How to decide what brushes to invest in when you are building your kit
Brushes are a huge expense when you are first building your kit. Currently the market is flooded with an unlimited number of inexpensive brush sets, and brands i've never heard of before that are being made popular by youtubers and influencers. This makes it hard to decide where to put your money when it seems like everything looks good 'online' (i'll come back to this in a minute). This post is not about what specific brushes to buy, but rather about what to consider when you are buying brushes for your kit to avoid making costly mistakes.
Just because brushes are 'cheap' doesn't mean they are good. Poorly made, low quality brushes are not going to be able to withstand the daily wear and tear, deep cleanings, and chemical cleansers they will have to endure. Not all brushes are created equal. I have brushes in my kit that are 15 years old and this is how things should be if they are well made and properly cared for - and full disclosure there is a difference in how makeup applies with a better quality brush. Your makeup brushes should work for you vs you having to work for them. We've all had brushes in our kits that we tolerate, hold at weird angles, and pinch together in order to make them somewhat work - it shouldn't be like this. It should always be quality over quantity or you will spend more money replacing cheap brushes, when you could have just purchased a few better quality brushes that are able to stand the test of time and make your makeup applications a breeze.
Brush preference is just as personal as our makeup kits, and everyone has different preferences in terms of material (natural or synthetic), shape, and style. Your brushes also need to work well with the types of products you are using in your kit. If you enjoy working with a lot of cream based products - synthetic brushes may be the best choice for you. If you like applying makeup with more precision like me, huge powder brushes are not going to be at the top of your list. When you are first starting out it is all about discovery - learning what works for you and what compliments your own unique makeup application style. We are all so different with how we do things so resist the urge to do (or buy) something because everyone else is doing it - really focus in on what is best for you.
Buying a brush set from a reputable brand is a good idea if you are at the beginning of your career. A good brush set gives you the chance to experiment with different sizes, shapes, and materials, and to figure out what you like to use. Once you have established what you like and dislike, narrow it down and start investing in better quality individual brushes (sometimes multiples of the styles you know work for you). Don't continue to buy brush sets just because they are a good price when you end up throwing out half the set.
Great brushes can be found anywhere. Some of my favourite brushes I have picked up from art supply stores and trade shows. Keep your eyes open when shopping around and always pay attention to what other working artists are using in their kits - you will find it is no coincidence that some brands appear more often than others. My last piece of advice is to try before you buy - ordering brushes you have never laid your hands on can be a huge gamble. You are, after all, going to be using these brushes on other people's faces! How they feel matters and I wouldn't take anyone else's word for it (especially since we live in a time where people online are getting paid big money to tell you how amazing everything is).
I know how confusing and intimidating it can be when you start purchasing brushes for your kit. Your brushes will in fact be the biggest expense so take your time with this, start with less, and really focus on what works for you so you don't burn through hundreds of dollars in brushes (trust me i've been there!). I'm personally going through a transitionary period with my makeup brushes - many of my MAC makeup brushes are at the end of their life cycle and i'm not sure their new synthetic brushes are as good. Real Techniques, Sephora brand, and more recently some Stilazzi brushes are in my kit - so i'll have to keep you posted on what I end up with over the next couple of months.