This Makeup Secret Changes Everything

Maybe you bought one on a whim, received one as part of a 30-piece holiday brush set from your crazy aunt, or just thought it looked pretty on your vanity. But, let’s be honest, the fan brush doesn’t get a whole lot of love in the tools department. It’s not exactly the brush you’re running out to replace when the bristles fall out, or the one you carefully clean every Sunday afternoon. Well, we’re here to tell you that it should be.

In fact, the fan brush is one of the most versatile tools in your kit — especially during the spring months, when your makeup takes a turn for the light and breezy. And it couldn't be easier to use. We challenged makeup artist Janessa Paré and manicurist Miss Pop to create four gorgeous looks using just this tool. For lack of a better word, we think you're going to be a very big fan.


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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
The Basics
Fan brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on what you want to use them for.

From left to right:

Large: Fan brushes like these were originally created for sweeping off excess powder or stray flakes of makeup — especially back when makeup formulas weren't as advanced as they are now, says Paré. Today, they're an ideal tool for dusting on blush, highlighter, contour powder, bronzer, or loose powder.

Medium: You can employ this brush, which is best for smaller areas, for powder or cream shadows, highlighter (especially on the bridge of the nose and Cupid's bow), and even lip products.

Small/Mascara: This brush was specifically designed for sweeping on mascara. Why would you use that, and not just a plain ol' mascara wand, you ask? More on that in a minute.

Japonesque Kumadori Fan Brush, $19, available at Ulta Beauty; Morphe E40 Fan Brush, $4.99, available at Morphe; Sephora Pro Lash Fan, $21, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Fanned-Out Lashes
Even with all the innovations in mascara wands today, a fan brush is still one of the best tools for getting full, feathery lashes. Plus, it couldn't be easier or more mess-proof.

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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Unless you're working with old-school cake mascara or pigment (which you can also do), start by brushing the bristles along your everyday mascara wand. There should be enough formula to lightly coat the bristles, but not so much that it's goopy.

Sephora Pro Lash Fan, $21, available at Sephora; BareMinerals Flawless Definition Mascara, $19, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
After curling your lashes, press the wand right up to the base of the upper lashline and wiggle it through to the ends of your lashes — combing it through the hairs just like you would with a traditional wand.

Here's why it's different, though: "With mascara wands, it can be difficult to get density at the base of the lashes, which helps them look full," says Paré. "If you start at the base with a fan brush you get a nice payoff there, which makes them look thick and long."
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
And it couldn't be better for defining the lower lashline, either. "When using a mascara wand on the bottom lashes, you tend to get a poke-y effect or you can get it on the skin," says Paré. "With a fan brush, it's soft and you get slight definition without drawing attention to any darkness in that area."

Simply push it right up to the base of the bottom lashes and carefully pull it through the hairs.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
The result: a full, gorgeous set sans clumps. If it's a more dramatic look you're going for, simply press on more pigment or experiment with brushing on glitters or wild colors. The possibilities are endless.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Watercolor Eyes
Small fan brushes aren't just for mascara — you can also use them to transform a basic shadow look into a dreamy watercolor creation like this one.

Opening Ceremony top
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Start by pressing cream eyeshadow over your entire lid with your index finger. Don't worry about it looking perfect — the blending comes in a minute.

While you'll definitely want to reach for a cream formula for this effect, the color is entirely up to you. We used minty blue for a soft take on the major spring trend.

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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Working quickly before it sets, glide the small fan brush up and over your lids in a sweeping, windshield-wiper motion. Continue until you've created a soft half-moon shape that follows your browbone, with no hard lines. "Two passes of the fan brush should do it," notes Paré.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Finish with a couple coats of black mascara, and you're done. (And looking super-fresh, may we add.)
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Featherweight Flush
Fan brushes naturally lend themselves to blush, highlighter, and bronzer application, thanks to the soft finish they impart. It's almost impossible to apply too much product or mess up, says Paré.

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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Because they provide such a light touch, fan brushes are a great way to soften bright blush colors or transition rich winter shades (like deep berry or bright fuchsia) into spring, says Paré.

Simply hold the brush flat and flush against the pigment and push down, wiggling it back and forth a bit to get the pigment between the bristles.

Japonesque Kumadori Fan Brush, $19, available at Ulta Beauty; NARS Blush in Desire, $30, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Watch the amount of blush on your brush before you begin blending.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
For a natural flush, start at the tops of your cheeks and sweep the brush downward in short, soft strokes. "This creates a more romantic effect and frames the face," says Paré. (If you're using the brush for highlighter, glide the pigment upward along the tops of the cheekbones.)
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Finish with a touch of pink on the eyes and lips for the beautiful monochromatic effect we're seeing everywhere this season.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Brushed-Up Nails
Fan brushes aren't just for makeup — they're also an amazing tool for cool graffiti-style nail art. "It's so easy, it's inexpensive, and it's reusable," says Miss Pop, who picks up hers from the local beauty-supply store.

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Start by painting on a base coat and two coats of nail polish.

Dior Vernis Gel Shine and Long Wear Nail Lacquer in Tra-La-La, $27, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Then, pour a bit of your accent color onto a plastic dish or a piece of tinfoil. You can use any color you like, but we chose deep berry to complement the soft pink. "It's always really chic to go monochromatic," says Miss Pop. "You're guaranteed to have two shades that work together."

Dunk the fan brush in acetone first to separate and dry out the hairs. Then, gently dip the bristles in the polish, being careful not to oversaturate them. "If you can't see separation on the fan brush, then you won't see it on your nail," warns Miss Pop.

MAC 205 Fan Brush, $20, available at MAC; Essie Nail Polish in Bahama Mama, $8.50, available at Essie.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Working quickly before the polish dries or clumps, sweep the brush from the edge of your nail to the center for a cool striped effect. "The most concentrated color will go where you first put down the brush, so I recommend starting at the sides and going across or starting at the tips and sweeping down for a modern French-manicure effect," says Miss Pop.

You only need one coat for this step; any more and you'll lose the effect or muddy the colors, says Miss Pop.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Let it dry (it won't take long!), and then finish with a topcoat. Pretty rad, no?
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