First, let me say that you do NOT need all of these brushes! I have been evolving my brush collection for a while, and I’m still not in possession of ALL the brushes I want. This is just a glimpse of where I am right now, and how I use (or can use) each brush I own. As my collection grows and evolves, I will do updates in the future. In addition, these are not the only options out there. If you find something you like that’s working for you, USE IT!!
Second, when buying brushes, the main thing you start with is whether you are partial to natural or synthetic fibers/bristles. What’s the difference?
Natural fibers generally come from goat, horse, or squirrel hair and tend to be very soft. The advantage with natural fibers shines when used with dry makeup products like powders, blushes, and bronzers. These brushes tend to be more expensive, but will last longer if they are properly cleaned and cared for, which means fully washed every 7-14 days depending on the amount of makeup you use. (A brush cleaning article will come in the future.) A great advantage to natural brushes is that natural fibers contain a cuticle. This cuticle helps to pick up product in a way that a synthetic fiber cannot.
On the other hand, the fibers of synthetic brushes are made of nylon, taklon (a polyester derivative that is good for allergy-prone people), or polyester. Synthetic brushes work well with liquid or cream products such as foundation, concealer, creme blushes, creme eyeshadow, etc. The disadvantage to synthetic brushes is that they generally incur more wear and tear and must be replaced on a more frequent basis. However, there are many advantages to synthetic brushes. Synthetic bristles generally apply a softer more layered look; they are easy to clean; and are very good for those with allergies or sensitive skin.
My personal collection of brushes is a mixture of natural and synthetic brushes. And, for reference, I have pretty sensitive skin. I have not had any problems with the brushes affecting my skin or any allergies I have.
For easier categorization, I’m going to break these down into their general sterotypes and/or stated purpose. But, many makeup artists and makeup lovers like to “color outside the lines” and use brushes for a different purpose than that for which they were marketed or developed. I’ll give you examples, and explain why.
1. Real Techniques “Expert Face Brush” $8.99 at Ulta
This is my absolute favorite foundation brush. It has synthetic fibers made of taklon. The shape of the brush combined with the compactness of the fibers is a real win here for liquid or creme foundation. It allows you to buff and blend the foundation into the skin to get a flawless finish. I use it in circular motions starting from the inner most parts of the face outwards toward the hair line and jaw line. Oh, and major bonus here, the bottom is flat so you can stand it up so as not to allow countertop bacteria to get on it while you are using other brushes! Score! (This brush can also be used for powder, creme blush, and concealer.)
2. Real Techniques “Foundation Brush” $7.99 at Ulta
This is my go-to brush for events where I will be photographed or need a super high definition “air brushed” finish. Like the Expert Face Brush, the Foundation brush is made of synthetic taklon fibers. The angled end of the brush allows you to build the foundation slowly and lightly to create a flawless finish because it glides nicely around the curves of your bone structure. This is good, especially when you will be in or be photographed in harsh lighting. It also has the flat bottom so it can sit on the table. (This brush can also be used for concealer application.)
3. Real Techniques “Stippling Brush” $9.99 at Ulta
Again, made by the same company so it is made of synthetic taklon fibers. This brush is truly an all around “utility” player. It can do nearly ANYTHING!! If you are using it for foundation, I have found it works best with tinted moisturizers. It’s also fantastic for the application of loose powder because it gives that pixel perfect finish due to the extension of some but not all bristles on the end. I have also used this to apply creme blush, dry blush, creme bronzer, creme highlighter, and dry bronzer. It is a great brush for ALL mediums of makeup.
4. Sonia Kashuk “Foundation Brush” $14.29 at Target
This brush is very similar to the Real Techniques Foundation brush. Both are made of the same taklon fibers and generally yield the same results. I like this one a little bit more for two reasons. First, the handle is curved and fits nicely into the hand for a steady and even application of foundation. Second, it is a little fuller whereas the Real Techniques one is more flat. The fullness of the brush helps me to apply foundation without feeling like I’m finger painting. I have also used this brush to apply creme eyeshadows and concealer.
1. Sephora Collection “Round Powder Brush” #120 $25 on ebay (or #121 $38 at Sephora)
I love this brush for a powder brush, especially when use with a pressed powder. It is made of natural goat hair fibers. The large domed shape makes it great for applying powders or all-over bronzers. It may be the softest brush I own. Unfortunately, Sephora has discontinued this actual one (#120), and replaced it with a very similar one, called #121, made of synthetic fibers.
This brush showcases a bamboo handle and taklon synthetic fibers. Its long wide fiber arrangement makes it great for loose powder application. I feel like this brush is really delicate and it distributes the product very delicately on my skin. It’s incredibly soft for a synthetic brush. I really feel quite dainty using this one, and it does yield really soft results.
3. Real Techniques “Setting Brush” $7.99 at Ulta
This is my every day brush!! It is made of taklon fibers and has a small, yet compact arched shape. The size and compact shape of the brush makes this one a really versatile part of my collection, and I can take it anywhere because it isn’t bulky. I use it for powder, both pressed and loose, and due to its size, I put powder ONLY in the areas that I may tend to get oily. (I have dry skin, so I don’t want to powder my whole face on certain days.) This brush allows you to get powder into the creases around the edges of the nose, right between the eyebrows, etc. It’s also great for the application of powder highlighter. You don’t want to highlight your whole face, so a small precision-driven brush is key. Last, I occasionally use this brush for blending shadows in my crease, especially if I am going for a messy smoky eye.
4. Real Techniques “Stippling Brush” — See above info in Foundation section
1. Sephora Collection “Angled Synthetic Blush #130″ $35 on ebay or Sephora Collection Pro Angled Blush #49 $32 at Sephora.
This is another case of Sephora discontinuing brushes. I have the #130, which is made of synthetic fibers, and is great for contouring due to its densely packed fibers and angled edge. I use it for contour daily; however, it is marketed as a blush brush for densely pigmented powders or creme blushes. When I purchased it, I used it for blush until I found something I liked better. The great thing about this brush is that you don’t need to stack on too much product. It holds product like no other, so a little goes a long way! Who doesn’t love conserving product?! This brush can also be used for highlight in the same manner it was used to contour. I generally use the Real Techniques Setting Brush or my fingers to highlight, but this brush can pull double duty there. The closest match in the Sephora Collection I could find was the “Pro Angled Blush #49.”
2. Random Brush I found in my collection that did not have a handle.
This is the random one. I have absolutely no clue who made it or where it came from, but I found it one day cleaning out my collection and loved the rounded wide shape and density of the fibers. Even worse, it didn’t even have a handle. Fail. But, I rescued it from brush oblivion because I thought it had a great shape for contouring around the nose area. The small rounded shape is generally an eyeshadow brush shape, but this one felt a little too wide for my lid. So, I dug in my tool box and found something that would fit onto it as a handle, and voila! If you have something in your collection you love, think of it in a different way and re-purpose it!
3. Real Techniques “Setting Brush” — See Powder section above
4. Real Techniques “Stippling Brush” — See Foundation section above
1. Real Techniques “Blush Brush” $9.99 at Ulta
This is the best blush brush I’ve found. It’s made of taklon fibers and can pick up some serious product, so that’s always a bonus. The rounded pointed shape is balanced by its wider shape which makes getting blush right onto the cheekbone and up toward the temple a breeze! (I also use this brush for bronzer.)
2. Sephora Collection “Angled Synthetic Blush” — See Contour/Highlight Section above.
1. Lid – Mary Kay Signature Shadow Brush $10 at Mary Kay
I have had this brush forever! It’s made of natural bristles, and it works great! It’s small and compact fiber arrangement made it perfect for application of both creme and powder shadows on your lid.
2. Crease – Sephora Collection Pro Crease Brush #10 $20 at Sephora
This is just a traditional crease brush for application of shadow in the crease. I am not certain as to whether it is synthetic or natural. The Pro Crease Brush features a tapered end which allows you to get deep into the crease. The length of the fibers allow for flexibility for that same application as well as blending.
3. Outer Corner/Lid — Sephora Collection Dome Shadow #13 (now replaced with Sephora Collection Pro Domed Shadow #16 $18 at Sephora)
Another discontinued one! But the good news is that the replacement is the same thing! Yay! This brush has natural pony and goat hair fibers and is densely packed into a small dome shape. I use this to blend darker shadows into the outer corners of my crease and to precisely apply heavily pigmented shadow to the lid. Because of its density, it picks up a great amount of product and allows you to blend and/or apply in precise places. For me, this one is great with really bright colors that I don’t want all over my lid or my face for that matter.
4. Under the eye/Inner Corner — Sephora Collection Smoky Liner #24 $17 at Sephora
This is my favorite brush for creating a smoky eye, putting a small amount of shadow along the bottom lash line, and for highlighting the inner corner. It is small, thin, and pointed which allows you a very precise application in a small area. (That is, an area much smaller than the dome shadow brush will allow.) It works well with powder and creme products. I don’t know what I would do without this brush, seriously.
5. Liner – Mary Kay Signature Eyeliner/Eyebrow Brush $10
This is another one I’ve had forever, and I won’t be getting rid of it any time soon. The dense angled end of the brush is great for applying eyeshadow as liner and/or smudging liquid liner. The other end is to shape your brows. There’s nothing fancy about this brush. It’s pretty run of the mill, but it works really well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed Technique Tuesday: Brushes Edition! I am constantly coveting new brushes and evolving my collection. There are several MAC brushes I’ve had my eyes on for a while, but I like purchasing brushes one at at time. It feels more like a collection for me when I do that, and it’s less expensive! (or it feels that way) If you’re interested in learning how to properly clean your brushes, I’ve done a post on that too. Check that post out here.
Comment below and let me know which brushes are your favorites! Is there one you love that I need to try? Which brush have I listed that you are dying to go try?