My favourite & most-used make-up brushes

I’m really passionate about using good make-up brushes – they make SUCH a difference in make-up application. Even average make-up can look amazing when applied with the right brushes.  I’m always writing down the names of highly-reviewed brushes – and often have to talk myself out of making too many purchases (there is a limit to the number of face brushes you can use – no matter how soft and fluffy!) In this post I thought I would share my most-used make-up brushes and describe what I use each brush for:

1) Sephora Professionnel Mineral Powder brush #45 ($26) – I use this soft synthetic brush to buff in my mineral foundation. It blends powder in seamlessly, so there is never any caking. I think this must be the softest face brush I’ve ever tried – it feels so lovely on my skin! The only drawback is that it is not great at covering active breakouts – it can leave flaky patches around problem areas. Luckily my skin is pretty clear now, so this is not an issue for me. However, when my skin was acting up, I had to apply mineral foundation using BE’s Handy Buki brush (more on this below), and then I would swirl this brush over my skin to leave a glowy finish.

2) MAC 129 Blush Brush ($34)- This is my oldest and most favourite make-up brush – I’ve had it for 11 years! It is the BEST blush brush I’ve ever used – you will never get “clown cheeks” with this blush – it always deposits a natural flush of colour. However, this brush sheds…a lot! I’ve stopped using it with cream blushes because I got tired of picking hairs out of the blush container (and leaving huge craters in the product…not pretty!)

3) The Body Shop Blusher Brush ($24) – I use this brush to apply cream blushes since it does not shed. It has soft synthetic bristles and does a pretty good job of applying a diffuse wash of colour. However, it is not as amazing as the MAC 129 brush, so I still use the 129 to blend in the cream blush after applying it with this brush.

4) Bare Escentuals Maximum Coverage Concealer Brush ($20) – This brush was a gift from my sister. She uses hers with Bare Escentuals concealer – and it looks amazing. It provides long-lasting and brightening coverage under her eyes. I’m currently using up my Everyday Minerals concealer (which is not as good as the BE one). Still, this brush applies product evenly and seamlessly – I can’t wait to see how well it performs once I buy the BE concealer.

5) MAC 187 Duo Fibre brush SE (Full-size is $42) – I got this brush in a Special Edition (SE) brush set. The SE brushes are not as good as the full-size brushes – they are not hand-made and are often less dense. Although I’d love a full-size one eventually, the SE brush is currently adequate for my needs. I use it to apply highlighter on my cheekbones – the white synthetic bristles lightly pick up a small amount of product so that my cheeks look glowy, but not like a frosty disco ball. This brush is also popular for stippling on liquid foundation, but I don’t use it for that purpose.

6) ELF Studio Eyeshadow “C” brush ($3) – I use this brush to apply a light wash of color over my eyelid. Despite its cheap price, this brush is really well-made. I also own the MAC 239 flat shader brush, but prefer this ELF brush as it is wider and applies color better.

7) MAC 217 Blending brush ($22.50) – This brush is the perfect size for applying color in my eyelid crease. I just lightly dip it in brown eyeshadow and swipe it back and forth across my crease. It’s very soft and easy to clean.

8) ELF Studio Small Angled brush ($3) – This is my back-up gel liner brush – I use it to press gel liner on to my lash line. I actually preferred the shape of the Coastal Scents angled brush, but its casing was bad quality and it cracked after a couple months of use.

9) ELF Studio Angled Eyeliner brush ($3) – This is my main eyeliner brush and I love it. The bent-head makes it easy to apply eyeliner along your lashline, and something about its shape makes applying winged eyeliner easier and more natural looking.

10) MAC 219SE Pencil brush (full size $24.50) – Another SE brush, this is perfect shape for applying a shimmery colour in the inner corner of your eye. I find the bristles a little scratchy – maybe they are softer in the full-size version? Still – it gets the job done – it applies the colour densely so that it stays in place all day.

Special mentions
Brush Guard ($5.50) – with my acne-prone skin, I have to wash my brushes frequently. This product makes drying brushes SO easy – and it reshapes the bristles so that they look new. After investing in good quality brushes, it makes sense to take good care of them. (Previously reviewed here).
Bare Escentuals Handy Buki brush ($20) – this brush is the ONLY brush I use to apply mineral powder over blemishes. All the other brushes I tried (including kabukis from Everyday Minerals and Coastal Scents) cake up around pimples and makes the skin around it look flaky. It has natural hair bristles and feels scratchy on the skin, so I only use it when I need it (i.e. when I break out).
Sigma Brush roll ($20) – I store all my brushes in here and it works perfectly for me. While some people display their brushes in cups, I prefer to keep mine covered and protected from dust. Since all the brushes I use fit in this case, I just unroll it next to my caboodle, apply my make-up and then roll-it away. Another plus: the synthetic surface makes it easy to wipe clean and keep sanitary.

What is your favourite make-up brush? Do you use any of the brushes I mentioned?


  1. Anonymous
    June 16, 2011 / 4:14 pm

    So many great brushes! I need to look into your Sephora options. I'm a brush freak too, I love MAC's 187 and 130 and 131 for foundation/blush. My all-time favorite brush is MAC's 217, I have 2 and am thinking about a third.

  2. Ella Pretty Blog
    June 16, 2011 / 5:54 pm

    The MAC 217 is so soft and lovely – I can see why you'd want 3 🙂 I read about the Sephora brush on a blog…I didn't want to love it, but once I felt it in store, it had to be mine! And its performance is amazing…also, I love buying from Sephora, because you can return stuff no questions asked if it doesn't work for you.

  3. Beautygirl24
    June 16, 2011 / 6:57 pm

    I love that you mix low end like ELF, with high end like MAC. Proof that great brushes come in all prices!

  4. Ella Pretty Blog
    June 16, 2011 / 7:19 pm

    Beautygirl24 – yup – there are so many high quality lower priced brushes (I always check out reviews on MUA). For me – a cheap brush has to be perfect…not just "pretty good for such a low price".

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