Our Favorite Makeup Brush Set: The 2022 List Beauty Awards

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The 2022 List Beauty Awards are well underway, and we've already chosen many winners from our top beauty categories. We've found our favorite blush, dry shampoo, eyeliner, and more. The criteria? We tested five highly rated beauty products from each category in a range of prices to uncover which was not only the best for its price point but also had the best functionality for its intended purpose.

For makeup brushes, we tested full sets to ensure we were getting the most thorough overview of what these brands and their collections could really do. We judged them on how smoothly they applied makeup products, how well they blended, whether or not they pulled up any makeup (a huge sin!), and finally, how good they felt on the skin. After all, if you're going to use them every day, they need to feel good. 

This took some time, especially since we had to use all of the brushes within each set, but it was worth it because we ultimately found one brush set that proved superior to the rest. 

BH Cosmetics Crystal Zodiac 12-Brush Set: Winner

After testing all five makeup brush sets, it became clear that the best product was BH Cosmetics Crystal Zodiac 12-Brush Set. This brush set retails for $28 at Ulta, and it features eye brushes, blending brushes, and general face brushes, so it's a set you can use for an entire look without needing additional assistance. 

Plus, the set is truly stunning. Each brush represents a zodiac sign, so the handles all come in different crystalline colors. The base of the brushes also have a nice texture to them, so they feel good in the hand and make applying makeup a dream.

What ultimately allowed these beautiful brushes to rise to the top of our list is how soft they are. They don't absorb too much product and they blend beautifully. Other brush sets we tested pulled makeup off the skin or were incredibly bristly and hard — or both. None of this was an issue with this BH Cosmetics set. 

This set might not be available forever since it's themed, but if you can get your hands on it, it's well worth the money. If you can't, though, our first runner-up is a perfect substitute.

E.l.f. Professional Cosmetics Professional Brush Set: Runner-up

If you can't get your hands on BH Cosmetics Crystal Zodiac 12-Brush Set, you should undoubtedly grab e.l.f. Professional Cosmetics Professional Brush Set. This set retails for about $20 from Amazon, which makes it one of the most affordable options on the market. Although the BH Cosmetics brush set won the contest because of its combined appearance, weight, and application prowess, this e.l.f. set is a very close second.

These brushes aren't as heavy as BH Cosmetics', but their white handles are very sleek and chic, and they would look good in any makeup bag. They're also incredibly soft — almost identical in feel to the BH Cosmetics brushes. They apply and blend makeup very well, and they don't hold too much makeup, either, which can lead to excessive waste. 

This set contains the same amount of brushes as our winner, but it has more small eye brushes and fewer large ones. While this is neither a bad nor a good thing, it is worth noting. As long as you're fine cleaning your larger brushes between products, you can use this one set for any look under the sun.

Again, if you want to invest in a single brush set and can't find the BH Cosmetics set anywhere, this is hands down the one to grab.

Real Techniques Artist Essentials Makeup Brush Set: Runner-up

Where the brush sets from BH Cosmetics and e.l.f. Professional Makeup were soft, bouncy, and blended well, leading to beautiful makeup looks every time, the same can't be said for the Artist Essentials Makeup Brush Set from Real Techniques. This set retails for $19.99 from Ulta and comes with five brushes, including a fan brush, two eye brushes, and two face brushes.

Although reviewers claimed these brushes give "flawless results," they ultimately proved stiff and hard, especially in comparison to the other brush sets we tested. When blending with the face brushes, foundation and concealer were dragged up, which never happened with other sets. We would end up fixing the steps that these brushes messed up with either the e.l.f. or BH Cosmetics brushes, which immediately warned us that these wouldn't be our winner. You also can't necessarily make any look with these five brushes. For the same price, you can get 12 brushes from e.l.f. that are softer and of higher quality.

EcoTools Shimmer and Shine Makeup Brush and Sponge Kit: Runner-up

Up next, we have the Shimmer and Shine Makeup Brush and Sponge Kit from EcoTools, which retails for $10 at Ulta. It was important to us to include a super affordable option in our contest, and this set offered a very middle-of-the-road response. It includes six brushes as well as a makeup sponge and an accompanying travel case. You could certainly grab this set at the drugstore and take it with you anywhere, but the results may not be what you'd expect.

These brushes are certainly softer than Real Techniques', but they also hold a lot of product. When applying bronzer, for example, they soak up the powder and instantly turn brown, which should be expected, but they hold the product rather than dispensing it on the face. We found ourselves constantly swiping it on our bronzer palette only for very little to be making it onto the face. 

The final consensus, then, is that these brushes are just fine — they blend okay when the product is on your face, so you can use them if cost is a significant factor. But there are certainly better brush sets out there that are still affordable and include more brush variety.

Morphe Earth To Babe 7-Piece Bamboo Eye Brush Set + Bag: Runner-up

Finally, we tested the Earth to Babe 7-Piece Bamboo Eye Brush Set + Bag from Morphe. This brush set retails for $25 from Ulta, and its brushes have a clean appearance with bamboo handles and simple black applicator ends. The set also comes with a carrier bag that's big enough to hold the brushes along with a few other small items, so it could actually be great for traveling.

What ultimately holds this brush set back is the number of brushes included. You can't necessarily use this set for your full face as the brushes are all eye brushes. If you added one or two face brushes, you'd be set. Since there are seven eye brushes, however, you can do amazing eye looks. We must say, the eye brushes are pretty impeccable. They're soft and pick up product without holding too much of or creating too much fallout from eyeshadows. Ultimately, it's an excellent eye set, but we opted for a winner that you can do your whole face with. 

If you're wondering which products you should use with The List's winning makeup brush set, check out our favorite foundation and blush!