Last week, I shared Vegan Cruelty-Free Makeup Brushes Part 1 which focused on the best complexion brushes that I’ve found for applying foundation, concealer, powder foundation, and setting powder. Those brushes make it easy to create a well-blended and even-toned base. Every makeup look is better if it starts off with a beautiful base! The next category of brushes any makeup-lover needs is cheek brushes to apply blush, bronzer, and highlighter.
There are many unique types of makeup brushes available, and it can be difficult to determine which type of brush will work best for each individual’s needs. I’ve tried quite a few different types of makeup brushes through the years and I’ve learned that when it comes to cheek brushes, I usually prefer ones that apply color in a subtle way. I have fair skin and too much pigmentation on my face does not look good, so I reach for brushes that make it easy to start with a small amount of product and build intensity as needed.
In the next couple of sections, I’m going to outline the qualities of good makeup brushes, as well as the reasons I prefer vegan makeup brushes over ones made with animal hair. If you already read my post about complexion brushes, you might want to skip ahead to my favorite and most-used cheek brushes.
Qualities of a good makeup brush
Makeup brushes can make a huge difference in application. A good brush might make you realize that you actually enjoy a product that you thought you’d never use, while a poor quality brush may have the opposite effect. So what qualities does a brush need to be “good?”
- Soft bristles
- Durable construction
- Does not shed
- Comfortable handle
- Blends products easily and evenly
All of the makeup brushes mentioned in this series share these qualities.
Vegan makeup brushes vs. Natural animal hair makeup brushes
My primary reason for buying vegan (synthetic) makeup brushes rather than natural animal hair brushes, is that I don’t want to support animal cruelty. However, there are several other reasons that synthetic brushes are superior!:
- Synthetic brushes hold up better over time, even with frequent cleaning
- Filaments (bristles) aren’t as porous as animal hairs and therefore don’t absorb as much product
- Easier to clean
- Hypoallergenic; animal hairs can cause allergic reactions
- Often more affordable
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Powder blush (with average or low pigmentation) – Real Techniques 400 Blush Brush
- Price: $9.99
- Where to buy: Ulta.com
Product claims on RealTechniques.com: Our blush brush is custom-cut to contour and define cheeks for a natural looking rosy glow. Performs 2x better than prestige (based on third-party independent lab testing vs. the leading prestige cosmetic brush brand).
It took me a really long time to find a good everyday blush brush. Most of them that I tried either picked up too much product or the shape was awkward for me to use. When I picked up the Real Techniques 400 Blush Brush from Ulta, I was a little bit skeptical that it would work for me due to its size. This brush is quite large and looks very similar to a typical powder brush. The difference is that this brush is more elongated rather than domed and the bristles are slightly more dense to pick up more product.
This brush does pick up a good amount of product, but not too much unless I’m working with a highly pigmented blush (I’ve learned to only use this brush with blushes that have average or low pigmentation). The size and shape of this brush make it very easy to sweep blush over my cheeks for a wash of color that isn’t too intense. Sometimes I want to build up the color on the apples of my cheeks, and to do that I pick up a little more blush and brush it lightly on that area while holding the brush perpendicular to my cheeks (so only the very end of the brush head is touching my face). That method makes it easy to control the area where the blush goes since this brush is on the larger side.
Powder blush (with high pigmentation) – Profusion PD2 Tapered Powder Brush
- Price: $6.00
- Where to buy: ProfusionCosmetics.com
Product description on ProfusionCosmetics.com: Use the Tapered Powder Brush for more lightweight application of powder products, such as highlight or blush.
While Profusion isn’t very well-known for its brushes, they are high quality and some of the best I’ve tried. This is the only face brush I own from Profusion (you’ll see several Profusion eye brushes in the next installment of this series), but I’m quite impressed with it.
I’ve found that the Profusion PD2 Tapered Powder Brush is absolutely perfect for applying highly pigmented blushes like e.l.f. Primer Infused Blush, and that’s because the bristles are not dense at all. In fact, when I first got this brush, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it because the bristles felt so loose (not loose as in “may fall out easily,” but the opposite of “dense”). It turned out to be a good thing, because this brush picks up a very small amount of product and that’s exactly what I want when I’m working with a highly pigmented blush. This brush also looks very elegant. The ferrule is rose gold and the handle is long and matte black. It looks very pretty in my brush organizer!
Cream blush or powder/cream contour – e.l.f. Small Stipple Brush
- Price: $4.00
- Where to buy: ElfCosmetics.com
Product claims on ElfCosmetics.com: Create soft layers by adding texture for a natural airbrushed result. The two layers of bristles create ultimate control from sheer to heavy coverage for small and hard to reach places. Ideal with liquid, cream or powder products, foundation, concealer, and cream blush.
The e.l.f. Small Stipple Brush is a unique and versatile brush. I don’t use it all that often (since I reach for powder blushes more often than creams and I don’t contour often), but when I do I’m always pleased with the results! I primarily use it with cream blushes like the e.l.f. Putty Blush that I recently started using. I tap some of the blush on with my fingers and then use the brush to distribute it evenly over my cheeks. A lot of people use only their fingers to apply cream blushes, but for me it always looks better when I use a brush.
Since this brush is very small, it also works well for contouring the cheekbones (as well as other parts of the face). My only contouring product is a powder, but I think this brush would work just as well with a cream contour product. The duo-fiber bristles don’t pick up too much product, which lends this brush well to subtle product application.
Bronzer – EcoTools Blending & Bronzing Brush
- Price: $9.99
- Where to buy: Amazon.com
Product claims on EcoTools.com: The Blending & Bronzing brush is designed with duo-fiber bristles for buildable application to achieve an even, sun-kissed glow.
While I struggled with finding the perfect makeup brush for many of the steps in my makeup routine, bronzer is one that was very easy! When I bought my first bronzer, I also bought this EcoTools Blending & Bronzing brush, and it’s the only bronzer brush I’ve used since. It’s perfect and I don’t feel the need to use anything else! I was very happy to see that this brush is still available since it has been around for a long time.
Just like with the e.l.f. Small Stipple Brush, the EcoTools Blending & Bronzing brush has duo-fiber bristles that pick up just the right amount of product. Bronzer is something that I could easily go overboard with on my fair skin, but this brush makes it easy to pick up the right amount and blend it seamlessly. My bronzer always looks natural and well-blended thanks to this brush!
Highlighter – Real Techniques 402 Setting Brush
- Price: $6.62
- Where to buy: Amazon.com
Product claims on RealTechniques.com: Our micro setting brush is the key to completing any look with a controlled dusting of powder or highlighter. MUA favorite.
I don’t wear highlighter every day, but when I do I want to make sure I’m in complete control of where it goes on my face. That means using a small brush for targeted application. The best I’ve used so far is the Real Techniques 402 Setting Brush. It isn’t fancy, but it’s very good at its job! My highlighter always looks perfect when applied with this soft little brush, whether I want a very subtle highlight or if I want to build it up to look more intense.
This brush is also a popular option for setting the under-eye area with powder, but as I mentioned in “Part 1” of this series, I prefer the e.l.f. Small Tapered Brush for that purpose.
I adore all five of these cheek brushes. They’re all very high quality, and I’m pleased that I was able to again share some very affordable products!
I look forward to bringing you more amazing makeup brushes next week in “Part 3” of this series which will focus on my favorite type of makeup brushes: eye brushes!
Thanks so much for reading! Please share your favorite cheek brushes with me in the comments below. 🙂