The 4 Best Makeup Brushes of 2022 | People Tested

Table of Contents1 Best Overall: MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush 2 Best Budget: e.l.f….

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A good makeup brush can create the illusion of no-makeup makeup — smoothing out unwanted bumps, blending away discoloration, and creating a streak-free finish. Whether your skills rival professional artists or lie somewhere south of “what end of the brush do I hold,” a quality makeup brush can enhance your overall application.

To help you find your next favorite makeup brush, our testers created an in-house glam studio, brushing foundation across their faces to test the best uses for each brush and see where they fell short. After each mini makeover, they evaluated the brush’s design, application results, and how easy it was to clean, massaging the bristles with soapy water until all the residue washed away.

These makeup brushes were considered the best that PEOPLE Tested.

Best Overall: MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush

Pros: MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush is a makeup lover’s dream with its luxurious design and versatility.

Cons: It’s an expensive makeup brush, though we don’t think it’s overpriced given the quality. 

Every beauty guru has a go-to tool in their kit, and the MAC 170 Synthetic Rounded Slant Brush will be the one you reach for. MAC makeup artist Anton Khachaturian tells PEOPLE this brush is “the ultimate complexion tool,” while artist Jamie Greenberg explains “you can place color with the chiseled flat part and blend it with the amazing bristles.” Receiving a perfect score in design, application, and ease of cleaning in our testing, this makeup brush was a clear standout.

Our tester loved its synthetic vegan bristles, soft on your skin, but densely packed to avoid absorption and subsequent makeup loss. The round angled shape also received praise for its ability to “get into the contours of your face” and reach tricky spots such as around the nose. 

Designed for foundation, cream contour, blush, and powder, this brush is a universal tool to keep in your glam kit. Our tester said the MAC brush applied foundation quickly, but still created a “beautiful and smooth” finish. Its versatility and effectiveness make this brush ideal for your daily beauty routine  — and as an added bonus, it’s easily cleaned with soap and a quick rinse.

Though our tester didn’t find any flaws with the brush (love is blind), it’s worth mentioning the high price tag. While it’s more expensive than your drugstore makeup brush, we firmly believe the cost matches the value you’re getting.

Powder, cream, or liquid formulas

Credit: People/Tamara Staples

Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Buffing Foundation Brush

Pros: This cruelty-free brush is affordable, well-designed, and effective at applying liquid and powder products. 

Cons: It’s rather small for applying makeup to larger areas like your cheeks and forehead. 

High-quality beauty tools don’t have to break the bank. The e.l.f. Cosmetics Buffing Foundation brush offers a sophisticated design, versatility, and easy maintenance for an affordable price. Our tester raved about the soft bristles made from vegan synthetic fibers rather than animal hair. The tapered shape allowed easy access to “the contours and grooves of your face,” our tester said, noting that it works best around the eyes and nose. 

The e.l.f. makeup brush is designed to work with liquids, powders, and creams, and applies each effortlessly. Our tester appreciated how it blended her foundation “quickly and smoothly, without blotchiness.”

While rinsing the bristles was easy, they did retain a faint stain from the makeup color. Our beauty tester also said she’s used to big brushes, and this one was a little small for applying product to large areas on her face.

Powder, cream, or liquid formulas

Credit: People/Tamara Staples

Best Splurge: It Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Flat Top Buffing Foundation Brush #6

Pros: This brush has a sleek design, and applies liquids, powders, and creams effortlessly.

Cons: It’s a little pricey.

Though designed for powder products, this brush worked flawlessly with liquid foundation during our tests (bonus points for multipurpose use!). Our tester loved the flat top design of this brush as well as the weight of the handle. 

The soft but dense bristles allow the foundation to sweep across your face without losing much product en route. “It’s a good size for blending foundation onto any part of your face,” our tester said, noting the streak-free finish.

This brush aced our cleaning test, with all of the foundation rinsing out quickly and fully — as very little of the product was absorbed. We briefly sighed at the price, but sometimes you need to treat yourself, and in this case, it’s worth it.

Loose and pressed powders

Credit: People/Tamara Staples

Best for Contour: Lune+Aster Foundation Brush

Pros: This angled brush is perfect for contouring your face, with an ergonomic handle and short bristles that make for easy application and after-care.

Cons: It’s a little pricey.

Rounding out our list is a brush that will create shape and definition on your face. With lavishly soft bristles and an angled shape, the Lune+Aster brush is perfect for contour. The synthetic vegan bristles were a hit with our testers, and the short ergonomic handle made it easier to apply pressure and control the brush strokes. 

This brush earned a perfect score across all of our tests and applied product equally well across large facial areas as well as tight spots around the nose and under the eyes. Suitable for liquids, sticks, and powders, this brush can blend out any formula to achieve a smooth and even result. 

And after you apply your makeup, “the product squeezes right out of the short bristles, making the cleaning process quick,” our tester said. As with others on our list, this makeup brush wears an expensive price tag, but we think the price reflects the value.

Liquid, stick, or powder foundations

Credit: People/Tamara Staples

Things to Consider Before Buying a Makeup Brush

Material

There are several factors that play into the design of a makeup brush, and bristle material is a big one. Bristles can be synthetic or natural, which will determine the texture and cost. Natural bristles are sourced from animal fur (squirrels, sables, goats, etc.) which can be difficult to acquire and more labor-intensive — thus, the higher price tag. Synthetic bristles are manufactured from various fibers and polymers and are often as soft as their real counterparts. Considering the ethical controversy around the use of animal fur (and cost!), many brands have turned to cruelty-free options, and we support this effort with our high-quality synthetic PEOPLE Tested picks. 

Shape

The brush shape (and size!) can affect your application, so to figure out what shape you’ll need, you must consider the brush’s use. For contour, you’ll want a sharper angled brush for hard-to-reach spots like around the nose. On the other hand, for a daily makeup brush, a medium-sized flat brush will be most effective at blending foundation across your face in large strokes to avoid any streaks.

Density

It’s true: density actually plays a part in how well your makeup brush works. If you’re using liquid makeup, you need a brush with densely-packed bristles to keep the formula from seeping into the brush, never to be seen again (until wash day). A powder product like blush or bronzer will coat the top of the bristles, so you’ll want a looser brush to sweep the granular makeup across your face.

Cost

Though some makeup brushes can cost you a Benjamin (*crickets*), you don’t need something that expensive to create a beautiful finished look. Certain materials, sizes, and brands will affect the final price, but if you’re looking for a quality makeup brush to apply and blend foundation, there are great options for every budget.

How We Tested Makeup Brushes

Eleven beauty aficionados were treated to midday makeovers as they tested 15 of the most popular makeup brushes on the market. To find picks for our best list, they considered the design, application, and ease of cleaning for each brush.

After applying foundation to their faces with each brush, our testers considered the materials the brush was made from, how soft the bristles felt on their skin, and how well the design aided the makeup application. Did the brush absorb most of the foundation or blend it evenly across the skin? They also considered the results — whether the final finish was smooth and natural-looking. For cleanup, they used warm water and soap to massage the bristles and determined how easily the makeup could be rinsed out.

What Is People Tested?

We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.

But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.

In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.

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