3 Jul 2012

Brushes I use for Contouring

Quick post listing some of the brushes I use for applying contour products, my absolute favourite and my overall recommendations...

Selection of brushes I use for contouring
Left-to-right: Sigma tapered kabuki brush, Becca multi-use creme brush, Real Techniques contour brush (core collection), Sigma angled kabuki brush, Laura Mercier fan brush, NARS Ita kabuki brush #21, Hakuhodo small Itabake, Crown C104 angled brush, MAC 138, MAC 109, Chanel #5 brush, Real Techniques pointed foundation brush (core collection), Crown 1701-1 large square taklon

Tapered Brushes

Put product on the tip and "hook" these in underneath the cheekbones and blend.  Use slightly more "squished up" to contour the rest of the face.
  • Sigma Tapered Synthetic Kabuki: Synthetic fibres.  Good for powder or cream products.  I tend to use this more for contouring with cream foundations or bronzers
  • Real Techniques Tapered Brush:  From Core Collection.  Synthetic fibres.  Good for powder, particularly good for cream products.  Small brush, great for more precise work or smaller faces
  • MAC 138:  Natural fibres, so better for powder products.  Quite a large brush but lovely to create a gentle sweep, rather than a crisp, contour.

Angled Brushes

Put product on the tip to roughly the middle of the brush, and "hook" these in underneath the cheekbones and use the denser end (with no product on it) to blend.
  • Sigma Angled Top Synthetic Kabuki: Synthetic fibres.  Good for powder or cream products.  Large, dense brush however, so not great for smaller faces.  Better for contouring the outer edges of the face but can be used, carefully, with some product on just the side, under the cheekbones 
  • Crown C104:  Natural fibres.  Similar enough to the MAC 168 that I have stopped repurchasing 168s.  Good for powder prodcuts.  I don't use tapered brushes a lot, but they're handy for creating more defined cheekbones, especially if you're starting out at contouring  
  • Chanel #5: Natural fibres.  This is extremely dense so needs to be used carefully! Best for powder products. One very gentle swipe in contour product is more than enough.  You may need a less dense brush to blend this out

Flat/Paddle Brushes


Use the edge of these brushes to create precise contour lines.  These work better for cream products.
  • Becca #59: Synthetic fibres.  This works well as a small foundation brush or a cream blush/contour brush.  Use as described above.
  • Real Techniques Pointed Foundation Brush: Synthetic fibres.  I use this to add the contour and highlighter products, together with the Real Techniques Buffer Brush, when I'm creating a quick face with my Kett Fix Crème foundation.  It's quite a small brush but because of its size, and the pointed tip, you can create very precise contouring with it
  • Crown #1701-1: Synthetic fibres.  This can create a thin, sharp, precise contour if you just place (cream) product along the edge and use this to contour under cheekbones, for example.  You'll need another brush for blending out.

Fan Brushes
  • Laura Mercier Fan BrushI have quite a few fan brushes but this is by far my favourite.  It's a dual-fibre, so in theory works for both cream and powder products, but as it's not very dense, powder works better.  In general, I use these as finishing brushes, but you can contour with them, use the edge under cheekbones and in the temple area for example, and then swirl to blend out

Itahake Brushes

I highly recommend these for contouring - when I am in a hurry, these are my go-to brushes.  Use product along the edge to create the contour, then these brushes themselves are usually dense enough to blend out.
  • NARS Kabuki Brush (#21): Natural fibres.  I had two of these and the larger one (#28) but one #21 and the #28 died a quiet Death By Shedding and were thrown out in a fit of pique.  It's an ok brush but the next one is much better...
  • Hakuhodo Small Itabake: Natural (and oh-so-soft) fibres.  The most stunningly fabulous brush ever.  I will purchase larger varieties of these in due course.  Works for both powder and cream products, and never ever sheds.  Applies and blends like a dream.  My ultimate favourite contour brush.

Flat-top Brushes

  • MAC 109: Or any small, dense, buffing brushes... but I don't use them much, and when I do, this is the one I tend to use.  This one has natural fibres so is better for powder products, but as it's so dense, works for cream products also.  Use some product on its edge to contour and then buff/blend with the rest of the brush.  It works, it's not one I use very often, but occasionally on smaller faces, and it's particularly good for a precise line

My Recommendations

OVERALL FAVOURITEHakuhodo small Itabake.  Great for both cream and powder, can create a sharp or diffuse application, can be used to apply and blend. Expensive enough, but you won't need to purchase another contour brush ever again. Don't shed, feel soft against the skin but dense enough for cream products and blending.


BEST FOR CREAM PRODUCTSReal Techniques Contour Brush

BEST FOR SHARPEST LINEUse a credit card as a stencil/guide, then any brush to apply product, then blend!

Cream products + Sigma tapered kabuki
Powder products + MAC 138

BEST VALUESigma angled kabuki: can be used for contouring, bronzer, blusher, foundation, application, blending...

CATEGORICALLY DON'T BOTHERNARS Ita kabuki (#21 or #28).  These are expensive, scratchy, and shed badly.  Annoying.

Some links!
Kevin Aucoin contour review (the holy grail of powder contour products)
Products I use for contouring


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