Best Makeup Brushes for Foundation, Concealer, Powder

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Foundation, Powder, & Concealer

There are certain types of brushes that I tend to rely heavily on a specific brush and have less options, and this post reflects that.  I’m not sure if it’s merely because I love them so much and don’t love others nearly as much, but these were the ones I use often and stood out to me when I went to compile my favorites!

I would love to hear about the brushes you can’t live without for foundation, concealer, and powder — share your picks in the comments! 🙂

For Liquid/Cream Foundation

Maybe it’s old school, but I actually still apply my foundation with brushes over sponges (like the beautyblender).  I alternate between various beautyblenders and brushes, though.  I have found that angled, stippling-style brushes to be less foolproof compared to the ones below, and I have moved away from natural or natural-synthetic blends when it comes to heavier products like foundation.  I prefer very densely-packed, synthetic brushes with rounded edges that work well for spreading, diffusing, blending, and light buffing on the face.  Because they’re synthetic, I don’t have to baby them when it comes to washing, and I can use stronger cleansers to get all the foundation out in no time at all.

Long-time readers may notice that I did not mention Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, and while I love my original one, I loathe the second one I have (scratchy, very streaky application) and mildly dislike the third one I have (somewhat rough, subpar application).  They absolutely changed the quality and style of their brush fibers and neither of the two I more recently purchased are worth recommending.

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Foundation
IT #302, Marc Jacobs The Face II, Marc Jacobs The Shaper

  • IT Cosmetics #302 LBD Foundation Brush ($38.00) is a medium-sized, extremely densely-packed rounded brush with a flatter, domed edge that is excellent at methodically buffing foundation onto the skin.  When I use this brush, I’ll dot my foundation all around my face as I won’t use the brush to spread the product as much as I will for blending and diffusing the dots together.
  • Marc Jacobs The Face II Brush ($48.00) is medium-sized, dome-shaped, densely-packed brush with a slightly tapered, almost angled edge that works extremely well for spreading foundation and moving it downward and outward on the face.  It is great for someone who doesn’t want to buff their foundation on (like you would with the IT #302).
  • Marc Jacobs The Shaper Brush ($38.00) is a small-to-medium-sized, flat-topped brush that is dense and firm (without being stiff) that works well for buffing and blending motions with liquid and cream foundation.  It is actually marketed as a “Contour and Blush Brush,” which it will work for, but I don’t personally use it for those things.
  • Hourglass Vanish Foundation Brush ($46.00) is a dense, rounded, lightly angled brush designed to work with cream foundations like the brand’s Vanish stick.  I forgot to photograph this one, as it wasn’t clean and I actually had it out-of-place, but it is so good at applying and buffing out cream/liquid foundations without streaking.  The way the bristles are shaped, they’re almost seamless on the skin and I often will use it to buff out foundation along the edges of my lips while doing lip swatches to refresh the foundation around my mouth.

For Concealer

I favor sponges (like the beautyblender) for underneath the eye, but I do routinely use the following brushes, particularly when I’m too lazy to go dampen a sponge (which is often enough!).

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Concealer
Real Techniques Setting, Marc Jacobs The Conceal

  • Real Techniques Setting Brush ($7.99) is a small, fluffy brush with a rounded edge and light density.  I absolutely love this brush for blending and diffusing the edges of concealer.  With heavier coverage or more matte concealers, I’ll use a separate brush to apply and spread the product out and go back with this one to diffuse the edges.  With more luminous or sheerer coverage formulas, I’ll use this brush to spread and diffuse the product. 
  • Marc Jacobs The Conceal Brush ($30.00) is a small, slightly angled, domed-shape brush that’s densely packed but has just enough give to move fluidly for superb application, blending, and spreading of concealer underneath the eyes (well, on the face, too, but I primarily use it for under eye concealer).

For Powder

I must be rather picky when it comes to powder brushes, as I have a slew of them, but I really only use these two on a regular basis!  I tend to like denser or flatter powder brushes so I can press setting powder onto my skin rather than fluffier, larger powder brushes that dust it on as more of a veil.

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Powder
Make Up For Ever #128, IT #307

  • Make Up For Ever #128 Precision Face Brush ($52.00) is a large, paddle-shaped powder brush that has been my go-to since it was released a couple of years ago.  It has a little bit of floppiness (in a good way!) that makes it feel very lightweight on the skin but pat, sweep, and press powder evenly and smoothly across the planes of my face.
  • IT Cosmetics #307 LBD Powder Brush ($48.00) is an incredibly smooth, velvety brush that is densely packed and moves seamlessly across the face.  It doubles as a buffing brush, too, as it has a slightly flatter, larger edge.  I like to press and tap my setting powders on my skin, rather than sweep them on, so the density of this one works well for my application style.
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The absolutely BEST brush for concealer in my own experience is, sadly, no longer available. It was the Sephora Platinum (or Professional) CREAM Eyeshadow brush. It’s similar to their concealer brush but smaller. I got 3 of them and had my husband cut the handles of 2 of them shorter (I’m short sighted so have to practically SIT on my mirror to apply makeup so a short handled brush is best). Foundation – no question but it’s the Shiseido Foundation brush (it has a short handle and the head is slightly angled). I also like the RT Expert Face Brush. For setting my under-eye with powder, the MAC 224 or the fluffy end of the brush that came in the Naked2 palette (I think) both work but I prefer the MAC 224.

I don’t have a great deal of luck using foundation brushes. If my skin is the least bit flaky, the brush seems to stir up the flakes so that my foundation clings to them. The sponge keeps everything tamped down so my face looks smoother. I have never heard of anyone having this issue but I do.

I have the same problem too! I often think, ok my cheeks today don’t look too flaky and bam, once the foundation is on, I see it all lol. Two years ago I’ve tried a sponge and haven’t looked back. But I’m tempted to try brushes again..

I never use brushes for my foundation and powder actually. I use exclusively sponges for foundation for u delete concealing. Any sponges will do, I don’t find that one time use sponges bought in packs from CVS to be that much different from BBs except that BBs blend faster and easier. I use exclusively powder puffs to press in powder for my oily skin. Sephora makes a big one that is so soft and poofy.

For spot concealing, I use a morphe elite series lip brush. It’s small, comes to a fine point, and is synthetic.

My RT Expert Face Brush is good, and I have a BH #9 Duo Fiber Stippling brush that blends liquid foundation in absolutely no time (it’s rather large). But generally I don’t like using brushes for liquids because I feel compelled to wash them every single time or it’s “too dirty.” 99.9% of the time I just use my fingers. Fingers only for spot concealing. For powder I use any ol’ brush. I actually like the RT Sponge with the flat edge a lot for loose powder, but cleaning the sponge is even worse than brushes. Not that it’s truly harmful in any way, but I feel like it’s never clean.

Do you wash your foundation brush/sponge after every use, Christine?

I love my original Expert Face but the other two, no way 🙁 I get so frustrated about it!

I do. I don’t wash brushes immediately after use, as I let them accumulate over a few days and then wash a bunch at once, so I’ll use multiple foundation brushes during the week!

As soon as I finish applying my foundation and concealer I will put a pump of soap on the brush and wash them, it is not a deep clean but at least they are clean enough to use again, then every week I do a deep clean of my brushes. With you Christine, it would be a lot different, doing swatches all the time, cleaning brushes would be a never ending job.

I recently got MAC 188 small brush and I felt in love with it. Although it is small which require more work, it blends and defuses really well. To me, it gives better results to the beauty blender and other foundation brushes on my vanity. On top of that, the brush is versatile, so you can use it for primer, highlighter and so on.

So weird! I pulled up each brush via retailer while writing the post and didn’t see it as a single, but going to Ulta now, there it is!

I bought the Real Techniques setting brush as a single brush at an Ulta store about 2-3 weeks ago. Good news for those of us who don’t like to buy sets.

I also thank you for this great and helpful series!

I only own a few expensive brushes, but one I do own is the Marc Jacobs Shape contour brush. For me, it’s the only brush I’ve ever used that allows me to contour in a subtle but recognizable way. I would also mention that it’s all synthetic fibers for anyone who is looking for that. (I’ve never tried it as a foundation brush!)

I’m not crazy about brushes for foundation (probably due to my lacking technique) but one I like is the Sephora Pro Foundation 47. It is a flat brush that I use in a kind of patting motion and gives a surprisingly streak-free finish. It’s a little less expensive than those listed here for anyone looking to spend less (though still not inexpensive.)

So glad you found a good option for contouring, Ruby 🙂

You know, a lot of people don’t use brushes with foundation these days – sponges are more often used from what I see!

I have similar opinions as you regarding the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush; even the Real Techniques Sculpting Brush is better to apply liquid/cream foundation than the last one I tried.

I could never apply concealer well with the Real Techniques Setting Brush, but I love it for setting the undereye area with powder and for contouring (perfect size for precise work on smaller face). Good brushes can serve any purpose. 🙂

They progressively got worse! The first one I have is amazing; the second is disappointing but maybe usable in a pinch, but the third is Streak City!

I have used the pink Beauty Blender every day for at least a year now for foundation and under eye concealer and it is only just starting to fall apart slightly. The black one fell apart in a couple of months and when I have tried cheaper brands, whilst they may appear good at the start , they break up and fall apart very quickly which no one else on You Tube ever mentions . Just Saying !!!!

I used to use ‘the sponge’, but I moved to a brush last year and vastly prefer it as a foundation application tool. I always spray my face after foundation, let it sit for a minute and then use a beauty blender to pounce/set… so actually I use both it seems. The Bb helps me slightly reduce the coverage of a fuller foundation (EL double wear). With KVD foundation, the second step with sponge is an absolute must. It can be a thicker cakey foundation; a bit tricky really and easy for me to over apply.

My HG is an older RT foundation brush I got off Amazon and it’s my fav and I also have the Sigma (F50?.. the standard one). I prefer the RT. Obviously, I’m a fan of synthetic with high density fibres. I too prefer the rounded dome versus flat top or angled.

I like both my RT and Marc Jacobs conceal brushes equally. The RT is much cheaper, but not as luxurious as the MJ. The MJ has a more seamless buffed finish.

Goss airbrush for powder all the way!! Cannot live without. I spot powder rather than full face set. Use same for setting undereye.

I like using a sponge at the end, too, Wendy – I think perhaps I prefer a brush since I prefer higher coverage anyway, but I can see the advantages of using a sponge overall, particularly for getting a really smooth base.

I like the part about going over your foundation afterwards with the BB sponge, I will have to try this, always looking on ways to improve my technique. Thanks Wwendy!

I generally use my fingers for applying foundation, but I do see what you mean about applying powder. I did have a larger fluffy one for powder and have swapped it over to a more dense brush. Your recommendations are always helpful.

What foundation do you typically use when applying with fingers, Genevieve? I like applying sheerer coverage products with fingertips like tinted moisturizers or if something is maybe more like a moisturizer (thinking Bobbi Brown’s cream foundation… it came in a jar; not sure if they still make it).

i keep a spray bottle of water to damp my bb sponges instead of walking to the sink.

lately i’ve been really loving the it cosmetics heavenly luxe complexion master brush. i got it in my beautylish lucky bag and didn’t think i’d like it but it works beautifully paired with my tarte hybrid gel foundation. it stipples the foundation into my skin so you can’t even tell i have foundation on, is super soft and the point does well enough around the nose & under eye area that i don’t need to pull out a detail brush anymore

My favorite foundation brush is my Artis # 7! I never got such a flawless, almost airbrushed-like finish with any other brush. My second favorite and the one I use when the Artis is dirty is my Sigma F80 Flat Kabuki. For concealer, I always use my dampened beauty blender under my eyes and for spot concealing I like the Sigma P80 precision flat brush, it’s like a mini F80.

My WG Foundation Brush is a nice brush to use, then there is my Kevyn Aucoin Foundation brush, it is very dense so it takes a while to dry out after you wash it. Then sometimes I am in the mood to use a Beauty Blender. I use all the concealer and powder brushes from these brands as well, and not to forget my Rae Morris brush set, I keep them all in rotation I really cannot choose a favorite, they all do the job well and I am happy to have all of them to play with.

Another great post! As I read about some of the opinions being effected by the cleaning of it, I found myself wondering if you have done or will be doing a brush cleaning. What to use and how to clean the various types of brushes. I would love that!

Hey Karen,

I really don’t do anything special for cleaning! I use Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap (unscented) for all brushes, but for synthetic brushes I use with foundation/concealer or other “gunky” products, I sometimes use Parian Spirit. I dilute both with water – about 1/4 to 1/3 of the cleanser and 2/3 to 3/4 water. I run my brushes through clean water, then dip into mixture, swirl in my hand to dislodge the product in them, then rinse clean. I lay them to dry on a drying mat (like for dishes). If any of my natural brushes seem stained (say I used a neon eyeshadow), then I’ll clean with Parian Spirit very lightly.

Tarababyz’s tipped me off on using aloe vera, where you just use a little on each brush, which helps retain shape but also keep them ultra soft. I think this is more necessary / worth doing on natural hair, which can degrade over time.

I tend to use a sponge for fondation, but when I choose a to wear mineral powder that day, I use the real techniques buffer brush. It’s soft and sturdy, so I don’t have to worry about being gentle when it comes to washing.

For powder, I’m really into my Hakuhodo G 5521B. I can’t seen to find it on their website anymore, but it’s a really small lightly tapered brush, a blend of blue squirrel and horse, so it has a bit of “bounce” to it. For larger concealing patches, I like the real techniques deluxe crease one.

Hearing you talk about the deluxe crease brush makes me want mine again! I gave mine to my mom years ago and I remember loving it but hesitant to buy another one lol.

Awww, what a shame about the RT brush becoming so bad. I usually use a Beauty Blender or the RT dupe for it. If I use a brush, it’s usually the e.l.f. Ultimate Blending Brush. For powder or runny liquids, I love the Tarte Maracuja Miracle Foundcealer Brush.

I’m glad to see the RT setting brush get some love! It’s my favorite brush from their line! I use mine exclusively to set my under eye concealer with powder. I use a different, denser brush to apply concealer but I’m thinking of getting a second Setting Brush because they are just so inexpensive, why not…

I too love the IT dome shaped foundation brush! I don’t have the black version because I’m too cheap (I wish!) but I have the similar in shape IT for Ulta #101 “Airbrush blurring foundation brush” and have loved it thoroughly for years. I recently got an RT face brush hoping for a backup, and it was a huge disappointment to me in comparison. .

I know this is an old post; however, I’m looking at the newer (at least to me) Marc Jacob’s foundation brush called “The Seamless” and wondered if you’ve used it and what your opinion is? I have the Shaper and I agree with you that though it is useful as stated for contouring (less so for blushes in my opinion, as I apply them VERY lightly), I’ve been thinking of trying it for foundation as well. That said, the Seamless one looks pretty nice and I don’t have one quite in that shape or with synthetic bristles. MUFE’s foundation brushes seems to comme close, but not really.

I don’t find The Seamless useful, but I don’t like that style/shape of brush for foundation… all it’s really good for it getting product from bottle to face but terrible at everything else.

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