News Tip Sheet

Makeup brushes 101

Mastering Makeup Brushes

“Quality makeup brushes are worth every penny,” says Dick Page, artistic director for Shiseido The Makeup and a favourite makeup artist of celebrities such as Catherine Zeta Jones. But figuring what brushes to buy and how to use them isn’t easy. The sheer range of brushes can be intimidating. Here is a “Makeup Brushes 101” to get you started.

model backstage makeup application


The Quality Test:

Bobbi Brown says the best way to test the quality of a brush is to judge how the bristles feel against your skin. Running your fingers through the bristles will assure you they won’t fall out. Celebrity makeup artist Val Garland agrees and adds you need to see how the handle feels in your hand. If it isn’t comfortable, you won’t use it. Look for natural bristles such as sable, goat, pony, and even squirrel for working with powder-based products. Synthetic versions work best with cream-based products because they offer greater control. Regular cleaning will ensure your brushes deliver great results for years.


The Five Essential Brushes

Dior powder brush #17

1Loose powder brush – Select a soft, dome-shaped brush to apply, buff, and polish powder into skin and over foundation to set. Dip, swirl brush into powder, tap off the excess and apply. Apply to the large areas of the face first and around the eyes last.

Dior eyeshadow brush #22

2. Eyeshadow brush – Choose a flat, wide brush with chiseled rounded tip. Hold the wide side flat and horizontally against the lid to apply and lay down an even, smooth layer of colour. Hold it perpendicular with the tips placed in the crease and follow the bone to shape the eye more with a medium to deep colour. Adding a large dome eye brush allows you to eliminate lines when applying multiple eyeshadow shades.

Dior concealer brush #13

3. Concealer brush – Invest in ¼” wide, flat brush with chiseled tip. Holt it flat to the skin to paint strokes of concealer. The tip covers blemishes effectively while feathering the edges.

Clinique eye contour brush

4. Eye Contour brush – Add this multi-use detailing brush to create controlled lines of colour either wet or dry. Fill-in, shape and colour eyebrows with feathery strokes. Wet brush with eyeshadows for quick eye lines.

Chanel retractable lip brush

5. Retractable lip brush – Slip this sleek brush in your bag for quick touch-ups. The flat, dense and chiseled tip applies lip colour expertly. Apply colour to the center of the mouth, spreading and painting the colour to the lips’ outer edges and corners.

model backstage lip brush

How to clean your brushes:


If you gently clean your brushes each week, they will last upward of 10 years. All it takes is some baby shampoo and warm water. Swirl the brush head in the soapy water then rinse with clean water. Pat dry and leave to air dry.

  • Anna Roszak-Robinson
    June 16, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Great article Dave!

  • Michelle Conn
    June 15, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Loved this article Dave …. also love the Dior brushes. If taken care of, these brushes will last a very, very long time! ♥️

  • Kathy
    February 24, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    I need to use my brushes more 🙂 thanks for the tips

  • Jacqueline Owens
    February 24, 2015 at 6:43 am

    I’m just starting to use brushes more , I used to basically just use a loose powder & bronzer brush.

  • Tracey E.
    February 24, 2015 at 2:06 am

    I like using Bobbi Brown’s Brush Cleaning Spray to clean makeup brushes very gently and thoroghly. BB also has a great brow brush with stiff bristles – it’s a must for me.

    Thanks for the great article, Dave!

  • @petite_nika
    February 23, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    How often do we need to wash our make up brushes?

  • Aleksandra
    February 23, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    My biggest powder brush (washed quite often) is very good – I have had it for more than 20 years and it is still in a very good shape. I love this brush.

  • Mary
    February 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I did not know you needed so mini brushes to do your makeup.

  • Kathie
    February 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    As an artist, i know the importance of a good/great brush and how important it is to take care of them. It’s really worth the investment in both money and time! Great article!

  • September Dee
    February 23, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Having the right brush for the task is essential. Regularly washing them keeps them fresh. Be sure to dry them with bristles pointing down so water doesn’t seep up and damage the handle or the area where bristles are attached.

  • Nicole Bertram
    February 23, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Oh,the tip with the baby shampoo is crazy,but good!!! Thanx,byby, Nicole.

  • Terry Riley
    February 23, 2015 at 10:04 am

    You will not believe this, but me and the BFF were just discussing this last night. What brushes to buy, what type is best, which one to use with which product and yes it was a bit overwhelming, so we didn’t order a single one! Also my other friend was showing me how to fill in my browline with a tiny brush. I really liked how it turned out and need that one, but can’t get ahold of her to find out what brush it was, so again we didn’t order a thing. I can’t thank you enough for the Makeup Brushes 101 article! I now know exactly what I need and what’s the best for different areas and different products.

  • Teresa Claire
    February 23, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I have thrown out so many brushes simply because I didn’t know how to take care of them…thank you…baby shampoo…a great tip! No pun intended 🙂

  • Crissy Londick
    February 23, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Good brushes make all the difference when putting on make-up

  • Kathy Ricci
    February 23, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Baby shampoo..who knew! Great tip I will definitely try. Good brushes are too important and expensive to keep replacing.

  • Laura HANTZ
    February 23, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Brushes are really important to have a really good Makeup!