Makeup brushes for the face

It recently occurred to me that whilst I have waxed lyrical about every makeup item I own, I haven’t written very much about the brushes that I use to apply it with! Well, that changes today, I’m going to share what some of my favourite makeup brushes are. I use brushes from a wide variety of brands, and the majority are from fairly affordable brands such as Eco Tools and Real Techniques. I’ve decided to split this into two different posts because otherwise it would be an excessively long, so today is all about the FACE.

xo beauty flat top face brush, real techniques setting brush, ecotools kabuki brush, real techniques miracle complexion sponge, sephora blush brush


The majority of the time, I apply foundation with my XO Beauty Flat Top Face Brush. I have written an entire post about it, and the summary is that it’s great. I previously had used normal paddle type foundation brushes and found that they give me a kind of streaky application, whereas this is far more flawless. Another tool I use to apply foundation is the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, which is similar to the famous Beauty Blender. The reason I bought this over the Beauty Blender is the price – it’s $5.99 from iHerb  and a BB is like triple the price!

xo beauty kabuki brush, real techniques sponge

To apply powder I always use my Eco Tools Retractable Kabuki Brush – I actually own two of these, one lives in my hand bag and the other is for home use. I purchased them from iHerb for $8 which is an incredible bargain for lovely soft brushes. It works well if I want to buff in a powder foundation, but I can also use it to just lightly apply a setting powder also – it’s very versatile.

ecotools retractable kabuki brush

For blush and bronzer I use brushes that came in a set from Sephora about three years ago, which isn’t a terribly useful recommendation. I recently bought my mum some brushes to replace hers which were probably as old as me (I wish that I was exaggerating!), and she really likes the ELF Cosmetics Blush Brush. Good brushes are essential for all makeup, but I think blush is one that particularly needs it, since using the type of little brush that that comes with a blush compact is unlikely to result in a subtle application. Stripes of blush are flattering on no one!

When I bought my NARS Albatross highlighting blush, I asked the helpful people of Twitter what brush I should use to apply it, and the answer was overwhelmingly the Real Techniques Setting Brush. I am very glad that I listened to their advice, as it’s wonderful for lightly applying a highlight on my cheeks. I have also used it to apply my Makeup Forever HD powder to set undereye concealer, and it does a lovely job.

real techniques setting brush, sephora blusher brush


Just kidding – does anyone regularly use a lip brush? I own one because it came in a set but I have probably only used it a couple of times because it’s just not very practical.

You may notice that none of the brushes I use were bought in NZ stores, and that’s because we really don’t have a great range available here, or at least didn’t until recently. Farmers sells Artiste by Manicare brushes which are okay but they’re so not worth $20-30 each when you consider what you can buy online for that price. Real Techniques and Eco Tools can be bought in store, but for highly inflated prices. Some of my brushes were bought from Sephora which now has New Zealand  and Australian online stores.Then the next level up is brushes from MAC or similar brands, but they are far beyond my budget.

To read about eye makeup brushes, click here.




  • This was a super useful post considering I never use brushes for anything, and every time I go to buy one I just get a little overwhelmed by the decisions haha. I think I will pickup that XO Beauty brush to start, as it does seem to work well for most!


    • I’m so glad it was helpful! Real Techniques have some good sets where you can get a few different brushes that will cover all your brush needs. I love the XO beauty brush!

  • Christel Hansen

    I’m such a huge fan of Ecotools & Real Techniques brushes! I honestly think they’re two of the best brush brands on the market. I actually used to have a bunch of Ecotools brushes in my freelance kit back in the day, and they were so damn good!

    • They are so good! I’ve been so happy with mine that I just haven’t considered getting more expensive ones!

      • Christel Hansen

        Heck yes!! MAC 217 brushes are awesome for the eyes, but their face brushes are no better than Ecotools/Real Techniques! Mum legit stole my Ecotools powder brush, I’m so sad about it. Need to get another one, stat. Hahaha

        • I need to try that famous 217 brush!!! My mum used my brushes and was amazed at how nice they were compared to her terrible really old ones, and she loves her new Ecotools and ELF ones I bought her with my iHerb affiliate credit.

          • Christel Hansen

            It’s definitely my favourite MAC brush. At one stage I had 6 of them, but half of them have disappeared!
            That’s so cool that you got her some Ecotools and ELF brushes! Mum uses my Ecotools powder brush that she stole, Real Techniques (she has a couple of the sets), an Ecotools set and the MAC 217. She needs to be schooled on washing them more regularly though, ugh! Hahahaha

          • Oh yeah, washing is my next thing for mum. I’m pretttty sure the only time they get washed is when I visit her!

          • Christel Hansen

            Yeah whenever I clean mine, I try to remember to grab Mum’s brushes and clean them too – otherwise they’d never get done!

          • Get the Hakuhodo J5523 instead – it’s cheaper and higher quality. Hakuhodo actually manufacture MAC brushes anyway 😉

          • I remember seeing you post about that! Good to know!

  • I love the sponge too – the price is really the cherry on top! 🙂

  • Ladyaah Beauty

    I love using the Beauty Blender for my foundation & my concealer, this stuff is so amazing !

    • It’s so good! I never used ‘traditional’ sponges but these modern/next generation ones are great.

  • This is a great post Lena! I use a beauty blender every so often but mostly I use similar tools to you – a flat top kabuki, a big fluffy powder brush and then smaller fluffy brushes for highlighting and under-eye setting. I love my Bdellium babies they’re so pretty and pink <3 you may have inspired me to do my own brush post! xx

    • Your Bdelliums are so pretty! Flat top Kabuki is so great, I wish I had got on that game yeaaaars earlier. Would love to see a post from you!

      • I’ll get onto it as soon as I finish this first chapter of my thesis! Woo xx