Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Are Expensive Makeup Brushes Worth It?

A reader named La Sirena posted this comment on my post on L'Oreal's Bare Naturale from a few weeks ago:

"Hi, on the topic of mineral makeup, where should one buy quality brushes that won't break the bank!? I am in need of a kabuki [retractable, long-handled] and a secondary brush to cover up imperfections in the eye area and blemishes.

I have my eye on the "tools" offered by Lumiere... and I guess I could try ebay, but I don't really want to because I don't want to bother with paypal."

As I thought about her question, I glanced over at my makeup bag and took out my brushes. They were all bought at Sephora or Target, none of them for more than $25, and I've had them for years. Despite hearing all the raves for kabuki brushes, I still use a regular powder brush to apply loose mineral foundation. And while I'm a huge klutz at makeup application (and granted, I don't try anything too ambitious to begin with), I've never had a problem with the cheapo brushes I use, so I didn't know where to begin in answering La Sirena's question.

So I thought I'd throw out her question to all of you, and ask a few others of my own. First, is there really a difference between the brushes you could buy at Target or Sephora versus the ones you'll get from a brand like Laura Mercier or Bobbi Brown? Does makeup look better when applied with a natural brush as opposed to one with synthetic hair?

Shu Uemura is known for their wonderful brushes, with some costing upwards of $270 for a brush with mink bristles. I think I could replace my whole makeup collection for close to that, so I can't imagine ever paying that kind of money for one tiny brush. But I've never claimed to be a makeup expert, so I'd love to know what you guys think.

And if you have any brush suggestions for La Sirena, don't forget to mention it in your comments!


Emma said...

I have two brushes that I absolutely covet. The first is probably one of my most expensive and it's an Yves Saint Laurent long-handled rounded eyeshadow brush (I can't remember the #, sorry!) However, it's in my top two purely because I find the skin around my eyes is easily irritated by brushes and this one has never caused me any trouble.

The second one is my big blusher brush from The Body Shop. The bristles are sooooo soft and it's perfect to apply everything from powder foundation to minerals to blusher. Actually, saying that, The Body Shop do tend to do very good brushes, and every so often they reduce the price of one type of brush for a weekend/week as a promo.

YSL, alas, do no such promotion, but the price is worth it, I promise!

Emma said...

P.s. $270 is obscene for a brush. Heck, it's obscene for a three course meal with wine and coffees!

Anonymous said...

I switched to Chanel brushes and can never go back. Seriously. Very very worth the price, though they aren't really all that expensive.


Aruek said...

I have a Bobbi Brown eye shadow brush that I was given as a gift several years ago (along with a pot of bronze shimmer eye shadow that is probably my favorite eye shadow ever) and I like it a lot. However, it's the only eye shadow brush I've used (aside from the tiny ones that come with some eye shadows) so I can't compare it's quality to other brushes. The other makeup brush I use is a basic powder brush from Sephora and it works just fine. I like my Bobbie Brown brush, but if/when I need to buy another brush, I think I'll go to Sephora or Target rather than splurge on Bobbi Brown or other more expensive brands.
Oh, I also have one of those Benefit eyeliner brushes that is bent towards the tip and it really does make it easier to use powder/cream/gel eyeliners. That one I would definitely recommend!

Kathryn said...

MAC brushes (the natural bristles not the synthetic ones) are great and not expensive. I find that the synthetic ones "shed" too much.

Anonymous said...

I find you don't have to spend a lot on the brushes as long as you keep them in good shape and clean. By this I mean, wash them every so often (once every two months or sooner) and let them air dry. I use baby shampoo to wash my brushes that were purchased at a drug store. It's a low tech solution that works and keeps money in your wallet for other goodies...

Laura said...

One thing about natural bristle brushes -- I switched away from them because my cats would break into cabinets to get them and eat them!

I don't know why my makeup brushes and not my husband's (real badger) shaving brush, but since I've switched to synthetics...well, the brush doesn't feel as nice on my skin, but on the other hand, it's not being chewed up by a cat, either.

Dana said...

synthetic for cream/liquids

real for powders

or that's the logic they told us when I went to training to work for Lauder.

I have one real mink face brush and it's SO nice. I wouldn't have paid for it - won it for sales.

Corey said...

FYI There is actually a kabuki brush on sale for 50% off right now on Sephora (made from goat hair).

Meg said...

Thanks for all your comments, everyone! You've convinced me, I'm going to go and get natural hair brushes when mine start to fall apart.

Laura- Natural makeup brushes are a very pricey cat toy! I can see why your cat might be attracted to them though. I'm allergic to cats so luckily I won't have that problem!

windwhisperer- On the advice of some commenters, I've started washing my brushes every week or two (how long this lasts, I can't predict). My skin is acne-prone and many people told me that washing the brushes regularly would help prevent the spread of bacteria, and I think it has so far.

dana- I'm glad to hear an expert opinion! I only use powders, so I'll have to see what the difference is with a natural hair brush.

Anonymous said...

the Aubrey Nicole kabuki brush is the best one I've ever tried (www.aubreynicole.com), and it's not expensive at all. It's synthetic but it's insanely soft and doesn't shed at all...when I feel my old brush now it feels so rough I can't believe I ever used it.

Maggie said...

I second the vote for MAC. I've had mine for over 10 years, and they're as good as on Day 1. (that's with regular washing though, I second that suggestion as well)

La BellaDonna said...

I buy my makeup brushes at art stores. I have a choice of natural or synthetic, and many many different types and sizes. The quality is very good indeed - and the prices are good, too. I have yet to find a brush for $270.

Anonymous said...

I have found many brushes at art stores as well, and they work just as well or better than the ones that you find at actual makeup counters! If you do not want to spend alot, they usually have a selection (natural and synthetic) for about $3- $8 each (and in pretty colors, too!). That being said, I prefer synthetic, as I feel they are more durable, you can use them for a greater range of products, and are cruelty-free. However, I have not found any brush, natural or synthetic, that can beat my Too Faced Teddy Bear Brushes! They are wonderfully accurate, super soft, do not shed (I would recommend washing them before you use them), fairly portable, easy to wash, and beautiful to boot! Everything I could ever ask for @ Sephora for $62.50 for a set of 5 brushes with included makeup bag (which is a bit flashy, but whatever). The powder brush, although not natural, is great.
The next time you are in Sephora, give them a chance and you will see what I mean! Hope this helps someone! :D


Meg said...

La Belladonna and Sara- I've got to stop by at an art store, a natural brush for $8 is an incredible deal, I'm glad to hear that they work just as well as the expensive ones.

And Sara, I've been really impressed with Too Faced's products so far, I'll definitely check out their Teddy Bear brushes, they look beautiful on the website!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the poster about the Aubrey Nicole Premium Kabuki - HEAVEN!

another mineral-lover said...

I cannot recommend highly enough the brush set being sold at Costco -- they've partnered with Borghese on make-up. The set is, I think, 12 brushes? Mostly natural bristles, I think one or two are synthetic -- but the whole set, plus a carry case, plus a bottle of cleaner for $22!!
And the kabuki in the set is SOFTER than the $24 kabuki I bought at Whole Foods.