Two things dawned on me the other day while eyeing my full-to-the-brim cup of makeup brushes sat on my dressing table: one, ‘damn they are really due a clean’ and two, ‘why the hell do I need 20+ brushes within arms reach at all times when applying makeup?’. The whole cleaning palaver can wait till the weekend, but the overcrowding of the brush cup is a subject that I wish to discuss today. You see over Christmas I travelled home with minimal makeup in tow and a beauty bag that held just two brushes. Two. A buffing brush for base emergencies and a blending brush for eyes incase I decided it was eyeshadow time (spoiler alert: that time never came). And you know what? I survived and I don’t think I looked too horrendous; fingers are a glorious tool you see. So the question to ponder is – what beauty brushes do you really need? I think the answer lies in just six…

The Buffing Brush, a.k.a) Real Techniques Buffing Brush. Oh hello old friend. I’m currently trialling the Miracle Complexion Sponge (review in progress), but there will always be a special place in my heart for this. Foundation glides on with the aid of the synthetic bristles and I tend to whip on concealer, cream bronzer, cream blush, cream highlight with this too. Basically with anything creamy, out this comes.

The Powder Brush, a.k.a) Charlotte Tilbury Powder and Sculpt Brush. This narrowly missed out on a spot in my ‘Top of the ’13 Class’ post. It. Is. Awesome. Contouring is its prime function though I like to use it for pinpoint powdering, applying highlight, bronzer and blush. It’s my ‘do-it-all’ cheek choice.

The ‘Pack it On’ Brush, a.k.a) MAC 242 Brush. This brush is a newer addition to the ranks and is now the one that I use on a daily basis for eye colour – cream, powder, pigments, gel, whatever. It’s big enough to deposit the shade to the whole lid and the square-ish shape makes it a good choice for laying down some kind of wing or line along the lashes. The dense fibres make it a good one for packing on concealer when you’re in serious need of coverage too.

The Fluffy Brush, a.k.a) MAC 217 Brush. You know this one, right? It’s basically the eye brush of all eye brushes. In fact it’s fair to say that MAC bring it when it comes to eyeshadow tools – they’ve always got you covered. This brush in particular can make a smokey eye fool like myself appear to be knowing what they’re doing. Harsh lines be gone. Though it’s worth noting that it can also perform as an ‘all-over’ lid washer and a concealer blender when required.

The ‘Brush’ Brush, a.k.a) Eco-Tools Spoolie Brush. I’ve had this brush for years (can you tell from the ingrained fluff?) and after scouring online for it, it appears that it may no longer be in production but any spoolie will do. Of course their main function is keep brows in check, though I do employ mine from time to time to correct an overzealous mascara application. Plus ‘spoolie’ is just one of the best words in the beauty dictionary. Ever.

The Tiny Brush, a.k.a) Real Techniques Accent Brush. Small, but seriously multi-tasking. I propose that a tiny ‘detailer’ style brush will come in handy for both eye and lip applications; whether it’s for adding an inner-corner highlight, smudging out liner, applying shadow under the eye or lining the lips with something bold and bright, it’s one to keep in your clutches.

Six brushes – nothing more, nothing less; to paint on a plethora of looks from a smokey eye to a loud and proud pout. I have a feeling my brush cup is going to be looking rather roomy.

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  • Alex Georgie

    I don’t think I could do without my buffing brush now! Seriously changed make up application for me!

    Alex Georgie

  • Anna Blush

    RT is my absolute favourite brush for foundation! Think mine is verging on needing replacement though

  • dollyfaces7

    I really need to get the CT brush – it’s so pretty! Love real techniques brushes, lovely post and photos :) x

  • Evelyn Morales

    I so need that charlotte tilbury brush in my life, I think it would make contouring a breeze!!

  • Sophie ♥

    I’ve been using the Buffing Brush for foundation over the last month and have fast become obsessed with it. It blends like nothing else. Everyone needs this one.

  • Kirsty LovesElla

    I got the mac 217 for christmas and I cant believe how good it is

  • Jasmine

    The Charlotte Tilberry brush looks lovely <3 I love Real Techniques brushes. They're so nice!

    Jasmine xo |

  • Chloe Walker

    I havent tried any charlotte tilbury products yet and really feel as if Im missing out they all so amazing!

  • Marlenne

    Love that MAC eyeshadow brush, it’s amazing. And I really really want to try the Real Techniques brushes, everyone is talking about how good they are!

  • Jessica Sutherland

    I love both the buffing brush and 217! The Charlotte Tilbury brush is on my birthday wishlist, I’ve been after a good contour brush for a long time! I recently bought the Real Techniques expert face brush and find it so brilliant for foundation application! x

  • Talisa Lauren Tossell
  • Heels Forever

    Want the Charlotte Tilbury brush more and more everytime I hear you and Lily mention it! x

    Heels Forever

  • Sarah Jayne

    I am super keen to add the MAC 242 to my collection and I am now also lusting over the Charlotte Tilbury!

  • lisecharmel

    I actually need 3: the Elf Blush Brush (for foundation, blush and powder), MAC 239 and 217 for the eyes. But for foundation and blush I actually prefer the RT expert face brush, so then afterwards I need another one for powder :)

  • Ashlee Adele Brame

    Need to get my hands on that contouring brush, everyone raves about Charlotte Tilbury but my collection is completely lacking! the 217 is like a godsend, I use it everyday!

  • Ailyn Koay

    oouuuu .. i want a contouring set, not just a brush, no point if I have no powder to contour with.. what do people use anyway?

  • JasmineCara

    How I love the Real Techniques buffing brush! I’ve also been lusting over the 217 for years now but have never picked it up xx

    Jasmine Cara

  • blushingbiddies

    Ahhh, brushes. I’ve definitely started to learn how to love them :3 I -really- would love a brush like the Charlotte Tilsbury one, the size and shape are perfect!

  • Sybil Mae

    I loooooove my Mac 217 brush! :)

  • Emily Allen

    I’ve never seen the accent brush it sounds so versatile and useful I will have to pick it up :p x


  • Stephanie @ Love, August

    Totally agree! I have so many brushes and I don’t even use most of them. I think a good sort through is definitely needed.

    Stephanie | Love, August

  • PeonyandPeach

    Great brush edit! I also only took away one brush at christmas that actually got used and it was the buffing brush! I really love that thing!

  • laura

    The Charlotte Tilbury one looks super soft!! xx

  • Amy Taggart

    I love the MAC 217 and Real Techniques buffing brush! Thanks for the recommendations! X.

  • Maddy Cane

    I love your picks, I really want to try the Charlotte Tilbury one, it looks amazing! x

    Maddy from UNSTITCHEDD


  • mageeski

    Love this post! this is so helpful!


  • Amy

    one dupe for the MAC 217 is the sigma E25! it’s a lot less money, and just as good! xx


  • rubywoo

    Anna, your blog is the highlight of my day!

  • Danielle Potter

    your new series with Lily has inspired me to start my own blog, i posted my first post today which was a lush haul, it would mean a lot if any of you could check it out and tell me what you think!

  • Frances Loves

    I desperately need to try the buffing brush, I can’t believe I haven’t yet! Also the charlotte tilbury brush looks incredible!!

    Frances Loves

  • Rebecca Tiffany

    About the word ‘spoolie’, yes, yes it absolutely is!
    Rebecca, from A Little Bit of Glitter,


    I need these!

  • larasophia

    i’ve been wanting to try the Real Techniques buffing brush…I think i need to pick it up ASAP.


  • Gemma

    I need a buffing brush!

  • Parisian To Be

    I adore the Buffing Brush, too; and I love the Detailer Brush for spot concealing. xo

    Lillian from


    Great post, I need a brushes like these!

  • Haylee

    Do you know if the charlotte tilbury brush is sold in the states? I have no idea where to find it :(

  • Nicky Narrates

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time! : )

  • Kaylie Davies

    I got a buffing brush recently (admittedly not the Real Techniques one) but I just felt it I used more product and it pushed it too far into my skin. Luckily, the brand of BB cream I use here (South Korea, the land of BB creams) glides on like a dream with my fingers, and there’s just something about the warmth of the fingertips heating up the product so it applies thinner and delves into the places a brush would merely graze.

    Same with my eye make up. I use tools to put the shadow there but end up using my fingers to blend, I like to feel the contours of the bones and get a feel for shape that a brush just can’t give.

    Beautiful writing as always Anna, love reading your stuff. :)

  • Celina

    I totally agree with these! I love the Buffing Brush and the MAC 217. They’re definitely must haves!

    Celina | The Celution | Bloglovin’

  • Laura Neuzeth

    The Mac 217 is just one of those brushes that everyone needs. It is pricey but worth every penny. The Charlotte Tilbury brush looks lovely. I wonder why no one ever designed a brush that doesn’t roll in a flat surface before.


  • beth dawson

    Love your blog, I have been more motivated to post on mine recently and would love for more people to check it out :)

    Tah Muchly xxxx

  • katy // rottenotter

    The Charlotte Tilbury brush is at the top of my wish list :) xx

  • Kate

    I need to get a MAC 239, just a simple brush for packing on the shadow :)

    Kate xo |

  • Nita

    After seeing a recent interview of Charlotte Tilbury, I reallly really want a brush from her! Now I need to figure out how to buy them in the US.


  • Rubiiee

    The spoolie from Eco tools is fabulous, so inexpensive, yet efficient. Love the minimalist approach, I’ve been getting on with 3 brushes recently. That is, of course, opposed to my normal one brush per task.
    <3 Carolyn

  • Nicole

    The real technique brushes are my favorite!! Great post!

  • Jennifer Monforton

    Killer picks! The Real Techniques Buffing Brush really is tops and I so need that Charlotte Tilbury brush! xo

  • Zoë Baldwin

    Buffing brush is definitely a must x x

  • Glad Hey

    I discovered the Mac 217 not a while ago but this is definitely my fav’ eye brush!

  • Gabriëlle La Croix

    The real techniques expert face brush is also very good! x

  • Sarah

    I have a few Eco-Tools brushes and they fare pretty well compared to my more expensive brushes! They’re super soft :) I’m loving Sigma brushes at the minute but need an excuse to give Real Techniques a go. If I had to pick one, which one would it be?! x

  • MAC Me Pretty

    This is so true! I have about 55 brushes and yet I really only need 10 max. Thanks so much for a great post xx

  • Veronika

    I reaaaally need to get my paws on some of these :D