Pros Swear By These Bargain Makeup Brush Brands

We always thought of professional-grade makeup brushes as something we would acquire as full-on adults, like fine china or an investment portfolio. After all, what would be the point of splurging on a set of finely-crafted tools that would last forever when we hadn’t yet developed the wherewithal to take care — or even keep track — of such things? And yet, years after college graduation, we’re still using whatever random brushes remain from sets we don't even remember buying. (And for the record, we still haven't purchased a full set of dishes, either.)
But in a rare case of procrastination paying off, it seems we may have dodged a budget-denting bullet: According to nine professional makeup artists who work with celebrities like Jenna Dewan and Lily Collins, there are plenty of quality brushes to be had for just a few bucks a wand. Some are made with craftsmanship and design in mind (think wooden handles, rose-gold accents, and mermaid motifs). Others are bundled with zippered cases, travel rolls, and organizational trays. Every single one of them is a steal.
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See which bargain brands can be found in the kits of Hollywood makeup artists, and prepare to mark "buy a fancy set of makeup brushes" as a done deal in your grown-ass goals list. With the money you save, tackling that whole investment-portfolio issue might just be next.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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Think about it, do you actually use more than five different makeup brushes? Probably not. And if you're using the same brushes almost every day, it might be time to restock — which is as easy as walking into Target with a $20 bill. Celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg tells us this box from Eco Tools holds a solid set of brushes, and it's all the everyday makeup-wearer really needs. "These tools are great — and so affordable," she says.
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Looking for a no-fuss, no-brainer brush set to cover all your bases? Makeup artist Mai Quynh, who works with Alison Brie and Katherine Langford, suggests bargain bundles from this brand. "The brushes are very soft, and [this set] has all the basics to do a complete face," Quynh says.
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Makeup artist Allan Avendano, whose clients include Jenna Dewan and Camila Cabello, says he was initially surprised by how well the brushes from this wallet-friendly brand performed. "The synthetic brushes from NYX are super affordable and have lasted as long as some of my expensive brushes (as long as they’re taken care of and are cleaned regularly)," he says.
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"It took me a long time to get on board with the new breed of synthetic brushes — I was a diehard traditional brush girl,” admits makeup artist Fiona Stiles, who counts Gabrielle Union and Lily Collins as clients. "But these dense synthetic brushes really do work in a unique way with makeup, especially liquid or cream products. I have dozens of the Sephora brushes in my kit and I constantly reach for them. The quality is unreal." The brand’s Ready to Roll Brush Set makes a solid starter set at a value, but we can’t get over how cute the multi-colored synthetic bristles are in this mermaid-inspired set.
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"Morphe Cosmetics has a huge selection of low-cost brushes to choose from in both synthetic and animal hair. My favorites for eyeshadows are the M433 (pointed liner), M510 (pro round blender), and the M167 (oval shadow) brushes,” says Michael Ashton, a makeup artist who works with Adele and Keira Knightley. “They deliver great color payoff when creating any eye look, and the brush shapes allow me to apply product exactly where I need it to be."
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"Sigma has such a great range of options when it comes to brushes, and I’ve had a few of my favorites in my kit for years. The bristles are great quality and super soft,” says Katelin Gan, who works with Noah Cyrus and Sophia Bush. “The brushes hold up so beautifully — plus, they look super chic."
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These brushes are makeup artist Robert Sesnek’s affordable pick because they feature soft, densely-packed natural-synthetic blend bristles that are easy to clean and work well with cream, liquid and powder makeup. “There's little to no shedding of the bristles and you get all four brushes for under $20,” he says of this set.

Makeup artist Emily Cheng also gives the brand a nod, saying, "I've had some of their brushes for years and they've held up great."

Ashton also considers Real Techniques a wallet-friendly go-to brand, particularly for applying foundation and cream-based blushes and highlighters.
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A high-quality brush can last more than 10 years and stand up to frequent washes, makeup artist Lisa Aharon points out. When working on clients that include Rachel Brosnahan, she likes options from this brand, which she says offers a good selection of brushes with both synthetic- and natural-hair bristles. "The quality is high, but still affordable," she says. What’s more, double-ended wands help make the most of precious makeup-bag real estate.
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For those who are pained by the idea of brushes that absorb all the makeup before it even hits skin, this set of silicone applicator tools helps apply liquid and cream concealers and foundations seamlessly. Like silicone makeup sponges, these tools get clean with a quick hit of warm water. But unlike those sponges, the diamond-shaped, handled tools allow for more precise application.
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This year, the brushes we've come to know and love got a major face lift. Sam and Nic Chapman, of YouTube's Pixiwoo, revised their face brushes to create these angled, extra-fluffy inventions fit for all your blush, bronzer, and highlighter needs. Although the shape remains consistent throughout the 3-piece set, it's the size that really matters. Our suggestion: Use the tiniest brush for inner corner strobing, the medium to really dig into creamy bronzers, and the biggest for a dewy glow.
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