Don't brush off having the right tools for the job

For every woman out there who is still applying makeup with her fingers (gasp!) or bemoaning the curse of bad brushes that shed and streak, we've rounded up the top tools of the trade, makeup brushes essential to a perfectly applied look for any season.

Before you buy brushes, whether purchasing a collection or just a few must-haves, make sure you aren't laying down your hard-earned cash for tools that shed. The shedding makeup brush is the bane of women everywhere. Many good brushes may shed slightly during the first use, but a quality brush shouldn't shed many hairs and it shouldn't shed with continued use.

To test the brush you're considering buying, run your fingers through the brush hair and then brush it on your hand as applying blush. Do this several times. If you see more than 10 hairs on your hand, opt for a different brand.

The biggest mistake that women make with their makeup tools is not keeping them clean. Brushes need to be cleaned frequently, since they harbor dirt and bacteria that can adversely affect your complexion. To clean, simply run the brush bristles under warm water and then apply your favorite facial cleanser. Work up lather and rinse with warm water until the water coming off the brush runs clear. Frequent cleaning will also promotes some natural shedding; assuring that brushes won't shed on you! Another option is a professional makeup blush cleaner such as Vincent Longo's Hygienic Professional Brush Cleaner; $12.50 at

When looking for brushes, natural bristles such as boar hair or sable are best for most uses. That's because natural hair picks up more pigment, allowing more color to end up on your face where it's intended. (The exception to this rule is brushes used to apply concealers and liquid foundations which are best as nylon, a synthetic, because nylon is less likely to cake.) But if you're allergic to animal hair or just opposed to it, there are some synthetic options that are comparable to high-quality natural hair brushes.

Base first
Opt for a nylon brush such as Jane Iredale's Foundation Brush, crafted of Taklon Nylon. The shape of the brush allows for even coverage in hard to reach areas such as the sides of nose and corners of eyes; $35.80 at

Best in brow
Don't neglect face-framing brows; well groomed they really can change the look of your face. Using the right brush, well shaped brows are easily within reach. Tarte's The Toolbox includes the perfect angled brow brush along with tweezers, a brow pencil, brow stencils and brow powder, wax and gel; $32 at

On a roll
For those who crave the best of the best, Kevyn Aucoin's Brush Collection isn't cheap at $350, but the set has a reputation as one of the best brush collections on the market. The handcrafted collection features 11 brushes including a powder brush, contour brush, sculpting brush, flat tip eye shadow brush and more. The brush roll itself has a separate pocket for each brush housed in a protective fabric flap with a Velcro closure. Available online at

Bargain brushes
For those who can't, or won't, splurge on high-end brushes, try the Sonia Kashuk 5 piece brush set; $29.99 at Target stores locally. The collection includes blush brush, eye shadow brush, eye shadow blending brush, angled eye shadow/brow brush and a lash/brow groomer housed in a faux snakeskin zip-up case.

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