What the Hell Are You Supposed to Do With a Fan Brush Anyway?

Makeup brushes are a minefield. Most beauty lovers know what a flat foundation brush or a large kabuki does, but a fan brush? They’re more of a mystery. We’ve seen them waved around on many a beauty blogger’s YouTube, but the tools have earned a reputation for being (at best) frivolous and (at worst) totally pointless.

Looks can be deceiving, though. Fan brushes are just as functional as they are fun and have so many uses in your daily makeup routine. Because the delicate nature of these brushes makes for a gentler touch, they’re great for sweeping away eye shadow fallout underneath your eyes, applying barely there mascara, or lightly touching up face powder to deftly banish midday shine. They can even be used to smooth on a thin layer of a clay face mask or nail a multimasking regimen. By using a brush instead of your fingers, you end up wasting far less product.

However, the fan brush really comes into its own when it’s teamed with a highlighter (ideally, a powder illuminator with ample shimmer for the fanned bristles’ softer touch). Stroking glow-giving pigments on the tops of the cheekbones and the Cupid’s bow with a full, fluffy fan brush will ensure such flawless blending that your skin appears almost airbrushed. Swirl the bristles in the powder, tap off excess, and then lightly glide the brush along the high points of your face for a makeup artist–level highlight.

If you’re not sure which fan brush to use—or which highlighter to use one with—keep scrolling for our roundup of five highlighting dream teams that will make your complexion gleam.