Brush it off: Your guide to building an arsenal of makeup brushes

Friday, August 3, 2012

I've been meaning to buy some makeup brushes. But to be honest, I don't actually know how to pick out a good set of brushes, and there are so many to choose from. Besides, the applicators that come with my makeup seem to do the job OK.

Dustin Duncan, manager at Sephora in Cape Girardeau, says those sponge applicators don't pick up the pigments or blend as nicely as specially-designed makeup brushes. Brushes are what give a flawless, natural look, especially on the eyes, he says. As for the face, gals with dry skin can blend foundation with their fingers, but those with oily skin should stick to brushes.

Here's a field guide for identifying makeup brushes and building your collection:

For the face:

* High-definition airbrush. This is your ultimate multi-tasking brush for applying liquid or powder foundation, bronzer and blush. Brushes can be expensive, so Duncan recommends starting with the basics and building your collection over time. This is a good first purchase.

* Tapered foundation brush. This brush is slightly smaller than the high-definition brush and has a tapered shape. Use it to apply foundation around the eyes, then blend outward.

* Stippling brush. The synthetic fibers in this brush are ideal for creating a natural look with cream blushes.

* Angled blush brush. The size and shape of this brush make it easy to sweep powder blush onto your cheekbones for perfect definition.

For the eyes:

* Allover shadow brush. This brush is for sweeping one shade all over the eyelid. They come in different sizes -- choose one based on the size of your eyes and how much coverage you want.

* Blending shadow brush. With longer fibers and a flattened shape, this is a must-have for blending other shadows after you've applied your allover shade.

* Rounded smudge brush. Use this round, short-fiber brush to apply a darker shadow at the outer crease of your eyelid, then blend it outward. It's also great for smudging eyeliner for a softer look.

* Rounded crease brush. This is similar to the blending shadow brush but has a rounded shape for contouring and blending in the final step of your eye makeup look.

Some extras that are nice to have:

* A big, rounded powder brush to finish off your look

* A rounded bronzer brush

* Concealer brushes

Make 'em last

If you take care of your brushes, they should last two or three years, say the Sephora pros. Clean them at least once or twice a week to remove product buildup and keep bacteria at bay: Squirt a gentle facial cleanser into the palm of your hand and gently work a damp brush into it. Rinse, then dry the brush laying flat or with the bristles angled downward.

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