Fact: Makeup brushes are the dark horse of any makeup routine. Often underestimated or forgone altogether by so many of us, they're perhaps one of the most important components of a celebrity makeup artist's beauty kit. They're artists, after all, and the strategic tools they use to sweep and buff product are crucial for the final look.
We fully realize we live in a time when convenience takes priority above all else, especially when it comes to our beauty routine. In an effort to save time and money, and without giving it a second thought, we resort to our trusted fingers to smear on our foundation in an Uber, and we've haphazardly dabbed on cream formulas like blush and eye shadow too many times to count in the office bathroom. The catch is that the end result, sadly, isn't reaching its full potential.
Don't get us wrong. Using what evolution has blessed us with for an impromptu primp and accepting that the Beautyblender might very well take over the world by 2021 (just our super-scientific approximation) is totally fine. And beauty editors and makeup artists like both! However, after experiencing our own application trials and tribulations over the years and sneaking peeks into the kits of the industry's most sought-after makeup artists, we've learned top-notch makeup brushes should not be underestimated. Better yet, even high-quality sets need not be heart-stoppingly expensive.
The right brush sets can dramatically improve the way our foundation melts into our skin or the way we line and stain our lips. For proof, we gathered together 15 crème-de-la-crème makeup brush sets you can buy, regardless of your budget. Sorted into three different buckets—save, spend, and splurge—our expert-approved options are below. Keep scrolling!
Save: $30 and Under
If you're on a bare-minimum budget or just don't feel like making a major investment before getting the hang of your brushes, we recommend E.l.f.'s impressive array of beauty tools above all others. This handy makeup brush set contains 12 strategic application pieces, which, for $12 total, equates to one dollar per brush.
Not only are these brushes chicly designed, but they're also easy to hold and maneuver and feature some harder-to-come-by brush styles like a deluxe fan brush and angled flat-top buffer brush. The brushes are cruelty-free and synthetic and also come with a handy pouch to pack them in.
We appreciate no-fuss, to-the-point beauty products, and this three-piece eye brush set from drugstore brand Milani is exactly that. Each of the densely packed, soft, high-grade synthetic brushes is handily labeled with its purpose (blending, allover eye shadow, and crease) and gets the job with a fast and professional finish.
Whenever we tap celebrity makeup artists for more affordable brush and sponge options, they've pointed us toward Real Techniques. To back their suggestion up, the brand consistently boasts impressively high ratings at retailers like Ulta, and it's also surpassed the merciless, high-stakes standards of product-jaded beauty editors. We're partial to this three-piece sculpting set from the brand, which will give you Chrissy Teigen–esque cheekbones in about two seconds flat. The set's synthetic bristles are custom cut, easy to clean, and 100% cruelty-free.
With the intention of simplifying our beauty routine (an always-welcome notion), this five-piecer from EcoTools boasts an angled foundation brush, blurring brush, defined crease brush, angle liner brush, full blush brush, and a storage tray to keep it all organized.
Spend: $30 to $70
As someone who has been applying makeup since middle school (yes, I chose my vocation wisely) and who has tried pretty much every brand of brushes under the sun, I can honestly say that a good portion (more than half) of my current brush collection is from Sephora Collection. They're high-quality and feel like professional-grade brushes. I recommend this five-piece set to cover all your bases and appreciate that the synthetic hairs can be used wet or dry depending on your desired end result.
Celebrity makeup artist Tobi Henney always keeps brushes from It Cosmetics in her makeup kit to perfect and create flawless foundation finishes. We love that this multitasking set from the brand is still relatively affordable. Technically, there are five brushes, but due to the handy duo ends, you're getting eight different tools.
If you're familiar with Tarte, you'll know the majority of its brush sets are usually colorful and extremely whimsical in nature. However, this more straightforward group of multitaskers has our hearts for their straightforward design and vegan DNA. The set features six of the brand's best-selling brushes, four of which have double ends, so you're actually getting 10 brushes at a fraction of the normal price.
For those who love to create intricate makeup looks, your search for the makeup brush set of all makeup brush sets can officially end. Sigma Beauty is known as one of the holy-grail brush companies in the industry, so it's no surprise it has tons of great sets. That said, it's not often we come across a collection that caters so beautifully to attention to detail. Plus, celebrity makeup artist Nam Vo is a known fan of the brand.
Bless makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury not only for making some of the best brushes we've laid eyes on but also for gathering four of the brand's best-selling brushes into a glittering gold clutch. You'll get a blush brush, eye blender brush, eye smudger brush, and a lip brush.
Splurge: $70 and Up
Makeup artists love Marc Jacob Beauty, and we've spotted an assortment of brushes from the brand in many expert makeup kits over the years. If the tasseled emerald clutch isn't reason enough to invest in this makeup brush set, the high-quality brushes inside most certainly are. The face, foundation, eye shadow, crease, and eyeliner brushes included are all expertly crafted with synthetic hairs.
Makeup artists and beauty editors alike agree that any product or tool bearing Kevyn Aucoin's legendary name is unequivocally a very sound investment. Yes, this five-piece makeup brush set is expensive, but it's one of the best, and due to the double ends, you're actually getting 10 brushes and—we promise—one of the best product applications you've ever experienced. Mixing synthetic fibers with boar and pony bristles, each brush enhances your makeup's blendability and staying power.
Celebrity makeup artists like Jenna Kristina are huge fans of makeup brushes from Japanese brush brand Hakuhodo. This holy-grail set features 10 different brushes for each and every one of your application needs.
Say hello to the makeup brush set to end all makeup brush sets. This exclusive collection from Utowa, courtesy of one of our fave beauty retailers, Violet Grey, literally has everything you need. From an A+ eyelash curler to cotton swabs to every kind of makeup brush (plus a chic clutch!), this epic brush set is makeup artist–approved and a top priority on every beauty editor's wish list.
Even though you might want to call in a bucket of cold water to revive you post–sticker shock, it's worth pointing out that Artis and this covetable collection of makeup brushes just might be the best in the business. The brand is known and loved by everyone in the beauty industry, and if you're truly looking for flawless results that mimic an airbrush finish, you've finally met your match. In total, you'll get nine beautifully designed brushes, all featuring the brand's signature (and trademarked!) circular bundle of vegan fibers.