My friends and I often chat about beauty and since I'm a beauty blogger that tests quite a few things, I'm often asked "what do you think is the best _________?" Foundation brushes were the topic of discussion last month. My top three favorite tools are the Beautyblender Sponges (the pink one, the white and black ones are not as good even though they're supposed to be the same), Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush and the Tom Ford Foundation Brush. As soon as I said "Tom Ford" ooohs and aaahhs followed by the question, "ok, but how much do they cost?" At $72 each, neither of my friends were willing to splurge. They asked what made the brushes so good and I told them they were the only brushes I've tried that applies foundation streak-free and it requires no extra work to blend into the skin. Even though I had tried quite a few, I was tasked with a project to find a cheaper alternative that performed just as well. Suggested brands included Marc Jacobs Beauty, Urban Decay, Chanel and MAC. I have already tried and tested the Chanel #6 and MAC #190, both of which are good, but still give me streaks, luckily both brands have new ones out so I was able to test those. Given the fact that I am super picky about brushes that leave any kind of streaks, I was skeptical I would find anything as good as Tom Ford.
The seven brushes I tested include:
For quick reference, here are the brush tips/tops shown for size reference and shape, same order as what's shown above:
Foundations I tested the foundation brushes with: Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick (review), NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation (review here), Marc Jacobs Genius Gel (review), Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting Foundation (review + swatches), Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet Foundation (review)
I went into my local Sephora store to look at the Marc Jacobs Beauty brushes. I have had a really good experience using the Shape and Contour Brush for pressed powders, contouring powders and also foundation. It's super dense though so it's better suited for contouring. One of the makeup artists at Sephora recommended the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 for flawless coverage. She said it's the best brush she's ever used - the shape allows you to get in the corners of the nose and blend easily and the wide flat shape allows for full coverage with just a few strokes. There's also the Mini Size #53.5 and Large Size #53XL for the body/decollete. I liked the look and price of the mini, but the regular size comes with a flip open cap that comes in super handy for storage/travel. It keeps the bristles in tact without coming in contact with other tools so it won't get kinked or smashed.
In the interest of wanting to see which one was better, I bought both. The artist was right. The regular size #53 is indeed better. It's larger and fluffier and allows for easier application with a few strokes on the face. The mini is still good but the size requires more brushing back and forth to cover the entire face. I was worried the regular size would be too large or that it would soak up a lot of product, but it actually is the perfect size and doesn't absorb too much foundation. These are made with Naturon fibers that are made from a synthetic PBT, it feature waves and pointed tips to emulate natural fibers.
I'm truly impressed with how good my foundation looked with these. These give flawless coverage that is completely streak free. I liked these best with liquid foundation (versus stick/creams). Huge huge thumbs up.
Side views of the Mini #53.5 versus Regular #53:
On the nails, Louboutin The Noirs Nail Colour in Sevillana
The Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush is something I've actually had sitting in my drawer for a while. It was gifted to me earlier this year. I've tried some other Urban Decay brushes before including the ones that come in the Naked Palettes. I'm usually not a huge fan of synthetic brushes although I'm slowly trying more and finding some really good ones these days. I put this one to the test. It has an ultra soft feel with a rounded tip. Urban Decay describes this as a vegan brush. The description of this one: "The brush’s handle is made of recycled aluminum, and its synthetic, cruelty-free brush hairs are more hygienic than real hair (but never get that stinky wet-hair smell)." I found it ultra soft and also does an amazing job at blending foundation flawlessly. For the price it's a really good option, but I can't call it a favorite for two reasons. The first is there was a bit of shedding before I washed it. The first washing resulted in a tiny bit more shedding but after that it was done. The second hesitation I have in giving this a glowing review is the brush head is a bit small. It's not bad - it's still easy to use, but after testing other brushes, I find others easier and better to get full coverage with less strokes and less blending. Still - if you're looking for something relatively inexpensive and that will blend liquids without any streaks, this is a good option. It blends foundation sticks on the face really nicely too and is super gentle on the skin.
Two of the Marc Jacobs Beauty foundation brushes have been on my wishlist for a long time, but since I was already 100% happy with the Tom Ford Brushes, I decided to pass, but in the end caved to test them. If you're like me you probably wonder if glowing reviews are often due to hype. In the case of Marc Jacobs Beauty brushes - the hype is real.
The newest brush The Face III Buffing Foundation Brush is on the expensive side but it's worth every penny. It's an ultra plush brush with a super dense head and rounded domed tip. It's dense but still very soft so it allows for easy blending and buffing in a circular motion. It works well with sheer and full coverage foundation. The material helps the foundation meld into the skin in the most amazing way - you get flawless coverage and is 100% streak free and it applies foundation evenly on the skin.
The Face II Sculpting Foundation brush isn't a new one but it's new for me. It has a beveled/angled tip that is perfect for sculpting the face. It's good for all over foundation - the angled tip glides along the sides of your face, temples and cheeks smoothly. Since the tip is slightly angled, it's skinny along the top and allows for perfect blending along the sides and corners of the nose. It's perfect for cream bronzer.
Between the two, I can't pick a favorite - they are both really phenomenal. They both blend liquids and creams flawlessly. I tried them both with liquid and cream foundations. The Buffing Brush is better to blend out stick/solid cream foundations on the face. The Sculpting is also versatile for liquid products and blending out cream bronzers or contouring products.
Side views at different angles to show the tapered shape of the Sculpting Brush:
Last but not least include two of the newest slanted flat top brushes from MAC and Chanel. The MAC Slanted Flat Top Brush #196 was really hard for me to locate - it was sold out almost everywhere I looked but I did find one counter that had one left. I was told that it's not limited-edition and will be permanent in stores but I'm not 100% sure. This was my ideal pick because it has a large brush head which I prefer for foundation - it allows for less blending. Unfortunately it did leave some streaks - it was easy to blend out but didn't give a streak-free finish like the others I tested. That being said this brush was designed for the MAC Studio Waterweight Foundation which reminds me of the Armani Maestro Fusion Foundation - both of which are very fluid and thin in texture. I prefer thicker more traditional foundations that are still liquid but not super thin. Perhaps it works better on thin texture foundations.
Chanel just launched a 2-in-1 Fluid and Powder Foundation Brush #8. I've tested this for about a week now and think it's amazing. It's still on the pricey side but relative to Tom Ford, it's pretty reasonable. This one glides on the skin perfectly and gives streak-free application. It has a smaller tip compared to the other brushes which means I had to dab and blend 3x as much to cover my entire face. It does seem to soak up a tiny bit more product compared to the other tools but I'm willing to deal with it since the application is so good. I haven't tested it with powders but for liquids I'm impressed.
Below you can see the MAC has shorter bristles while the Chanel has longer ones:
Side view, you can see the difference in size. I prefer the size of the MAC, but the performance of the Chanel is better.
I'm really impressed with a number of these brushes I tested. I wonder what took me so long to try out the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 brush (it's better than the mini version). It's amazing and at $38 the price is right. Marc Jacobs Beauty of course never ceases to impress me. Both the Face II Sculpting and Face III Buffing Brushes are more expensive and quite a splurge - but they are really well made with sturdy handles and they have a well constructed design. I don't think you'll be disappointed with either and I don't think owning both is redundant.
I personally wasn't a huge fan of the Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush or MAC Slanted Flat Top Brush #196. Both are good brushes for the price. The Urban Decay is a bit too small for my taste although it's super soft and blends liquids beautifully. The MAC leaves visible streaks and although they are minimal and easy to blend out, I'd rather have something that gives me a flawless finish to save time. The short tip also makes it a bit hard to wash out - the liquids get up into the middle and it took extra work to get completely clean.
The new Chanel #8 Foundation Brush gives a flawless finish and I would say it's definitely superior to the original #6 Foundation Brush. I don't gravitate towards small angled brushes because I think they are better suited for detail application. For foundation I want something that will apply product in larger sweeping motions. The #8 is very good though - if you're in the market for an angled brush this is a good one to look at that won't break the bank.
In summary, I have found brushes that perform just as well as my beloved Tom Ford brushes at a cheaper price. My top two picks include the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 (found exclusively at Sephora) and the Marc Jacobs Face III Buffing Brush (found at Sephora and Marc Jacobs Beauty).
I hope you found this roundup helpful! Do you have a favorite foundation brush?