How Many Makeup Brushes Do You Really Need?

Whenever we interview experts, it feels like we wind up recommending hundreds of makeup brushes to get this look or that. But, even we know that you don't need a professional kit with tons of tools to execute your daily best — unless you're vying for a spot on reality TV, that is. In which case, frost that cake and get ready for your close-up.
In fact, most of us with a premium on time and counter space don't have the interest to work with a ton of beauty tools every day. This leads us to The Big Beauty Question: Exactly how many brushes do you really need?
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In the search for no BS and real facts, a call was made to celebrity makeup artist Jake Bailey. Bailey, who regularly crafts looks for stars like Katy Perry, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Chloë Moretz, is one of our favorites for straight-forward advice. One morning, after coffee (we're not monsters, after all), we got him to give up the goods on the absolute essential brushes for basic cosmetics application, day or night.
In Jake's words: "It really depends on how much makeup you wear but, really, many women only need about seven makeup brushes on a daily basis." So, in all their glory, here are the beauty tools you need to put your best face forward.
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Photo: Courtesy of Shiseido.

Foundation Brush

The first weapon in your beauty arsenal is a good foundation brush. "Don't use sponges," advises Bailey. "Sponges absorb more product, which just means you're going to go through your foundation more quickly. Brushes don't waste product, and you can build coverage more easily."

What if you're just using tinted moisturizer? "Skip the brushes," says Bailey. "Just use your hands to apply it." See why we love him?
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Photo: Courtesy of Trish McEvoy.

Concealer Brush

"A concealer brush is essential," says Bailey. "It allows you to apply and blend the product without wiping it off."

Which brought us to a bonus-round question: Exactly what color of concealer should we be using? "For your undereye, think 'liquid and light,'" he advises. "You want it to be slightly lighter than your skin tone in order to highlight the area."

What about blemishes and skin imperfections? "Same color as your foundation, tap it on with a smaller brush and blend gently. You can cheat and use a lip brush if you want since it's about the size of most spots. Just be sure not to wipe your foundation off by blending too hard."
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Photo: Courtesy of Chanel.

Blush and/or Powder Brush

Bailey says you can utilize the same brush to apply powder (loose and/or pressed) as well as blush (cream and/or powder.) "Look for a brush that's soft and round with a head about the size of a silver dollar."

Two tips from the pro: "When it comes to applying powder, stick to the T-zone and inner cheeks," he says. "Leave the outer face alone. It's more natural that way. Also, use cream blush on creamy foundation-covered skin, and go for powder blush on skin that's been powdered."

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Image: Courtesy of Sephora.

Brow Brush and/or Spoolie Brush

"If you define your brows with a pencil, skip the brush," says Bailey. "But, if you're using brow powder, apply it with a small, stiff, angled brush so you can mimic your brow hairs."

What about a spoolie brush? "Those are great for defining lashes and/or grooming your brows," he says. We spotted this combination brush that allows you to play with your brows and lashes endlessly. Just, you know, not at the same time, unless you're just that good.
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Photo: Courtesy of M·A·C Cosmetics.

Medium Eyeshadow Brush

"You need a medium eyeshadow brush to spread eyeshadow over the lid and under the crease," Bailey counseled us. "You can use it with cream or powder shadows, it doesn't matter."
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Photo: Courtesy of e.l.f. cosmetics.

Small Eyeshadow Brush

"You want to use a smaller, angled eyeshadow brush to get definition," says Bailey. "They're good for getting into the crease of the eye to define looks, day or night."
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Photo: Courtesy of M·A·C Cosmetics.

Lip Brush

Bailey sort of cheats and uses a brush that's designed to intricately shade the eye as a lip brush. "Some people have the whole lipstick-from-a-tube thing down, but if you don't, brushes like this are your new best friend," Bailey enthused. "They spread pigment more evenly. You can use them to get a defined lip or a stained effect just by the amount of product and pressure you apply."
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