How to Use a Fan Brush 2021 — Best Fan Brushes for Highlighter

Thanks to some aptly-suited names, it’s pretty easy to decipher what foundation, blush, powder, and eyeshadow brushes are used for, but a fan brush?! Who the hell came up with that one?! I mean, all things considered, it does look like, well, a fan. But let’s be real, that’s not super giving. Sigh. Considering I’m a finger application stan (ahem, sometimes I just don’t feel like cleaning my makeup brushes, K?), I have many questions. How do you use a fan brush? Why the “fan” shape? And, c’mon, can someone please explain WTF a fan brush even is?!

So considering it’s my job to make a case for the fan brush that (1) I can fully get behind, and (2) that’ll actually give you, my fellow readers, some sound advice in the oh-so confusing makeup brush world, I’ve enlisted the help of celebrity MUA, Brandy Allen. Keep reading for a crash course on the fan brush brought to you by a makeup pro and a v confused gal who just wants some freakin’ answers.

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What is a fan brush?

If you need an explanation ASAP, but don’t necessarily want to read the fan brush bible, here’s the TL;DR: A fan brush is a versatile makeup brush most commonly used to apply powder products such as highlighter, contour, bronzer, and blush, explains Allen.

But before you’re all like, “oh, that’s it?!” No, no, it’s not. And if you, like me, are willing to leap down the fan brush rabbit hole (yes, my targeted ads have been fan brush recs for weeks), you’ll learn that powder application is only one of the many things this multi-use “hidden gem” (as Allen says) can do. “Fan brushes work with cream products like cleansers, masks, and moisturizers as well,” says Allen. And for the kicker? You can even use a fan brush to apply mascara (more on that below).

How to use a fan brush

Because there are so many ways to use a fan brush, different techniques will apply. For a powder, “swipe the brush in the product, tap the excess off, and apply the powder all over the face, or where you want to accentuate (in the case that you’re using a highlighter, bronzer, or contour),” says Allen.

You can also use a fan brush to catch fallout from eyeshadow. To do this, place the brush under your eye to provide a barrier between your skin and the shadow, explains Allen. If any manages to make its way onto the skin, use the fan brush to wipe it away gently. For skincare products such as masks, creams, and cleansers, simply brush the product on. “The application will be nice and smooth,” says Allen.

And last but not least, for mascara applications, move the fan brush back and forth across your mascara wand to pick up product. For the best result, avoid clumps and make sure there is an even coat across the bristles. Apply the mascara as you would with a wand, underneath the lashes, in a sweeping motion. For added volume, layer up and focus on the roots.

What are the best fan brushes?

Because there are so many different kinds of fan brushes, I’ve narrowed them down to a few categories, and obvi provided you with the best ones on the market:

    Keep reading for the ultimate guide on fan brushes, and discover the many things you can do with them, below.


    Fan brushes for highlighter

    Before you learned a little somethin’ above, you probably first thought of highlighter whenever you heard the term “fan brush,” and for good reason. Because of the fine bristles and gentle application, the fan brush provides a seamless application for highlighter. The deposit will be just the right amount, but if you’re looking for that extra “pop,” you can easily build it up.


    Precision fan brushes

    Fan brushes come in so many shapes and sizes, and IMO, the smaller, more precise ones are some of the best investments you can make for your makeup collection. Not only are these brushes great for catching eyeshadow fallout, but you can use them to apply the eyeshadow too. They also make for a great brow bone highlight applicator, and if you like an intense cheekbone highlight, the precision will give you that sharp glow.


    Dense fan brushes

    With a dense fan brush, applying powder will be a breeze. Due to its larger size, you can also use the brush to apply powders and highlighters to your body. However, my personal favorite is to use it to apply bronzer and contour to my face. The shape perfectly aligns with your cheekbones and gives you one easy, fast, and seamless application.


    Fan brushes for mascara

    I know what you’re thinking: Why the heck would I use a fan brush to apply my mascara if the already included wand works perfectly fine?! Hey, I don’t blame ya, I was skeptical, too. But lemme just tell ya, this trick is a game-changer (!!) The mascara fan brush will allow you to get the most feathery lashes possible, and due to the long handle, you will have the utmost control. The best part?! You can build the mascara up, so if you want more volume, go right ahead!


    Fan brushes for mask application

    And last but not least, if you’re a skincare enthusiast (🙋🙋🙋), all those homemade face masks, moisturizers, and serums stashed in your skincare fridge will finally have a tool that’ll apply them as smoothly and nicely as they deserve. (Plus, I mean just think about how luxe you’ll feel using it.) Just be sure to thoroughly wash your fan brush when all is said and done.

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