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The right brushes help you get the most from your makeup, plus a streamlined routine.
You don't need a dozen different tools to get the perfect look. A blush, concealer, highlighter brush, and eyelash curler, are your four mainstays for easy and effortless application.
Those plastic applicators and flimsy sponges included in many makeup compacts will never deliver the sheer, precise magic that makeup tools do. Forgo the basic freebie for a better quality tool that will last a lifetime.
Try: A sponge with rounded edges that fits easily in your hand (like the one shown here) will glide over your face's contours, allowing you to buff your makeup to a smooth, flawless finish. Look for one that is latex-free (a must if you have sensitive skin) and is made of quality materials that will stand up to daily washings.
Avoid: Those basic latex makeup wedges you buy in bulk at the drugstore soak up, and waste, too much foundation, and their shape makes them harder to work. Additionally, they fall apart after a few washings.
Try: A full, round head of bristles (like in the brush shown here) makes applying blush a breeze. Don't brush in concentric circles; a pop of color on the cheekbones is all you need for a natural, flattering flush. Remember to wash this brush regularly.
Avoid: Discard any brush that renders a flat brush line that extends from cheek to temple.
Try: The most useful eye shadow brush you can own is a wide soft-bristle one that will sweep color over the entire lid without irritating the delicate eye area. To smudge, line, or contour your eye shadow, buy a brush designed for that task.
Avoid: The free eye shadow swab that comes in your compact works for smudging shadow along the lash line, but the short handles can make you feel like a klutz. And you can't use the swab to apply more than one color without muddying the hues.
Try: A foundation brush sweeps on a thinner coating for more natural, seamless-looking foundation (no matter how heavy the coverage). It also slips easily into tight spaces around the nose and eyes. Wash this brush weekly.
Avoid: Those foundation sponges that come with your makeup work nicely at first, but they will become grimy and bacteria-ridden after a few uses. They're difficult to get completely clean, though, and they're not as adept at reaching into those nooks on your face or ensuring uniform makeup application.
If there is one beauty tool that you truly shouldn't live without, it's a cotton swab. They are great for fixing migrated mascara and removing makeup. Plus, the 100 percent cotton ones are biodegradable.