There’s something you need to do. Find all of your sponge tip applicators and tiny brushes — you know, the ones included with your compacts that are rattling around in the bottom of your makeup case — and throw them in the trash. Those coarse-bristled, poorly shaped tools aren’t getting the job done. Having the proper instrument in your hand will help prevent user error and will go a long way toward creating flawless results on your face.
The tool to use for an impeccable base is The Original Beauty Blender ($20). With the teardrop-shaped sponge thoroughly damp, use the round end of the applicator in a bouncing motion to apply foundation. The pointed end is great for placing product under the eyes and around the nose. Even if you are devoted to applying your foundation with a brush, you can blend it out with this tool for seamless skinlike coverage.
Tom Ford’s Bronzer Brush ($115) makes applying powder foolproof. The wonderfully soft, natural brush disperses and blends powder so evenly your face will look sun-kissed, not troweled with makeup. Just because Mr. Ford calls this a bronzing brush it doesn’t mean you need to limit your use. The large domed head is ideal for applying setting powder all over the face. I’ve yet to find a mascara that makes my lashes look like the perfect, separated ones featured in ads.
Perhaps someday, but until then Rae Morris’ Brush 17: Mascara Applicator ($18) is close enough. I don’t use this as an applicator, I use it to comb through my lashes after I’ve applied mascara. The lack of end caps — like those you find on molded plastic lash combs — helps removing clumps. Word of caution: metal-teeth-versus-eyeball never ends well for the eye, so steady does it.
Wayne Goss doesn’t make a brush I don’t love. The natural hair bristles are the softest I’ve encountered, feel great on the skin, and blend product like a dream. The one I reach for every day is Brush 19 ($27) because it’s ideally tapered for the eye crease. If you’ve always struggled with a smoky eye, or any other eye look, it’s because you aren’t using the right brush. Cease to struggle.
I’m pretty passionate about Real Techniques Setting Brush ($7.99), I have three of them to ensure one is always clean and ready. The synthetic bristles are hand-cut and plush. The head of the brush is perfectly sized and tapered to fit under and around the eye to set concealer. This is an inexpensive brush that performs like a luxury product. It doesn’t shed bristles and it retains its shape wash after wash.
One last thing: I don’t like cleaning my makeup brushes and you don’t like cleaning yours , but in order for all of the above to really work, you must clean tools. Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Mat ($25) makes the task easier. The rubber mat has seven textured areas and embossed instructions for where to wash, then rinse your face and eye brushes. It does everything but run the water for you.
Wayne Goss Brush 19 (Beautylish.com), Tom Ford Bronzer Brush (Neiman Marcus, Cabazon), and Real Techniques Setting Brush (Ulta Beauty, Palm Desert).