Beauty Basics

Beauty Basics Guide: A Complete Guide to Brushes

Beauty Basics Guide: A Complete Guide to Brushes | Writing Between Pauses

The number one question I get in my day-to-day life, as well as in my email, and in comments, is: what brushes do I need if I’m new to makeup?

I’m definitely not the first person to be asked this question (and I’m definitely not a makeup expert, just someone who likes a little makeup), but I do have my own ideas of what makes a good “starter brush” collection.

Back when I started getting into makeup, I bought a really, really cheap brush set at Walmart that I used for years: it had a big fluffy face brush and a blush brush, as well as a selection of not-very-good eyeshadow brushes. These brushes shed hairs like it was their job, always rinsed out black (not a great look), and were more plastic than anything else.

I’ve since moved on from that era of my life (although I only recently finally threw away the last of those brushes, it was nearly 15 years old! I’m ashamed), and thought I’d share the advice I usually give to people who ask me what brushes I recommend for daily use.

Face Brushes

Face brushes are, as seems obvious, brushes you use on your face: for foundation, powder, and blush, as well as highlighter and contour. I use a ton of face brushes every day, but when it comes to basics, I only have two recommendations.

Best Face Brushes

1. A Good Kabuki Brush

A kabuki brush is a dense brush that works well for putting on foundation or buffing things out. I use my kabuki brush for:

  • applying cream foundations

  • blending out my contour

  • blending out my blush if I put on too much (it happens)

  • applying my baking powder

I use an elf flawless selfie brush; it was $6. You really can’t beat that price. (Technically, it isn’t a “kabuki” brush, but it looks and acts just like a kabuki brush.) I’ve used this same brush, buying new ones every year or so, for years; it is super affordable. But because you use it to applying foundation and oilier products, you need to wash it extremely regularly. Overtime, that can cause mold and mildew, as the bristles are so tightly packed. So keep your eye on it and if you notice it looking (or worse, smelling) funky, toss it and buy a new one.

What Face Brush Do I need
Learning to Use Brushes

2. A large, fluffy face brush

This brush is large and fluffy. It’s perfect for:

  • Applying powder or brushing away excess after baking

  • Applying blush

To me, a fluffy face brush is the most essential brush you need, but that might be own bias, as I wear a lot of powder. The brush I have here is a FARAH face brush; you can find a similar one here. However, elf, as usual, makes a really great affordable version.


Eye Shadow Brushes

For me, those two face brushes are all you need for your entire face; you can use both of them for foundation, powder, blush, contour, whatever else you need. From there, it’s just eyeshadow brushes.

What Eyeshadow Brushes do I Need
Eye makeup brushes
Tapered Blending Brush

Tapered Blending Brushes

You’ll need at least one, but I prefer to have two. Sometimes, I apply color with one, then work on blending and diffusing with the other. But really, that’s just a personal technique. My two favorite brushes are the tapered blending brush from FARAH and the Elizabeth Mott tapered blending brush.

These brushes do just about everything:

  • Blend eyeshadow

  • Applying color

  • Applying highlight

If you have any eyeshadow brush, this is really the one to pick.

Packing Brush
Contour Eye Brush

Packing Brushes

Packing brushes are designed to applying color to the lid before being blended out. If you’re doing more complicated looks, these brushes can be a great way to pack on color before blending out. My two favorites are from my Ipsy bags, but I like this one from Elizabeth Mott.

Brush Sets

In general, a great way to save money and get a variety of brushes is to buy a set of brushes. Here are a few of my favorite sets.