Why You Might Not Need to Spend a Fortune on Your Makeup Brushes
Main image – Juliaisaeva/Stocksy
Makeup brushes. To splurge or not to splurge?
Whether you’re a makeup newbie or a pro, many of us have somehow ended up with some sort of selection of makeup brushes over our lives.
And while some might have been in your makeup bag for years, others may have let you down sooner than you’d hoped.
But is it the expensive ones that last the distance? Or do the cheaper brands always come up trumps?
Here, I ask whether investing in expensive makeup brushes really does make a difference. Or, if choosing affordable options can also be a success story.
I spoke to Jenepher Reynolds, founder of About Face Cosmetics and makeup artist Azesha Ramcharan for their take on how to know a decent makeup brush when you see one. And how much of our hard-earned cash is worth spending on them.
Brushes VS other tools
What you use to apply your makeup first comes down to personal preference. If you like the feeling of effectively painting your foundation on, a brush is the perfect tool. Alternatively, if a damp sponge feels more satisfying or fingers feel more thorough, then choose accordingly.
Think about what formula you’re using too. “You should use makeup brushes over fingers or sponges when blending powder or dry cosmetic products,” explains Reynolds. “A brush will blend eyeshadow, blush etc to create a seamless look.”
What you choose depends on your coverage needs too. “Fingers or sponge can blend liquids and creams for a natural finish,” says Ramcharan. “Brushes can provide a fuller coverage.”
Are more expensive makeup brushes best?
On the one hand, spending more can pay off. “Premium brushes are often hand made from high quality materials and can last many years if cared for well,” adds Ramcharan.
“[They] may feel softer and less scratchy than their cheaper counterparts. Brushes at very low-price points may not hold up to repeated use.”
This of course makes sense. The cheaper the makeup brush, the cheaper it probably was to make in the first place. This often equates to less thought going into its materials, potential longevity and functionality.
However, Reynolds says it’s not only about what you spend. “I believe it’s a question of quality and not expense,” she says. “A prestige line could carry expensive makeup brushes but they may not be of the best quality.
“The brand knows that people will pay for the brushes based on the brand name so quality may not be the company’s main concern.”
This is music to my ears. I mean come on; we all love a bargain. And some brush sets are amazing value. That is, as long as you know what you’re buying.
“If a set of 20 brushes costs $30 and you don’t even know what some of them are used for, more isn’t better,” says Reynolds. “In my opinion [you should] think twice about that purchase even if it’s just $30.”
So there is an argument for both sides. But overall, it seems that choosing quality over cost wins.
How to spot a good quality makeup brush
First, look at the hairs (or bristles). “In this day and age, there’s no need to buy animal hair [makeup] brushes,” Reynolds says. ‘Brushes with synthetic hair are now made to emulate natural hair.”
She continues, “a quality brush will be dense in bristles but each individual hair will be fine (thin and soft). This will create a streak free application and help make blending products onto the skin so easy.”
Also, when shopping for your makeup brushes, try to have a feel of them first. “I want it to feel soft in my hand, not coarse,” Reynolds says.
“Also, hold the handle with one hand and gently grasp the brush end and stroke it. I know – weird! But if any hairs come out into your hand, don’t buy it. It’s not well made, and you will be dealing with brush hairs on your face every time you put your makeup on.”
Next, consider its handle. “It may be made out of wood or plastic and the ferrule, typically made of metal, is the piece that attaches the bristles to the handle,” she explains. “The ferrule should be double crimped to ensure it is firmly attached to the handle.”
PRO TIP: When shopping for yours, first think about how many you might need. “On average, a foundation, concealer, powder, blush, contour, crease, shadow and angled liner brush will do the trick,” Reynolds says.
“If you prefer to do your foundation and concealer with a sponge then forgo those two brushes, and if you keep it simple on the eyes, maybe you only need one [eye brush].”
Our pick of the best makeup brushes
- I am a huge fan of Real Techniques makeup brushes – their Expert Face Makeup Brush (£9 from Boots UK /$9 from Look Fantastic US) is a staple in my makeup bag thanks to its softness and ease of use.
- Another brilliant – and affordable – brush brand is Eco Tools. Not only do their brushes feel premium on application, but the brand is also environmentally friendly. I particularly love the Start The Day Beautifully Kit (£13 from Boots UK), which includes a powder brush, three eye brushes and an angled base brush.
- If you’ve got the budget to spend a little more, then consider MAC. Their 184S Duo Fibre Fan Brush (£24 from MAC UK /$30 from MAC US) for example is a different shape to standard foundation brushes and offers a more lightweight way of applying liquid bases. It’s good at removing excess makeup too and it has lasted in my makeup bag for years.
- And finally, the Trinny London T-Kit (£28 from Trinny London UK) is a three-in-one brush. It has a lip brush, angled liner brush and smudging brush. It’s perfect for on-the-go and the ends are magnetic that click together seamlessly to avoid any mess.
According to the experts, the main thing to consider when buying makeup brushes is not the money, but the quality. Try not to be blinded by brand names and use Reynolds’ tips on how to spot a good quality makeup brush.
If it costs £2 and has all the qualities listed then I’d say you’ve found yourself a bargain. If it costs £40 and the hairs are prickly and already shedding, put it straight back and forget it ever existed!
Full transparency? How brands can charge £40 and above for a single makeup brush, that can usually only be used for one product, baffles me. Especially after discovering my love for brands like Real Techniques.
They don’t overcharge for what I believe are really decent brushes and, guess what? These brushes have lasted just as long as any of my premium priced ones – if not longer.
Meet the experts
Azesha Ramcharan is a makeup artist based in NY’s Hudson Valley region. Clients have included NBC, The Juilliard School, Hessel Museum of Art, Craftsy, VOZ, and Kate McCleod.
Jenepher Reynolds has worked in the fashion, beauty, and cosmetics industries since 1997. Having worked on such celebrities as Norah Jones, Wayne Gretzky and Harry Connick Jr., Jenepher’s resume is impressive. And it doesn’t stop there. When she grew tired and frustrated with the mark-up on make-up, she did something about it, and launched About Face Cosmetics, her own line.