5 of the best foundation brushes and tools for perfect application

Don’t underestimate the importance of good tools: these foundation brushes could be the secret to a flawless base

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You read up, you tracked it down, you colour matched in the unkind glare of the beauty hall, so why is the base best foundation sitting on top of your skin like parchment paper? It’s all very well having the best foundation. But if your base doesn’t look quite right it may well come down to not using the best foundation brushes or tools. 

Have you ever painted a wall with a cotton bud, or written a shopping list with inky fingers? Probably not, and yet so many of us use the wrong applicators (or none at all) for our make-up.As well as finding your perfect foundation match, how to use face primer and how to apply foundation, using the right kit is crucial. With a bamboozling array of brushes available, it’s no wonder we’re all fingers and thumbs. But, with a little advice you can build your perfect beauty toolkit.

There are a few things you need to consider when picking foundation brushes, from the finish you’re looking for to the product you’re working with. Personal preference and how you like to apply goes a long way too, so I consulted the experts to discover their favourite foundation brushes, tools and methods of applying.

What are the best foundation brushes according to the experts?

“For long-lasting coverage, I always apply foundation with a flat foundation brush, starting in the centre of the face and blending outwards,” explains A-List make-up artist ZoëTaylor. “Using a brush instead of fingers can help make-up stay on longer, as the oils from your fingers can mix into the product you’re applying.”

However, if you’re going for a more natural look with lots of skin show-through, try NARS Senior Artist Rachel Hardie’s manual approach. “A NARS signature trick is to use your fingers to apply your foundation. We always apply this way backstage as it gives the most seamless finish,” explains Rachel. “The warmth of your hands really helps to blend the product into the skin, build coverage but also show the natural glow through the make-up, and gives an appearance of a second skin, completely undetectable.”

The best foundation brushes and tools you can buy right now

On top of foundation brushes, what about foundation sponges, gadgets or those gorgeous but confusing fan brushes nobody seems to know quite what to do with?

We’ve got you covered there, too. Foundation brushes and tools are booming and there is an embarrassment of choice out there, so we’ve tried and tested the lot so you can find the ideal fit for you.

The best foundation sponge for a dewy finish

Beautyblender original

Beautyblender Original

Sponges were everywhere once, then not (bit icky?). Now they’re back, reinvented as “blenders” in conical shapes and clever materials that won’t drink your make-up. Dampen to make a drop of light-medium foundation go all the way, then bounce on for a sheer wash of pigment and a perky glow.

The original and best is of course the Beauty Blender, which is so easy to use it’s borderline fun. The pointy angles get into every nook and cranny and you won’t have to worry about tidemarks or streaks.

The best foundation brush for polished perfection

YSL Y Foundation Brush

YSL Beauté Y Foundation Brush

The firmer the bristles, the fuller the finish, so pick a flat-topped brush if you have oily skin or like your coverage on the muscular side. A new subspecies of foundation brushes has little wells to perfectly ration out the product. I love YSL Y Foundation Brush, £35 – if it’s ever OK to call a brush sexy, this is it. It’s sleek, weighty and easy to control. I had to work a little to blend in a very high-coverage base but the polished end result was so worth it.

The best foundation applicator for an airbrushed effect

Starskin patting device

Starskin Artist FX Auto-Patting Make-up Applicator

Do we really need a gadget to apply foundation? Short answer no, but you might want one once you see what they can do. Vibrations and pulses are the business at laying down make-up evenly and smoothly, and the Starskin Artist FX Auto-Patting Make-up Applicator is like having the nimble fingers of a make-up artist in your beauty drawer.

As a very lazy gadget-user and therefore very sceptical tester, this totally converted me. All I had to do was press the button, then it took 30 seconds to cover my whole face, flawlessly. The little interchangeable applicators take a minute to fit on, but that’s a minor gripe for amazing, poreless-looking skin. Would I use it every day? Probably not. Would I want this for my next big event? Absolutely.

The best foundation brush for a lighter touch

Real Techniques Face + Body Blender

Real Techniques Face + Body Blender

If full-on foundation isn’t your thing but you still need help here and there, pick a domed brush. They partner well with slippy formulas like BB cream, as the tapered top spreads product quickly without overworking it, while the fat base massages everything to a natural skin-like finish. Try Real Techniques Face Make-Up Blender Brush. It’s a little fatter than most of us will be used to working with but feels strokably soft and blends tinted moisturiser quickly and easily.

The best foundation brush for powder foundations

Trish McEvoy Fan 62

Trish McEvoy Precision Cut Fan 62

Have you ever looked at fan brushes and wondered what on earth to do with them? It turns out these pretty little numbers are ideal for creating a barely there base with powder foundation. “

Fan shapes are ideal when you want a wash of face colour with zero risk of overdoing it,” explains make-up guru Trish McEvoy. “This brush is marvellous for applying a veil of powder and whisking away any fallout or tiny loose hairs on the skin's surface, without disturbing make-up underneath.’