I'm going to do a more in-depth brush post for those who have the basics and want to expand so I'm going to really try and keep this to as few as I can. Now as you will see from my recommendations below I have some favourite brands. I buy brushes based on shape and feel and if they work I will re-buy that brush until I find something better. If I'm re-buying something I will probably do so online unless it's in Boots in which case I'll just go and grab it. It's at trade shows like UMA Expo (coming up in a few weeks) that I will go and have a feel of loads of brushes and make a few purchases. I tend to use more high street brands on myself and keep the more pricey brushes in my kit.
A lot of these brushes in my personal kit are Real Techniques because I buy the sets and then use the brushes accordingly. They are synthetic and wash well so last a reasonably long time. I'm so slap dash with my own make-up and brushes and my kids post them through floorboards etc that there's just no point in me spending a ton of money on them. I my brushes to be of a good quality yes, but not at Suqqu prices and it's great to be able to grab good quality brushes on the high street. My pro-kit brushes are, essentially, kept in child-proof conditions so there are higher end ones in there. There is also a lot of Louise Young and Daniel Sandler - I know both of these brands well and have used their products enough to buy online without having to see the brush first.
I keep my non-kit brushes in mugs with my kids hand prints on (I can't be trusted to actually drink out of in case I break them), and any cute, cheap pots I like the look of. My latest find is a pastel pink one for £2.99 from my local garden center. I'd love a swanky initial Brush Pot from Pentreath and Hall but I can't bring myself to spend the money on it (especially when they have so thoughtlessly done my initials in my least favourite colours!). It's important to leave your brushes on their side to dry when you have cleaned them. I only put them back in the mugs/pots once they have time to completely dry out.
When I'm travelling I use my EMJ Company brush wrap which I love. Sadly they don't do the personal size anymore, I have the deluxe one for my pro-kit. I like to use a wrap as they folds up pretty flat so don't take up much space, protects the brushes in your bag and means that if they are dirty you don't get make-up over everything else and can just wipe it clean when you need to. If you are buying a set from a brand then you can often get a wrap with the set. Louise Young, Bobbi Brown and Real Techniques do great ones. Eco Tools have a limited edition Anniversary Collection at the moment with a cool brush tube (I'm testing the brushes at the moment) which would be great for travel - would keep your brushes safe and clean and gives you something to prop them up in while you are away.
So the list below is going to look pretty big but I'm hoping that you will have enough info that you can see the brushes you would use and the ones you wouldn't so you don't have to bother with. I have friends who wear a lot of eye make-up and nothing on their face and vice versa. I've tried to include something for every aspect but without going to over the top. The more you use brushes the more you get a feel for the shape, size and brands you like. I use a mix of natural (goat, pony, sable) and synthetic brushes. Natural tend to give a softer application and are best used for powder products. However, synthetic brushes have come on amazingly in the last couple of years and are usually now just as soft and useable as natural hair so although they are still the best to use with cream products they work well with powders now too.
There are a few brands I've been meaning to try and just haven't got round doing so yet - Zoeva and My Kit Co to name but two that I've heard good things about. This is not a list of every single brush available or every single brand. This is just the basic brushes you would want to start a personal brush set and the links to ones I use on a daily basis.
Eye Shadow Brush - this is as it sounds. A brush for applying eye shadow. These can be rounded and fluffy or more flat but should be quite soft to ensure everything is nicely blended. In my (lazy) opinion it's best to have about three of these so you can use one for light, one for medium and one for darker colours and then not have to clean them so often (see my note on cleaning at the end of the post). I have about three Real Techniques Shading Brushes (which I started using as they were the only ones you could buy individually in Boots), and a couple Louise Young LY19's and these are the ones I use over and over. Other favourites are the Daniel Sandler Eye Shadow 1 and the Louise Young LY38 (which is great for blending too). The Creme Eye Detail brush from Laura Mercier is my favourite for cream products.
Smudger and Small socket brush - now I nearly didn't include this as it's quite specific but I use these brushes most days and if you are a fan of a smokey liner then they will revolutionise your life.The two I'm thinking of are the LY13 small socket brush and LY16. Great for getting a lovely smokey liner look and delicate shadow on the lower lash line. Daniel Sandler do a lovely Smudger brush too. I often use brow brushes as a smudgey liner brush for powder products - I use the brow brush from Real Techniques starter kit and the Eco Tools Brow Brush on a daily basis.The Laura Mercier Smoky Eye Liner brush is fantastic too.
|Laura Mercier Eye Crease, Crown Brush BK38, RT Base Shadow|
Spoolie - this is actually great for a number of things. Essential for grooming the brows, useful for combing out mascara clumps and believe it or not great for getting stray lashes, hairs and bits of glitter for your face without ruining your base. A lot of brow pencils come with a spoolie on the end (Hourglass Brow Arch has a great one) so you can always keep this after the pencil has run out but often spoolie's aren't very much money and if you are more of a fan of liquid brow products it's great to have a clean one to hand. Eco tools do a brow shaping duo which comes with an angle brush (see below) and a really nice shaped spoolie for only £4.50 or so. Louise Young does a great one (the LY22) for £6.
|LY 23, LY 34A, MAC 263, Bobbi Brown Precise Liner|
|LY48, LY38, RT expert face brush|
Blusher - I actually tend to use my Daniel Sandler Waterbrush for all types of blushers as the shape of it is so perfect and the softness means you can blend blush out beautifully. I love that the handles aren't too long.
Lip - One of the best I found was an old (sadly seemingly discontinued) Boots own brand one (now pinched by my mother). I really love the Louise Young 27 as it's great for getting shape (Louise often doesn't use lip pencils so you can see this in her lip brush design) and if you get a Louise Young Lip Trio the brush in the palette are absolutely perfect (I wish she'd bring these out in packs for pro-kits). I also love the shape and bristle length of the Accent Brush from the Real Techniques Starter set.
Powder - I'm very particular about my powder brushes and this is another one that, for me, has really been nailed by Real Techniques with their Blush Brush. It's a great shape and size - I find their (and most) powder brushes are just too big.
Multi-tasker - if you wear a full face of make-up quite often it's really nice to have a clean brush to hand that can do a number of jobs - blusher, bronzer, contour, highlight, blender. I, of course, have a couple of these but the ones I reach for most are the LY49A and the Real Techniques Buffing Brush from their Core Collection.
|Eco Tools small belnders, RT and Beauty Blender|
If you use a Beauty Blender then I advise using the proper cleanser that comes with it. For other brushes you can see how I clean them here - I tend to clean mine once a week or more if they need it.
As always if you have any brush queries, want a more in depth review of a specific brush or brand then let me know and I will sort that out for you.