Must-Have Eye Brushes
It’s been a long time coming, so I’m so excited to share with you my favorite, must-have eye brushes! I’ve categorized them into a few different groupings, and when it comes to eye brushes, well, one can never have too many duplicates. Though you can definitely use one brush with multiple shades, if given the chance, I prefer to use one brush per color. I tried to include brushes that had high quality duplicates, too, so that you could see a few options for a given style (that is my must-have), because the shape tends to dictate whether a brush is one I’ll reach for often.
I would LOVE to hear about your must-have eye brushes, if you would be so kind as to share below!
Note, I have about 30 brush reviews I’ve yet to post, so some brushes mentioned here will eventually have fully fleshed out reviews, complete with individual photos. Stay tuned!
The classic may be MAC 217, but Hakuhodo J5523 is my new favorite–so much so that I bought a second one to add to my stash.
- Sephora Pro Blending Brush #27 ($20.00) is a soft, lightly fluffed-up brush that works well for blending powder products together, applying highlighters to the brow bone, or dusting a sheer color all-over the lid.
- MAC 217 ($24.00) is a long-time favorite for myself as well as readers as a go-to brush for blending eyeshadows together, softening edges, and applying brow bone highlighters. It’s a solid choice and readily accessible for most.
- Hakuhodo J5523 ($18.00) is incredibly soft, lightly fluffy, and a dream to use. It outshines both the brushes mentioned above, and even better? it’s the cheapest of the bunch.
If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you’ll know that I’ve often raved about MAC’s 226 brush, which was a limited edition medium-sized, tapered crease brush (I think I have four or five of them). So long 226, for I’ve found four replacements that I love even more (who knew!). Hakuhodo J142 wins this one for quality, shape/size, and price.
- Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Tapered Blending Brush ($22.00) is a slightly shorter, nicely rounded and tapered brush that works well for depositing color into the crease and then blending and diffusing that color. It’s incredibly soft, works well, and is synthetic, so it’s what I usually reach for when I’m using liquid or cream products.
- Tom Ford Eyeshadow Blend (13) Brush ($55.00) is the perfect shape, density, size, and softness for depositing color into the crease with good color deposit and blends and softens the color easily. It’s a real workhorse of a brush for me. That being said…
- Hakuhodo J142 ($18.00) is a near-exact dupe of Tom Ford’s crease brush and a third of the cost–and because it’s nearly the same, this is my top pick. I reach for this one often, so I recently purchased a second one of these to have on-hand.
- Hakuhodo G5522 ($28.00) is slightly larger and a bit more tapered than the other three brushes, so it works well for really diffusing and softening color. I also like using it to lay down a mid-tone color that I’ll put in the crease first and really blend well past the crease before adding a darker color to define the crease (with a more precise brush).
Sorry, there’s only one that is the holy grail for me, and that’s MAC 239 ($25.00). It is the perfect brush for applying eyeshadow, and frankly, if I could only have one brush to do my eye makeup, I’d pick this. Over every single brush mentioned in this post. There’s a reason why I have six of them. (I’m pretty sure I have two more hiding from me.) I have tried two Hakuhodo brushes (J242 and J004) and neither are quite right to me–though I am still testing the J004 so we’ll see. The shape of the 239 is square-ish, and it’s quite dense but still has a slight fluffiness to it, so it blends out colors if desired. It deposits eyeshadow nicely onto the lid, and it can be swept on or patted and packed on.
Cream Eyeshadow Brushes
When it comes to cream (or liquid) eyeshadows and products, I like firmer, flatter brushes for application. My favorite is MAC 242, because it’s firm, flat, but not too big or too small, so it is good for laying down a lot of color at once, blending out edges, and is a versatile choice.
- Tom Ford Eyeshadow Brush ($55.00) is a larger, slightly fluffy, flat eyeshadow brush with a tapered edge. It’s nice for applying eyeshadow all-over the lid, so I like it a lot for creams (but it does work well with powders). The fluffy edge makes this brush work for blending the edges of cream eyeshadow, too, so you can that diffused, softened edge.
- MAC 242 ($25.00) is a smaller, flat and firm brush with a slightly domed edge. It’s great for applying cream products to the inner corner of the lid, and it also works well for packing out any eyeshadow (powder or cream) and helps minimize fall out.
- MAC 252 ($32.00) is a large, flat brush with a slightly domed/rounded edge. It’s excellent for applying cream eyeshadow all over the lid and still having enough edge to blend out the edges. It’s not as fluffy as the Tom Ford brush but is similar in size.
- MAC 249 ($27.00) is a firm, flat brush that gives the most streak-free finish even with more emollient products. I, of course, just learned it has been discontinued when attempting to find the current price on. I guess I’ll have to go about finding a dupe for it now!
- Hakuhodo J242 ($17.00) is similar in shape to the MAC 242, but it is softer and a bit fluffier, so it doesn’t pack on color as intensely, but it is softer to use on the lid and blends out color even better. It also does a nice job of applying cream products with minimal streaks. This brush also works well for applying powder eyeshadow, but I find it a little too narrow personally so I don’t often use it for powder.
These are smaller, more precise brushes that I don’t reach for as often as the brushes above, but they’re ones used enough that they’re still worth mentioning. These may also be helpful for someone with less lid space or who needs smaller brushes for their eyes. MAC 266 is the only one I use every day from this grouping, as the others tend to be used if the application calls for it.
- MAC 266 ($20.00) is my go-to for filling in my brows, which I fill in with powder eyeshadow. It has a nice slanted edge, is firm enough to apply thin, precise lines, but has enough thickness that it can gently soften those lines as necessary.
- Hakuhodo G5513 ($16.00) is a small, flat, dome-shaped brush that works well for patting, packing, or sweeping eyeshadow onto very small areas. It is similar to Tom Ford Eyeliner & Definer (15) Brush but is slightly bigger.
- Tom Ford Eyeliner & Definer (15) Brush ($50.00) is a small, flat, dome-shaped brush for very, very precise eyeshadow application. I also like using it to pat on eyeshadow on the lower lash line or for blending out very small areas.
- MAC 208 ($20.00) is similar in shape and style to the 266, it’s just thinner. It’s great for applying cream, gel, and liquid eyeliner.
- MAC 228 ($24.00) is a small, dome-edged brush that’s lightly fluffy. It is a lot like the 239, just much, much smaller, so it works in a similar way: for applying eyeshadow, can blend out if necessary, and can be used in a sweeping or patting motion.