There are tons of different types of makeup brushes. There are big ones, small ones and weird shaped ones. Some are expensive and others are cheap. They come with long, short, fat and thin handles, and the bristles can be made from animal hair or synthetic ones. Here’s our guide to what to think about when buying makeup brushes.
What to Consider When Buying Brushes
There are four main things to consider when buying makeup brushes:
- purpose and use
- the size, shape and weight of the brush
- personal ethics
- Quality brushes are an essential part of creating quality makeup. For personal use, you’re better off with four or five good quality brushes that can multi-purpose, than having a mass of cheap and nasty ones. Similarly, professionals need quality. Brushes that fall apart or leave streaks make the job harder.
- Quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. Really cheap brushes are bound to be nasty, but a hefty price tag doesn’t make something awesome either. Price can be a general indicator of quality, but it is not exclusive. Premium makeup brands sometimes charge a premium price for their brushes. However, it doesn’t mean the brushes are the best quality, or right for you – you could simply be paying for the name. Sure, if you like to own brand names and are happy to pay for the name, that’s your choice – just make sure it isn’t style over substance.
- Check the build of the brush. Feel the bristles – they shouldn’t feel frayed or ragged, and they shouldn’t lose a mass of hair or break either. The bristles should be held in place by a seamless ferrule base that doesn’t wobble or come detached. Also, the bristles should have a good shape. Badly made makeup brushes will randomly shed hairs, fall apart after a few washes and won’t do a good job.
- For “dirty makeup” chores like using latex or glue, we use old brushes or brushes from inexpensive multi-packs from the supermarket. We do not use our nice brushes – they will never quite be the same again after doing a round with some glue.
- The little brushes that come with makeup are usually not that great. They are OK as a quick top-up when out and about, but not for your main application and certainly not for professional use.
Purpose & Use
- Consider what you want to do with the brush and go for a design that suits that purpose. Do you want to blend powders, create a precise line, cover a large or small area, contour and so on? For example, a wide thick foundation brush is no good for a precision job like applying a concealer or eyeliner!
- Brushes can be multi-purpose. While some brushes are actually designed to be multi-purpose, most brushes are made (or marketed) to do a specific job. This doesn’t mean it can’t be used for other jobs. For example, a lip brush can be used as an eyeliner or concealer brush. If it does the job and suits your application method and budget, then why not.
Size, Shape & Weight
- Brushes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights. Even within brushes designed for the same purpose, they will all look and feel a bit different.
- Try out different brands to see what works for you, your application methods and hand size. Try your mates’ brushes or go into the department stores and see how brushes made by different brands suit you. All have a different feel.
- We talk about brush construction and bristles here. Just to say, nowadays you can get brushes to suit all personal tastes like non-animal hair, cruelty-free and vegan brushes. Likewise, there are recycled and environmentally-friendly brushes available. If these things are important to you, then don’t compromise your beliefs, there are plenty of great options for you.
- Consider the client’s wishes if you are a professional makeup artist – and cater for this. We do come across people who don’t like animal hair brushes for a variety of reasons, such as allergies, or they are vegetarian/vegan and don’t want animal hair on them.
Sets vs. Individual Brushes
- Brush sets can be a good way to get started. Sets vary in size, but even a small brush set should provide the commonly used brushes for less than buying them all individually. You often get a case or brush wrap with sets too. Just make sure that all the brushes in the set are well made.
- Travel brush sets can be quite handy for holidays and for keeping in a handbag.
- If you go to makeup school, you usually get a set of brushes as part of the course fees – the quality will vary from school to school, of course. You can build on this with individual brushes.
- Buying individually means you can tailor-pick the brushes that work best for you for each type of makeup or application. Of course, you are not confined to the same brand – you could splash out on a really good brush that you’ll use a lot, and budget for the other brushes that you want.
So, in a nutshell – it’s personal choice and circumstances, just keep in mind… quality!
Find Out More
- A Guide to Makeup Brush Construction – a look at what brushes are made from and the difference between animal hair and synthetic bristles.
- A Guide to Makeup Brushes for the Face.
- A Guide to Makeup Brushes for Eyes, Brows and Lips.