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Your foundation game is only going to be as good as your foundation brush. Even the most highly rated and expensive foundation isn’t going to look great if it’s been applied with a brush that leaves behind streaks or causes product to settle into the pores. This is not to slam other applicators, like makeup sponges or fingers, but there is something special about the way that best foundation brush glides over the skin.
However, preferences also matter in this instant! Some makeup brushes give a sheer, natural coverage perfect for that cool-girl aesthetic, while others offer flawless full coverage for that Instagram-perfect complexion.
As always, this article starts with some recommendations, focusing on the best foundation brushes for every purpose. I explain the differences between the different types of foundation brushes, as well as how to use each one. I’ll help you decide between a foundation brush and a sponge, and maybe even convince you to get both.
To make sure your foundation brushes stay in tip-top shape, I’ve included my brush cleaning and maintenance guide, as well. Enjoy!
Foundation Brush Guide: Contents
- 25 Best Foundation Brushes to Add to Your Makeup Kit
- Types of Foundation Brushes and Their Uses
- Foundation Brush vs. Sponge
- How Often Should You Clean Your Foundation Brush?
These are the best foundation brushes you can add to your makeup kit. Some of these brushes are best for liquid foundations, while others are a dream to use with a cream or a powder foundation. As a bonus, unless stated otherwise, they are all guaranteed to be vegan! Choose the one that will work best for your needs!
1. Tarte Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush
This soft, silky foundation brush is made from vegan fibers to go specifically with Tarte foundations – though it can work with any foundation. It is on the larger side, so it will give you a super quick foundation application but may require some squeezing in order to get into the crevices of the face. It has a medium firmness and a kabuki-style shape, with a thick bamboo handle that makes for an easy grip. Buy it from Sephora!
2. Sigma Beauty F60 Foundation Brush
I like to think of flat, tapered foundation brushes as “old-school” foundation brushes that really make you feel like you’re painting your face. These brushes are declining in popularity, but if you’re still into them then this is one of the best foundation brushes made in that style. It is made of synthetic, antimicrobial fibers, and is extremely durable. Get it at Nordstrom!
3. Kat Von D Lock-It Edge Foundation Brush
This foundation brush is truly unique. It has a sculpted, tapered shape that is thinner than other foundation brushes, and makes it one of the best foundation brushes for getting into facial crevices. It can be used for both applying and blending foundation. It is vegan and synthetic, and yet the bristles are incredibly soft. The end of the brush is pointed, so it is great for picking up product. It is available at Sephora.
4. Hourglass Vanish Foundation Brush
This round, flat-topped brush is the best foundation brush for blending thicker cream foundations, though it’ll work with liquid foundations as well. While the Taklon bristles themselves are extremely soft, they are packed in very densely so the brush is able to pick up and move product around the face with ease. It is small enough to fit into the hard-to-reach spots, and it gives a gorgeous, streak-free finish. Pick it up from Sephora!
5. MAC Cosmetics 196 Slanted Flat Top Foundation Brush
MAC Cosmetics are known for their truly high-quality range of makeup brushes. This flat-topped foundation brush is extremely dense, so it gives a very full-coverage application of foundation and will work even with very thick formulas. It has a slight angle, which allows it to curve more comfortably against the contours of the face and makes it easier to reach the crevices. The only drawback is that cleaning it takes a touch longer due to the sheer amount of tightly packed bristles. Find it at Nordstrom!
6. Fenty Beauty By Rihanna Full-Bodied Foundation Brush 110
This pink, paw-shaped foundation brush is as adorable as they come, but it is also very functional. It has a very soft texture and medium density, which means it glides over the skin with ease and applies a diffused layer of foundation. The finish is seamless, and the application is less heavy than it would be with a denser brush. It is sold at Sephora.
7. Rae Morris Jishaku 23 Liquid Foundation Brush
The Rae Morris makeup brushes, which are made in Japan, are a high-tech luxury with a magnetic base for safe storage. This foundation brush has a medium density, which allows for a very natural all-over application of foundation, and because the bristles are on the longer side it covers a lot of space quickly. Order it online from Net-a-Porter!
8. bareMinerals Beautiful Finish Foundation Brush
Now, this foundation brush is truly unusual. It is made by bareMinerals, and is one of the best foundation brushes for applying mineral or powder foundation. It has a convex center with a skirt of fibers surrounding it. The skirt picks up the powder, while as you press down, the center of the brush really buffs it into the skin, ensuring a really blended and diffused application. As with most other brushes on this list, it is vegan. It has a short, chubby handle that is quite ergonomic and easy to transport. Purchase it from Sephora!
9. Clinique Foundation Buff Brush
This half-flat half-domed foundation brush is a classic choice for applying liquid and cream makeup. It is quite dense, but because of the semi-dome shape it is possible to really control the intensity of the application by changing up the angle a bit. It is made with synthetic bristles and has a long, white handle, which is a nice change from all of the black options on this list. You can buy it from Nordstrom.
10. It Brushes for Ulta Airbrush Buffing Foundation Brush #110
This is another option if you’re seeking the best foundation brush for powder foundations. It is a firm brush, but because of the fanned-out shape in which the bristles are packed it is still somewhat yielding. It will also work with more fluid liquid foundations. Its handle is colored a sleek silver color and has a comfortable grip. It is available at Ulta.
11. Marc Jacobs Beauty The Face II – Sculpting Foundation Brush No. 2
This is a solid and sturdy foundation brush that offers a ton of control. You cannot tell from the photo, but this brush is actually angled in such a way so that the top of the bristles has a lot of surface area. You can achieve quick, all-over coverage by using the top of the bristles, but by simply tilting the brush you can use its side to get into crevices or to apply contour products. This foundation brush is semi-firm, so it should work with both creamier foundations and with slightly thicker ones. Get it from Sephora!
12. Lancôme Synthetic Bristled Liquid Foundation Brush #2
This is a gorgeous flat foundation brush option for those who prefer that old-school technique. It is on the larger side of things, so you can brush that liquid foundation on quickly. The end of it is tapered enough that you can do some blending with the top of the bristles. It is a synthetic bristle brush with a longer handle, and the ferrule is stamped with a romantic rose logo. Pick it up at Nordstrom!
13. Wander Beauty Nude Illusion Dual Foundation Brush
Travelers take notice, this foundation brush is a two-in-one that saves you both time and space. One end is a firm flat-topped foundation brush that buffs in and blends foundation all over the face. The second end is a flat and tapered foundation brush that is a little thicker than others on this list, so it doesn’t leave streaks and it can be used to apply foundation in hard-to-reach areas like under the eyes and could also work for cream contour applications. The handle is colored an incredibly gorgeous rose gold color. Find it online at Net-a-Porter!
14. Cover FX Liquid Foundation Brush
This foundation brush has a totally flat tip and medium-packed bristles that are very soft on the skin. It is ideal for applying liquid foundation, but it is just firm enough to also work with creams. It is on the smaller side of things, so it’s perfect for very precise applications over smaller areas of the face. Do note that it must be cleaned gently or it can be prone to shedding. It is available for purchase at Sephora.
15. Chanel Les Pinceaux de Chanel 2-in-1 Foundation Brush
This soft, flat-topped foundation brush has a slight angle, which allows for a very luxurious and controlled application. It has a smaller head so while it might slow down the application, it’ll also allow you to really build things up where necessary. As with all Chanel products, it is extremely durable and well-made. Buy it at Nordstrom!
16. Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush
This large yet firm foundation brush gives a full coverage application of makeup very quickly. You can use it with a combination of tapping and buffing motions and still enjoy seamless coverage that doesn’t look heavy. It also works quite well with powders. It is made with a combination of light-colored wood and black metal, which is a nice change of pace. You can get it at Sephora.
17. Artis Brush Fluenta Oval 6 Brush
For something a little different, you can opt for an oval foundation brush. Applying foundation with an oval brush is a speedy experience that feels extremely luxurious. Artis is known for making the best oval brushes, as they are dense yet able to cover a ton of facial real estate in a short amount of time. This foundation brush has a very comfortable textured handle. It is sold via Net-a-Porter.
18. Kevyn Aucoin The Foundation Brush
If you don’t like to play by the rules, this is the best foundation brush for you – assuming you’re okay with the price tag. Unlike other brushes on this list, this foundation brush has an extremely elongated dome shape with a heavy angle on the sides.
In a way, this shape is reminiscent of a makeup sponge and can be used in a similar way to apply product both to large swaths of the face and to hard-to-reach areas. It works just as well with powders as it does with creams because while it is quite dense the bristles are also long, which adds give. Pick it up from Sephora!
19. Luxie 510 Rose Gold Foundation Face Brush
If you stick to a feminine aesthetic, this foundation brush will fit nicely into your collection. It has a gorgeous rose gold ferrule and pink handle. It is a flat, tapered brush that is ideal for full-coverage applications. You could also give it a try for applying cream contour below the cheek or to the sides of the nose. Find it at Nordstrom!
20. Make Up For Ever 108 Large Foundation Brush
This is a unique variation on flat, tapered foundation brushes. Instead of being long, it is actually squat and wide. The tip of it is extremely soft, which allows it to be used directly to apply and blend foundation, while the flat side is ideal for covering a lot of space quickly and depositing a full-coverage layer of makeup. There is something that feels elegant yet rustic about the dark wooden handle of this brush. You can purchase it at Sephora.
21. Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
This is the best foundation brush for those of you on a budget. It is quite firm so it is best for cream or liquid foundations, and it will give a high-coverage, airbrushed look. It is a colorful option with a peachy handle and metal ferrule. It is quite large, which means you will get a speedy makeup application although it will cost you in fine control. Order it from Ulta!
22. Guerlain The Foundation Brush
Yet another powder pink option for your liquid foundation brush. It is a softer option that works beautifully to apply a medium layer of liquid foundation that looks light and natural. It is semi-domed, semi-flat and smaller-sized, which make it versatile and easy to control. It comes with a black carrying case. Note that we couldn’t verify what the bristles were made of. It is available at Sephora.
23. Yves Saint Laurent TOUCHE ECLAT Foundation Brush
If you’re a YSL junkie then this foundation brush is a must-have. It is a flat-topped brush with a Y-shaped divot in its center. The divot collects product, while the rest of the bristles are quite firm, allowing for a full coverage application of foundation. It is very small, so you will have total control of your application though it will take a little longer than with a larger brush. Grab it from Sephora!
24. Estée Lauder Sculpting Foundation Brush
This is another oddly shaped foundation brush that works well, surprisingly enough. It is a firm brush with the top angled like a crescent moon, an odd shape that hugs the curves of the face and allows for a quick application with a few swipes rather than the typical circular motions. This leads to a very light, sheer application that works best with liquids. You can buy it from Nordstrom.
25. Lilah B. Retractable Crème Foundation Brush #6
If you often do your makeup on the go, then this is one of the best foundation brushes. First of all, it is beautiful, with a gorgeous white handle and lid. The handle is squat, so it won’t take up space in your bag, and the cap will protect it from getting dirty or making a mess. It rolls up, and the bristles have a bit of length to them, which allows for a medium coverage application. Order it online from Net-a-Porter!
There are a few different types of foundation brushes, with each one offering a slightly different kind of application thickness and finish. Read our explanations to figure out which foundation brushes will work best for you.
Dense Flat-Topped Foundation Brushes
Dense, flat-topped foundation brushes are sometimes also referred to as kabuki brushes or buffing brushes, and these days they are the most common type of foundation brush on the market. They are made with a dense set of bristles that are cut to have a uniformly flat top or sometimes a very slightly domed top that is still mostly flat. They can be angled, as well, which allows the user to get into the crevices of the face.
Because these foundation brushes are so dense, they don’t move around too much over the skin, allowing for a very controlled application that gives maximum coverage. They tend to work particularly well with thick foundations that are usually harder to blend.
They give a very seamless and streak-free coverage. This kind of brush can irritate the skin if its bristles are not sufficiently soft or if it’s not well-maintained. They are almost always vegan since they are made of synthetic Taklon fibers, but there are some exceptions that are made of animal hair.
• You can either dot the foundation over your skin first or apply a tiny amount of it to the brush. Then, using a circular motion, buff it into your skin.
• It is best to start from the center of the face and work your way outwards.
• The more pressure you use, the thinner your application will be, while less pressure will dispense product more thickly.
• Don’t be tempted to apply more product unless it really seems like your brush isn’t moving foundation around anymore.
• Use the edge of the brush to get into the crevices of the face.
• After you’ve finished applying the first thin layer of foundation, you can go back in with a little more product to build up coverage on specific parts of the face.
• This time, use a combination of circular and stippling motions in order to dispense a high yet controlled amount of product.
Flat, Tapered Old-School Foundation Brushes
Flat foundation brushes were the main kind of foundation brushes on the market back when I was in makeup school, but they’ve become less popular over the years. These brushes look a lot like regular, large paint brushes, and they work in a similar way, with their flat side used to smooth a cream foundation over the skin.
The reason they have become less popular is that they often leave behind streaks in the foundation that must be blended out with a sponge. They are almost always made of synthetic fibers.
• Using a flat foundation brush is a little like using a paint brush.
• You dispense a small drop of foundation on the side of the brush and then use short, downward strokes to apply it to your skin.
• You can then use the top of the brush to diffuse any streaks or edges, although that won’t always work.
• Also, use the tip of the brush to apply foundation to hard-to-reach crevices of the face like the sides of the nose or under the eyes.
• If you’re still left with a bit of streaking, use a makeup sponge to blend the edges and achieve a more seamless complexion.
• You can also use the flat foundation brush to apply contour cream, by using its tip to draw lines of contour on the face, which you can then blend out with a sponge.
Medium Flat-Topped Foundation Brushes
The word medium here refers to density. These foundation brushes are shaped similarly to the dense flat-topped brushes, but their bristles have more give, either because they are packed in less tightly or because they are longer.
These foundation brushes give an extremely seamless makeup application, and they tend to apply foundation more lightly, thanks to their softness. They are best used with liquid foundation formulas that don’t dry down too quickly, and are ideal for those who like a very natural-looking makeup application. They also tend to work beautifully with mineral foundation powder.
• Once again, you can either dot your foundation on the skin first or put a very small amount on the brush and then brush it on the skin.
• If your foundation tends to set quickly, then it is better to apply it directly with the brush.
• Use circular, buffing motions to spread the foundation all over your skin, starting from the center of the face and working your way out to its perimeter.
• Try to avoid adding more foundation throughout the application, and instead aim to start out with a very sheer layer all over the face.
• To apply foundation in hard-to-reach areas like around the nostrils or under the eyes, you can change your hold over the brush so that you pinch the bristles to make them thinner and to get into the crevices.
• If necessary, add more foundation only where you would like a bit more coverage.
Stippling Foundation Brush
With the rise of flat-topped foundation brushes, stippling brushes have fallen by the wayside. These brushes, often referred to as dual-fiber brushes, are shaped similarly to flat-topped brushes but with one main difference. They have a bunch of fibers packed tightly together, with some of the fibers longer and others shorter. This allows for a mixture of buffing and blending that gives a natural, skin-like finish.
However, with an overly light touch the foundation you apply with this brush ends up looking streaky, which is probably why it has been abandoned in favor of a brush with a uniform surface of super-soft bristles.
• Just like with a buffing brush, opt for a circular buffing motion.
Uniquely-Shaped Foundation Brushes
Brands like Kevyn Aucoin and Kat Von D have been playing around with shapes, making one-of-a-kind foundation brushes that don’t really fit into any particular category. The shape of a brush will influence the way it comes into contact with the face, making certain things easier and other things harder. In other instances, a unique shape is just a gimmick that allows the brush to stand out from the rest.
In other instances, an odd shape like an angle or contour means that depending on how the brush is held it might distribute product more or less heavily, or it might be able to cover a lot of space and then turned around to get into the facial crevices.
When you’re examining an oddly shaped foundation brush it’s good to look up videos and read reviews to truly understand if it’ll be more comfortable than a traditionally shaped brush.
• Most oddly shaped foundation brushes are best used in the same way as a typical flat-topped foundation brush.
• You apply your foundation either directly on the skin, or on the brush, and then use a circular buffing motion to blend it into the skin.
• You will want to play around with the angles and sides of the brush to figure out how to optimize the application to your own face shape.
The beauty community is split between the die-hard makeup sponge fans and the foundation brush aficionados. I like having both in my arsenal because I find that they work very differently. Once you understand the differences, perhaps you will find that you like one over the other or you might find yourself wanting to own both.
Both sponges and most modern foundation brushes apply and blend foundation in a very seamless manner, without streaking. The main difference, however, is that foundation brushes absorb less product so they tend to apply more directly on the skin, and as a result, they usually provide fuller coverage.
Makeup sponges, on the other hand, will absorb a bit of product so they tend to apply foundation in a sheerer manner. A foundation application looks softer and more natural with a makeup sponge, while with a makeup brush it will look fuller.
Additionally, most multi-use makeup sponges are meant to be used damp, so they infuse the foundation with a bit of moisture and tend to give dewier coverage. With a foundation brush, you can expect a more matte application.
Another difference is that makeup sponges offer a lot of different surface sizes to work with. They are usually shaped sort of like eggs, with one flatter end and another pointier end. You can use the flat side of the sponge when you need to cover a lot of space or the pointy end when you need to get into the side of the nose or under the eyes. If you need to cover a ton of space quickly you can even use the length of the sponge.
With foundation brushes, you’re really only working with the top or sides of the brush, so you are restricted to their size. Most foundation brushes have a circumference that is just a little smaller than the flat end of the sponge but larger than the point one, which allows for a more precise application of foundation that still covers a reasonable amount of space.
Personally, if I’m in a rush I find that a damp makeup sponge is perfect because it blends and sheers things out quickly, and I can end up with a natural-looking application of foundation in no time.
If I need my skin to look perfect, however, I prefer to use foundation brushes. I find that with a foundation brush I can really control the level of coverage and easily target all parts of my skin.
I sometimes like to use the damp makeup sponge afterward to lightly blend out areas where I feel like the foundation is looking too heavy or matte. Having both gives me the ability to get versatile with my makeup application and to have the most control.
Cream products are much likelier to hold bacteria when compared to dry powder products. Because foundation brushes hold a cream product, they must be cleaned regularly even if they have synthetic bristles. I recommend you sanitize your foundation brush at least once a week and give it a thorough wash around once a month.
Sanitizing Foundation Brushes
To sanitize your foundation brush, you need either an anti-bacterial, no-rinse makeup brush cleaner or alcohol spray. It is easier if your brush cleanser comes with a spray nozzle, but it is not mandatory.
• If it comes in a spray nozzle, spray it on a paper towel or regular towel so it is lightly saturated.
• Then wipe your foundation brush over the towel repeatedly until it no longer leaves behind any foundation streaks.
• Lay it down flat to dry.
• If it comes without a spray nozzle, decant a bit of the brush cleanser into the lid or into a shallow bowl.
• Dip your foundation brush into the brush cleanser for a few seconds.
• Wipe the brush off on towel or paper towel, going back and forth, until it no longer leaves behind foundation streaks.
• Lay it down flat so it can dry.
Washing Your Foundation Brush
• You will want to give your foundation brush this thorough cleaning with soap or shampoo at least once a month.
• To start, dampen only the bristles of your brush either by dunking it in a bowl of water or place it under the faucet.
• Next, massage a small drop of shampoo or soap into the bristles, and massage gently against the palm of your hand to work it in, create a lather, and break down the makeup that is trapped deep in the bristles.
• Once the brush has been thoroughly lathered, dunk the bristles back under the water, and rinse thoroughly to get rid of the shampoo.
• Much like you would with your hair, dry off your brush gently by squeezing it with a towel to get the moisture out. Avoid rubbing or tugging as it will damage the bristles.
• Once you’ve extracted most of the moisture out, leave your brush either flat or hanging upside down in a flat, clean place. Leave it overnight to dry.
Proper Foundation Brush Storage
• When your brushes are dry, the best way to store them is either sitting upright in a cup or nestled safely in a dedicated makeup brush pouch that holds each brush individually.
• Immediately after a foundation brush has been cleaned, however, it is important to allow it to dry properly.
• Avoid letting it sit upright, or moisture can get into the ferrule and damage it.
• The best way to store a foundation brush while it is dry is to have it lying flat on top of a towel.
• Alternatively, there are a variety of contraptions that you can purchase or make that can hold the foundation brushes upside down to really ensure that all water drips out of them.
Photos via @nikki.cruz, @christina.kassi