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Makeup brushes. They’re the bedrock of our makeup routine—a good brush, after all, will make a $5 makeup buy look like a million bucks. So it goes without saying that using the proper tools with the right products is key to creating gorgeous looks. Read on for brush buying tips that will take your routine to the next level.

Choosing the Right Brush

Let’s start with a quick primer. A short stroll down the beauty aisle and it becomes clear that brushes come in a bevy of shapes, sizes, textures and yes, even fibres. The three most common fibre variations are synthetic, natural and a combination of the two. Synthetic brushes pick up and deposit product, allowing for a heavier application. Natural bristles, which are more porous, lend themselves to a lighter application because they hold some of the product within their bristles. Obviously a combo brush does a combination of the two.

For Foundation Brushes and Powders

From kabukis to blenders to buffers, there is an infinite number of foundation brushes out there. Although some formulas (like liquid- and water-based foundations) are best applied with your fingers, if you prefer to use a brush try a fluffy, natural-bristle one for sheer liquids. For full-coverage, cream-based foundations, and a synthetic, flat paint-style brush is ideal. And when shopping for a powder brush for your face, look for something that is fluffy and has a pointed tip. This is essential for maneuvring inside of small areas, like under the eye and around the corners of the nose.

For Bronzer, Blush and Contouring

For those of who want to blush, bronze and even highlight all in one go, opt for a contouring brush that is short, flat, and densely bristled; a more tightly bound brush means it’s going to give very precise and defined results. A more loose and angled contouring brush is perhaps a less intimidating option if you want to experiment with a diffused and subtle application on the entire face.

For Dressed-Up Eyes

As a general rule, the tighter the fibres, the more precise the placement of the shadow. When doing sculpted eye or using multiple colours, use a flat brush made from natural fibres, which will help avoid muddiness and provide more control. Fluffier blending brushes on the other hand, are great for softly diffusing colour, blurring lines and creating a flawless look.

But if you’re more of the experimental type and want to execute advanced eye-makeup looks, you should consider expanding your brush collection to include other types (think angled, tapered, crease, contour, smudging and liner brushes) for an expert-level finish.

For Perfect Brows

While your old toothbrush may do in a pinch, if you want to take your brows to Cara Delevingne-level perfection, a 2-in-1 double-ended spoolie comb with angled brush from Quo is your BFF. Spoolies distribute product throughout the brows, softening the look and blending to perfection.

For a Painted Pout

One size fits all does not apply to lip brushes and they should be picked based on the size of your pucker. Those with fuller lips should opt for a rounded, dense brush with a bigger surface area and thinner pouts should use a long, straight edge brush with a narrow bristle head for precise application. Either way, look for ones that have a cover, like this one to avoid damage and keep your kit clean.

Finally, try your best to show your tried-and-true tools some TLC. This means cleaning them regularly, whether that’s with a daily spritz of cleanser or a full-on, deep conditioning treatment (they’re made of hair, after all). With proper care, a great set of brushes can last a lifetime of flawless (and bacteria-free!) makeup application.