Getty / JGI/Jamie Grill
Not all foundation brushes were created equal—and not every brush can handle the same makeup formula. Each style, from Kabuki and paint paddles to sponges, serves a specific purpose, which is carried out by its unique shape and the materials it's made of. Here, we talked to two makeup artists to discover which type you should be using, how to use it, and what else you need to know about caring for your makeup brushes.
Foundation brushes usually vary a lot in terms of shape and density; the one you choose should ultimately depend on the look you're trying to create and desired level of coverage, says Sephora Collection's national makeup artist Helen Phillips. "Each type of foundation brush lends itself to different application techniques like buffing, painterly cross-hatch motions, sweeping, or stippling," she explains. "The fiber of the brush is also important. Natural hair tends to work best with powders, while synthetic bristles suit creams and liquids."
Celebrity makeup artist Natalia Thomas says Kabuki-style brushes are packed very tightly and cropped short, which makes them great for applying both powder and liquid formulas—plus, they're incredibly easy to use. "Use small, circular motions for a seamless sheer- to medium-coverage finish," she says.
Flat Paddle Brushes
As for the flat paddle type, which looks like a paint brush? They are typically composed of synthetic bristles and act like spatulas, Thomas notes. This means they pick up and distribute the same amount of product every time you dip it into your foundation, which makes for remarkably even application. "They are great for liquids and concealers ranging from sheer to fuller coverage," she adds.
If you are considering using a sponge, Thomas says to moisten it first to achieve that natural spa-skin finish these products are known for. "They also suck up less product when wet so you don't waste as much, and in turn pack more moisture into your skin," she says. "In my professional work, I use the BeautyBlender sponge ($20, sephora.com) to help remove texture from the skin left by brushes, using a stamping and rolling technique with the moistened sponge rather than using it as a tool for application."
Everyday Care and Cleaning
No matter which type of foundation brush you use, make sure that it has been properly cleaned and sanitized so that you don't transfer bacteria from open foundation to your face. This is especially true for sponges, notes Thomas, who washes hers directly before using them, instead of after—she knows she's less likely to give it a thorough cleanse when she's ready to run out the door. If you would rather clean as you go, Phillips suggests giving all brushes a deep clean once every two weeks.