You can own the most expensive makeup, but if you don’t use a quality makeup brush, that high-priced makeup is pointless. Quality makeup brushes don’t have to be expensive, and overspending on luxury brands is certainly a trap many people fall into. The best way to build out your makeup brush collection is to strike a balance between the features found in high-priced designer brand brushes and the low price tag attached to better-than-nothing drugstore knock-offs.
There are so many makeup brushes and sets that it can be overwhelming to pick which ones are best for your needs. We’ve done the research to find the best affordable makeup brush sets in a variety of categories so you don’t have to. Before we get into our picks, here are some things to keep in mind.
- A brush for everything: Each makeup brush is made for a specific purpose, so be sure to keep in mind which brushes you need when you’re shopping. You can buy brushes individually to make sure each one serves a specific purpose, but you’ll almost always save money buying your brushes in a set.
- Natural brushes are made of animal materials with blue squirrel being the most desired, and pony, goat, and sable falling shortly behind. Some people have ethical issues about using natural brushes, which is where synthetic makeup brushes come into play, but you can also find natural brushes that are PETA certified. Natural brushes hold color pigments better than synthetic models and tend to create a softer, more natural look on your skin. They are also the general go-to for applying any type of powder makeup.
- Synthetic brushes are man-made and usually consist of either nylon or polyester filaments, which are often dyed and baked to make them softer, more absorbent, and less prone to damage from makeup and solvents. Because the filaments don’t trap or absorb pigments, synthetic brushes are easier to clean and maintain and are the must-haves for individuals with certain types of animal allergies. They hold up to makeup better than natural brushes and as so are the preferred choice when applying liquids or creams, or layering powders.
- Essential Brushes vs. Add-Ons: You can find a makeup brush for nearly any application, but to keep your sanity and bank account in check, it’s a good idea to ask yourself which brushes you want versus which ones you actually need. Your collection should aim to have at least seven basic brushes: A liquid foundation brush, a brush powder brush, a blush brush, a concealer brush, an eyeshadow applicator brush, an eyeliner brush, and a lip brush.
- Price: Makeup brushes vary in price based on materials, quality, and brand name. Obviously, a fancy designer brush is going to cost more than something you find at a drugstore, but you can’t always assume a higher price tag automatically equals a higher quality item.
The following picks are based on online research, expert reviews from the fashion and beauty community, personal experience, and Amazon buyer reviews. We chose to go with makeup brush sets rather than individual brushes for the sake of price and providing plenty of options, although you could easily purchase add-on items if any set is missing a brush you know you’ll need.
Because the feel of a brush is a good indicator of quality, we dove into customer reviews to get an idea of how real consumers gauged the brushes, rather than relying on manufacturer claims. Although we were not dead set on finding the lowest price options, price was a consideration and because all picks did come in at under the $50 mark, we didn’t dedicate any specific pick as our budget choice, considering all of them are reasonably priced.