Fan brushes look like one of those frou-frou accessories that are all hype and no substance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think of a fan brush as your secret weapon in the quest for natural-looking foundation and powder coverage. It helps distribute pigment evenly and thinly by stippling product instead of applying it in an even layer. You know how hair color contains multiple hues to help create a natural look? That's what a fan brush does for complex pigments. Don't sell this tool short until you try it. In fact, if you only try one new cosmetic product this year, make it a set of brushes that includes a fan brush.
The brush -- The head of a fan brush is shaped using long, soft but sturdy bristles. This can be a tall order. Choose a quality brush over a cheaper knockoff. Since a fan brush has fewer actual bristles than most of the brushes on this list, each one counts a lot. A quality product will be less likely to shed. Most experts prefer natural bristles for this brush style, but regardless of your stand on natural versus synthetic, inspect the brush you have in mind for a tight fitting ferrule (the metal band between the handle and the bristles) and a longish, good quality handle. This is a multi-purpose brush that you'll rely on quite a bit once you get the hang of it, so splurge.
The technique -- A fan brush is effective at redistributing powder or foundation and providing subtle shading. Think of it as an airbrush for your face. Polish small areas with a tapping motion or a slight sweeping motion over an area that's a little longer than the width of the brush head. The brush can also help grasp and remove pesky excess powder, like those stray eye shadow particles that end up on your cheeks by accident.