Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Brush Is A Brush Is A..?

Posted by iamglamourpuss at 12:36 AM
It's easy to feel inundated with information and confusion when it comes to make-up brushes.  First of all, THERE ARE SO MANY!  You can them individually or in sets.  You can get synthetic ones (also known as vegan) or natural bristle ones.  There a regular ones, travel ones and pro ones.  You can read blog after blog and still not be any clearer.  What one person likes, another person may not.

Honestly, I like to apply my make-up with my fingers.  *GASP*  But brushes are a necessary tool to use some types of products or to achieve certain looks.  My philosophy is simple, I like neat brushes that apply make-up cleanly and feel good on my skin.  I have switched my personal brushes over to all synthetic.  They are very soft, easy to clean and don't tend to get brittle like some natural bristles may over time.

But even with that criteria, I find myself wanting to snatch up every brush friends of mine rave about.  It truly is overwhelming.  So, I have purchased more brushes for myself over the past year than I have EVER.  And here are some of my observations.  Be sure to consider what your brush needs are.  They may be different from mine.

The set that I purchased first was the pink synthetic, Brush Away Cancer set from Crown Brush.  I got it on sale on HauteLook.com.  When it came in, the first thing I was bowled over by was that the brush roll smelled awful.  It smelled very chemical-y, kind of like paint or a solvent.  The outside is a cool-toned pink, faux patent-leather vinyl.  The inside of the roll is a warm, pearly pink, faux-leather.  I actually left this set out for a while so the smell could die down.  The brushes are white with pink tips.  The barrels are pink and the wooden handles are a soft, pearly pink.

This set includes (L-R):  Pointed liner, lash spoolie, brow comb, smudger, lip, 
angle liner, concealer, crease, shadow, foundation, blush and powder brushes.

Overall, this set is nice for the price.  I got it for $25 and I know that Crown Brush regularly has all sorts of fab sales on their site, so you could always snatch these or a similar set up for a good price.  (As of today, 5/7, the brushes are on sale for $23.96.)

The next set I acquired was the Mrs. Bunny travel set by Sigma brushes.  Oh my gosh, there was SO much hype when these launched.  Everyone raved about how cute they are and if you didn't like the colors, they came in the black, Mr. Bunny set too!  Sigma has a great reputation, although I had never used them before so they were new to me.  The first thing that gets you is the price tag.  The full set is $109.  The travel set is  $59.  I got these as a Christmas gift because there is no way I could splurge that much on myself.  (I am too much of a hardcore bargain-hunter.)  I know that Sigma offers a coupon code once month, but it's never going to be a really large discount, gauging from past coupons.

This set includes (L-R):  Large powder, large angled contour, foundation, tapered blending, 
eye shading, small angle, pencil and the freebie blending (not synthetic) brushes.  

The Sigma brushes come in a cylindrical, baby blue leatherette case that has a top that snaps on.  It's a good case for traveling and it can double as a brush holder on your vanity, bathroom counter, desk, whatever.  The brushes have shorter handles since they are travel brushes.  They are also synthetic and very soft.  I can say, however, that the whole pink/blue color scheme was not as cute in person as I had anticipated.  What I do like is that this set left out what I consider to be "throw away" brushes...the plastic brow comb, the mascara wand-style spoolie brush and the worst one of all, the sponge-tipped applicator.  Ick.  Now if we are talking about the metal sort of lash comb, that's one thing.  But these plastic things just don't belong in my brush stash.  It's filler.  A way to make a larger set without the cost of adding actual brushes.

The next set that I simply could NOT resist is the Royal & Langnickel Pink Brush Essentials.  Wow, does this set look cool!  There are quite a few options when buying it.  You can get it in a natural or synthetic set.  You can get full-sized brushes in a roll or a travel set that comes in a bifold holder that folds and zips.  The regular price on these is just under $50.  But they are on sale as of today (5/7) for $29.99.  The synthetic brushes are pink with black tips.  They are undeniably cool.  The brush roll is a hot pink/magenta, faux-snakeskin on the outside and a black faux-snakeskin on the inside.

This set includes (L-R): Powder, blush, finishing fan, eye shader LG, eye shader MD, smudger, concealer, angled brow, detail liner, sponge, lash brush spoolie, brow/lash comb and foundation brushes.

I truly do love how these brushes look.  As you can see, there's a spoolie, a lash/brow comb and the dreaded sponge-tipped applicator.  The other brush I think is questionable for a roll is the large fan.  A roll is made to fold up and be compact, a fan brush isn't.  And this one is large enough that you'll probably need to switch it with one of the other brushes to make sure it isn't caught in a fold.  A fan brush that isn't flat isn't good.  These brushes are very soft too.  But I am going to do some side-by-side comparisons in a minute, which is where I will get more in depth.  

The last brush set I picked up on a whim.  I was in England recently and went to the Models Own kiosk at the Westfield Shopping Center at Shepherd's Bush.  I went to buy nail polish, but I left with nail polish and a cute travel brush set that has 5 neon orange brushes.

This set includes (L-R):  Blush, eyeshadow, smudger, lip and angled liner brushes.
This was around $16.  The color got me.  I'm such a sucker for packaging.  These brushes are synthetic and soft.  But now let's get down to business.

The Blush Brushes

  Top to Bottom and L-R:  Royal & Langnickel, Crown Brush, Sigma and Models Own.

The Sigma and Crown brushes are angled.  As you can see the R&L and the Sigma brushes are the "poofiest." The Crown and Models Own are not as fluffy.  What does this mean?  It depends on how you look at it.  When it comes to shape, some people tend to use angled brushes for contouring, but honestly, you can apply blush to the apples or your cheeks OR create a shaded contour with either brush.  It's a gimmick.  As for the fluff factor, some people like fluffy brushes because they are softer.  Some people like brushes that are more dense because they usually pick up more product, hence putting down more product on the skin when in use.  While the Sigma is really soft and feels really nice, when you sweep it across your cheek, it takes up your WHOLE cheek.  Personally, I prefer a brush I can control a little more.  The size and fluffiness of the Sigma brush means to me that I will not have as much control and powder may "spray" off the brush to places I don't want blush.  The Sigma also had some stray bristles, which I really didn't expect since they were the highest price of the bunch.  On the other hand, the Crown brush is a little too dense.  It brushes across the cheek nicely and it isn't as large, so there is more control.  But the density is the issue here.  It's going to pick up a lot of product and may give you babydoll circles or contouring racing stripes if you're not careful.  The brushes I liked most were the domed brushes...both the Models Own and the R&L.  The R&L is a fuller brush, but because it is a dome, you can easily control how much you are applying to your skin.  The Models Own is about as wide as the R&L, but it's a little flatter and I like that because that makes is a multipurpose brush.  Apply your blush with the wide side and contour with it turned to the narrow side.  Win-win!

Next, let's move on to the angled brushes.  I love synthetic angled brushes.  They are so soft and can create some great, smooth lines for applying gel eyeliner, wet pigments or blending pencil liner to make a gorgeous smokey look.  And they work wonderfully for eyebrows too!

L-R: R&L, Crown, Sigma and Models Own 

There are a couple of things I take into consideration when I am buying an angled brush.  How cleanly cut are the bristles that create the line?  How tapered is the edge of the angled line?  These are important to me because I need to know exactly where my make-up is going to go.  If I have some brush that doesn't have what it takes to create a smooth, thin line, then it's not a brush I'm going to use much.  Overall, all of these brushes have clean angles.  The R&L brush is considerably wider than the others.  That's not really an advantage or a disadvantage, just an observation.  As you can see from the lower photo, the Sigma brush isn't very tapered at all.  I would be more inclined to use this brush for filling in the inner edge of the eyebrows or for blending out pencil eyeliner.  I would not use this brush to apply a gel or a wet pigment as a liner.  While the Models Own brush is slightly more tapered, it would have to go in the same category as the Sigma brush because it's simply not tapered enough.  My first choice out of this style of brush is the R&L. It is the most tapered and the most useful for applying eyeliner.  The Crown brush comes in a very close second.

Now let's take a look at these brushes.  It's a little confusing because some companies call them crease brushes, some call them smudgers and others call them pencil.  They are round brushes with rounded, domed tops. 
L-R:  R&L, Crown, Sigma and Models Own.

I'm going to put you to the test, knowing what you know about me, which one of these brushes do you think I am going to pick as the "choice" brush out of these four?

Give up?  Did you make a guess?  To me, this is very clear from simply looking at that photo.  The Sigma is the perfect example of what this brush should be.  There are no strays, it is dense and the top is beautifully rounded.  Did you get it right?  My next choice would be the Crown brush.  It is a smidge larger than the Sigma, but it is also dense.  The brush is not as tapered at the end.  The R&L and Models Own are in the same boat on this one.  I think they are perfect for blending and perhaps laying down some color on the crease, but I wouldn't use them to create cut-creases or apply shadow as an eyeliner.  They are too flared with too many stragglers on the sides.

Overall, I would have to say that I am most impressed by the Royal & Langnickel brushes.  Don't get me wrong, there aren't any sets here that I downright do not like.  These all are brushes that will get some use from me, one way or another!  One thing to bear in mind is that MOST brush sets you come across are going to be made in China.  This by no means means they are all the same, but I found that once I got these brushes in my hands, there really wasn't THAT much difference between the higher end Sigmas and the less expensive Crown Brush set.  I know both of those are from China.  And when you are buying brushes, keep in mind that they are not meant to last for the rest of your life.  While there are differences in the quality of some brushes, I am simply not finding enough of a variance to make THAT much of a difference.  Again, it goes back to suiting your needs.  And always, always, do your research.  Reviews are the greatest tools out there.  I hope this one has been informative and helpful.  Feel free to ask questions if I omitted anything.

In the future, I would like to try Bdellium's Green Bambu brushes.  They even have a Yellow Bambu brush line now too.  Bdellium boasts that their brushes are antibacterial and that sounds intriguing.  I am also curious about Sedona Lace's brushes.  They are getting ready to come out with a 12-brush set with a case that is like the Sigma cylinder.  The price tag on these little beauties is $79.95 and I'm not too sure what to make of that.  (Although, there are no extraneous, "non-brush"  brushes in the set.)  While you're at it, you can take a peek at the 4-piece face brush set they have in the same color scheme.

So let me ask,  what are your favorite brushes?  Do you go for name brands, generic ones, art brushes?   What can you simply NOT live without?

Royal Brush Promotion


Beth Brootality on May 8, 2012 at 1:17 AM said...

This helped me alright... IN WANTING TO BUY MORE BRUSHES. <3

No, really though, really well written, helpful comparisons both in description of the actual brush and use, and in photo form. Good show.

Natasha on May 8, 2012 at 2:50 AM said...

I was really wondering about the R&L brushes as I had my eye on them,... glad to know they are a great buy!

My current fave brushes are a mish-mash of various brands. I have one brush from Benefit that I LOVE and it was pretty much my only brush for ages. Not sure what it would be called though, it's a tiny bit fluffy and is slanted at an angle (think angled liner brush... but fluffy). Then there are my eco-tools brushes which I love for their softness.

Great article!

dslrbbt on May 9, 2012 at 12:31 AM said...

Awesome post!!! Bdellium is a good way to go, yep! And everyday minerals will probably be my first purchase in the new year!! I love my R&L brushes though! Mhmmm!

Adeline B. on July 27, 2012 at 9:25 PM said...

Such pretty brushes! I really want the sigma ones, but they're so expensive. DX

Liza Nicole Chung on December 31, 2012 at 11:58 AM said...

I don't care about name brands for brushes, I only care about what works well. I always like to see comparisons across different brands like you've done here. I only use synthetics and my favs are: Bdellium Tools Green Bambu line, OCC, Royal & Langnickel Revolution line. I personally think Sigma is over priced. Their Mr Bunny set cost me $109, while Sedona Lace cost me $39 on black Friday for a set that is nearly identical. Granted that was a sale, but reg price is still cheaper. I got a blue & white brush set from crown that was terrible, yet I have another that is decent. For more budget friendly brands I recommend Real Techniques


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