Finger Painting – A Guide to No-Brush Make Up


I’ve come to the realization that a good number of my friends don’t really get make up brushes – they don’t know which brush is for which part of the face, which brush they should buy first, how much to pay for a brush – and believe they don’t know how to do make up well for that reason.  I’ve decided to put together a little somethin’ somethin’ for my girls/ boys who want to experiment with make up but could use a little guidance.

I got to thinking, what would I do if I didn’t have a brush to do my make up? Recently, I’ve been applying my make up using only my hands to figure that out, and have decided it’s very possible to do a full face using only your fingers, provided that you have the right products. Here are some of my recommendations if you’d rather spend your money on the make up itself, and not for specific applicators.

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Complexion – This is level 1 easy if you use only your fingers. In general, products that are non-powder based are very well suited for non-brush application. All you need to do is apply small amounts at a time. This is because most of the product will be concentrated on your finger tip, rather than diffused / absorbed into a brush. I like to use just my ring finger to apply a very small amount concealer under my eyes (tap, don’t rub) and any place that needs extra attention. I use NARS, but YSL makes Touche Eclat seen to the right, which is a concealer and highlighter with a brush applicator. Foundation or tinted moisturizer is very straight-forward – I typically apply a bit to my finger, place a dot of it in each region of my face (forehead, both cheeks, chin and tip of my nose), then blend out with my fingers. Very intuitive and does the trick.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 1.43.31 PMBronzer/Blush/Highligher – So if you have a powder based version of these products, there’s no question you should get a brush. If you don’t want to, then I’d recommend purchasing either gel, stick, mousse, or cream based products. Anything with water in the ingredients will be a lot easier to blend out. My favorite products in this family include Becca Lip and Cheek Tint (seen to the left) and Benefit Watt’s Up highlighter. There are loads of stick based contouring products trending on the market right now, and these are great for highlighting and bronzing. As long as you understand to use a very small amount, blend out with the fingers, and then apply more as needed, you are set. The downside to the finger application technique is that it’s easy to look clownish if you’re too heavy handed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 1.46.00 PMEyes – I like to apply shadows using my fingers sometimes, simply because you get so much payoff. When using a brush, you get a diffusion of color, which can be good, but it can also be a waste. I use my ring finger to apply color, always going from lightest color to darkest. Blending colors together to avoid harsh lines is hard to do without a brush so I typically stick to very neutral colors. There are also plenty of non-powder shadows, in stick or cream form, which are amazing and easy. Bobbi Brown makes a really richly-pigmented Long Wear Cream Shadow Stick, and I love it. As for other eye make up, eyeliner is easily found in pencil or liquid applicator form, mascara always has a brush, and brow pencils can be found with a spooley at the end for brushing and blending any harsh lines.

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Lips – You already know! But it is worth noting, really bright and cream based lipsticks are almost always better applied with a brush for extra precision. Most lip products don’t require any brushes, but I think the traditional lipstick bullet is not easy to work with, and becoming dated. We are starting to see more lipsticks in slimline, chubby stick, crayon or pencil form, which I find much better for precision than a bullet. I don’t even fux with these traditional bullets anymore because I can never get it quite right. My favorite form right now is a pencil, and my favorite lip product is the Bite Matte Cream Crayon. I highly recommend this one. The only downside is that you get much less value for money, as these pencils only have half the amount of product as a bullet. But still, when’s the last time you finished a whole lipstick? Right!

That about covers it for make up that doesn’t require brushes. Next post I will be focusing on my favorite brushes to use. Hope this encourages you to play around with color a bit, especially if you don’t have the brush for it.



This covers most of the basic things to know if you don’t have a brush.

2 thoughts

  1. I watched my girlfriend put on her foundation the other day with her fingers and it was something I haven’t done in such a long time it was completely foreign to me! Like it wasn’t possible to even do that!

    1. I hadn’t done it for a while because I have brushes. I was really surprised at how little product I needed – it made me think of how much product gets absorbed by the applicator!

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