When you are looking for the best of the best it takes time and money to find the perfect brush just for you. This post is a roundup of what I consider to be the best or most interesting foundation brushes available to us, I will show you a few pictures, share my own experience with them and also some guidelines in order to help you find the perfect foundation brush just for you.
Foundation application is probably the most complex step of a makeup application, probably the most feared too ! If we go for it, better get it right, we cannot just simply copy someone else’s make up routine, we have to find our very own and as we go along feel what’s right or wrong and fine tune the process. You won’t necessarily need brushes for that, not all the foundations are meant to be applied with them like the Armani Fusion for example. But that’s another story. Don’t please don’t do this at home, you don’t need a hundred brushes to do your foundation, it is just a passion of mine to collect beautiful makeup brushes.
Some foundation brushes are more efficient than others but at the end it will be a matter of following your own preferences and taste. I will show you some of mine which include :
Mineral foundation brushes
Flat, semi-flat, round brushes
My life does not depend on foundation application but I do love it, I think there is an intriguing and experimental process behind achieving a great application of foundation, it can be fun and it can sometimes be depressing ! My curiosity and my delicate dry skin motivated me to research for the best foundation brushes and the best way to apply it. You’ll see that it got a bit out of control (again), but I hope that at least my lack of control will benefit you, help you compare the options and guide you in your own research.
There aren’t that many foundation lovers around me, when I ask them why they hate foundation they say: “I don’t want to feel it” or “I don’t want to see it” or “foundation brushes are too rough”.
I am not saying that it’s necessary to go through this step, absolutely not, but if the reason why you don’t apply it is just because of those reasons be aware that today you can apply foundation and still look natural and fresh and for the tools, don’t worry, there is probably the right one just for you.
I don’t often use mineral foundation and I don’t often go for more than medium coverage. My needs are those of a woman in her 40’s with extreme dry and sensitive skin who aims for a fresh glowy complexion. Depending on the days I can barely stand to apply make up at all so I need the most efficient tools : the best results possible, in the fewer strokes !
I have tried to pick different types of foundation brushes to guide you in your selection, each one with its own qualities and characteristics, they can really differ in shape, material and it will be up to you to find the one that fits your personal requirements. I don’t have an answer for every situation, if I did, I would not be working in IT !!! Believe me, I wouldn’t.
They can be made of natural bristles, a mix of synthetic and natural hair or only synthetic bristles, so many options are available today and many of them are very good. Do not consider my opinions as expert advice, I will simply share what I think about them and why I love them… or not.
If you are starting
First you want to identify what your profile is (oily, dry, sensitive skin), then what coverage and finish you desire. If you already found a foundation product that is matching what your skin needs, now you can start looking for the right tools. You may think that brushes are very expensive and that the investment may not be worth it, I don’t know about you but I wasted a lot of money on foundation products that didn’t work for me just because I didn’t have the appropriate tools to apply them. I am not saying that brushes will solve all your problems but they definitely will make your life easier, the application more pleasant and they may even save you money in the end.
Targeting a brush adapted to your profile
Many brush companies will not recommend you goat brushes if your skin is dry and sensitive, they will direct you towards synthetic or stippling brushes. They are right but I still found many full goat brushes that are soft enough for me to use on my very dry skin and I have absolute no problem at all. Basically if your skin is sensitive, it shouldn’t be moving around when applying foundation with your brush, it should not feel “molested”, on the other hand using a too soft brush will require many more strokes to blend and you may want to avoid that too since it may also irritate your skin at the end. The right balance would be a brush that is soft enough but still has efficient blending power. I have got some here.
Below, a synthetic brush vs a goat brush, if you want my honest opinion, this synthetic fun brush looks great and has thickness to it, which should be a good thing. It’s not a terrible brush but these two are a world apart.
This synthetic brush MUFE 108 has interesting fibers, at first they look nice, feel nice, but after you used it once, you don’t want to use it again without washing it before. Reminds me of a dirty kitchen cloth (sorry), absorbing quite a lot of product and getting some sorf of film around the bristles that you don’t necessarily like against your skin. I also find it does move my skin around too much (the bristles have a grip), in normal conditions it’s acceptable but I am prone to migranes and even if I don’t put too much pressure on it, despite the fact the bristles are very soft and don’t poke it still is unpleasant on my sensitive skin.
The goat brush here is the new Chikuhodo GSN-05, at first it does not look attractive, it’s not white hair, looks a bit yellow-coppery, not the most attractive aspect for some but don’t be afraid of that, this brush is amazing in all aspects, what I want to point out is that this goat brush despite it has darker goat hair, it’is much more pleasant to use than the synthetic for me, more efficient, does not suck product in the bristles and does not feel like a dirty cloth on my face at all, even if I don’t wash it every day, still the same blending power. It does not molest my skin, I don’t need to put a lot of pressure to blend and it doesn’t poke.
Bottom line : Natural or synthetic it will depend on the brush, again it’s a matter of preference and also skin tolerance, some cannot use natural hair at all and some cannot use synthetic.
Targeting liquid or powder foundation
If you have very dry skin you are less likely to use powder foundation and less likely to go for heavy coverage, in most situtations it will end patchy and not comfortable. Even with the right tools it’s difficult to go against these laws. When I apply a heavy coat of mineral powder foundation on my very dry skin, despite the quality of the powder foundation and the perfect brush, after just a little time my skin starts to beg for help, my wrinkles are maximized and dry patches appear all over, it ages me dramatically. Nice brushes will help but just to a certain point. Choosing the right skincare and foundation product for your skin profile is even more important, then you can try some foundations at the counters see how they evolve on your skin throughout the day until you find the perfect one for you.
Targeting the coverage you desire
The foundation product you’ll use will really help deliver the coverage and finish you are looking for. In terms of brushes, the denser and flatter the brush, the more coverage it delivers. The fluffier and rounder the brush, the more flexibility you’ll get allowing you to start from sheer and to build up to medium. See it in action with EnKoreMakeup.
Example of round vs flat :
Targeting the finish
The foundation product will help you a great lot if you want either a glowy or a matte finish. Then, if you are looking for an airbrushed finish, either you pick a brush that can achieve it directly in one step or you’ll need a two-step application, the first to apply, the second to blend/buff. There is no shame in using two different brushes and I will give you some examples where it’s even better : save you product, reduce the washing frequency of the blending brush. There are many techniques and many ways to get the finish you want, if you watch youtube videos on foundation application you’ll get many ideas.
I always go for a “natural, glowy, airbrushed application” and I takes me 3 minutes more or less. Sometimes I powder when I really need to or when my pores are playing tricks, but it’s rare that I do. If you target the comfort of your skin with the right skincare you’ll have better chances of wearing a wider range of foundation products or finishes but you are still limited with your skin condition.
For a foundation brush to deliver an airbrushed finish it needs to be fluffy, not overly dense, not too flexible, if it’s very soft and too flat it will not fit that purpose. To achieve the best airbrushed finish there isn’t simply a better brush than the Rae Morris Radiance, of course you can get airbrushed finish with others but this one will do it faster = less strokes. The Radiance looks perfectly flat but it isn’t, the controlled flexibility and placement of the hair does the job perfectly well, you don’t need to put too much pressure on it and that’s the great thing for me.
If you own this brush, my recommendation is to place the foundation roughly with a flat foundation brush before, then use this one only for finishing, it will keep it cleaner -well, less dirty- for longer, you won’t need to wash it as often and it will last you longer. It is insanely expensive so you better take great care of it.
Targeting the best material for you
I have tried most of the brushes and most of the materials, I know which one is my favorite but every month I may discover new brushes and my preferences may change.
My preferences also change depending on the product I use, one brush will be great for one foundation but could be dreadful for another. The thicker the consistency of the product (the resistance to blend) the thicker the bristles have to be and the more blending power you’ll have to put in your application. If you can find thicker and reasonably firm goat bristles that are very soft then they are very likely to be great for foundation. When I say thick, I mean thick like a Koyudo BP013 and not thin and soft like a Tom Ford blush brush for example.
Your preferences will be based on many different aspects, some materials do not trap as much foundation inside their bristles so better for the wallet, others will make you feel like a diva during application, others will make you feel like a Michael Angelo. Honestly I have two personalities when it comes to foundation application : the rational and the utopian, they cross eventually during the same application routine. I am not totally crazy, I just love to relax and enjoy a make up application, when I have time I play it like Tim Burton when I don’t, I go Fast and Furious
Since I have very delicate skin, most of the brushes I will show you are appropriate for dry and sensitive skin since they are very soft.
General rules, more or less true
Flat synthetic brushes : deliver sheer coverage, (may) trap less product, (may be) gentle with delicate and dry skin, tend to leave a streaky application that often needs to be perfected with a finishing brush.
Small brushes : for a whole face application it takes time, effort but will be able to work more in a dimensional way, allowing you to precisely apply different shades of foundation depending on where you want to enhance the highlight or the contour.
Rounded goat brushes : strong blending power, apply foundation faster, do not often need an additional finishing step.
Stippling brushes : extremely gentle with the skin and deliver a flawless and glowy finish. .
How I started with foundation
A few years ago, I first started applying foundation with the Sigma F80 for liquid and the Bare Escentuals for powder. I have used them for years before I even started using anything else, I was quite happy with them until I got older and the Sigma was not delivering the finish I wanted which had to be more flattering and lightweight. The Bare Escentuals was great and I have even went through several pots of mineral foundation but one day I just couldn’t use this brush anymore, it had become too rough and nasty and the ferrule broke.
From the Sigma F80 I went to the Louise Young LY34, it was a fail, it wasn’t delivering the airbrushed application I was looking for. I then switched to the Real Techniques stippling brush that I found better for my needs, the coverage was spot on, the application is quite easy but even though the bristles aren’t rough, they weren’t soft enough for a daily application. That’s why I kept on searching for options.
Then I found the Shu Uemura 18, it was great but just too small. It was taking me ages to apply my foundation. Kept on searching for other options and I found the Tom Ford 02, it was insanely soft but using it everyday was not the best option, I had to wash it so often that I decided I would only use it for contour cream or cream blush, but it’s good for both foundation and cream blush. Then I found the Chikuhodo and Koyudo that are similar to the Shu, but they are the same size so I was facing the same issue with the speed of application. Then came the Koyudo Fu-pa02 ! Imagine when you are looking for a bigger option and you get this Koyudo you just squeek with emotion.