Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Inventory #28: Brushes

The first time I was told that I needed to buy makeup brushes was years ago at a Laura Mercier makeover. It was my first time at Laura Mercier, and the MUA on the job was a sweet and lovely young woman who kindly advised that brushes get the job done much better. We were getting along splendidly and I was learning a lot from her. Then an egotistical regional manager of some sort who happened to be visiting the location that day butted into our conversation and told me in a very aggressive tone that I must use brushes to apply makeup or else I was wasting my time and just asking for trouble. One, I was horrified by her manner. Two, I was horrified by the price of the brushes. I distinctly recall leaving the scene with a lip liner, blush and lip gloss -- but no brushes. It took a few years before I even began to consider makeup brushes as a necessity.

Even now, if there's anything I skimp on, it's brushes. Many say they are the tools of the trade -- that in order to maximize the benefits of makeup, it's worth investing in the best brushes possible. I am no brush expert and I don't work in the makeup industry or go in front of HD TV. I only need the basics to slap on what I need for the day. I have definitely advanced enough to dispense with the tiny useless complimentary brushes that sometimes accompany a powder or blush (though some are still very useful and not at all worthless) -- but I've yet to splurge on MAC's handmade brushes or any high-end brand brushes. I accrue the brushes one by one as needed.

So, I do not in any way struggle with accruing makeup brushes. I would in fact dispense with the whole thing if I could.

Method of storage: small clear vases from the dollar store. Two vases: one for the "small" brushes, one for the "big" brushes. Visually terrible but they serve the purpose.

Here's what I've managed to attain so far:

1. Lise Watier Powder Brush which I use as a bronzer brush. It's rather old -- my sister received it as a gift at some point and I stole it from her -- and the ends are breaking off. My other sister calls it "bear paw." Perhaps it's time for it to go into the empties bag.

2. Sephora Collection Pro Natural Rounded Powder Brush #41 which is super soft and fluffy but sheds ever so lightly and annoyingly after each encounter. It was one of the few brushes I actually spent some money on, so I was disappointed. Not enough to return it (though I suppose I can still do that) but mildly annoyed at the disparity between its potential and actuality.

3. Sonia Kashuk Blush Brush which I picked up for something like $5 at Winners. I was looking for a traditional blush brush that didn't cost a lot. It's not super soft or luxurious at all but does the job. Some day I will replace this with a nicer fluffier one since I love blush so much.

4. Sephora Collection Classic Angled Blush Brush #40 which I got only because the next brush is on its last legs and I got used to using an angled blush brush for a while. Been a while since I've used it since I've been relying on the Sonia Kashuk above.

5. Lancome Angled Blush Brush which I got for free in some huge mega bonus thing a long time ago. It's one of those things that are clearly not up to par with the real brushes that are sold for super expensive prices, but I love me some free brush I do not have to pay for. I used it for a few years and noticed it's really starting to shed rapidly now and just keep it around for swatches, not to actually use on my face.

6. Sephora Collection Classic Foundation Brush which is just your generic foundation brush for liquid foundations. I used it diligently for the past 3-4 years but discovered that it's not the best brush for some of my mattifying and oil-free foundations which tend to be thicker in texture. This brush is rather bendy and I find myself wanting something that's a bit more dense or thicker.

7. Make Up For Ever HD Blush Brush #55N which I got at the height of my YouTube beauty video addiction. Every "guru" was waving around a duo-fibre brush and made me think life wasn't worth living without it. I also had a deluxe sample of the MUFE HD Microfinish Blush which I was having a hard time with, so I thought the brush would be worth the splurge. It's a good brush, I guess, and I've even used it to apply the MUFE Mat Velvet + Matifying Foundation which dries really quickly and doesn't work as well with the classic foundation brush. I need to experiment more with this brush and figure out other uses for it and get my money's worth.

Bare Escentuals brushes from
the BareMinerals Starter Kit.

8. Bare Escentuals Full Coverage Kabuki Brush which I currently use as a powder brush to set my makeup in the morning. It's been a long time since I've messed around with Bare Escentuals and their annoying loose powder pots, but the starter kit was kind of worth it just for the brushes alone. These may be the best quality brushes in my possession.

9. Bare Escentuals Flawless Application Face Brush which I use either as a powder brush or a blush brush, depending on how many brushes I've used and not cleaned in a given week.

10. Bare Escentuals Maximum Coverage Concealer Brush which I use as a cream eye shadow brush. I find this just the right size to dip into a MAC Paint Pot. Love it.

11. Tarte Double-Ended Liner Brush that comes free with the EmphasEYES Waterproof Clay Shadow/Liner. The clay pot dried up so quickly that I barely even had a chance to use it but the brush remains with me. It's a decent brush that can dip into liquids, creams and powders. But I don't use it much simply because I have such a hard time with liners (another story for another day).

12. Sephora Flat Eye Liner Brush that was on clearance for $5. Haven't used it but couldn't resist the bargain.

13. Cargo EyeLining Angled Brush that was on clearance when Sephora booted Cargo. I love the long, skinny handle and the angled cut of the brush but find that the bristles are weak and tend to fan out of shape quickly. Don't use it much.

14. Laura Mercier Flat Eye Liner Brush which I bought while on a mad, therapeutic shopping spree during which I threw in the Cake Liner and the brush without thinking of how rarely I use eye liner. Fortunately my sister likes to use it now and then so it's not a complete waste.

15. Sephora Collection Classic Concealer Brush #46 which I use as a cream shadow brush or lip brush instead. The shape and size is just right for my eyelids and I find it's too big and not precise enough as a concealer brush. The synthetic stiffness of the bristles also make it perfect for dabbing on cream shadows.

16. Sephora Collection Classic Blending Eye Brush #29 which I don't use as much as I should. Lately I've been dabbing on some solo cream shadow with my finger and running out the door. It's time to experiment with colours and blending!

17. Sephora Collection Classic Small Synthetic Eyeshadow Brush #26 which is so small that I get impatient using it on my eyes and now use as a concealer brush instead. As a concealer brush it's great and I have no complaints. Hmm... I have too many Sephora brushes.

18. Quo dome shaped smudge brush thingy... that I have no idea how it came to be in my collection. I can't remember buying it. Puzzled now.

19. Nameless All Over Large Shadow Brush which I found at Winners for about $5. For some cheap nameless thing, it's not bad!

20, 21 and 22. Free Lancome brushes -- see #5 above.

23, 24, 25 and 26. More free Lancome brushes in travel size! I've never used these and can tell from looking at them that they're not very good, but I haven't the heart to throw them away.

27. Somewhere lost in the mess that is my room is my retractable Quo lip brush.

28. In my travel bag is a retractable EcoTools Powder Brush.

Well, that's it for me. I'd like to be able to get some better quality brushes, especially for foundation and blush which I use all the time, but as for the rest, there's no need to go all out and start accruing MAC and Bobbi Brown brushes. What kind of bugs me upon looking at this as a whole is how much of a mismatched jumble my collection is. It would be nice to have a complete matching set some day... I guess... maybe.

How do you feel about makeup brushes? Priority? Worth the dollars invested into them? Do you have full matching sets and kits?


  1. Oh my lord what rude sales woman.

    I love my brushes, and because of this i own far too many (150+). That being said good brushes come in all price ranges. I own only a few mac and very little high end brushes. Most of mine come from crown whoa ida tides brushes for many high end companies but sell to public at wholesale prices. Some of my laborites cost $2.

    Your collection looks great and seems to be treating you well. Love the post.

  2. I have a brush set from Sigma, some EcoTools brushes, some hana K brushes and one MAC brush. I can't really justify splurging on brushes to myself because I think the cheap ones I own are pretty good quality, too.

  3. My brush collection isn't fancy but I'm trying to invest more in individual brushes rather than brush sets now. I can't see myself investing in more MAC brushes now that I've had a taste of the 188. The damn thing won't stop shedding and it's stained already! If anything I think EcoTools and Sonia Kashuk brushes is where it's at.

  4. I don't want to admit how many brushes I have, it's ridiculous!

  5. I never really splurged on makeup brushes until recent years. I have to say it's definitely worth spending on a bit more on some MAC brushes because they really do the job better. I don't own any Laura Mercier brushes, can't believe the sales lady was so rude!

  6. First of all, that sales person/manager, was a moron. I'm glad she didn't ultimately ruin things for you, but what can you do? You will run into these insecure types from time to time, right? As to the brushes themselves, back in my very early teens when I first started dabbling with makeup, I couldn't afford to buy brushes and made do with whatever was on hand. Then as I got older and started investing more time into proper application techniques, I realized that what I've been reading all along is actually true: the right tools really do make the job. All you need to do to see the merit of this yourself, is to take one crappy brush and one similar sized good brush, and apply the same product on each side of your face, say a blush or foundation, and the results will be glaringly obvious. This point came home to me once more only recently, as I began my hunt for the perfect foundation and brush to apply it with for my niece's wedding coming up this Saturday, where my makeup artistry skills have been called upon (!) To date, I have began investing in not only quality brushes, but a wonderful brush roll to house them in, as well as the proper cleansing techniques because after all, why go to the trouble and expense of investing in the right tools, if you won't take care of them? All this to say, that while you may not think all the hype about brushes is necessarily merited, I see that you have yourself a nice collection going and for what my opinion's worth, a decent brush will give you a decent look -- but a great brush will make you flawless!!

  7. yay! makeup brushes! one of my true makeup loves lol ^^ i actually dont own any of the makeup brushes you own but that may be because i'm kinda a mac whore when it comes to brushes >_< i branched out and tried a few sephora brushes but i think i only have one xD I actually wanted the Sephora Flat Eye Liner Brush since it looks like it would be a good lip brush but i think it sold out before i could get it T_T

    i think using makeup brushes is part of the experience lol it makes application more funn haha which brush do you use to put on eyeshadow? o.O you should try the ELF eyeshadow brush and the cheapo target crease brush is pretty amazing too. does canada have targets? o.O

  8. Brushes are something I skimp on too, Liz. I do have a few decent one's that I splurged on and I must say, they were definitely worth the money I spent on them. I also have a few cheaper one's (Crown brushes), which are pretty good quality too. I suppose I could with investing in a few others as well, but if it's a choice of spending money on brushes, or new make up, I take the make up every time!

  9. I have a pretty random assortment of brushes; some MAC ones from when I still had a credit card and went on a MAC spree, some Bare Escentual ones from random kits, some Body Shop ones and some random cheapies. I keep mine in a bathroom tumbler cup so don't feel bad about your vases. They are just something that I don't think a lot about; although I agree that it would be nice to have a good matching set. Like Nat above I'd rather buy makeup than spend more money on brushes. I would like a brush roll to keep them in when I travel though; need to look into that. :)

  10. I don't think it really matters - there are some great "budget" brushes that do the job beautifully (I really like the EcoTools ones I have). Sometimes they just don't carry the range of brushes that something like MAC does, but you really need 10+ brushes just for your eyes? I tend not to think so, so...yeah. I have a brush kit from Sephora, and I don't even use half of them (the ones I use on a daily basis: one eye shadow brush, brow comb, powder brush, kabuki, blush brush). I do think I want a duo-fibre, though.

  11. Sometimes I can't believe how poorly trained staff are. I personally can't think of treating someone in that manner would make them feel compelled to purchase, aside from feeling threatened/shamed. And in the end that is never the way a customer should feel. I would have probably said something back to that ridiculous manager and said something to her supervisor as well. But then I can be straight forward like that, some people may find it abrasive and would rather forget the whole thing.
    As for brushes, I own a ton and I have always followed the tenet that I should buy the best I can afford, so I do invest a good amount in nice brushes. I figured I put them on my face and I like sort things, and I want it to last. I've never had to throw away a make up brush. And I do find some do better jobs than others, but sometimes I get a brush for less and it does a great job. Eh, trial and error I suppose. But I will say that I also use my fingers. Best tools God gave us right? Those little digits warm up cream like nobody's business.

  12. That's an impressive collection for a brush hater! "Bear paw," lol.

    I am sorry you were steamrolled at the LM counter. I don't understand why people aren't trained in the soft sell. Don't they realize what a turnoff it is to insult customers? Jeez.

    Oh, and like Larie, I love my Ecotools brushes. Cheap and oh, so soft!! Synthetics have come such a long way. Eco, Alima, and my synthetic MUFE Kabuki are among my very favorites, even over the high end brushes I paid a kabilloin bucks for.

  13. yurch, sorry to hear about your LM experience!

    I tend to buy ELF brushes most of the time. I know the quality isn't on par with brands like MAC, but they make a few really good brushes that I even bought backups of. In particular, I'd recommend their Powder Brush ($3 from their 'more expensive' Studio line). It's great for liquid foundation, powder foundation, blush, etc.

  14. Thanks for your comments, everyone! Interesting to hear about where we all stand on the brush thing.

    Yeah, I kind of let myself get victimized at Laura Mercier, but that was a long time ago and I'm VERY different now. That lady would not get away with attitude like that now. I recall the MUA seemed embarassed for her. They probably didn't sell any brushes to anyone that day, lol.

    And Canada doesn't have a Target yet (taking over our Zellers in a year or two). Otherwise I'm sure I'd get a lot more Sonia Kashuk stuff which I hear GREAT things about!

    I think Isabella has a great point that using a nice brush is a part of the experience, which is why we fall for pretty packaging and luxe designs and so on. But like Nat, I always do end up spending more on the product rather than the tools. Ah -- someday perhaps we won't have to pick and choose so much! ;D

  15. Wow how rude is right. That would have totally turned me off. I personally have used both high end & low end brushes and frankly it just depends on the brush, not necessarily the name. Right now I'd have to say that the brushes that get the most rotation in my every day makeup are a combo of Sigma and ELF. Truly. And of course keeping them properly cleaned matters most no matter what brush you use :)

  16. Yes, great reminder! So far I think using the Neutrogena facial cleanser as a brush cleanser is working out well. It does nothing for my face but the makeup removing non-harshness factor seems to be good for the brushes. :)

  17. Your method of storage isn't so bad Liz, go easy on yourself! And your brush collection also looks quite respectable to me (and clean - good work :P). All of my brushes except the one MAC brush I have, were given to me either as a gift or from Clinique, so my own stash isn't anything to write home about. I think it's fairly well-rounded but I do think there are a few holes that I could fill. Certainly this is an area where I spend the least amount of money/though, so I can relate!

  18. Haha, I made sure they were clean before taking pics. ;) Glad I'm not the only one resistant to forking over hard-earned bucks for brushes! You know, Clinique never promotes it so I didn't even think about the fact that they have brushes. How are they?


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