Tools of the Trade

The thousands of makeup brushes flooding the market can seem staggering for beginners who want to branch out beyond the oft-included sponge tip applicator. Available in any conceivable size and shape, it can be hard to determine which tools are necessities and which will languish untouched at the bottom of the cosmetics bag. But these multitasking must-haves are sure to see plenty of use.

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Original Beauty Blender
This super soft sponge practically doubles in size when dampened with water, allowing effortless blending of foundation and concealer and making it a favorite of makeup artists. Bounce the rounded end across the face for an almost airbrushed finish and use the pointed tip for targeted areas around the eyes and nose. When properly washed with blender cleanser, the durable sponge will last years. $20

Sigma F20 Large Powder Brush
Sigma brushes are an investment, but their ultra-soft fibers, durability and two-year warranty make them worth the price. The large fluffy shape is ideal for applying any form of powder, making it a multi-use powerhouse. Sweep on blush, blend in bronzer or dust on finishing powder with this dependable workhorse. $33

Real Techniques Shading Brush
Created by a duo of makeup artist sisters, Real Techniques brushes have earned a cult following. Everything from the cut of the bristles to the rubberized grip was devised for ease of use and clean application. A simple shading brush is a key tool for any eye shadow look and this duo-fiber tip works well with both powder and cream shadows. $6

Make Up For Ever 242 Large Blender Brush
A good blending brush is what separates a professional-quality eye look from amateur attempts. The tapered shape is well suited to blur the edge of shadow, smudge a deeper color into the crease or even contour the sides of the nose. Use bare to soften any harsh lines for a flawlessly blended finish. $30