If you’re looking to up your beauty game, it might be tempting to buy a ton of makeup brushes — but, in some cases, you’re better off using your fingers to apply products, as it might help you achieve a more blended and put-together look.
INSIDER spoke with three professional makeup artists and they offered up their tips and tricks for when to use brushes or your fingers, giving recommendations for the most precise application possible.
The pros had different tips for applying primer, but they agreed that you shouldn’t use a brush
Makeup gurus everywhere know that applying a primer underneath your makeup is an essential step for a look that lasts all day long, but you probably shouldn’t use a brush to put it on.
“Primer is part of skincare,” said Mandie Brice, Los Angeles makeup artist and creator of an online makeup course for beginners. “As such, the most important aspect of it is getting it into the skin, not precision in application. For this, I’d recommend clean fingers.”
In some cases, you might want to apply your primer using a spray bottle, since it can give you “light, even coverage,” according to Hyewon Ahn, celebrity makeup artist and body painter of Studio Ahn.
Concealer can be applied with a brush, a sponge, or your fingers depending on where you’re putting it
When it comes to concealer, you’ll want to use different techniques depending on the consistency of the product and the area you’re using it on.
“For larger areas (like dark under-eye circles or discolouration), clean fingers are fine. For under eyes, I like to use a synthetic and fluffy brush, because it ensures that there isn’t too much product buildup, which can crease. When precision is necessary, like in the cases of a blemish, [using concealer] after foundation and with a small brush is best. This applies to liquid and cream formulas,” said Brice.
Los Angeles-based makeup artist Kat Sketch uses a slightly different technique — she’ll typically tap on liquid concealer with her fingers and then blend it with a damp beauty sponge.
There are also some variables to consider when it comes to foundation
Foundation can help you create a smooth, even canvas for the rest of your makeup look but the best way to apply it depends on a few different factors.
“I think the powder foundation is best applied with a kabuki brush. Cream and liquid foundation can be applied with fingers, a foundation brush, or [makeup sponge],” Brice told INSIDER, adding, “I think it’s also better to use your fingers than a cheap foundation brush.”
“I like to use a damp beauty sponge or my fingers for creams and a brush for thinner foundations,” added Sketch.
When it comes to highlighter, you might want to use a brush
According to Brice, a brush is the best way to evenly apply highlighter, whether you’re using a liquid, powder, or cream formula. “For all three formulations of highlighter, I recommend a fluffy brush that deposits a small amount of product evenly,” she told INSIDER.
When it comes to bronzer, you might also want to use a brush
When using bronzer to warm up your face, you’ll probably want to use a brush. “Bronzer and highlighter go hand in hand, so that’s why they all go together and have the same application techniques,” said Brice.
That said, Ahn said she recommends using “a brush with blunt bristles and a sharp edge” if you want to achieve a sharp contour and one with a softer edge if you want a more subtle contour.
You can apply blush with your fingers or a brush — it depends on the sort of look you want to achieve
These experts agree that your fingers are just fine for most types of blushes.
“I love cream blushes for a natural flush on the cheeks and I apply them with a damp beauty sponge or my fingertips so that the product can blend in more naturally into the skin with the warmth of my hand,” said Sketch. “For powder blushes, I think brushes are the best.”
Brice also noted that fingers are fine, but if you’re looking for a more sheer wash of colour, you might want to use a fluffy brush to better distribute and blend in your makeup.
Other eye products may require different tools as well
“For eye makeup, I prefer a good brush,” said Brice. “If you’re just doing a wash of colour, fingers (or the provided applicator) are fine, but if you have a decent amount of blending or anything precise, a clean brush is your best bet.”
“Since the eye area is small, brushes are better than fingers because you can be more precise,” Brice added. She said the only time your fingers might be best is if you’re applying a sheer wash of powder or cream colour from your lash line to your brow.
The best way to apply lip products can also vary depending on what you’re using
Our experts all agreed that preferred techniques vary whether you’re using lipstick, lip gloss, or lip balm.
“I like to use a brush for liquid and traditional lipstick because it’s more hygienic,” said Ahn noting that “fingers are best” for lip balms and glosses as the application doesn’t always have to be super precise.
“Since you’re (hopefully) not sharing your lipstick or lip gloss with someone, the applicator is usually just fine for most people, though if you are fond of a very sharp line, a lip brush is a great choice,” Brice told INSIDER.
No matter the product, these experts recommend playing around with tools and techniques
The best part about makeup is having fun with it, so play around to find out what works best for you and your desired result.
“Ultimately, beyond safety and hygiene, the technique is more important than tools, so practice and have fun,” said Brice. “Overall, it depends on how much precision is required. If it’s a large area that needs to be covered, fingers are fine, but if it needs to be a small exact area or perfectly straight line, that’s where a brush can help a ton.”