Getting a Handle on Makeup Tools and Brushes

I’m really trying to work on my eye game lately. My makeup routine has always been slapping on a single shadow (usually the Maybelline Color Tattoo, of course) and a bold lip and calling it good.

In trying to do better with eye shadows and eye liners, I’ve also started experimenting with different brushes and makeup tools.  I’ll be the first to admit—I’m still figuring them out.

But I do have a few that have become my go-to options and most of them come from the drugstore or big box retailer. I mentioned some of them in my last post —but since I’m still new to building a brush/tool arsenal—I thought it might be fun to share what I’m using and hear what works for you.

Here’s what I’m using in order of how I use them:

Concealer/some foundations: Beauty Blender


Pretty much every makeup guru mentions the Beauty Blender at some point. Pamela has referenced them and I use one, too. But in full disclosure, it took me a really long time to get the hang of them. I still prefer to apply foundation or a BB/CC cream with my fingers—barbaric, I know—but I definitely use my Beauty Blender to put on my concealer. Basically, if I’m looking for a more precise application, the Beauty Blender is the one I call.

I also found this video to be extremely helpful in figuring out how to navigate the Beauty Blender and what I was supposed to do with it. The editing in this video is straight up crazy—but the information is spot on. (Sorry. Concealer pun intended.)

Powder: e.l.f. Studio Blush Brush, $3

I use this brush to set my concealer with powder. I like a little bit of a fluffier brush for putting on my blush but this one is the perfect shape and thickness for me to target the areas I just applied concealer like my under eye, around my nose, and between my brows.

Blush: Real Techniques Blush Brush, $7

Speaking of fluffier brushes, I love this one for putting on my blush. It’s not too wide like some blush brushes, which totally intimidates me. This one is more tapered but has some weight to it.

I got suckered into trying this Tarte holiday blush pack because YouTubers raved about the brush. I found it super floppy and hard to control. *photo from

It seriously takes seconds to apply blush using my old standby.

Bronzer: Real Techniques Sculpting Brush, $9

I don’t wear bronzer every day, but on days that I do, I’ll use this brush to apply it to the hollows of my cheeks. The brush angle is easy to fit right where you want it and its dense bristles pick up an even amount of powder—sometimes too much!—and  spreads it evenly.

Powder highlighter: ECOTOOLS Highlighting Fan Brush, $12

*Photo courtesy of


Like bronzer, I don’t wear highlighter every day. (sorry, Pamela!) When I apply a powder highlighter, I like the fan shaped brushes designed for highlighter application to keep it light and spread evenly. It looks like the bamboo brush I have isn’t around anymore—and has been replaced by this one—which is only available in this pack. I hope it handles the same. (Again with the puns. Yikes.)

Cream highlighter: Real Techniques Setting Brush, $8

When I’m applying cream highlighter, I like a little bit more of a substantial brush so I can control it easier. I like this brush—which is similar to the e.l.f. Studio Blush Brush—but a little heavier.

Real Techniques Sculpting Brush Set, $20

I found this pack includes the Setting Brush and the Sculpting brush, so for $3 more, you could try their highlighter brush and let me know how it goes!

Eyeshadow: Sigma Beauty, E25 – Blending Brush, $15

For my first step in applying eye shadow, I use this one to apply a wash of color on the lid. I use it again for the second color along the brow bone and for blending the two together.

Luxie, Rose Gold Blending Brush 227, $12

I received this brush in my IPSY bag and really like it. I use it for the third color or as an alternative blending brush when my E25 is dirty and I don’t feel like bothering to clean it off.

Real Techniques Base Shadow, $9 (in set)

I use this brush to apply color to the lid. I find it’s got some heft to it and really picks up color, but has control. I can only find it in a set, but it’s definitely worth $9 on its own.

Sigma Beauty, E30 – Pencil Brush, $15

To apply shadow to the outside corners or as a eyeliner, I use this pencil brush. Again, I really like the weight of it and the bristles aren’t too thin or floppy.

Sigma Beauty, E58 – Cream Color Brush, $16

If I do use cream shadow, I use this brush to apply it. It really picks up the product and makes it easy to spread

Skone Cosmetics, Smudger Brush, $12

Here’s another IPSY find, I use this to smudge out eye liner and sometimes to apply highlight under my brows.

Sigma Beauty, Extreme Color Payoff Kit, $66

On a random trip to the Mall of America, I stopped in the Sigma Beauty store and checked out their brushes. I ended up buying this kit which contains a lot of the eye shadow brushes I listed above. I found it to be a great starter set for me.  And this weekend, they are having a 30% off sales for President’s Day!

Lashes: Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, $20

I have a real issue with eyelash curlers pinching my lids, which is super annoying and mildly painful. I’ve had the most success with this one, but it’s admittedly hard to find and get replacement pads. But I’ve used it for years and anytime I try something else (looking at you, surratt beauty) I come back to this one.

Brush care: Sigma Spa® Express Brush Cleaning Mat,$25


Pamela got these for Jess and me for Christmas a few years ago and I love it! It makes cleaning my brushes fun and oddly satisfying.

Sephora Collection, Solid Clean: Solid Brush Cleaner, $14

This cake-style soap is a little cheaper than the Beauty Blender version and works just as good. It gets the gunk out and rinses easily.

Sephora Collection, Color Switch By Vera Mona Brush Cleaner, $18

This is kind of a bizarre little tool, but it does work to remove color off your brushes in between cleanings so you can reuse it without mixing colors. But a towel works just as good.

There’s a rundown of my most commonly reached for brushes. What am I missing? Do you have a better option? I’m still pulling this brush/tool thing together so I’d love to see your comments below.

I paid for all these items myself, received them as gifts as noted or in subscription boxes. As a result–I love deals! You can find many of these products on sale or in BOGOs. Photos from product website or as noted.


4 thoughts on “Getting a Handle on Makeup Tools and Brushes

  1. Pingback: My Ulta’s “21 Days of Beauty” picks | Everything and Nothings

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