It is a common misconception that expense equals quality when it comes to makeup brushes. There are several brushes at less than $50 that will perform exquisitely and last for years when cared for properly. Whether you choose natural or synthetic brushes, it is all about the bristles. To determine the quality of a makeup brush, you need to look at the bristles.
Makeup brushes contain three parts: the bristles; the handle; and the ferrule, which is the metal piece that attaches the bristles to the handle. The bristles will be made from either natural animal hair or synthetic fibers.
Sable, squirrel, goat, pony and badger are animals from which the natural bristles of makeup brushes derive. Sable is the most expensive of natural hairs and usually considered the softest. Squirrel hair is a close second. Goat and pony hair come next. Both offer a soft bristle but without the luxurious feel of sable or squirrel. Since badger hair is coarsest, bristles made from it are less pliable than those of other natural hair. Badger bristles work best when brushing brow liner.
Top-quality natural bristle brushes will have first-cut or virgin hairs. This hair is sheared from only the fine-tipped points of fur. Second-cut hairs will be blunter than and not as soft as first-cut hairs. Manufacturers will generally state whether or not the hairs are first-cut. For example, GeoGrafx's blush brush is listed as a blue squirrel brush made from virgin hair. It retails for about $25. Urban Apothecary offers an angle blush brush made from goat and pony, with a natural birch handle. It retails for about $32.
Man-made or synthetic fiber bristles are manufactured from nylon or taklon. According to Urban Apothecary, synthetic makeup brushes can be tapered, tipped, abraded or etched to increase their ability to transport color. In addition, these fibers are often treated, which softens the bristles. Taklon bristles are also hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for anyone who suffers from skin sensitivity or allergies.
The basic benefit of natural bristles is that this type of makeup brush holds onto powders more efficiently, providing a flawless finish. Synthetic bristles work better with creams and in general are much easier to clean and maintain. The synthetic bristles absorb less pigment from the makeup, ensuring that the bristles do not discolor as quickly as natural bristles do. In addition, synthetic bristles are preferred by animal lovers who wish to own only vegan makeup tools.
If it is your first foray into the world of quality makeup brushes, consider visiting a site like Mac Cosmetics. Mac has a page that lists individual brushes and designates which are natural and which are synthetic. It also details the applications for each brush.
For vegan makeup brushes, consider companies such as EcoTools, Branded J, Alima Pure and Hourglass Cosmetics. While prices vary, you can find quality makeup brushes for less than $50. Branded J's Adaline blush brush retails for about $38, while the Alima Pure blush brush sells for around $22.
Whether you choose natural or synthetic makeup brushes, it is essential to clean them properly. The basic rule is any brush that is used daily should be cleaned weekly. Brushes used with creams or liquids will need to be cleaned more frequently than those used with powdered cosmetics.
Baby shampoo in warm water works fine for natural or synthetic bristles. You can also purchase a makeup brush cleaner from companies like Clinique and Sephora. Always rinse the soap thoroughly from the brush, but do not submerge it into the water. When drying the brush, never stand it upright. Keep it angled so that the water does not seep into the ferrule. Always keep your makeup brushes in their own case to maintain their best quality.
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