I’ve always taken a less-is-more approach when it comes to makeup, partly because I prefer a more minimal look but also because, quite frankly, I really don’t know how to do it. Makeup application is just not my strong suit. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, including one that I’ve found to be really important: the tools matter just as much as the products. I learned this fun fact from a makeup artist friend of mine. She helped me do a big clean-out of my makeup drawer last year. I used to have cups full of makeup brushes in all different sizes and angles – most of which I didn’t even use because I wasn’t sure which one was for what. She managed to narrow it down to a small selection of just the essentials (Note: No more concealer brush for under my eyes. I just apply it with my ring finger.), followed by a mini-lesson on each brush. Below, the five brushes you’ll find in my set and how I use each one.

  1. Tom Ford Foundation Brush – This is the brush that has made the biggest difference for me. I used to apply my tinted moisturizer or foundation with my hands, but using this to do so instead is a game-changer. The brush makes it easier to blend the product, making everything look so much more even. The result is an overall smoother look.
  2. Laura Mercier Powder Brush – After I apply my foundation, I use this brush to do a quick sweep of this Laura Mercier loose powder. It sets the foundation and adds a touch of brightness, too. The key here is not just the brush itself but the application: after dipping the brush into the powder, I do a quick tap against the sink to remove any excess powder before gently sweeping across my face. The sink tap helps avoid the chalky look that you get from too much powder.
  3. Bobbi Brown Blush Brush – I consider blush my desert-island makeup item. Even on days when I don’t wear makeup, I always apply a little blush. (My favorite color is “Bumpy Ride” from Nars.) It just brings a little life to my face. I prefer my blush brush to be a medium size and have a dome shape as opposed to something flatter. This brush has been my favorite for a long time. Not only does it apply just the right amount of color to the apples of my cheeks, but it’s also a brush that has managed to really last. Unlike a lot of other blush brushes, the bristles on this one don’t constantly fall out, leaving me with little black hairs on my cheeks.
  4. Chanel Round Eyeshadow Brush – Since I really do not wear eyeshadow regularly, this brush is really the only one I need. It’s perfect for when I just need a subtle amount of color.
  5. Bobbi Brown Dual Brow Brush – I only recently started filling in my brows. (I use this brow gel to fill them in.) I’m not sure what took me so long because it really does make a big difference. What I really love about this particular brush is how stiff the brush is. It’s perfect for shaping and adding color to brows. It’s also dual-ended so I can use the other side for grooming and to blend in my brow color – not to mention, it’s also perfect for de-clumping lashes from mascara.

That’s it. Five brushes. And I never travel with them. Instead, I just pack this set when I travel. Genius. One final note: clean your brushes. I haven’t been great about this in the past but I’m making a solid effort to do it much more often. My method is simple: I gently rinse the brushes in warm water and then use Aveeno’s baby wash to cleanse them. I then let them air dry on a towel overnight.

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