Makeup brushes. How important are they really? Important. Super important, actually. Having good brushes in your kit or makeup bag are just as important as having high quality, pigmented makeup. There are a lot of great brush brands out there so I’m not going to talk brands but I do want to talk specifics of the different types of brushes out there and how they can be used optimally to improve your makeup application.
There are two types of brush fibers, natural and synthetic. I think it’s pretty self explanatory as to what that means but in case it’s not – natural fiber brushes are made out of natural material like sable or goat hair and synthetic brushes are made of synthetic materials like nylon or polyester. Many companies sell both types, as they both have their benefits.
Natural brushes are great for powdered products, such as eyeshadow, blush or setting powder. The natural hairs contain cuticles that help pick up a lot of product and blend it easily. For this reason, natural fiber brushes may not be ideal for liquid products, as the porous cuticles will soak up all of your product! I don’t know about you, but I hate wasting product. Natural brushes tend to shed more easily and can be harder to clean because of the pores in the hairs but they are able to pick up pigment and distribute it in fewer motions than brushes made with synthetic hair. This allows makeup artists to have more control and precision when applying.
Conversely, synthetic brushes do not have a cuticle, making them ideal for liquid and cream products. Of course, the best thing about makeup are that there are no rules, so you are welcome to use any type of brush for any sort of makeup application. Synthetic brushes are typically less expensive and are easier to wash because the bristles aren’t coated with anything. Synthetic fibers stand up to solvents and do not dry out. They keep their shape well and dry faster after washing than natural hairs.
Along with natural versus synthetic fibers, another thing to consider is if the brush is dense or fluffy. A brush can be dense for two reasons, it contains more or shorter fibers. A dense brush is going to apply more product to a given area, like a flat top kabuki for foundation or a smaller dense brush to apply pigment to the eyes. Fluffier brushes have longer fibers and are great for applications like blending out a transition shade on the eyelid or for bronzer on the cheeks. Pictured below from left to right are examples of two densely packed brushes and a fluffier style brush.
When I first started investing in makeup brushes, I was drawn to the extra large, soft and fluffy brushes and would just love to brush them on my face without any product at all. HA! I have learned though, sometimes those brushes with large surface areas are not always ideal for a clean makeup application. They do have their time to shine but these days I do not pack those brushes in my kit very often and tend to reach for a more medium density brush for facial powder applications.
The brush to the left (or above if looking on your phone) features a special combination of 50/50 fibers to deliver two unique results on skin: One side provides a soft, diffused look, while the other fuses color onto skin for a polished, luminous complexion.
I love this brush for foundation application, above any other face brush that I have used. This duo-fiber brush offers different application, giving you a great bang for your buck!
Here you can see the difference (or at least you could if I knew how to take a better quality photo), the brush on the left is a natural fiber brush and on the right, a synthetic fiber brush. The synthetic fibers look smoother but to the touch, natural hair brushes usually have a lighter and softer feeling because they are not cut at the ends like synthetic fibers. The natural hairs have cuticles and because I have had this brush a long time, you can begin to see the "wear" almost like human hair that has been through the ringer. The synthetic brush has been dyed, where as the natural haired brush is well, natural! These cosmetic differences are just a few ways to spot a natural and synthetic brush.
All in all, there are a lot of great brushes out there and what you use is really up to your preference but I hope I was able to give a little more insight on the intention behind these different kinds of brushes. I know I said I wasn't going to talk about brands but I did want to list a few of my current favorite brush brands:
MAC Cosmetics - get on that pro discount thought girl, $$$
Morphe Brushes - say what you want about Morphe, but I have some brushed from them that have lasted me 5+ years so far!
Bdellium Tools - they have a bomb liner brush in their SFX collection!
Real Techniques - mainly their "setting brush" but I have like 6 of that brush itself so I feel obligated to mention
Anastasia BH - their brow and highlighting brushes are fantastic
Sephora Pro - actually has amazing brushes but they are also pretty pricey and no pro discount :(