It’s that time of the year again: holiday gift guides aplenty! This year, I’ve broken out my gift guides into best of selections for blush, eyeshadow, highlighter, lipstick, lipgloss, palettes, and brushes. These guides feature permanent formulas so that they can be useful anytime during the holiday season or even into next year. For limited edition holiday products, you can check out our list of the top 50 highest-rated holiday products, which updates as I post more reviews for holiday products. Here’s a look at a few of my must-have brushes (there are so, so, so many more I wanted to include!):
Chikuhodo GSN-09 Eyeshadow Brush
Chikuhodo GSN-09 Eyeshadow Brush ($25.00) is a small-medium, dome-shaped eyeshadow brush made out of gray squirrel hair. The narrower width allows it to apply color more precisely, which is helpful if you’re using more than two or three colors on the lid. It packs on, sweeps, and diffuses eyeshadow beautifully. The edge also fits into the crease area well and can apply color there, too. It’s incredibly soft and silky against the skin, but it still picks up plenty of product, so you don’t sacrifice color payoff in your application. This is a brush that I have multiples of!
Chikuhodo Z-4 Cheek/Highlight Brush
Chikuhodo Z-4 Cheek/Highlight Brush ($73.00) medium-sized, blush brush with a domed edge and tapered bristles (so the lengths get shorter as you move outward from the center). It’s not a rounded brush, more flattened, but it is not really thin or flat. The brush is made out of gray squirrel. It’s excellent for applying soft, even color along the cheeks with minimal blending required.
Hakuhodo B5521BKSL Highlight Brush Tapered
Hakuhodo B5521BKSL Highlight Brush Tapered ($53.00) is a medium-sized, tapered highlighting brush that works well with a variety of powders, not just highlighter. It is made out of a mix of goat and squirrel hairs, but it is also available in pure goat hair for $38. I like it for when I use subtle to moderate highlighters to get a noticeable glow without overdoing it. The tapered shape enabled the brush to sweep gently across the cheek bones to lay down highlighter more precisely, and the rounded tip applied highlighter nicely down the nose and on the cupid’s bow.
Hakuhodo G5522BKSL Eyeshadow Brush Round
Hakuhodo G5522BKSL Eyeshadow Brush Round ($30.00) is a large, tapered crease brush with a mix of goat and squirrel hair. I don’t have a full review for the updated, undyed version of the brush, but I previously reviewed the dyed version (no longer available) that appears all black. This brush is fantastic for diffusing color in the crease, blending, or laying down a transition color. As it is a larger brush, so it’s something I tend to use with a softer look or to really diffuse a deeper shade. It is also available in pure goat hair for $20.
IT Cosmetics No. 302 LBD Foundation Brush
IT Cosmetics No. 302 LBD Foundation Brush ($38.00) is a medium-sized, dense, gently dome-shaped brush with synthetic fibers. This is an excellent brush for foundation, particularly liquid and cream foundations, as the fibers are so fine and the brush itself so dense that all the fibers move as one, which yields a smooth, even, streak-free application. It’s domed enough to move across more contoured areas of the face, like underneath the eyes, around the nose, and along the jaw, but the more buffer-brush-like shape makes it easy to stipple, spread, blend, and buff foundation into the skin.
MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush
MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush ($25.00) is a small, dome-shaped eyeshadow brush that’s flat with a lightly fluffed up edge, so it works well for applying and packing color on the lid as well as for diffusing and softening color. I also find that using it horizontally, on the edge, works well for applying richer color into the crease. This has been, and remains, one of my very favorite eye brushes of all time; I have at least six of them, if not more!
Make Up For Ever #128 Precision Powder Brush
Make Up For Ever #128 Precision Powder Brush ($52.00) is described as a “long and flat brush with a tapered tip” to be used with loose and pressed powder for application “the face, neck, and upper shoulders.” It’s a large, substantial brush, and it’s easily one of the larger powder brushes I have. It flares out slightly from the base and then tapers significantly to a rounded edge with the bristles layered and lengthening as you move to the center of the brush. I liked it for applying loose setting powder, and because the top of the brush “flops,” it actually works to press the loose powder against the skin with a lighter pressure than with a sponge or powder pouf but does a better job of getting an even, full layer of powder against the skin to really set makeup.
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush ($8.99) is designed for applying and blending cream or liquid foundation. The brush is soft, dense, firm (with some give but not fluffy or springy). The edge is slightly rounded, but the most noticeable characteristic about the brush is just how dense it is. The rounded, slightly tapered edge makes it easy to buff and blend out any streaks, though, and the synthetic bristles of this brush means it works better with cream and liquid products and is easier to clean. I have noticed I reach for this brush most often, because I don’t worry about cleaning it regularly, due to the affordable price point!
Smith Cosmetics 253 Laydown Eyeshadow Brush Small
Smith Cosmetics 253 Laydown Eyeshadow Brush Small ($21.00) is designed to be used for powder products and uses pony hair. It’s a smaller eye brush with a triangular shape with tapering bristles as you move away and down from the point of the brush. The tapering of the bristles makes it particularly excellent for blending and diffusing colors into each other, particularly when applied on the lid. I have a few of these, because I find myself using them often for applying color to the lid!
Smith Cosmetics 302 Lip Brush
Smith Cosmetics 302 Lip Brush ($20.00) is a slim, angled lip brush that’s firm with slight flex at the rounded edge. It is made out of synthetic sable hair and can be used with cream and liquid products. It is very effective for feathering color on, and it works well for creating ombre lips as you can really diffuse and blend colors together.
Smith Cosmetics Spoolie Brush
Smith Cosmetics Spoolie Brush ($16.00) is a large, bent spoolie brush. It’s longer (almost double the length) of most spoolie brushes, and the ferrule is bent at an angle. The spoolie itself was much softer, without being ineffective, than some others I own, so it worked well to diffuse and soften my brows (particularly the inner portions, closest to the nose) for a more natural look (though I like my brows stronger than what I imagine is deemed natural!). It’s also nice for shaping and convincing brow hairs to stay in place. It’s actually my new favorite spoolie brush for its length and angle!
SUQQU Cheek Brush
SUQQU Cheek Brush (£80.00 / ¥15,000) is a small, rounded blush brush that flares outward from the ferrule and then tapers to a rounded edge. It is made out of gray squirrel hair, and it is supremely soft, silky, and smooth against the skin. No matter the direction or pressure, the brush never felt rough or sharp. It had moderate density with a feathery quality to it, which made it particularly suitable for use with more pigmented or very soft-textured powder products. This is useful if you’re more heavy-handed when applying your blush, even if you don’t mean to be, as it is hard to overdo your cheek color with this brush.
Chikuhodo Z-10 Eyeshadow Brush
Chikuhodo Z-10 Eyeshadow Brush ($36.00) is a small, tapered brush that comes to a very fine, pointed tip. Its shape is much like a pencil brush, but it’s a little larger and feels a bit more like a tapered crease brush. The brush head is made using gray squirrel. It’s dense but not too firm, so it has some give, which means that despite its very fine tip, it is not as precise as a firmer, denser pencil brush. I really loved it for applying crease color, blending out crease colors, and applying color to the inner tear duct/inner lid with more precision than my typical dome-shaped go-tos.
Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush
Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush ($78.00) is a blush brush with a rounded square-shape, slightly domed along the top edge, with very densely-packed bristles that feel lush and thick to the touch. It is very similar in shape to Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush, it’s just larger. The brush is dense and thick, so it’s somewhat firm (but not stiff) with spring and give that’s just right for sweeping, patting, and diffusing powder products.
Wayne Goss Brush 06
Wayne Goss Brush 06 ($25.00) is a soft, lightly flattened fluffy brush that is great for blending out multiple colors, diffusing crease color, and applying color to the brow bone. It’s incredibly soft, silky, and has held up to many washes and uses!
Wayne Goss Brush 19
Wayne Goss Brush 19 ($27.00) is a medium, tapered crease brush with a tapered edge. It is excellent for applying and blending out color in the crease, and I often use the edge of tapered crease brushes, like this one, to diffuse color to the brow bone and then later apply my brow bone color.