For the first few years that I was wearing makeup, I never used brushes. I thought they were for professionals only, and since I was generally using just one shade of eye shadow, buying a brush set seemed unnecessary.

How times have changed! Now I find that without brushes, applying makeup is much more difficult, with dodgier results. I know it seems like makeup artists are always going on and on about how it makes a difference — and if you're not convinced, I have some proof for you. Over the weekend, I did an experiment, applying eye shadow with and without brushes. Photo evidence is available when you


With brushes: I used three shadows here, blending each together smoothly so there's no line of shadow demarcation. I also used a thin, stiff brush with wet shadow as eyeliner, which defines the eyes better. Yes, things are a little clumsy at the outer corner, but cut me some slack — I'm a doctor, not a makeup artist.

Without brushes: Disastrous results. Using only my fingers and Q-tips, I created a mishmash of powder that would have horrified even Jackson Pollock. The Q-tip was too wide to go along the lash line evenly, and the loose powder settling under my eye is a really classy touch.

So if this doesn't convince you of how helpful makeup brushes can be, I don't know what will. Even if you're working with a limited budget, this reader review proves that you can get a decent brush for less than the price of a latte. If you're totally lost and don't know where to start, my guide to makeup brushes should help you — or, of course, you can always ask questions in the comments!