I'm a makeup artist as well as a beauty geek, so I have lots of brushes. But for my own everyday use, I have a mere handful. If you're thinking of buying some, start with five brushes like these, pictured from left to right.
1. Estee Lauder eyeliner brush, $25
Stiffer than some other angled eyeliner brushes, this one is excellent for defining your upper lashline with shadow. Choose the darkest shade of shadow in your palette. With the sharpest point of the angle toward the outer corner of your lid, press the shadow into place as close to the base of your lashes as possible.
You can also use this brush to get a softer finish from pencil liner. The trick is using the brush to apply the liner to your lashline instead of drawing it on with the pencil itself. Stroke the brush edge against the exposed pencil tip to load it up with colour, then transfer it to the base of your lashes. The effect is thicker-looking lashes without the harsh look of obvious liner.
2. Lise Watier definition brush, $16
Use this to define the crease of the eye. After sweeping a light base shadow from lid to brow, choose a medium shade to add depth. Swirl the brush over the shadow and tap off the excess. Look straight ahead into your mirror, place the brush tip in the crease at the outer corner of your eye, then sweep it from outer to inner corner and back a few times. (To make eyes appear wider apart, put the same medium shade on the outer V of your lid as well.)
This brush is also great for applying a wash of colour all over the lid. Try it with fun colours such as soft spring or mossy green, or purple, or silvery grey.
3. Beaute Cosmetics point concealer brush, $26.15
You can use your fingers to apply concealer to under-eye circles and discolouration at the inner crease of your lids and around the base of your nose, but to cover blemishes, you need this brush. Use just the tip to apply the tiniest bit of concealer to cover any spots, then use a powder puff to press loose powder gently over the area to keep the makeup in place.
Page 1 of 2 – Find out more about the right makeup brushes to use on page 2.
4. Clinique blush brush, $34
Swirl this brush in powdered blush and tap off the excess. Smile, then apply to the roundest part of your cheeks in a circular motion and finish (without adding more powder) in an upsweep along your cheekbones toward your hairline.
This brush is also better than fingertips for sweeping away eye shadow that falls under your eyes while you're applying it. As well, you can use it to apply bronzer.
5. The Body Shop line softener foam-tip brush, $10
Dip this brush into shimmery light shadow (white or champagne for pale complexions, gold for deeper complexions), tap off the excess, then dab it in the inner corner of your eyes. This is a favourite makeup artist trick that brightens your eyes and makes you look fresh and awake – perfect for Monday morning. And Tuesday morning. And... well, every morning.
You can also use this brush to smudge eyeliner, whether it's shadow or pencil.
To avoid icky product and bacterial build-up, you need to keep your brushes clean. Do it for the sake of your skin and for the sake of your wallet (good, regularly cleaned brushes last for ages). If you use your brushes daily, wash them every couple of weeks with gentle shampoo (follow with a tiny bit of conditioner on natural hair brushes) and lay them flat to dry. Try dishwashing liquid to get lip and concealer brushes clean.
Finally, here's a money-wise tip: the best time to buy a brush collection is in the two months before Christmas. Many cosmetics companies package their full-size bestsellers in sets and offer them at great prices. So get out there and brush up. You'll love the results.
Janine Falcon is senior editor, Beauty, for Canadian Living Magazine.
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