multi-tasking

Try: IT Cosmetics Superhero 4-in-1 Make-up Brush

• Adaptable head

• Synthetic bristles

As far as make-up tools go, this is a bit of a showstopper. With just a click, it transforms from shadow to crease to smudger brush, as its handle cleverly packs in its bristles to dial up the intensity. Use the liner end to add a feline flick and you’re one and done. All it’s missing is a cape.

Check out more great eyeshadow brushes here.

The best concealer brushes

The skin around the eye is especially thin and delicate and so a specialist concealer tool, that’s soft and malleable, is the best way to go. A small brush head will also ensure it’s better able to get to hard-to-reach areas like the corners of the nose and just below the lower lash line.

Best for under-eyes

Boots Concealer Brush

The Boots Concealer Brush has been designed with a precision tip and soft bristles to help cover and blend away any blemishes or dark circles.

Best for multi-tasking

Try: IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe & Concealer Make-up Brush

• Synthetic fibres

From base to concealer, this dual-ended make-up brush is custom cut to cover a range of coverage needs. For larger areas such as the cheeks and forehead, use the bigger, fluffier end. Dark circles? Simply rotate it to use the smaller end to buff away signs of tiredness.

Check out more top concealer brushes here.

The best contouring & best bronzer brushes

How do you apply your bronzer? If you like to swipe it across the larger planes of your face, try make-up brushes that have a big round head for a more even finish. If you prefer using one to define and emphasise your bone structure, try an angled head for extra precision. Here are some great options to try - you can also find more top bronzer brushes here.

Best for contouring

Revolution Create Defining Contour Brush

The short and dense bristles on this brush make it the perfect tool for cream or powder contour products. The tapered shape also gives you the perfect natural finish when applying your make-up to the face; creating that sought-after definition.

Best for all-over bronzing

Try: MORPHE M611 Bronze Show Fluffy Bronzer Brush

Build a sun-kissed glow all year round with this showstopping brush from Morphe. The fluffy bristles are in a domed shape, allowing you to sweep and swish your favourite bronzing products on and around the face.

The best powder brush

If you’d like your concealer and foundation to last all day (and who doesn’t right?), a dusting of powder goes a long way. Fluffy headed powder brushes provide a great way to ensure even application and for a less cakey finish.

Whether you’re looking for the best blusher brush, best highlighter brush or a general all-rounder, here are some great picks to try.

Best for multi-tasking

XX Revolution XXpert ‘The Multi-Tasker’ Elite Face Powder Brush

• Vegan*

• Synthetic fibres

This slightly tapered brush works with any and all of your powder products - loose powder, blushers or bronzers. It’s hard-working and versatile.

Best for highlighter

Try: bareMinerals Diffused Highlighter Brush

This brush will be your ideal companion for applying your favourite highlighter for a natural-looking glow. The pointed and tapered head hugs the contour areas of your face, allowing you precise and perfect application.

Best for blusher

No7 Blusher Brush

• Tapered bristles

This pick is amazing for adding a pop of colour to cheeks. For a natural finish, sweep your blusher lightly and add more as needed (it’s so much easier to build it up than it is to dial down in our experience!)

Shop more top-rated powder brushes here.

*Vegan formulas do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.