A Case For Tossing Out Your Makeup Brushes

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Occam's razor says the simplest solution is the correct one — but does this rule work in the beauty world? With many of the industry's top makeup artists opting to use their hands (definitely the easiest way to get product from a tube to a face) over brushes, we think it's safe to say yes.

Your fingers are not only available at any time, but they're also easier to clean, obviously a whole lot cheaper, and they offer some serious blending power. We're not saying a makeup brush will never come in handy, but taking your cosmetic routine tool-less is worth a try if you're into a more natural look and a simpler approach.

"[When] you're working with your hands, you have a lot of control and freedom to try different things, so you can really experiment with your products," says famed makeup artist Diane Kendal. "It just gives your makeup a really raw and natural beauty, rather than looking perfected, or like you have product sitting on your skin."

Your fingers are also much more perceptive than a brush will ever be, which makes for a more sensitive, intuitive approach to applying your cosmetics. "Only fingers can truly sense where skin requires additional care, and can truly identify where skin feels drier or normal, or identify to the touch where skin is most textured," says makeup artist and Veil Cosmetics founder Sebastien Tardif. Ahead, we lay out just how to get hands-on.

Start With A Clean Slate
We're not just talking about a clean face; keeping things as sanitary as possible means germ-free hands as well. Be sure to wash before you use them to apply anything, and always maintain well-groomed and relatively short nails (lest you poke out an eye, and your mom gives you the "told you so" side-eye). Also, keep your hands moisturized for a gentler touch. If you follow these rules, the makeup world is your oyster.

Prime Time
Some of the best — and easiest — products to apply with your hands are moisturizers and primers. Use your hands to work the product into your skin, focusing on areas that may need a little more hydration. Once you've provided a well-absorbed base, you can move on to your cream or liquid foundation and concealer.
Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.

Create A Foundation
Apply your foundation to the back of your hand to warm it up, and then dot it onto your face and blend out with your fingers. "Be gentle, and try to avoid tugging or pulling the skin," advises makeup artist and Shiseido artistic director Dick Page. "Also, vary the pressure you apply. The index and middle fingers tend to be easier to work with, but stronger, and the ring finger and pinkie are good for a lighter touch."

Page says he often uses his fingers to smooth out foundation around the eyes and sides of the nose, in particular, which aren't as easy to "feel out" with a brush or sponge. As for concealer, apply with your ring finger in a tapping or rolling motion. "[These motions] are quite ideal when it comes to locking into place coverage under the eyes or on a blemish," says Tardif. "The warmth of the finger always melts away the appearance of makeup and gives [way] to a fresh, no-makeup finish."

Cream Team
It goes without saying that liquid and cream products — whether it's blush, contour, highlighter, or eyeshadow — work best when applied with your fingers. "I feel creams look far more realistic and beautiful on the skin," says Rose-Marie Swift, Gisele Bündchen's makeup artist and founder of RMS Beauty. "I tend to do most with my fingers: contour, foundation, blush, highlight, eyeshadow — all in cream form. I also tend to do lipstick with my fingers, as [it looks] way more natural, though sometimes I do use brushes for this."

With cream products, pat off a little bit on the back of your hand before applying to your face. This prevents you from applying too much, and warms up the product so it's more pliable. It also gives you a chance to build up layers and intensity in a way that looks exceptionally natural and flawless.

Switch It Up
You should vary the pressure you apply and the fingers you use, depending on what you're doing. "Using your ring finger for cream eyeshadow is perfect," notes Kendal. "It has the right shape, and you can work your color into the crease and inner corner of your eye." But your cheeks may require more pressure, so use your index and middle fingers to apply blush, highlighter, and contour.

Finishing Touches
As for powder? You may be better off applying it with a brush, but once it's on your skin you can go at it with your fingers again. "This allows the product to sink into the skin, and you can blend it [with your fingers] so the edges are really soft and beautiful, and look more natural than if you were to just leave the product sitting on top of the skin," explains Kendal.

Ultimately, have fun with the process: Gift yourself the freedom of experimenting with different motions, techniques, and products.
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