First Installment – June 2015 – This Is going to be a running series that i will update periodically. It’ll be interesting to see which brushes can withstand the expansion of my collection and remain in favor as i amass and learn more. Each category names 5 brushes, gives information like notes + material, and the reason that brush deserves its spot. Think of it as a mini review that doesn’t take price into consideration. If i have written a full blown review on a brush, it will be linked in the brush name. Brushes are listed in no particular order for each category and may appear more than once (re-apperances alone might tell you how much i adore a certain brush). This post is littered with fragments to cut down on length so it’s a less than ideal read for Grammar Nazis.
Grab the coffee. Grab the munchies. Here we go.
Top 5 Foundation – Powder, Liquid, Cream
- Tarte Airbuki – synthetic, short hairs, VERY dense, flattened dome – perfect for thicker liquid or cream foundations though it was designed for powder. Application is very fast and efficient. products go on almost full coverage right away. Application modes include bouncing like a sponge, sweeping strokes or buffing motions. The brush itself is travel friendly, compact, doesn’t splay or shed. I love this thing alot despite thte fact that it’s a pain in the ass to clean.
- Bobbi Brown Full Coverage – synthetic, small, round dome, dense – Very easy to use and quite fast for such a small brush head. Particularly great with thin, runny or serum-like formulas. Can also be used with loose or compact powders but this isn’t my favorite for powders. Results are seamless and well blended. The coverage offered ranges from medium to full coverage, depending on application technique and product-used. some people might feel gimped paying so much for such a small brush but i enjoy this brush very much for its relatively fast and effortless results
- bareMinerals Precision Face – synthetic, round, angled, medium-large in size, moderately dense, flexible – my favorite brush for anything in a compact. powder foundations or bronzer related. It is on the larger size so i can’t use it for blush or highlighter. Full coverage can be attained but default coverage is medium with a decently pigmented product. Can be used for thinner formula liquids and silky creams. This brush is very fast and can cover a face with only a handful of stokes. Finish is seamless, never cakey or powdery. The brush blends as it goes along. best used with sweeping motions. i got my sis one too and she loves it. I call this one my horse hoof.
- Philosophy The Supernatural Airbrush Brush – synthetic, small quarter-sized head, very dense discontinued – a great foundation brush. capable of handling all types of textures and formulas. Small size means it takes longer to apply a full face but the results are excellent every time. almost full coverage from the get go. Can be used to conceal patches of hyperpigmentation. small enough to reach every nook and cranny of the face and to use for cream contour and highlighting. getting rid of this was probably one of the stupidest marketing decisions Philosophy ever made.
- bH Cosmetics Stippling Brush – synthetic, compeltely flat and even, round, quarter sized, longer bristles than most foundation brushes, medium density, flexible – easily one of the most unique brushes that i have. can be used a variety of ways (stippling, short strokes and buffing work best). Coverage is mostly medium but depends on the product. product can be concentrated and stippled on for fuller coverage or brushed on in struckes for sheere coverage. Good with cream and liquid products. Do not recommend using with powder formulations. Easy to wash due to long bristles. Reshapes easily, no splaying at all. The top is soft like felt, as opposed to other brushes that are plush like velvet. It’s super functional for the price. I keep mine in the brush guard it came with.
Top 5 Detail Face – concealing, color-correcting and the works
- Smashbox Concealer Brush #5 – synthetic, long handle, paddle, pointed, springy – the flat paddle shape makes it great for a color correcting product lay down because i can spread a thin layer over a large area. If more coverage is needed, this brush can apply more thin layers without causing caking or streaking. The tip and razor edge can place concealer very precisely. I can also use the razor edge to clean up or sharpen edges with concealer as a finishing step. Bristles density and length give the right amount of flexibility for my use. can feather/blend product easily and well as mix colors directly on skin and face. must have
- Hourglass Domed Eyeshadow Brush – synthetic, pointed dome, round, supposed to be for eyeshadow – i really like this for precision placement of concealer, the round head makes it really easy to buff out the edges without even trying. primarily for covering up 3-D acne bumps or other raised areas. Normally i apply product with taps and mini circular motions for blend if needed. It does eyeshadow placement and blending too if i need it to.
- bH Cosmetics Smudge Brush – sable, round, domed, very packed – larger concealer placing brush used much the same way as the HG Domed ES brush. better than the above mentioned brush for larger areas. better for cluster of hyper pigmentation and blotchy areas. I also like using the left over product on this brush in my finishing step to buff/smooth out areas around my nose and eyes creasing occurs. pretty easy to clean. surprisingly soft for the price and excellent quality over all. considered a must have
- bH Cosmetics Large Tapered Blending Brush – tapered dome, round, synthetic, medium density – excellent for the precise placement and controlled blending of cream or liquid products (contour and highlight). Can also be used for cream blush but i don’t use cream blush very often. most often, i use this brush to apply a liquid highlight + foundation mix to target areas of my face
- Hourglass Angled Liner Brush – angled, synthetic – the tip if this brush forms a very thing edge that makes this brush a great clean up or precision tool. normally used to sharpen lines and tidy up edges aroudnt he lip or eye. bristles are unusually flexible for a angled brush but are easy to control
Top 5 Face – Finishing, Setting, Bronzer, All-over Tools
- Smashbox Face and Cheek #2 – dyed goat, long handle, slightly ovoid, pinched ferule, moderately-airy density – i don’t even know where to begin with this brush. I love it and use it almost everyday if it is clean, dry and available. If you use a lot of powder products this will be a great one. usually i use it with a setting powder (after foundation) to give my other powder products a base to work on. After setting powder, i can use the tip for blush and the broader side for bronzer. The brush is big enough that these colors don’t get mixed up. It can handle stippling on bb creams and runny liquid foundations too! the finish is polished and quite nice. It is important that you keep this brush in a guard when its drying (i use tissue paper) or else it will turn into a poofball like pictures below. poofed out its better for setting powder and bronzer but not directional enough for blush on smaller faces. I dry this brush with/without guard depending on how i plan to use it. must have
- Chikuhodo Z-1 Powder – rounded, tapered, dome, grey squirrel, dense – a queen at applying and buffing/sweeping on any face or cheek product. a bit too dense for heavily pigmented blushes. ideal for finishing powders and anything that needs to be applied all over in a thin layer as the rbistles release product gradually. can cover the whole face quickly with only a handful of strokes. softer than i would like for polishing though. not able to fix makeup that develops texture.
- Koyudo Fuwafuwa – saikoho goat, very dense, round, flattened dome – its like rubbing a fuzzy silk pillow on your face. It’ll polish any texture or flakes on your face into oblivion. It can also be used with a light-handed bronzer application. A bit too dense for setting powder to broad areas but is soft enough to knock off excess (it won’t move the products underneath). It’s quite big so it’s very fast and efficent
- bareminerals tapered face brush – medium-firm density, round, synthetic – great for weakly pigmented blushes, one of my softest synthetic brushes. the hairs are wavy which allows for great product pick up and blending. this brush is dense enough to apply powder foundations over liquid/cream for more coverage without looking cakey because the product does on moderately sheer but enough is deposited to make a difference.
- bH Cosmetics Deluxe Fan Brush – moderately dense fan, dyed tips, goat, huge – great for broader areas. it’s impossible to screw up or over apply micro-finish powder with this because the product gets auto-diffused. I usually use this for bronzing the neck and face. when clean, it can be used to brush off over applied blush and blend it out at the same time. has a bit of a goaty-chemical smell when brand new
Top 5 Cheek – blush, contour, highlighter
- bH Cosmetics Large Tapered Blending Brush – synthetic, round, tapered dome – great for contour and/or highlight, excellent value in price:performance. used to apply cream contour/darker concealer as contour or liquid and cream highlighter.
- Smashbox Fan Brush #22 – squirrel (? that’s what the Smashbox rep. reported but it might be fine goat becuase i don’t know if white squirrels are a thing or not), airy, fan, very long handle – almost flimsy in appearance. absolutely goof-proof. you have to be a special kind of special to over apply product with this brush. my go-to for insanely pigmented blushes or new products when i am unsure of pigmentation/intensity. gives an ethereal highlight and diffused blush flush. i keep it in the brush guard it came with. a must have for fancier makeup aficionados or highlight fiends
- Kanebo ??? Cheek – paddle, pointed, tapered, rhombus-shaped profile, natural hairs (unknown but probably pony) – so old… i can’t even find it on the internet… but so perfectly shaped for highlight/countour with the point and blush with the broad sides. a bit rougher than my other favorite brushes so i use this with hard-pressed or faintly pigmented products
- Chikuhodo Takumi T-4 Cheek – white goat hair, round, flattened dome, medium density – one of my favorites everyday cheek product brushes. a simple but effective design, it applies most products effortlessly and glides like silk on skin. best for moderate – weak blushes. not well suited for very pigmented products because product color will build pretty quickly. The initial application of color may be light but product will be released more and more. best paired with a clean blending brush. too floppy and soft for cream products. must have.
- Chikuhodo Z-8 Cheek – grey squirrel, tapered, rounded, fluffy paddle – a favorite with just about every blushes and bronzer. though it’s little sister the Z-4 is touted as a Suqqu cheek dupe, i like the z-8 better for it’s size. it blends more easily and covers more area so it’s faster at applying things. it blends everything for you as you apply it. there might or might not be an army of auto-blending robot living in the hairs of this brush. its suuuper soft but fragile due to the hairs it is made of. would be a must have if it wasn’t for the price.
Top 5 Eye – all over packing and shading
- Shu Uemura Natural 10 – sable + kolinsky mix, flat, rounded, paddle, springy – big time splurge but oh so good. I can’t even list all the ways i use this brush so let me list what it cannot do: winged eyeliner. the hairs are flexible, though relatively firmer. the tips are very soft and never scratchy or pokey. This brush is super easy to clean and dries fast so it can be used everyday. If you can get your hands on this second hand or during a sale, DO IT! you will not regret it. Would be a must have if not for the price.
- Chikuhodo Z-5 Eyeshadow – fluffy paddle, rounded, grey squirrel, very dense – a larger paddle eyeshadow brush that i use to cover the whole eyelid very quickly. extremely soft. applies color “softly” and rather sheer. mostly use everyday for evening out eyelid with a skin colored shadow as well as applying powder to the under-eye
- Chikuhodo T-7 Eyeshadow – longer paddle, saikoho goat hair, flexible-floppy – smaller and better suited for my eyes and detail work. head is not very full so the overall brush is very flexible and soft so i can’t use it with creams or MUFE eyeshadows which are surprisingly hard to pick up. its not as versatile as the Shu Uemura 10 but still great for everyday application. good choice for soft press shadows ro loose pigments. more than adept at blending things seamlessly and quick application of powdered eye products. I use it mostly with almost all of my creamy/buttery-textured powder eyeshadows.
- Smashbox Concealer Brush #5 – synthetic, long handle, paddle, pointed, springy – no I’m not crazy. This brush is excellent for cream eyeshadows. It applies base color quickly in sheer even layers like it was made for the job. the point is also capable of defining and cease work. oh by the way it can do eyeliner too 😀
- Kanebo ??? Eye brush – natural hair (pony?), oviod, paddle – from the 80’s i think….. this one is great at picking up color product but it lays the color down gradually so it greats for building and blending. provides the strongest coloring in the least amount of time. I particularly like using this one with my UD electric palette and MUFE shadows. It’s not the softest brush so it “scratches” or loosens a lot product and picks it up. Not a good choice for powdery/soft-press eyeshadows. It doesn’t scartch my eyes though thank goodness.
Top 5 Detail Eye – pushers, liners, pencils, smudgers, and crease
- Koyudo C011 Pencil Brush – goat, moderate-rounded point, very short handle – great for smudging powders and detail work both inner + outer corner of the eye and under lashline if you have a wider waterline like i do. the hairs are very soft and never scratch. density is medium but flexibility and firmness border on the softer, floppier side. Not great for smudging eyeliner. compatible with creams.
- Chikuhodo Z-10 Eyeshadow – grey squirrel, round, pencil, very fine and flexible point – this one is almost exclusively used to wing powder eye-shadow in the outer corner of my eye on days when i don’t have time to wait for liner to dry. its surprisingly fast and easy. very soft and good for blending out “v” definition or crease-work on eyes with little lid space
- Smashbox Definer #15 – squirrel, tapered, bullet shaped, medium point, dense long handle – most days i can use this brush alone with 3 eyeshadows and create an eye look. dense enough to pick up and place color strongly. soft enough to blend extensively without hurting the eyes. precise enough for details but not small enough for inner corner work. good size for brow-bone highlight and blends it in beautifully with minimal strokes. it’s not the most exciting brush but it works really well for me and i have an ineffable love for it. must have
- Smashbox Crease #10 – squirrel, round – a rather large blending brush that i use more as a finisher because its too large for my crease. not well suited for small lids. can be used to diffuse edges into lovely nothingness or to lightly dust setting powder on top of undereye concealer. NEEDS to be dried in a brush guard or it will fluff up and be less precise. i use tissue paper as a guard
- Shu Uemura Natural Brush 4f – sable, flat, tiny, fine edge – the only brush i trust to do more complex detail work on my lower lash line. also the brush i use for bottom liner (a too wide margin of liner looks bad on me). I can trust this brush to place and smudge product within a hair of where i want it. also great for painting on lashes and other fine detail work. must have for eye art fanatics.
Top 5 Miscellaneous – lip, brows, body and random brushes
- Shu Uemura Brush 60B – Angled, stiff, badger – a stiff coloring brush for when i actually fill in my brows. most days i use it to press the hairs down flat and move then around when i load it up with wax.
- Smashbox #22 Fan – squirrel, airy, fan – it’s one of those brushes you don’t think you need… but then you get one and cant stop using it. it’s not life changing but it makes you realize how much you’ve been missing out on. You think back to all those times you over applied highlighter, blush or bronzer, then smack yourself on the head because those could have been easily avoided with this brush. i ignore their suggested use for this as a glorified fallout brush.
- Estee Lauder Lip Brush 35 – synthetic, squared, precise, short – when i am not being lazy or want a stain like color i use this brush. i prefer the squared off head over those of round lip brushes because i can get a very clean edge and use it to define edges if i flip it on its narrow side. i can also use this to apply cream eyeshadow and frequently use it to lay down UDPP in Sin. it’s easy to clean and travels well with its shortness. there’s suppose to be a cap but that’s been lost. I’m pretty sure what i have is the full size, even though it looks travel sized.
- e.l.f. concealer brush – synthetic, flat, short, rounded – I don’t like this kind of shape for concealer so i use it mainly for gloss. I dislike applying gloss from the tube applicator because i think its gross, so i scrape some off with the head of this brush then apply it. It’s cheap, which gives me peace of mind. Come cleaning time, I can be as rough as i need to get the bristles clean and free of gunk. this brush is going on 4 years even though the handle looks absolutely decrepit. It also works pretty well as an liner-smudger in a pinch
- The Body Shop Smoky Poppy Blush Brush – synthetic, kabuki, limited edition – absolutely kawaii cheek brush that’s surprisingly functional. ’nuff said.
Top 5 Synthetic – criteria: quality, niceness, effectiveness, function, softness, ease of care and use frequency
- bareMinerals Tapered Face Brush – medium density, round, synthetic – the softest brush in my collection for a long while so it has a special place in my heart. very versatile for face/cheek powders (as long as they are not overly pigmented) and light mineral/powder foundation. some people might be upset by its small size relative to its price but i really like it
- bareMinerals Precision Face – synthetic, round, angled, medium-large in size, moderately dense, flexible – the horse hoof strikes again. (Hans, is that you?) But seriously, i love this. I had to stop myself from using it to get a picture of it clean with all the other brushes
- bobbi brown full coverage – synthetic, small, round dome, dense – great at covering shit that i need covered when it comes to cream or liquid formulas
- Estee Lauder Lip Brush 35 – synthetic, squared, precise, short – very good quality. capable of applying product to lips and eyes. has held up very nicely over the years that i have had it. It still looks new
- Smashbox Concealer Brush #5 – are you sick of seeing this yet? capable of handling concealer, brows, eyeliner, lips AND cream eye-shadow?! ofc it had to make it onto this list
Top 5 Natural Hair Brushes – quality, niceness, effectiveness, function, softness, ease of care and use frequency (this section was difficult)
- Chikuhodo Takumi T-4 – saikoho, round, flattened dome, medium density – i am a complete and total sucker for this cheek brush
- Smashbox Face and Cheek #2 – dyed goat, long handle, slightly ovoid, pinched ferule, moderately-airy density – great for finishing and polishing and everything over the face. not the softest powder brush but it works well for my purposes.
- Koyudo Fuwafuwa – saikoho goat, very dense, round, flattened dome – absolutely fantastic for finishing and bronzer. “luxury” is usually not the first word you think of when i say “goat” but once you get this brush, but you might start making that connection
- Smashbox Definer #15 – squirrel, tapered, bullet shaped, medium point, dense long handle – great all around for eyeshadow and putting together a look.
- Shu Uemura Natural 10 – sable + kolinsky mix, flat, rounded, paddle, springy – everything you dreamed of in a eyeshadow brush, minus automated eyeshadow application.
Top 5 Indulgences – Really nice to have. Like, really nice. But the $$$
- Chikuhodo MK-2 Powder – grey squirrel, fluffy-paddle, decorated handle, medium-airy density – it makes me feel like a princess whenever i use it with cheek/face products. ’nuff said.
- Chikuhodo Z-1 Powder – rounded, tapered, dome, grey squirrel, dense – effective and super soft. what is there not to love? oh right the price, but that’s why its on this list
- Hourglass #2 Foundation/Blush Brush – synthetic, ovoid, fluffy paddle, metal handle – very well thought out design suitable for the average consumer who doesn’t have a bajillion brushes. this is one of those brushes that i don’t use very often but it’s a really nice, well made brush that i admire. the density and lengths of the bristles don’t agree with me and i have more specialized brushes that can do the same jobs better in less time but that doesn’t change the fact that this brush is very luxe.
- Koyudo Fuwafuwa – saikoho goat, very dense, round, flattened dome – puffball on a wooden mosaic of a handle. brush quality is excellent and presentation is gorgeous. it’s almost impossible not to love this brush. if you’re going to splash out on a artisanal japanese face brush, get this one!
- Shu Uemura Natural 10 – sable + kolinsky mix, flat, rounded, paddle, springy – why are you even surprised this is here? It deserves to be here.
Top 10 Workhorses – Double, Triple Duty Brushes often used for travel. I stand behind these 100%
- Smashbox Face and Cheek Brush #2 – i keep finding more uses for it beyond it’s intended cheek and fact powders. great for improv. if you’re missing something for your make up. I will never get sick of this thing. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a backup if this ever broke or got lost…. except i have 3 in storage. (some were gifts) i would be crazy to buy a backup. This goes with me everywhere despite the fact that it’s not a travel-friendly size. When traveling i use a guard.
- Chikuhodo Z-8 – Love for the shape and the silkiness. I don’t put this in my travel kit because I’m terrified of losing it but i use it liberally at home.
- Chikuhodo Takumi T-4 Cheek – easy to use and maintain, washes easily and dries overnight, largely foolproof application. travels with me snug in a brush guard most of the time.
- Shu Uemura Natural 10 – i take it with me everywhere. between this and a pencil /detail brush, i can handle just about any eyeshadow application. Yes i am afraid of losing it, but at least i don’t travel too often.
- Koyudo C011 – covers the ‘detail eye’ brush checkbox. a great traveling companion to the S.U. Natural 10. very cute and tiny though some people may not be happy.
- bH Cosmetics Smudge Brush – great performance with concealers and color correcting products. excellent value. so much so that i have two of these. one for shadow and one for concealer. the stellar performance totally belies its low price point. Travel essential.
- Smashbox Concealer Brush #5 – perfection in a detail brush. bristles have just the right length and flexibility. turned sideways, it is thin and pointed enough to use for so many things. Where ever i go, this brush goes.
- Bobbi Brown Full Coverage – good travel brush for liquid/cream foundations or powders. travels with me if I’m in a liquid foundation phase. As much as i love the Airbuki, it doesn’t dry fast enough for me (read: overnight) to use as my sole foundation brush when I’m traveling for more than 3 days. 3 days is my absolute limit before i feel compelled to clean a foundation brush. The Full coverage brush can be dry and ready for use by the next morning if i wash it right after i apply my foundation in the morning.
- bareminerals Precision Face – best powder foundation brush i have and travels with me when I’m in a powder phase.
- bH Cosmetics Large Tapered Blending Brush – supposed to be an eye brush but I use it for my face. great jack-of-all-trades tool for blending or finishing just about anything cream or liquid detail. can also be used with powder products but I prefer apply powders with natural hair brushes. Brush’s point can be used to detail face areas (highlight/contour). not a travel essential but i like to have it in case one of my other brushes is dirty. I pack it even if it means squeezing it in a side pocket.
You might notice a lack of brow tools in my workhorses. I normally only use a clear gel or wax to fix the hairs after i groom them into place with a spoolie. I personally like a softer brow that is not super even or defined because it looks most natural on my face.
Note: all my white goat brushes wash back to white pretty easily ;D the T-4 was a little dirty though >_> i couldn’t wait for it to dry after washing because by then, some other brushes would have gotten dirtied.