By Thu Ngo
Having a good quality set of brushes can greatly improve the performance of your products, so can the best brushes, especially when it comes to eye makeup, where blending really matters. There are LOTS of options for brushes out there, from really cheap (in price and in quality) to hugely expensive and professional-quality and everywhere in between.
I’d like to share with you five of my favorite eye makeup brushes, all of which are affordable and not too difficult to find.
1. ⅜ Loew-Cornell 270 Maxine’s Mop ($3.95, also at Michaels or any art supply store)
I first came across this brush while searching for a dupe for the much-beloved MAC 239 brush. At the time, it had never occurred to me to use paintbrushes for makeup, and lots of beauty bloggers gushed over how similar this brush is to the 239, for a small fraction of the price. I decided to give it a try, and let me just say that this has become my Holy Grail brush for applying eyeshadow. I don’t have a MAC 239, so I can’t really compare (isn’t that the whole point of a dupe, so that you don’t have to shell out for the original?), but this brush has been so instrumental to my makeup looks that I ordered a few more as backups, since I use it EVERY day, and don’t always have time to wash my brush. I also own this in the ¼ and ½ sizes, and they are fantastic as well. I do believe the ½ size is a dupe for MAC’s 252 brush.
2. ELF Eyeshadow “C” Brush ($3.00, also at Target stores)
I don’t actually use this brush for the outer “C” of my eyes because of my eye shape, but what I DO use this brush for is to blend harsh lines, either clean or with a highlight color. It’s just stiff enough to be really good at smudging lines, but it’s a bit fluffy too.
3. Sonia Kashuk Shaped Blending Brush ($5.99 at Target stores and online)
I use this one as a pencil brush, to smudge shadow into my lash lines or smudge/diffuse. I’ve used other smudge brushes or pencil brushes before, where the bristles were stiff enough to hurt my eyelid a little, but this brush is just soft enough.
4. Essence of Beauty Crease Brush ($6.99? At CVS stores)
I wish I could find the online info for this brush – I actually bought the Crease Brush duo, but this specific crease brush is the larger of the two, and the one I use most often. I am Asian, which means that my crease is not so deep or pronounced as the eyes of other ethnicities, so some other crease brushes I’ve tried are too big and fluffy – I end up getting my crease color ALL over my lid, which is not so flattering. This brush is smaller and a little more tapered, so it fits right into my crease. It doesn’t blend as well as I like, so sometimes I use this one just to apply the color and I’ll use a different brush to blend if I need to. But it pretty much does the job quite nicely.
5. Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner brush ($7 at drugstores)
This one is the odd one out on my list, because actually, it’s the brush that you get when you buy the eyeliner. Normally I don’t give these brushes a second thought, but I did actually use it, and it is GREAT for what it does! I actually prefer to use this brush to apply all my other gel/cream liners (Tarte, Smashbox, etc). It gives a precise line that isn’t too thick or too thin (unlike using a slanted eyeliner brush). The eyeliner itself and I parted ways long ago, but I chose to keep the brush because it’s a pretty good one.
I have expensive “professional” brushes too (no, I’m not a professional), but in all honesty, these five brushes are the ones I rely on most for my makeup application. They hold up really well, and they get the job done, and I don’t have to feel heartbroken if I ever lose one because they don’t cost too much to replace.
If you’ve got any suggestions for other affordable brush options, I’d love to hear them!