Best Brushes | Holiday 2016 Gift Guide

Best Brushes | Holiday 2016 Gift Guide

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<

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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!

Availability

Beautylish

Chikuhodo Z-4 Cheek/Highlight Brush

Chikuhodo Z-4 Cheek/Highlight Brush

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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.

Availability

Beautylish

Hakuhodo B5521BKSL Highlight Brush Tapered

Hakuhodo B5521BKSL Highlight Brush Tapered

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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.

Availability

Hakuhodo

Hakuhodo G5522BKSL Eyeshadow Brush Round

Hakuhodo G5522BKSL Eyeshadow Brush Round

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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.

Availability

Hakuhodo

IT Cosmetics No. 302 LBD Foundation Brush

IT Cosmetics No. 302 LBD Foundation Brush

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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.

Availability

Ulta

MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush

MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush

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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!

Availability

MAC, Nordstrom

Make Up For Ever #128 Precision Powder Brush

Make Up For Ever #128 Precision Powder Brush

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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.

Availability

Sephora

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

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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!

Availability

Ulta

Smith Cosmetics 253 Laydown Eyeshadow Brush Small

Smith Cosmetics 253 Laydown Eyeshadow Brush Small

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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!

Availability

Smith Cosmetics

Smith Cosmetics 302 Lip Brush

Smith Cosmetics 302 Lip Brush

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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.

Availability

Smith Cosmetics

Smith Cosmetics Spoolie Brush

Smith Cosmetics Spoolie Brush

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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!

Availability

Smith Cosmetics

SUQQU Cheek Brush

SUQQU Cheek Brush

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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.

Availability

Selfridges

Chikuhodo Z-10 Eyeshadow Brush

Chikuhodo Z-10 Eyeshadow Brush

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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.

Availability

Beautylish

Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush

Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush

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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.

Availability

Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus

Wayne Goss Brush 06

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!

Availability

Beautylish

Wayne Goss Brush 19

Wayne Goss Brush 19

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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.

Availability

Beautylish

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Rashmiiiiii …

its 3 o’clock in India

sleep darling , you can read posts in the morning ….

trust me you …..
Five Ways would be my morning , afternoon and evening tea companion for the next few days …..

Hahaha yeahhh…..
gave up after 3 ….

sipping a cup of tea with rest of the posts now … its 8.30 A.M. here ….

Thank you again for these posts dearie

I have a a near full set of Tom Ford’s, which started with with Christine’s recommendation of the cheek brush. I lack the shade and illuminate and and flat foundation brush, and have two crease brushes one to keep clean one to apply. I know they are expensive, but compared to some of my Chikuhudo’s, there is no comparison, the Ford brush is superior. I believe with proper care, these brushes will last me 20 years, because my Original Bobbi Brown( pre Estée Lauder) ones did, and they were like a nice Jeep Cherokee compared to a Maserati( the Ford brushes) in terms of brushes, I use car analogies a good deal of luxe comparisons I love cars too. I presume Suuqu would be an Aston Martin!

Very nice! I do believe I’m missing several of Tom Ford’s brushes – they are too pricey to buy to complete (have to want to use whatever I buy, you know? Not all shapes are ones I’d reach for). I feel like Chikuhodo Z brushes are softer than Tom Ford’s (they are squirrel, so that makes sense), but they’re all on the same playing field for me (same with SUQQU).

I had really, really toned down my spending, but I so wanted those Ford brushes! Your cheek brush recommendation plus I think a Saks rewards certificate helped pay for it, and, you know it was yuuuge difference in my application and appearance, like a soft focus filter on my face, no joke. That’s when I started buying more, listening to Wayne Goss and others, and I adore them, worth every penny!

Have you tried the newer Armani brushes? I liked the originals, but the new ones are beautiful. They’re supposedly made by eith Chikuhodo or Hakuhodo, I forget which, but the density and hair quality made them very easy to work with. I was hesitant about the crescent shaped one but I love it for highlighting. It picks up the Tom Ford moonlight beautufully.

Thank you so much for this list! My work-wife and I had *just* started talking about brushes when your email blast came in. I think it was fate. 😉 Now, I know it’s already a difficult question to begin with, but if you had to choose one of each brush type (blush, powder, crease, blending, etc.) what ones would you choose? Or, if it’s easier, what would you say your top 3 or 5 are of the bunch? Coworker and I are ready to buy but indecisive!

That’s tough! It’s so dependent on FACTORS!

Eyeshadow: Chikuhodo GSN-09 (soft enough to work well with very powdery eyeshadows but has enough give that it works with firmer eyeshadows, but it is a bit too soft for really dense ones like some of MUFE’s Artist Shadows – but those do better with flat, synthetic brushes actually!)
Crease: Wayne Goss 19 is the one I reach for the most, but any of the Wayne Goss ones are really nice and more affordable (pick the size you feel would work with your eye shape the best, IMO)
Blending: Wayne Goss 06 – soft, lightly fluffy, not too big or too small, not too pricey. I find it is very similar to MAC’s 217 with a little more precision, which I prefer.
Foundation: IT Cosmetics No. 302 – but I use liquid foundation! so if you use something else, that might not be the best.
Blush: SUQQU Cheek / Chikuhodo Z-4 – I really use these interchangeably, so I’d pick whatever is easiest to acquire or if you want something by SUQQU, then go SUQQU (pro-tip: Selfridges offers one year of free shipping to the U.S. for 40 pounds vs. normally 30 pounds per shipment).
Highlighting: Hakuhodo B5521 is what I’ve been reaching for the most; Wayne Goss also has something similar that I reach for often as well – they are the same shape to me, so I’d say pick the one based on budget/bristle preferences
Powder: MUFE #128 if you like a flatter powder brush, IT’s No. 307 Velvet Luxe LBD Powder Brush if you prefer a larger, fluffier brush

Ahhh thank you so much! What a great answer. Referring to Selfridges, are we talking pounds sterling (like, the currency) or pounds as in lbs.? I assume currency, but you never know 8|

Hakuhodo… not really – I’m not even sure if they get any discount at trade shows (IMATS, etc.) as I haven’t been in so long. Beautylish doesn’t have too many sales, but I think they occasionally do a gift card event. Visage USA I think sometimes runs promos but rarely (I haven’t kept up with that retailer as much) – it looks like they have some sets that are a bit less than buying individually.

Tom Ford blush brush- one of my most favorite brushes of all time!
For my face shape it works better than any other I have in my collection.
And I hear ya on the MAC 239!

This would have been helpful last week when I was poring over blush brushes for my mother!

I settled on the Hakuhodo Kokotan blush brush with the goat bristles for use in her ancient blush pans on her oily type skin! It arrived today and it’s beautiful, if a little larger than I expected and larger than she currently uses. It was close between this one and the 210–this one is just such a work of art with the handle, though, i couldn’t resist, and I worried that the handle on the 210 would be too long for travel. I got the 505 squirrel/goat for myself as a general purpose powder brush for my very dry skin.

Nobody told me the logo on the handle was going to be holographic!!! @[email protected] such a nice detail!

I am liking the sound of the Hakuhodo G5522BKSL Eyeshadow Brush. I sometimes have a tendency to lay on my shadow a bit thick, so I always appreciate having a brush on hand that is good for diffusing and softening colors.

Thank you so much, Christine. This review is so helpful as I believe in buying quality brushes. I like what you said about the Suqqu blush brush about it being good for light blush application. I really appreciated that. But, oh my Lord…. If it’s $80 I don’t know how I would afford that. That’s a lot for one brush.

You could also try a tapered highlighting brush – I find they are a little denser than the SUQQU Cheek but more feathery than most blush brushes 🙂

I have such a weakness for brushes. I’m a bit of a collector. I’ve never tried Chikuhodo or Smith brands but now I want to!
My friend really loves the Marc Jacobs ones for the face so I’ve been wanting to check those out too!

If you could buy just one brush for applying Colourpop eyeshadows, what would it be? My finger isn’t quite cutting it, and I haven’t found a “flat, fine tip synthetic brush” in my stash. Thanks!

Hello
I have hooded eyes with oval face and oily skin. I got so confused with brushes I stopped putting on eyeshadow. For the past 5 ,6 years I only put on cats eyeliner and lipstick n blush. Now I want some changes and update my brushes. So I need some suggestion for you guys!

I need brushes for:
1. Angled blush brush for contouring cheeks or chiseled cheekbones n chins
2. Blending eye brush
3. Eye Shadow brush
4. Pencil brush for smudging lash line outer v corner or inner corner and brow highlight uses.

I prefer natural bristle because i only use powders except for liquid foundation.

Thanks

Hi Masha,

What is your budget? Brushes can get quite pricey for natural, but if you are determined to go natural, Hakuhodo is a really good place to start (I would go with goat) for more control on sizes, but for ease, Wayne Goss’ line is edited and has a good, average size in brushes so they don’t feel too small/too large. I find Wayne Goss’ brushes to be quite good and reach for them all the time.

Hi Christine,

Thank you so much for replying! Well upto 25 dollar , less is always better. I am not expert on applying eyeshadow and make up so I only need few esseential eye and blush contour (I love chiseled cheekbones and jawline!!) brushes to achieve all kinds of look. Though only time i do eye makeup is when i go to any wedding or party other than on casual out i contour blush and matte lipstick or kajal.

I dont use any highlighter or concealer or contour like kardashians. One two drop of liquid foundation from prescriptives set with light pressed powder and I am done. ( I hope this information helps)

Hi Masha!

You might like Sonia Kashuk or EcoTools brushes for something that is more affordable but will give you some options to play. It is tough to get everything for under $25 for natural hair, unfortunately 🙁

Hi Christine,

I own the Hakuhodo J5543 and I use it for blush. I was thinking to get the Wayne Goss 11 for blush, but now you have got me thinking of getting the Chikuhodo Z-4; would it be too much to have all three? In terms of placement and intenstity of product, could you tell me the differences between them? Are they too similar? I do use blush a lot and a different blush each time I change my look. I have recently learned that you have to wash natural hair brushes less frequently so that is another reason why I am thinking to have numerous brushes for the same purpose.

Z-4 is definitely less dense, so would pick up less product compared to the J5543 or 11. In terms of placement, they all function similarly for me! The Z-4 is also made out of different type of hair, so it will feel softer and give a more naturally diffused finish from the start.

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! 🙂 If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!