Just as drugstore makeup has improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade, some outstanding tools have come out on the market. They've really gotten synthetic fibers down to a science, driving down the cost of manufacturing. Some brands offer competitive pricing by selling mostly online. It's definitely possible to skirt around the department store and still build an excellent brush kit — for less than 30 bucks.
The Eco Tools Bamboo Bronzer Brush ($7)
Don't let the name fool you. This brush has a thick, stiff, dense domed head that makes it perfect for buffing in foundation, both liquid and powder. It's also incredibly soft.
Makeup wedges ($3)
OK, it's not technically a brush, but these things are super handy for applying concealer, blending makeup and cleaning up mistakes.
ELF Essentials Eye Shadow Brush ($1)
Makeup lovers are crazy about this brush. It packs on color beautifully, and it's sturdy enough to withstand plenty of washing. It's easily found at your favorite big box retailers like Kmart and Target.
ELF Essentials Eye Crease Brush ($1)
This pencil-shaped brush lets you smudge your eye makeup and blend in the crease. It's ideal for small eyes.
Eco Tools Angled Liner Brush ($4)
This brush gives you a fine, precise line. It's perfect if you have small eyes, and it's also great for brows.
Coastal Scents Pro Blending Fluff Brush ($5)
A great blending brush is a must-have for smoky eye looks using multiple colors. You want a chiseled shape that fits well in the crease. This brush is highly comparable to the MAC 217 brush, the gold standard of blending brushes.
Blush and powder
Real Techniques Blush Brush ($9)
World-renowned makeup artist and YouTube guru Samantha Chapman has branched off into her own product line with the affordable Real Techniques Brushes. This clever hand-cut brush combines the fluffiness of a powder brush with a tapered shape that makes it great for contouring and blush. The brand is available at Ulta as well as online.
Grand total: $30
The ELF Lash Curler($1)
This lash curler has developed a cult following for being just as awesome as much pricier versions.
The Sonia Kashuk Blending Sponge ($10)
These sponges are better than brushes for liquid foundation, delivering a diffused, almost airbrushed finish to the skin.
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