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Your Ultimate Makeup Brush Guide: Affordable to Luxury

Here's your personal brush guide for the perfect collection!

So, you've watched all of Jaclyn Hill's videos on how to blend out a smokey eye and even studied NikkieTurorials classic cut-crease, and you've decided that 2018 will be the year you learn how to beat your face (#Resolutions). This is a noble endeavor, one that many women (and men) attempt, cutting the crease, trying eyeliner for the first time, and slightly overdrawing their upper lip in hopes of achieving the coveted Instagram baddie status. But let's be honest for a second. Those of us who know how to apply makeup—better than our mall's local MAC employee on her best day—went through months, maybe even years of trial and error.

Before we mastered the '60s Bridget Bardot cat eye and nude lip, we spent high school smearing black liner all over our eyes in honor of our makeup spirit animal, the raccoon. Before we found the perfect primer and foundation, we mixed our mom's leftover foundation with makeup stolen from our older sister's purse. But through all the mishaps and awkward makeup stages we experienced, most of us beauty lovers can universally agree that our makeup brushes, or lack thereof, dramatically changed how our products performed. A foundation brush and set of eye brushes are a girl's best friend, so here is your essential brush guide for the best applicators to start or complete your brush set. Beauty gurus unite!

Luxury Face Brushes

Foundation Brush 01

Tom Ford

Foundation is one of those things that can potentially exaggerate your flaws more than it covers them. Whether you prefer light, medium, or full coverage, your foundation should not bring attention to texture or blemishes on your skin. Cream products work best with synthetic brushes since the bristles don't absorb extra product (and they tend to be anti-bacterial). For your powder products, consider using natural-hair bristles since they distribute product evenly and have a long shelf life. Luxury brushes are known for their quality handles and bristles, but mainly for their brand names. For those of us who love luxury makeup, there are notable brands that stand out for their innovation in the fashion community: Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, and Kevyn Aucoin to name a few.

Most people swear by a decent foundation, powder, and bronzing brush to complete a full face of coverage. Tom Ford's Foundation Brush 01 is a cult favorite in the beauty blogosphere, a synthetic fiber brush that effortlessly applies and blends foundation without any streaking or caking. The Marc Jacobs Bronzer Brush uses synthetic bristles and has a wide shape to bring definition to the cheeks, forehead, and chin. And consider Marc Jacobs Buffing Foundation Brush on thicker cream formulas for an airbrushed effect.

The Hourglass Retractable Double-Ended Complexion Brush ($68.00) features a concealer brush and blush brush in one; using allergy-free Taklon bristles, this brush can apply cream and powder products. It's a great way to get multiple uses and applications with one brush. Kevyn Aucoin's Blush and Powder Brush ($75.00) applies pressed and loose powder for a professional, expert finish; the brush is specifically designed to control the amount of product distributed onto the skin with every application. Kevyn Aucoin's Contour Brush ($40.00) is another classic goodie, one of the best applicators for highlighting and contouring the face. If you're looking to shade or intensify certain facial features, this brush is a must-have!

And if you just feel like spending mad money on one brush, check out Hakuhodo, a Japanese company that has some of the most expensive face and eye brushes on the market.

Affordable Face Brushes

The Gilded Set

Morphe

Luxury brushes are great to invest in for the long-haul, but they are not essential to complete your brush set. Most of us are on a tight budget and cannot afford brushes that cost more than our grocery allowance for the month. So, what's a girls to do? Not to worry, the beauty market is flooded with affordable brushes that perform just as well as Kevyn Aucoin. One well-known, affordable brand is Morphe. Before you roll your eyes and complain about child labor laws in China, take a look at Morphe's prices and compare them to MAC, Sephora, Hourglass—basically any brand sold in a beauty store. The difference is alarming since Morphe brushes perform like MAC and Sigma brushes. The hype is real—this time YouTube is right about affordable, amazing products. Morphe's brushes are mostly under $20.00 and have a very diverse range of applicators, from contouring to blending, and concealing. A savvy makeup queen can get an entire collection of brushes from Morphe under $60, less than one Marc Jacobs brush. The M439 Foundation Brush ($14.00), M530 Blush/Contour Brush ($10.00), E41 Powder Brush ($23.00), are face staples worth checking out!

The BeautyBlender ($20.00) deserves an honorable mention on the affordable list since it is LITERALLY one of the best makeup sponges on Earth! If you are looking to apply liquid foundation and cream concealers, this makeup sponge will effortlessly blend and distribute color all over your face without any streaking, smearing, or annoying dry spots. Another affordable brand (that is also very accessible) is e.l.f.. Sold in Walmart, Target, and flagship stores, e.l.f. is a user friendly and cheap brush option for makeup beginners and casual makeup users. Their Pointed Powder Brush is only $6.00 and works perfectly with loose and pressed powders.

Luxury Eye Brushes

Smokey Eye Brush

Surratt Beauty

Again, luxury brushes are not necessary for perfect applications, but there are many luxury options for people who enjoy spending a little more on their eye brushes for a skilled artisan effect. Tom Ford's Blend Brush 13 ($57.00) is a staple in any collection, with soft, natural-hair fibers that effortlessly blend your desired shade gradient. Bobbi Brown's Angle Eye Shadow Brush ($34.00) is perfect for those of you who like tapering your eyeshadow for intense cat eyes and lid color. For a true smokey eye, Surratt Beauty's Artistique Smokey Eye Brush Moyenne ($65.00) is an ultra-soft applicator for smoldering, sexy eyes. It has natural-hair bristles which is great for maintaining the shape and integrity of the bristles.

Affordable Eye Brushes

217 Blending Brush

MAC

Every beauty lover knows the first few brushes she ever bought; the two or three brushes she started out with and used on her eyes everyday. For many of us, MAC was our pre-teen introduction to makeup and brushes, with three essential starter pieces we saved up for. Every eyeshadow blending fanatic will tell you that MAC's 217S Blending Brush ($24.00), 224S Tapered Blending Brush ($32.00), and 242 Shader Brush ($25.00) were essential, must-have brushes. Whether you are packing on pigment and glitters, or blending out the edges of your smokey eye, these brushes guarantee a precise and clean application. Sephora's Pro Blending Brush #27 ($22.00) is another great option for an all-over blending brush and features natural goat bristles. itCosmetics also offers an extensive range of brushes, but if you're looking for affordable and stylish brushes, check out Zoeva (an underrated German brand with beautiful brushes and palettes).

Surprise! Morphe wins again for best affordable eye brushes. Here are their most popular eye brushes for blending and defining: M573 Pointed Deluxe Blender ($6.00), E17 Crease Precision Blender ($7.00), E18 Round Crease ($6.00), M506 Tapered Mini Blender ($6.00), M441 Pro Firm Blending Crease ($6.00), R37 Pointed Blender ($6.00).

Eyebrow Brushes/Tools

263 Small Angle Brush

MAC

Most eyebrow pencils come with a spoolie, but for applying cream color to fill in your brows, stick with a cult classic and invest in the MAC 263 Small Angle Brush ($20.00). You can't go wrong with this little guy.

Lips

Pro Lip Brush #85

Sephora

Lip brushes are relatively standard; they all look the same. Sephora's Pro Lip Brush #85 ($16.00) comes with a protective cap and is perfect for defining the lips with cream lipsticks, glosses, and liquid lippies.

Best Brush Sets for Face

Jaclyn Hill's Favorite Brush Collection

Morphe

When investing in brushes, you may be inclined to buy a set rather than a few individual brushes. In some cases, you'll save money and get the best value out of your dollar. For a great brush set for your face, consider Morphe's 901 Gilded Set ($159.00) featuring an arrangement of contouring, powder/blush, highlighting, and foundation brushes; or—for the true Morphe treatment—Jaclyn Hill's Favorite Brush Collection ($155.00), a brush set curated by YouTube's Hill. Another option is Zoeva's Vegan Face Set ($76.00) with six vegan brushes using synthetic bristles.

Best Brush Sets for Eyes

Rose Golden Eye Set

Zoeva

Hands down Zoeva! Zoeva brushes are some of the best on the market and feature amazing sets for both novice makeup users and professional makeup artists. The Rose Golden Complete Eye Set ($86.00) is easy on the eyes with matte brown and rose gold embellishments, and comes with twelve synthetic hair brushes. The brush collection comes in a cute, chocolate brown clutch and is travel friendly. Zoeva has a great assortment of brush sets for eyes and face, or a combination of the two for more experienced artists.

Own 2018 in your best face and use these recommendations as your beauty spirit guide. Happy buffing and blending!