All cosmetics brushes work, but only some do a standout job. A high-quality brush gives you a believable application and lasts indefinitely, says Maria Verel, a makeup artist in New York City.
Inferior brushes distribute makeup unevenly, shed bristles, and may need to be replaced more often. Before you buy a brush, inspect the handle and the bristles, using the guidelines below. And rather than buy a set, which is likely to include brushes you won't use, shop a la carte.
The metal base, which is called the ferrule, keeps the bristles in place. Seamless metal holds up best. Check that the ferrule doesn't wobble when you brush your skin. Some ferrules have a crimped section near the base of the bristles that pinches them snugly.
Natural-hair brushes are the best choice for use with powder makeup, such as blush, face powder, and eye shadow. Natural hair has a cuticle that drags on the skin and picks up pigments and oils for the most even blending," Verel says. Test a brush by running the bristles along your arm a few times: They should feel soft and stay firmly attached.
Synthetic brushes offer more precision. They're good for detail work (putting on eyeliner and concealer) and for applying fluid makeup, such as foundation. Because synthetic bristles are nonporous, they won't soak up liquid makeup.
Wash bristles weekly with a gentle shampoo to limit bacterial growth. Let brushes dry flat on a towel (if they stand upright, water will collect in the ferrule and loosen the bristles).
A few carefully selected brushes can handle most jobs:
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