I’m a self-confessed snob about a lot of things, but interestingly, makeup brushes aren’t exactly one of them. Not in the true sense anyway. I have a lot of brushes collected over the years, from different price ranges. I must say however that when buying natural hair brushes as I was before, there is a marked difference in quality between a cheap brush and an expensive one so I am very much pickier. The former is scratchy, sheds and can irritate the skin. The latter is usually better made, softer and less scratchy. Usually. There are of course, exceptions.
I must say however that the primary reason I have a lot of brushes is mainly due to the explosion of mineral makeup on the scene about 5 years ago. Although mineral makeup isn’t something I seek out, the other thing they gave us was very lovely, dense and super soft makeup brushes. Oh and at affordable prices. These brushes have synthetic bristles and with synthetic bristles, you get a super smooth surface and it does not scratch the skin. At one time, synthetic brushes were all I was using.
Over the years however, I’ve worked out the sort of makeup brushes I prefer, and why I prefer them, and why I think some types of brushes superior to others. If you’re keen to know what I think, read on and you can share your views too 🙂
Natural Hair Brushes pick up powder colour better
One of my favourite blush brushes is an inexpensive one from Ecotools – the Ecotools Bamboo blush brush. If you want a soft yet dense blush brush that does not scratch and picks up colour from most powder blushes quite easily, this one is the one to pick up.
However, although I love it and still use it a lot, I found that it was hard to use this Ecotools blush brush with some blushes. It wouldn’t pick up and deposit colour very well, and made the powder dusty. I used to think it was the fault of my blushes and panned them as not very good products. However, when I later switched to using natural hair blush brushes, I realised I didn’t have a problem with those same blushes. A touch of the brush on the surface of the powder was enough to pick up colour without making the blush dusty, and it applied on the skin evenly.
That was when I realised perhaps rather belatedly, that natural hair bristles aren’t as smooth as synthetic bristles. Animal hair are like human hair. The hair cuticles overlap and no matter how soft or smooth they feel, they in fact have ridges to them that pick up powder and colour more easily. Synthetic bristles offer nothing to hold onto and so they don’t pick up colour so well. It wasn’t the fault of the blush after all, but my brush. I now use natural hair bristle brushes almost exclusively for blush, bronzer and most face colour products.
Its the same with eyeshadow brushes for me. I have some synthetic eyeshadow brushes, but I’ve gone back to using natural hair brushes. I have less work when trying to pick up colour, and they seem to do a better job with blending, in my view. There are some synthetic brushes I have which I still use often, but it comes down to their quality and comfort.
Synthetic brushes are better for cream or liquid products
For liquid or cream products, however, synthetic bristles do a better job simply because they are easy to wash out. So for cream blushes, I use a synthetic bristle brush. Ditto if I use a lip brush or gel liner, or liquid foundation, concealer or cream shadow. I prefer using synthetic bristle brushes because they are soft, apply cream and liquid products well, and are easy to wash. If you use a brush for liquid foundation, you will also find that a synthetic bristle brush doesn’t use up as much product as a natural hair one. Natural hair seems to soak up product. I’m not sure if its because of the nature of hair but it be quite a waste.
Natural Hair Face Brushes apply powder more sheer
When I apply loose powder, I usually reach for my Sonia Kashuk Face Brush. It has natural hair and is lovely and soft. It is also dense but not too densely packed, as some synthetic face brushes are. I find that when I need to touch up, or apply loose powder, it gives me a sheerer application.
When I want to up the coverage, I usually opt for a dense synthetic face powder brush, or a synthetic kabuki brush, because synthetic bristles are just softer when you are buffing powder into your skin. I used to have a kabuki brush with natural hair bristles. Buffing powder into my skin was like using sandpaper on it 😛 Not true of all brushes of course but I just prefer a synthetic kabuki brush.
For powder foundation, I still prefer using a synthetic brush to apply it because of how much more comfortable the brush feels against my skin. Of course, a high quality natural hair brush will feel as sublime, but it will also cost substantially more.
It may not be the product but your brush
These days, before I pan a product for being unpigmented or for being too sheer or too shimmery, I try it out with a few types of brushes first. In many situations, I’ve found that good natural hair brushes will be able to pick up colour and pigment well, deposit it precisely on the skin and blend it out quite easily. Interestingly, I’ve also found that if a product is too pigmented, using a natural hair brush actually picks up less colour and it is easier to sheer out and blend on the skin, as compared to a synthetic brush. Natural hair brushes, like our hair has natural volume, while synthetic brushes need dense bristles to achieve the same volume and so, can end up applying powder or colour too thickly.
Which type of brush should I use?
For those with sensitive skin, synthetic bristles are a good option. They are inexpensive usually, and are soft against the skin and the odds of an allergy are minimal. With natural hair, you just can’t tell. However, finding a good set of synthetic hair brushes is key because many out there tend to be too floppy or not dense enough to do a good job.
As for natural hair brushes, I’d stay away from most cheap brushes because the quality of hair just isn’t there, and they can get scratchy over time and shed. Also, I’d stay away from coloured brushes e.g. pink hair, red hair etc because of the dyes used. Yes, even expensive ones like Shu Uemura’s Botan Brush. For natural hair brushes, I’m convinced that the Japanese do it best. Most expensively as well, but they have the best brushes on offer for the price you pay.
What’s your preference for a makeup brush? Natural hair? Synthetic? Is your preference swayed by how it performs or because of other reasons e.g. animals.
Picture #1 L-R: Trish McEvoy 2B Sheer Blush brush, Lunasol Blush brush, Ecotools Bamboo Blush Brush (Synthetic), Sigma F10 Blush Brush, Ecotools Bamboo Bronzer Brush (Synthetic), Sonia Kashuk Powder Brush, Trish McEvoy #37 Bronzer Brush
Picture #2 L-R: Shu Uemura #10 Kolinsky/Sable, Tony & Tina Blending Brush (S), Tony & Tina Crease Brush (S), NARS #15 Smudge Brush, Tony & Tina Angled Eyeliner Brush (S), MAC #239