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10 best foundation brushes for a flawless base

Cover all bases with an easy-to-use applicator

Pippa Bailey
Thursday 01 April 2021 11:59 BST
Choose well and it can elevate a good foundation into a radiant finish and help it last longer on the skin, too
Choose well and it can elevate a good foundation into a radiant finish and help it last longer on the skin, too (iStock Photo/The Independent)

They say your make-up is only as good as the skincare used underneath it, but we’d add the tools you use to apply it to that, too. A well-chosen foundation brush can elevate a good foundation into a flawless, radiant finish and help it last longer on the skin, too.

The right one won’t have you working at the mirror for hours working out streaks, and it won’t absorb so much product that you find it requires three times as much as simply applying with your fingers.

Many work just as well with stick or powder formulas as with liquids, and can also be used with concealer, highlighter, bronzer and blusher. For a dewy finish, try dampening your brush before using it as you would a sponge.

Previously, the best brushes were made with animal hair such as sable or goat, but the technology of synthetic bristles has hugely improved, and in most cases, we can no longer tell the difference between natural and synthetic hairs. All the brushes here are made with synthetic bristles, so there’s no need to be concerned about cruelty.

Good brushes are, on the whole, expensive, but choose the right one and care for it well, and you’ll get years’ of use out of it. You can buy special brush cleaners, but we’ve found a gentle and economical method is cleaning with baby shampoo.

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All the brushes in our round-up have been tested first with the same liquid foundation (Bobbi Brown skin longwear weightless foundation), and then with other formulas and products where appropriate.

While testing we looked for the comfort and ease of application, the finish and coverage they produce, how much product they absorb, and how the foundation lasted on the skin.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Bobbi brown full coverage face brush

Bobbi Brown foundation make-up brush.jpg

We are long-time devotees of the full coverage touch up brush – for buffing out concealer – so we had high hopes for its big sister, the full coverage face brush. This synthetic fibre brush has densely packed, medium-firm bristles in a domed shape. It works with liquid, stick and powder foundations, and can be used damp (as you might with a sponge) for extra glow.

Of all the brushes we tried, it was the quickest, easiest method to achieve a flawless, streak-free finish. It gives good coverage with the first layer and doesn’t absorb too much product, so you rarely need more than a single layer of product.

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Chanel foundation brush No100


The flat foundation brush shape is so classic and ubiquitous that we tend not to expect anything revelatory from it, but this is absolutely gorgeous. Its synthetic bristles are soft and smooth, and the fairly short handle gives really good control. Use short flat strokes with the side of the brush to evenly distribute product across the skin, then move the tip in small circles to precisely and lightly buff out any streaks, and to get into the tight spots around the nose and eye sockets.

  1. £32 from
Prices may vary
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Clinique foundation buff brush

Clinique Foundation Buff Brush

This gives an airbrushed, glowing finish like nothing else we’ve tried. The bristles have more give than many similar-shaped brushes and feel soft and gentle on the skin. It distributes product lightly and evenly, and you have to put in very little work to get it to buff out without streaks; this is a great choice for anyone new to applying foundation with a brush. It works equally well with cream and powder foundations, and also with cream bronzers, such as Soleil Tan de Chanel.

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By Terry tool-expert soft buffer foundation brush

By Terry Tool Expert Soft Buffer Foundation Brush

We’d never used a brush like this before and we were very pleasantly surprised to find it’s more than just a gimmick. The bristles are densely packed and fairly rigid but still super soft. The finish is completely flawless and the coverage is very good; you don’t have to build up layers of product or feel you’re losing pigment into the bristles. Top tip – we found holding our index finger over the handle, as if holding a knife, gave us more control.

  1. £38 from
Prices may vary
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Chantecaille sculpt brush

Chantecaille sculpt brush.png

This brush is a real multi-tasker, as its slight slant means it can be used for contour and highlighting, even blush, as well as foundation. We love that the angle gives the round brush a “pointy” end, which is great for getting into the creases and nooks of the face, particularly around the nose and eyes, and that it isn’t so pronounced that it can’t be used in a circular motion like a buffing brush, rather than in strokes. Its bristles are super-soft, synthetic and give light, natural coverage.

  1. £35 from
Prices may vary
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Real Techniques expert face brush

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush.PNG

If you’re after great brushes on a budget, there’s no better brand than Real Techniques whose brushes perform well when compared to luxury brands. This expert face brush is a round, domed brush with well-packed but soft bristles that works equally well with liquid and powder foundations. We often finish up by using it to press powder over the parts of our face that tend towards oiliness.

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Sisley foundation brush

Sisley foundation brush

This is quite an unusual foundation brush as it’s small, almost the size of a travel brush, but this gives you tight control over the movement, rather than the soft, sweeping strokes of a longer handle. The brush head is also small, so you can really get into the creases and nooks of your face, and buff out your foundation to perfection. Its size also lends itself to blending under-eye concealer and for that reason, it’s our multi-tasking brush of choice for make-up on the go. Plus, it works with both liquid and powder formulas.

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Westman Atelier foundation brush

Westman Atelier (1).PNG

Founded by the legendary make-up artist Gucci Westman, Westman Atelier is a sleekly packaged range of simple, natural-finish products. This brush is made in Japan from sustainably sourced birch wood and has synthetic bristles.

It’s a slightly firmer flat brush than the Chanel No100 (£32,, though it’s still very soft on the skin, and was the best brush we tried for not soaking up product. It works particularly well with thicker cream or stick foundations, creating good coverage in one layer and a streak-free finish.

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Suqqu foundation brush

Suqqu foundation Brush.PNG

This brush, from the Japanese beauty brand, is perfect for creating an imperceptible, natural, radiant finish. The shape, inspired by the traditional itabake brush, is unlike any other foundation brush we tried, but it’s very intuitive to use and was almost like an extension of our hand. Use it to buff your foundation to an even, light layer across the skin. We found it least messy to apply foundation directly to the end of the brush, rather than dispensing a long stripe along the back of our hand.

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Mac 170 synthetic rounded slant brush

Mac 170 synthetic rounded slant brush.png

A fairly large brush head and densely packed bristles mean this produces a well-blended base as quickly as is humanly possible; this has become our favourite brush for the days we only have a few minutes to get ready, as it gives a beautiful, soft-focus finish and good coverage with minimal time and effort. The slant allows precision work around the creases of your face but is gentle enough that it doesn’t get in the way of circular buffing motions elsewhere.

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The verdict: Best foundation brushes

Bobbi Brown’s full coverage brush gets our top spot for its great coverage and streak-free finish with minimal effort, and works well with liquid, cream and powder foundations. If you want a traditional flat foundation brush, rather than a domed buffer, Chanel’s is the best we’ve tried by a long way.

For more beauty favourites read our round-up of the best eyeshadow sticks for quick and effortless make-up

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