Morphe M523 “Tapered Powder” Brush is by far, my current favorite blush to apply contour! It is a goat hair brush with short, dense hairs that apply the powder both heavily and precisely. The M523 retails for $15. The rectangular, rounded-edge shape of the brush makes it easy to create an intense sculpt under the cheek bone without having a blown out effect. I do prefer to then apply the contour on my forehead with a fluffier brush (typically the MAC 135), because I do not to need to be as precise in these areas to get the effect I like. the MAC 135 brush is larger and fluffier so mainly I use it to save time in the areas of my face that don’t need as much precision. Additionally, I use an even smaller brush to contour my nose for the same reason (sometimes a MAC 224, other times a Sigma E50). Though you could obviously get away with just the M523 for all areas, I’m just spoiled.
MAC 168 “Large Contour Brush” is an oldie but a goodie! It is also made of super soft goat hairs but has slightly longer, fluffier hairs than the Morphe M523. It retails for $35. The MAC 168 has a downward sloping shape to the top of the brush that is meant to allow it to fit snuggly in the hollow of your cheek, with the tallest hairs reaching your cheekbone. The shape of this brush, again, makes it easy to apply your contour in a precise location, but more diffuse than the M523. I don’t mind using this brush all over my face because it is fluffier and you don’t have to worry as much about depositing too much color in one spot. I still prefer the M523 for under my cheekbone because I prefer a heavier, sharper contour in this area.
A dupe for the MAC 168 is the Sigma F40 ($22), but the Sigma F40 has longer hairs that are not as fluffy or soft, in my opinion, as the MAC brush. It still gets the job done very well though!
Sonia Kashuk “Small Powder Brush” is an extremely affordable and easily accessible contour brush. It was actually the first brush I ever bought for contour. It is only $8.99 from Target and has a small tapered, dome shape. It is moderately soft and has kept its shape very well over the years with minimal shedding. It is small enough that you can be precise with it but doesn’t have the specific shape to create as harsh of a contour as I prefer. I would highly recommend it for beginners because of the price and how easy it is to use!
NARS “Ita Kabuki Brush” allows for just about as harsh of a cheek contour you could ever ask for, but has the drawback of a $55 price tag. The infamous Ita brush is a sharp rectangular shape, without rounded edges like the M523. It also is significantly less dense than the Morphe brush and manages to have some degree of fluffiness in its structure. I wouldn’t recommend this to a novice because it can be trickier to blend with compared to the other brushes. You will have to move it both in horizontal and vertical planes to blend product out naturally. That doesn’t stop me from loving it though! It’s also great to use on the nose because of its thin width. I have yet to find anything else that compares in performance to this brush.