The best makeup brushes for a professional finish

Laura Kennedy: Remember to keep them clean to get the right results

The power of good makeup brushes can be easy to forget, until you see the transformative power of a great one. We all get complacent, and goodness knows there is more to worry about at the moment than remembering when you last gave your brushes a good wash, or whether short, stiff bristles are better for applying undereye concealer than long, fluffy ones. That said, if you wear makeup, getting the finish you seek is often down to your brushes as much as the product on them — not just whether you’re using the “right” ones but whether they’re fit for purpose.

No one wants to hear it — least of all me, as I contemplate the grungy eyeshadow brushes on my dressing table in the bathroom, each screaming out for the cleansing transformation of a bit of soap and water. However, a dirty brush is pretty useless. If you suffer from breakouts (as I do), no diligent skincare routine will compensate for reusing brushes caked with old, bacteria-riddled makeup.

Also, brushes need to be clean to do their work. When loaded with old, congealing product, they can never give the buffed, diffused finish you bought them for. A weekly wash is essential, especially as investment brushes need care to keep the bristles from moulting.

Before each use, a quick spritz of an alcohol-based cleanser on to a towel or tissue and a swirl of the brush will remove most of the lingering deposit, allowing you to get the best performance from your brushes every day.


You’ll give new life to your old brushes by doing this, and don’t necessarily need any new ones, but if you want to add to your collection, there’s no shortage of options.

Sculpted Stippling Duo Brush (€19 at is a new addition. It features a flat-topped foundation brush on one end, and a dense, rounded concealer brush on the other. It’s excellent for fuller coverage products but you won’t be able to store a double-ended brush upright in a glass without damaging one end, so it will need to be stored flat.

Each brush in the Trinny London T-Brush Set (€74 at is available to buy separately, and each is a sound investment but as a trio, they have complexion wrapped up. You can apply everything from foundation and concealer to blush, bronzer, and highlighter with these. The short, indulgently bristled foundation brush applies light to heavy coverage bases like a dream, and travels well too.

There’s no need to reject the classics if you’re in the market for a new brush. The MAC 217S Blending Brush (€26 at Brown Thomas) is an icon in eyeshadow blending. A glance into any top MUA’s bag will reveal several of these — they’re key to perfectly executed smoky eyes and a professional finish.

The Clinique Foundation Buff Brush (€36 at Clinique counters nationwide) blurs foundation across the skin perfectly, but is far less effective when grubby, so a regular wash is critical to ensure peak performance and a perfected finish.

Laura Kennedy

Laura Kennedy

Laura Kennedy, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about beauty