Makeup Madness: 16 Tools and Brushes Explained

by Mary Avant ; Updated September 28, 2017


With all of the makeup brushes and tools on the market today, beauty truly is in the hands of the beholder. From contour brushes that chisel your cheekbones to tweezers that beautify your brows, makeup tools can help transform your face into its very best version. Check out 16 of the hottest, must-have makeup brushes and tools that every beauty lover needs, and learn how to work them into your routine to get the most flawless look possible.

Foundation Brush

For ladies who start their makeup routine off with a liquid foundation, a foundation brush is a must. With a long handle and small, flat and rounded head, this brush allows you to reach into every corner of your face for a flawless look. To use, dip the brush in foundation and work in small sections of your face at a time, making sure to blend the makeup evenly to avoid streaks, says Michelle Duroy Torres, owner of Virginia-based Makeup Artist Studio Inc. The brush can also be used for a midday touch-up: Simply blot skin with a tissue or blotting paper to remove oil, press the foundation brush into pressed or loose powder, and sweep across the skin.


Another option for applying liquid foundation without resorting to using your fingers — which can spread breakout-causing oil and bacteria — is to use a sponge. Torres says latex-free sponges are the best option, as the less-porous material keeps them from absorbing and wasting foundation. Torres suggests working on one section of the face at a time using a crisscross stroke and blending. When finished, simply toss the sponge. "The beauty of disposables is that you can keep bacteria and cross-contamination low, avoiding unwanted breakouts," she says.

Concealer Brush

After applying foundation and before setting it with powder, use a concealer brush to cover up any under-eye circles or problem spots you want to hide. A concealer brush should have small, soft, nylon bristles to help spot-apply concealer only in the small areas where it's truly needed. To hide blemishes, tap the brush around the problem area, then use your finger to lightly blend in the concealer.

Powder Brush

Once you’ve taken care of the foundation and concealer, you can use a powder brush to apply loose or packed powder and create a finished look. For a natural, radiant and non-matte look — which can look overdone and fake — go for a powder brush that’s medium in size and features a rounded, dome-like head. After allowing foundation to set, dip it into loose powder, tap the brush lightly and apply it only to oil-prone areas, like the forehead, nose and chin. For oilier skin however, Torres suggests using a foundation brush or sponge to set powder.

Angled Powder Brush

Similar to the powder brush — with its rounded head — the angled powder brush can also be used to apply powder, bronzer or highlighter to the face. However, its angled shape allows you to also use the brush to contour cheekbones, creating a chiseled, model-like appearance. Be careful, though: While this brush allows you more precision and control over the lines you create, it can also create a much heavier, more severe look.

Kabuki Brush

With its flat, curved head, the kabuki brush is yet another brush that can be used to apply powders like powdered foundation, blush or bronzer. Torres says a short-handled kabuki brush is great for personal use, and versions made with horse, goat, sable and squirrel are high-quality finds. The brush should have densely packed bristles, which allow you to achieve heavy coverage in certain areas, if desired.

Blush Brush

Specifically designed to perfectly apply blush, the blush brush typically has a long handle and a medium-sized, rounded head. For the smoothest, most natural-looking application, choose a brush that’s made out of natural animal hair — as opposed to synthetic materials — and buy the softest, silkiest version you can afford. For the perfect look, "lightly tap the brush into the blush and stroke the color from under the apple of the cheeks in a circular motion out toward the hollow of the cheek," Torres suggests.

Fan Brush

Though the thin fan brush is great for achieving a lightweight, flawless look when applying powder, blush or bronzer, it can also be used to sweep away any makeup — like eyeshadow — that falls onto your face during application. Also, when used for blush or bronzer, the fan brush’s lighter touch can help even out overdone or harsh lines.

Lip Brush

Swiping on your lipstick straight from the tube may seem like the easiest choice, but for ladies who really want to control how light or dark their lip color or liner is, a lipstick/lip liner brush is the way to go. This brush has a long, thin handle and a firm-but-bendable tip that allows for smooth and even application. Torres says the lipstick/lip liner brush is a staple makeup-bag item and, when used to apply lip liner all over the lip, can create an all-day-long look.

Eyelash Curler

Though it might look complicated and painful, an eyelash curler is the simplest and quickest way to get a set of beautiful, voluminous lashes that really pop against your eye. For the most powerful look, close the curler over one set of dry, clean lashes at a time, and hold for five to 10 seconds. After applying eye makeup, add a coat or two of mascara for mile-long lashes.

Eyeshadow Brush

Typically made with a long, thin handle and short, densely-packed bristles, the eyeshadow brush — which has a flat head for smooth, even application — can be used to apply eyeshadow over the entire lid and across the brow bone. Unlike the stubby applicators that typically come with eyeshadows, whose coarse and spongy texture can create an uneven look, eyeshadow brushes allow you to achieve a soft and smooth finish and have more control over color intensity.

Crease Brush

Similar in size to an eyeshadow brush, the crease brush features soft bristles and a tapered angle that’s perfect for adding a different eyeshadow shade to the crease of your eye. Dip the brush in the desired eyeshadow color, and blend the color back and forth along the crease of your eye. For a smokey look, use a lighter, neutral color over your lid and a darker color in a similar shade in your crease.

Smudge Brush

For a sexy, smokey look, the smudge brush is just the way to go. With a curved head and super-short bristles, the smudge brush is used to smooth color into the lash line, creating the popular smokey-eye effect. If you want to pack on color, its close-knit bristles can help produce an intense, defined, look-at-me effect on your lid, crease or lash line without blending colors or making a mess.

Eyeliner Brush

This thin brush has firm, short, squared-off bristles and can be used to apply gel, powder and even liquid eyeliner to the lower or upper lash lines. When wet, it can also be dipped into your favorite eyeshadow color to create a custom color. To use, simply dip into eyeliner and trace along each lash line. For a more dramatic, cat-eye look, go for a brush that has an angled — rather than flat — edge. One warning: Because eyeliner brushes are close to bacteria-filled eyes every day, make sure to use a makeup cleanser with salicylic acid to strip the brush of bacteria, Torres advises.

Eyelash/Eyebrow Comb

This tool is often doubled-sided (or double-ended, depending on which version you purchase) with a brow brush that shapes and maintains brows on one side and an eyelash comb that separates eyelashes on the other. For a softer, bushy brow texture, use the eyebrow brush to comb brows into the desired shape. To prep lashes for mascara — or to remove ugly clumps after applying it — use the eyelash comb to rake through lashes and create a more plentiful set of lashes.


For any girl who wants to lengthen the time between eyebrow waxes — or eliminate the need for them altogether — tweezers are the best tool on the market. Choose a sharp, slanted version, rather than a pair that comes with squared-off edges. Angled tweezers work best for grabbing onto small hairs without pinching your skin and will help you pluck, shape and maintain perfect eyebrows with minimal pain.

About the Author

Mary Avant has worked for several international, national and regional magazines and received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has written on everything from fashion and health to business and food, and she specializes in women's style, fashion and beauty.