Best Makeup Brushes for Highlighters

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  • February 14, 2018

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Highlighters

Oh, you’re asking me about highlighter brushes? Well, that’s like picking a favorite child. There are so many good ones to choose from, and the type of brush I reach for can really depend on the product I’m applying and how intense (or subtle) I want to the highlighter to appear on my skin.

I would love to hear about the brushes you can’t live without for applying highlighters — share your picks in the comments! 🙂

For Light Application

These brushes are airier, less dense, and have very soft bristles, so the end result is more gradual, buildable pigmentation/shimmer.  They are ideal for use with softer powders (nothing too dense/cream-like) that have fine to moderate shimmer size (I would not use them with glitters unless it was a more softly-pressed glittery highlighter).  I find it impossible to overdo highlighter with these two.

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Highlighters
SUQQU Cheek, Wayne Goss The Air Brush

  • SUQQU Cheek Brush ($123.60) is a feathery-soft brush with a rounded, tapered edge that diffuses color onto the cheek in a gradual manner.  It’s smaller in size (compared to most cheek brushes), so it can still offer more precise placement while still delivering a sheerer application of product.  I use this interchangeably with highlighters and blushes (particularly good for more pigmented blushes).
  • Wayne Goss The Air Brush ($35.00) is a small, flatter face brush with tapered bristles that come to a rounded edge.  Despite being flatter, it excels at blending out the edges of various powders on the face.  It’s one of my favorite brushes for all things face, but it is superb for anyone who wants lighter application of their colored cheek products.

For Moderate Application

These are brushes that have very soft bristles that naturally pickup a bit less product and give a more diffused application initially, but they still yield a more moderate application unless you have a very light hand.  You’ll start to see that they get more rounded in the middle and start to taper to rounded edges and then to more tapered edges.

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Highlighters
Chikuhodo Z-8, Chikuhodo Z-4, Chikuhodo Z-2, Chikuhodo T-5

  • Chikuhodo Z-8 Cheek ($111.00) is a medium-sized, rounded blush brush that I reach for highlighters as well as blushes, so it’s more multi-tasking for me.  I like using this for more diffused application over a larger area or when I’m using a finishing powder.  This is one I often reach for when I use Hourglass’ Ambient Lighting Powders, which I’ll dust over greater areas of my face.
  • Chikuhodo Z-4 Cheek/Highlighter ($73.00) is an incredibly soft, almost airy small cheek brush that, as the name says, works for blush and highlighter.  It is smaller and less dense compared to the Z-8, so it delivers more precise application and can be used on the apples of the cheeks or on the cheekbones.  The squirrel hair picks up less product than goat or other hair-types, so it gives a more buildable, gradual application of product–ideal for light-to-moderate application of highlight.
  • Chikuhodo Z-2 Highlight ($78.00) is a smaller, tapered highlighter brush designed for more precise application with squirrel hair, which results in a softer, more diffused application compared to other hair types. Though it retains its shape well, it is less dense compared to most tapered highlighter brushes (see next section below).
  • Chikuhodo Takumi T-5 ($52.00) is a medium-sized, rounded highlighting brush that’s not quite as narrow or as tapered as traditional highlighter brushes (again, see next section below).  This is that halfway point between moderate and heavier application for me.  It’s plush, soft, and a bit denser than the previously mentioned brushes on this list.

For Moderate to Heavy Application

It may be typical, but I guess that’s for a reason–tapered highlighting brushes are my jam, and they are the ones I reach for most often to apply highlighters (and even blush!).  They’re just the right size for rolling and tapping on highlighter onto cheek bones and down the bridge of the nose, sweeping gently on the forehead or chin for more of an all-over glow.  I use the four below interchangeably.

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Highlighters
Hakuhodo B5521, Wayne Goss Brush 10, Hakuhodo J5521, Hakuhodo S5521BBk

  • Hakuhodo B5521 Highlight Brush ($53.00) is a tapered, highlighting brush that is slightly less rounded than the others on this list.  It is a mix of blue squirrel and goat hair, so it is extremely soft on the skin, but it has moderate density and picks up a good amount of product without having to be heavy-handed.
  • Wayne Goss Brush 10 ($38.00) is a rounded, tapered, highlighting brush with a soft, moderately dense feel on the skin that works well for applying and blending out powders on the cheeks.
  • Hakuhodo J5521 Highlight Brush ($38.00) is a slightly rounded, tapered, highlighting brush with a soft, dense feel on the skin that blends out powder well on the skin while still having some precision during application.  I really can’t tell much difference (if any) between this and the Wayne Goss Brush 10.  Within the Hakuhodo range, the J5521 uses goat hair only.
  • Hakuhodo S5521BBk Highlight Brush ($47.00) is a slightly rounded, tapered, highlighting brush that uses a mix of goat and horse hair.  The horse hair makes it more durable and resilient, so it can pickup product well on stiffer and more densely-packed powder products.

For Liquids/Creams

I often use fingertips more than brushes (hey, less brushes to wash that way) with liquids and creams as I find application to work quite well either way, but when I use brushes, these have been my go-tos for years.

Best Makeup Brushes for Applying Highlighters
MAC 159, Real Techniques Contour

  • MAC 159S Duo Fibre Brush ($35.00) is a small-to-medium-sized, domed cheek brush that has more feathery, sparse bristles at the edge, which help with gradual, diffused application.  I haven’t noticed much difference between the new 159S (all synthetic) and the previous 159 (mix) since most of the work and feel are done by the white bristles anyway!
  • Real Techniques Contour Brush ($19.99) is a small, rounded synthetic brush that is soft, springy without being floppy, and dense.  It is, unfortunately, only available in a set of four brushes!
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