Thursday, September 8th, 2011

The Hit List

What’s the Best Makeup Brushes…?

What brand/products win this category? What makes them so great?

Discussion and debate are highly encouraged, and we expect community members to participate respectfully. When asking a question, please check the FAQ section (above) for information about purchasing, price, dupes, and the like. If you have general feedback or need technical support, please contact us.

Comments that include advertisements, self-promotion, insults, etc. may be in violation of our comment policy and subject to deletion. Please see our comment policy for more information.

94 thoughts on “Hit List: Best Makeup Brushes

  1. MAC 217, Ecotools blush brush, Chanel 12, MAC 210, Sigma F80, Ecotools bronzer brush, MAC 239, Inglot 6SS :)

    They’re my favorites ;)

  2. I’ve used a lot of brushes and the ones I’ve had the most success with are MAC, Sigma, Elf, and the Sephora brand simply because of their durability. I just got new brushes after having the old ones for years, but only because I wanted some new brushes, not because I had to.

  3. I like Beauty Strokes Mineral Optics dual-bristle brushes for applying mineral cosmetics.

  4. Nichole

    Hakuhodo…Louise Young, close second.

    Hakuhodo’s brushes are hand crafted, have superior quality and a price range that fits most budgets. The quality is consistent for the lower priced brushes.

  5. I would now say MAC brushes since Shu Uemura has a limited selection and now can only be purchase online. MAC has a great variety and is NOT made in China…which is a big issue with me. Also, my old brushes from Trish McEvoy are of great quality. I think I answer this question way back.

    • Milly

      Actually, several of MAC’s brushes ARE made in China. I’m staring at a couple I own right now. They do make brushes in France as well. Trish McEvoy are also made in China.

    • Val

      Majority of Mac brushes are made in France or Japan. There are couple of brushes that are made in China, just to name a few: Mac 181,182,234,235,128,179. I do love the Shu Uemura brushes especially the Kolinsky collection. Superior quality!

    • Li

      Those great Trish McEvoy brushes are made in China, by the way!

  6. Chelsea

    Origins brushes are the unsung heroes of the makeup world. I consider their eyeshadow placement and eyeshadow contour brushes to be indispensable tools in my makeup arsenal.

  7. Avatar of Noga Noga

    Just bought the 109 about a week ago and I can’t get over how good it is! I’m using it for contouring and applying blush. It’s so easy to use – it just makes my daily routine so effortless, and it’s multi-functional – which is important for me as a student who can’t really afford a lot of brushes.
    Oh, and the 226 is great too. Every brush that’s easy to use wins me over :)

  8. Jennifer

    So far i dont love any brushes more than my Mac ones!

  9. emily

    Adesign flat top f. brush

  10. Abril

    I love my MAC brushes!

  11. Avatar of T Violet Lee

    I adore my MAC brushes, it’s amazing how much easier my make-up application got when I finally got all my cheapy brushes replaced. But I haven’t tried any of the other higher end brushes to compare.

  12. Avatar of Carolina Lilastar

    Mac 217, hands down.

  13. Yazmin

    I have far too many makeup brushes and all from different brands, but if i was to only have 6 i would choose mac 226, bobbi brown ultra thin liner, mac 109, bobbi brown bronzer brush, sheer cover concealer brush and mac 217

  14. Linda

    Rock & Republic brushes. I got them during the sale on their website and they are incredible especially the eyeshadow and blush brushes.

  15. Lyza H

    I feel like no one really gives the UD Good Karma Shadow Brush the love it deserves. It’s my baby. <3

    • KayPoshed

      I adore my UD Good Karma Brushes, I got the Shadow Brush in the Naked Pallet and liked it so much I purchased 5 more from the line. They are high quality and perform very well!

  16. Kristabelle

    I’m poor and can’t get MAC brushes, but I have a few Bare Escentuals that I like- their kabuki brush is really great. Only bad thing is I’ve noticed the brushes become kinda scratchy after a few washings. Other than that, I have a crapload of Crown Brushes that I love. Not all of their stuff is perfect, you definitely have to know what to get (i.e. the Italian Badger stuff), but the good ones are awesome. I like the Sonia Kashuk ones a lot, too.

  17. mac 239, sigma eye kit brushes, sigma e55 which is a flat eye definer brush, mac 217, REAL TECHNIQUES are amazing

    • Avatar of Julia Julia

      I love real techniques! Are you a fan of pixiwoo?

      • Melisse

        I love Pixiwoo. They’re amazing sisters and makeup artists. Real Techniques, created by Sam Chapman, are highly affordable and of incredible quality. They also highly recommend louise young brushes which are good too. IMO, better value than MAC brushes, which i have quite a few.

  18. Avatar of Mariella Mariella

    Hmmmm – MAC 217, 239 and 130, Posh eyeshadow brushes (2 pencil/crease ones and 1 angled one; I was such a ninny not to get more of them when they were available in a drugstore near my school). Sephora Platinum Airbrush. I have a few Sonia Kashuk and Elf brushes that perform every bit as well as my higher end brushes.

  19. Chloé

    the elf contour brush from their regular line (not the studio line) is the worst brush i’ve ever purchased. luckily i’m only out $1.

  20. Avatar of Kathryn Kathryn

    I haven’t tried many, and they probably aren’t THE best, but I use ELF Studio Line Brushes ($3 each) and they work absolutely great for me. No shedding whatsoever and deposit color wonderfully!

    • Jennifer

      You’re not imagining it. Most Elf brushes are very good. A few are not, but since you can sample the whole line for the cost of one really good Mac brush, they’re always worth a try.

  21. goldfish

    my favorite brushes are hakuhodo, sigma’s hd face brushes and makeup for ever’s synthetic angled eyeliner brush 9N (i use this for my eyebrows and as an eyeliner. i like multi-functioning brushes.

  22. Carrie Ann

    I personally love my EcoTools brushes because they’re inexpensive, cruelty-free, very soft and they work very well.

  23. Courtney

    I really do love MAC brushes. They’re expensive, but I’m really glad that I invested in quality face brushes that feel soft and comfortable on my face.

  24. Rada

    Hakuhodo and Suqqu – hands down.

    I have 120+ brushes from various high-end brands, and IMHO these are the most beautiful and the best makeup tools EVER. They’re handmade with very high quality material, softer than anything yet highly efficient. My daily makeup routine has become a daily beauty ritual and the craftmanship is so good that they will look beautiful, will last for years and still be performing good. <3 <3 <3

  25. malia

    I’ve never been disappointed in a MAC or Nars brush… I’ve also recently become a fan of Sigma and Eco Tools though :)

  26. I find that most brush makers have good ones and bad ones. Like I LOVE LOVE LOVE my small angled brush from ELF, but the other ones are if’y. MAC’s 239 is a GEM! Although,another MAC brush for blush (I forget the number) sheds more then my Jack Russell! Sonia Kashuk brushes are pretty good and very affordable. Crown Brushes are pretty good too but are not consistent in quality. I think that the little brushes or applicators that come with ANY brand’s eyeshadow, are more of a novelty then useful unless your in a jam and it’s that or your finger! Haha

  27. Ploy

    Bobbi Brown’s

  28. John

    There’s a reason why MAC brushes are the benchmarks that everything else is compared to… It’s because overall, MAC has the best and widest collection of brushes in the industry. Sure there may be better foundation brushes than the MAC 190/187/182/109 or whatever brush one uses for foundation, but does that brand have equally good eye, face, and lip brushes? I think not.

    Now MAC foundations… that’s a completely different story. xD

    • Reni

      I might be wrong here, but I think HAKUHODO, has a wider variety of brushes than MAC. They are a Japanese brand with the most amazing, handmade brushes.

      They have brushes for everything, even to delicately clean your kimono, which we’d never use, I know… But I’m just saying they have tons of different and very high quality brushes! And they are BEAUTIFUL!

      I also love Suqu brushes, they have the softest brushes I ever tried, so the powder brush is a dream!

      Having said that, I really love the 217 from MAC!

      • John

        I briefly scanned their website and indeed there are a million and one brushes! Haha. As for quality, I wouldn’t know. Sure they’re handmade, but does that make them any better and is the quality consistent from batch to batch, worker to worker? Who knows?

        Not to mention, because they are handmade, they are extremeley expensive, which will lower their chances of being the benchmark. In addition, this brand is certainly not as well-known as MAC and therefore, receives less exposure and critical reviews. But maybe it’s just a rising star and will soon replace MAC as THE brush line to compete with. Until that happens, well…

        I mean how many brush lines out there have inspired dozens of copycats? (I’m looking at you Sigma). Only one that I can think of. But I don’t know, to each his own right? IThere’s certainly a subjective aspect when one decides which line has the highest quality of brushes.

        Just trying to stay as objective as possible. I personally love the Sigma F80 Flat Top Kabuki more than any other foundation brush that MAC has, although I enjoy using my fingers the most. :] But I would never say that Sigma has better brushes overall than MAC.

      • I’ve heard on one of the pro mua sites that MAC’s brushes are made by Hakuhodo. That’s what the made in Japan bit means. It would be the same as Crown making Coastal Scents’ brushes or Paris Presents making Real Techniques.

        • John

          Well even if that were to be true, not all MAC brushes are made in Japan. Not to mention, just because an item is manufactured by the same company doesn’t mean that the items are of equal quality. Like I wouldn’t equate the overall quality of Crown brushes with that of Coastal Scents’ just because they’re manufactured by the same company. If they were almost identical in quality and variety, why would the same company even bother taking the time to manufacture twins?

  29. Mac 187 + 217, they’re fabulous!

  30. sheen bean

    i use the mac 187, 239, 224 and 226 on a daily basis. they upgraded my makeup application 1000 percent

  31. sheen bean

    i use the mac 187, 239, 224 and 226 daily. they have upgraded my makeup application 1000 percent!

  32. Carolito

    Mac and Bobbi Brown!

  33. Mo

    The majority of my brushes are MAC brushes. I love MAC brushes. I’ve never had problems with them and they’ve lasted a very long time (knock on wood) for me. Also, while the set brushes are nice, I find they aren’t quite AS GOOD as the individual brushes. Nice for gift giving though.

  34. Avatar of Maja Maya

    I absolutely love my MAC brushes. The 217 and 224 are amazing!

  35. sheena

    i use da mac 187 239 224 and 226 daily…they have upgraded my makeup application 1000 percent

  36. Rikki R

    I Love Mac brushes but when I’m not up to spending a lot of money i go with sigma. Neither brand ever fails me.

  37. I’d say the collaboration of Borghese x Costco! They’re amazing and are priced well. The bristles of the brushes last forever! Only thing is that they are limited editions and come out only on the holidays.

    • I second this. These sets helped introduce me to the world of makeup brushes :) the big eyeshadow blending fluff brush in the most recent set is amazing! and the flat-tipped brush from the set a few years ago is my favorite under-eye lining brush. The sets are awesome for beginners and a great price, too.

  38. I love the Crown brush synthetic range and E.L.F flat top powder brush. Mac eyeshadow brushes (I have 224 and 217 so far) and all the illamasqua brushes I have ever tried (angled brow, angled liner, blush, foundation and fluffy eyeshadow blending brush)

  39. grace

    if i had to choose one? elf powder brush(use wet or dry) its the best for foundation and powder!!
    and its cheap!

  40. Avatar of Tina Tina D

    I do love my MAC brushes but I have to say for the price, Crown Brushes are pretty damn good!

  41. Mandy

    My first set of very expensive brushes were from Stephen Glass of London in 1990 and they are still going strong! I love my full set of Chanel brushes, I have had them for a few years now. I have supplemented my collection with a choice of MAC, Laura Mercier, Shu Uemura & Sigma brushes. There are some brushes I use more than others but I always find a good use for each of my brushes and I love them all!

  42. Avatar of Hannah Hannah

    For eyes, hands down MAC brushes. I can’t live without my 235, 217 and 224 brushes. For face, I love Sigma, Sephora and Real Techniques brushes.

  43. be

    I could not survive without my MAC brushes. I can not stand how Sigma is making money on fake cheap replicas of MAC brushes. Its like a fake Louis Vuitton bag I would never buy or carry one and as such would never purchase a Sigma brush or use one. I also like Sonia Kashuk brushes at least she has integrity and used her ingenuity to create brushes that were authentic, useful and at a price point that most people could afford.

  44. Monika

    SIGMA brushes for sure, they’re softer than Mac brushes and the whole set costs only $100. or less.

  45. My favorite eye brushes: Sonia Kashuk Small Eyeshadow Brush (use it waaaaay more than my MAC 239), MAC 217, MAC 224, MAC 226, and the Gosh Dome Eyeshadow Brush.

    My favorite face brushes: ELF Studio Complexion Brush (own two, and it’s hands down my favorite face brush!), Crown Brush Luna Duo Fibre brush, Sonia Kashuk blush brush (for highlighter), and Sonia Kashuk powder brush for blush.

  46. Stacy-Ann

    I absolutely love NARS Brushes, I have the entire collection and they are just the best in my opinion!

  47. Avatar of Lorna Lorna

    Sonia Kashuk brushes- the ones in black

  48. MAC 217 is the best eye blender!!!
    while for the eye shadow, SUQQU is the winner :)
    Bobbi brown cream shadow brushes FTW as well :)

  49. Mandi

    I have nothing but great things to say about my brushes! I use MAC’s 150 for foundation, and Sephora Professionnel’s #49 blush brush and #44 bronzer blush. :)

  50. Susie

    I love my Mac and Sigma HD brushes.

  51. Boone

    My favorite brushes, like my favorite makeup, are a conglomeration of random brands that I’ve discovered through trial and much, much error. I use the following every day: Lauren Hutton spot concealer brush, ELF Studio Line blush brush, Eco Tools eyeshadow blender brush, Crown retractable kabuki, and my #1 can’t-live-without-it… Redpoint Cosmetics eyeshadow brush (I got it in a Beautyfix box two years ago and it’s still in great shape, but when Hautelook had them on sale for $6 last week I bought five more!).

  52. Mimi

    The best makeup brushes are made by Hakuhodo and Suquu. You won’t believe how soft they are. Shiseido makes wonderful, soft brushes also and are incredible quality for not so much money. Chanel is coming out with a new set of brushes, redesigned so let’s all watch for them.

  53. Rainy

    This is going to sound really strange, but my favorite brushes to use for make up are from the arts store. It started out me needing a quick eyeshadow brush and having an unopened set of paint brushes on hand, but I would never go back to my old make up brushes. (Only exception is my Bare Essentials Kabuki)

    • Rainy, that doesn’t sound odd at all! I’m the same. I do own MAC and Crown brushes (as well as the odd Urban Decay, Sonia Kashuk and Elf brush) but, unless Hakuhodo calls to offer to replace them, I’m keeping my Loew Cornell brushes for shadow and blending.

      I stumbled across a dupe for the 239 at WalMart about 6 months ago. It was one of the ones made by Paris Presents. The handle was shorter, but it was a complete dupe at the brush end. I forget the name, but it was one of their mineral makeup brushes. If you know what a 239 looks like, it’s hard to miss.

      Good Hit List, Christine!

  54. Debra

    Hakuhodo are excellent; so are Bobbi Brown. MAC used to be superb but their quality has noticeably declined. Some of the older Sonia Kashuk ones that I own from about 2 years ago are very good, but of late, the quality is hit-or-miss. Sephora Professional Platinum are excellent too.

  55. Avatar of Shelly shelly

    My favourite brushes (I think “best” is a very subjective term to use, personally)…

    * MAC 217
    * Sigma F80
    * Studio Tools foundation brush (from Target)
    * most of the face brushes from e.l.f.’s Studio line

    I want to try Hakuhodo and Louise Young brushes, too. And Real Techniques.

  56. Becca

    I feel like this is the obvious answer, but MAC. Although I only have 5, I feel like their makeup brushes really are the best that money can buy.
    Sigma is pretty good too, some of their brushes anyways. Their concealer and liner brushes do nothing for me; way too flimsy. But I actually really like ecotools too. They are sold at drugstores and are pretty cheap (around 10 dollars each) but very dense and good quality. I’ve never had mine shed, an unpleasant experience that I’ve had even with my MAC brushes!!

  57. Samantha

    I have a number of Body Shop brushes – they are lovely and soft, and still in excellent condition 5 years down the track. My favs are the powder brush and the slant brush. I also like the Sephora platinum brushes.

  58. I’m gonna have to say MAC takes this category all the way. There are so many new brands coming out with new brushes trying to copy MAC but all in all they don’t really compare in terms of quality. The only downfall is that MAC brushes aren’t cheap, but you get what you pay for and that’s the good part about them!

  59. Deneuve

    I have a mix of MAC and BB brushes. I started with Bobbi Brown and I loved the simplicity of it. Eventually, I needed more “precision tools” and ventured into MAC!

    I prefer my tools to be in long handles, the travel sizes are too small for me.

    BB: Foundation, face blender, eye definer, ultra fine eye liner, cream shadow, touch up, powder.

    MAC: I started with 217 & 219 and loved them to bits. Bought the 116 based on Christine’s review. Now I recently got the 226 based again on her raves. Thanks for all the reviews, it saves me from cosmetic heartbreaks! :)

  60. Ada

    My top 5 Brushes are:
    Mac 187
    Ecotools Bronzer Brush: for setting with MSFN
    E.L.F Blush Brush: nice for contouring
    Mac 217
    Mac 226

    Honorable mention to my 211. Best gel eyeliner brush I have ever used.

  61. Adelita

    Hmm, this is hard. I would say Hakuho-do create the greatest brushes, but sadly I can’t afford to collect those (I only tried my mom’s Hakuho-do brushes)… :(

    But, the best brushes I own are:
    • Foundation: Sigma F80 (liquid fdt/mid coverage fdt), M·A·C 190 (cream fdt), Sigma F82 (powder fdt)
    • Concealer: M·A·C 224
    • Loose powder: M·A·C 134, MakeUpShow H01 (it’s made from squirrel hair, super soft!!!) or Everyday Minerals Long Handled Kabuki
    • Pressed powder (for M·A·C Blot/touch up): Sigma Retractable Kabuki
    • Blush: I used to love M·A·C 116, but now I love MakeUpShow H02 even more (it’s the closest dupe to Hakuho-do, a lot cheaper yet made from an incredibly soft squirrel hair), Laura Geller Retractable Baked Powder Brush (when I’m in need of a blush touch up), e.l.f. Studio Angled Foundation Brush (cream blush).
    • Bronzer: Ecotools Bamboo Bronzer Brush.
    • Eyes: M·A·C 226, M·A·C 217, M·A·C 219, M·A·C 239, M·A·C 249, M·A·C 208 (I use it for e/l, not brow).
    • Lips: I use any cheap but decent brush I can find at drugstore *lol*

  62. Astrid

    Giorgio Armani Bushes!

    Absolutely soft and smooth and high-end good!

  63. In terms of quality i have to say that the swedish brand “FACE Stockholm” beats most of the brands i’ve tried, including Mac.
    But Mac has a far better variety of brushes in their range.

    Unfortunately i have not yet had a chance to try hakuhodo brushes so i dont know how they compare to those.

  64. Avatar of Diana Diana

    I have Chanel and MAC. I prefer my MAC but use both. No matter what brand, care is important (I use The Master’s Brush Cleaner and Preserver). I expect my brushes will last long after I’m gone.

  65. Avatar of Angela Maureen

    It depends!!! This is what I’ve found:
    For face powder, SUQQU face
    For blush, SUQQU blush
    For soft floofy application to the crease, MAC 217
    For superior blending of crease, Laura Mercier Crease brush
    For laying down color AND a more concentrated crease, Stila #15
    For undereye application, Louise Young mini socket (yes, beats out MAC’s 219)
    For liquid foundation airbrush-awesome application, Hakuhodo Kinoko brush flat (amazing goat hair kabuki)
    For contour, Kevyn Aucoin’s contour brush
    For undereye concealer, fingers!
    For tiny, perfect concealing on the face, Kevyn Aucoin’s tiny concealer brush
    For brows, any number of good angled (I like the long handle and stiff bristles of Smashbox’s)
    For geland cake eyeliner, any bent one with a longer handle (personally)
    For tightlining, Trish McEvoy’s straight-across one

    There are so many great ones out there, but these are my faves!

  66. lazeny

    Hakuhodo Fude Brushes, Shu Uemura Brushes and Suqqu Brushes. Very luxurious.

  67. Bobbi

    MAC 187, 168, 129, 222, 217, 226, and my new babies, 234 and 179. Laura Mercier smoky eyeliner. I have others but these are my every day brushes.

  68. Avatar of Mandy bxboricua

    for my eyes: MAC brushes (217,222,239,226)
    for my face: I love Real Techniques brushes! I also like the Sephora Pro Concealer Airbrush #57

  69. Elle

    I really love my MAC, ecotools, and hakuhodo brushes. Ecotools brushes are good for the price, have soft hair, and I have been using them since I started makeup. My Mac brushes are amazing but my hakuhodo one (s142) is sooooooo soft and sort of like the 226.

  70. Tanushree

    I love my MAC brushes but has anyone tried the lancome? I am thinking about trying some out

  71. Niki

    Smashbox 1 Powder Brush; Smashbox 19 Face & Body Brush; Lancome 6 Blush Brush; Sitla 24a Brush; Bdellium Tools 955 Finishing Brush (this is a stippling/dual fiber brush); Bdellium Tools 965 Duet Fibre Blush Brush; Estee Lauder 11E Eyeshadow Blending Brush; Lancome 17 Blending Brush; Revlon All-Over Shadow Eyeshadow Brush; and Revlon Contour Shadow Brush.

  72. i LOVE the japanese brands for brushes: hakuhodo, RMK, Lunasol, IPSA. but also Trish McEvoy and Paula Dorf are great. really want to try SUQQU and Chikuhodo, though.

  73. Chelsea

    In my opinion, Spa Resource. They’re the only ones I’ve ever tried.

  74. Hakuhodo (basic series and fuge) , Shu Uemura, MAC (217,239) and davinci.

  75. amanda

    MAC definitely has top place here, but Sephora platinum makes a few fantastic ones as well. I feel like their stippling brush blows the 187 out of the water. Quo [canadian] is a very good brand at a more reasonable price. Smashbox deserves an honourable mention.

  76. pa

    MAC is the best, the cleaning does not worried me a bit! I just need to know is there another brush that is really nice and also the BEST too when cleaning! ALL the brush handles on mines just cracks off! SIGMA, ECO, And other retail brands.. I LOVE MAC! if someone can find another brush to MAC, lmk! Also who tried Bobbi brown before?