Y’all know I’m moving towards a “more with less” strategy for my possessions, and overall I’ve done a good and steadily improving job of having a few really great things and more blank space in my life.
Not this kind of Blank Space, though.
One place where I’m really struggling with this “more with less” thing, though, is my makeup brushes*. And, honestly, I’m not sure I’m willing to extend this lifestyle to my beloved brush collection. I have two reasons that make me okay with that statement:
- Brushes literally do not take up much space. I have an admittedly huge array, and it only fills two brush cups on my countertop. With a little creativity (and an oversized spice rack from Ikea) those are slated to get moved to my wall – freeing my countertop, and therefore giving me back that beloved blank space.
- Furthermore, brushes are super important! Like, super important. How good your makeup is on its own means nothing if you aren’t applying it well. The right brushes will help you blend, contour, and highlight like nobody’s business.
So, I’m saying it now: I’m okay with having a large brush collection. I use nearly every brush nearly every day – and that’s the baseline question a person working toward minimalism should be asking. Here are the reasons I love my brush collection so much:
L to R: Blush Brush, Bobbi Brown | Yachiyo Brush, NARS | Backstage Kabuki, Dior | 109 Small Contour, MAC | Heavenly Luxe Wand Ball Brush, IT Cosmetics | F64 Soft Blend Concealer, Sigma | Highlighting Brush #3, Lancome | BeautyBlender
For starters, I always apply foundation and concealer with a brush. I don’t like using my fingertips, both because I don’t like getting product all over my hands and because using my bare hands results in a less-than-airbrushed finish. If I’m using my cushion foundation I’ll use the round end of the BeautyBlender to bounce it on evenly and the pointed end to blend out concealer. If I use a tinted moisturizer I tend to prefer a brush, and this highlighting brush from Lancome is quite perfect. The flat top and layered fibers really work together to provide a flawless effect. I’ll hold my Sigma concealer brush at the very end to achieve a really light touch and blend, blend, blend.
Here is a dedicated paragraph to discuss the IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Wand Ball Brush, because Y’ALL. It is so amazing. I’ve been known to say I’d use it even if it didn’t have much effect on my makeup, because it is SO. DARN. SOFT. It makes my morning so much nicer to bask in its luxury. But on top of that impossible velvety softness, it’s also a really great powder brush. It picks up loose powder like nobody’s business, and deposits it on your face with a glowing-but-matte finish.
Bobbi Brown’s blush brush is routinely highly-rated, and with good reason. It picks up exactly the right amount of product and deposits it perfectly on the apples of my cheeks. I use it alongside the NARS Yachiyo brush, which also works beautifully for blush, but more as a contour. My beloved Charlotte Tilbury palette offers both a “swish” and a “pop” blush color, and I use the NARS for the former and the Bobbi for the latter. To contour, I use the MAC 109 to paint the lines around my face a la one of the many contour maps available online; then, I blend furiously with the Dior kabuki.
L to R: All Over Eye Colour Brush, Laura Mercier | Eye Crease Brush, Laura Mercier | 239 Eye Shader, MAC | 219 Pencil Brush, MAC | Backstage Eyeliner, Dior | E17 Waterline Brush, Sigma | Picture Perfect Eyelash Curler, Tarte
For starters, this large sweep brush from Laura Mercier is amazing – it helps me prime my lid with whatever neutral color I’m currently rocking (at the moment, still the “Bright” shade from my Tilbury palette) quickly and evenly. The MAC 239 picks up pigment really efficiently (little powdery fallout) and pats the color onto my lid in exactly as subtle a fashion as I’d like; the Laura Mercier eye crease brush is perfectly sized for (surprise!) the eye crease and blends out the edges gorgeously.
As described before, this Sigma waterline brush is exactly sized for a super-subtle tightline effect. I’ll use it with a gel liner, and then use the Dior brush to set it with a powder shadow of the same hue. Lastly, I’ll use the MAC 219 to add an ever-so-slight hint of highlight below my brow and in the inner corner of my eyes.
As for my eyelash curler, it’s really a personal preference – I like this one because the grips are really easy to hold onto, which makes me WAY less afraid of the contraption that is dangerously close to my corneas.
You might have clicked through some of these links and noticed these brushes aren’t cheap. They aren’t. And if you’ve got the money to go ham at Nordstrom, by all means, do your thing. I’ll be on the sidelines, jealous. But it’s also perfectly fine to build your kit, little by little, the way I have. Some of these brushes I’ve had for years; others I just came across a few weeks ago.
As for dupes, I’ll be of less help here – unlike makeup, which needs to be replaced relatively regularly, I am not really in the market for new brushes anytime soon, so I’m not really testing new ones out right now. I will say that, before buying an expensive brush, I tend to look first to see if there’s a good Sigma approximation. Sigma brushes are of great quality, and are generally at least 25-30% cheaper than their counterparts. I wouldn’t call them inexpensive – they tend to run $15-25, as compared with $25-40 for a MAC brush – but all else equal they’re a much better value.
I’ve also heard great things about EcoTools and NYX brushes, which can be gotten in the $5-10 range at your neighborhood Target or Ulta. EcoTools is committed to making their brushes sustainably, which is a bonus, and NYX is known as a cult line for the makeup obsessed, so you’re in good hands with either line.
*”Brushes” is proxy language for all of my makeup application tools.
What brushes can’t you live without, Petite Crew?