I spend a lot of time window shopping on the internet. Too much time. Sometimes, all that browsing can pay off in pretty sweet finds. You know, the ones that make you giddy with excitement. One of those great finds was Makeup Cat brushes. In this post, I will give a quick overview, some comparisons and my opinions on 7 brushes: two are face brushes and the rest are eye or detail brushes. This will be a VERY long post so feel free to read in sections or take breaks.
- Fine Goat Powder Brush
- Fine Goat Blusher Brush
- Large Goat Eyeshadow Brush
- Large Sable Eyeshadow Brush
- Small Sable Eyeshadow Brush
- Sable Eyeliner Brush
- Squirrel Nose Shader (Contour) Brush
First of All: What Is Makeup Cat?
Makeup Cat is a affordable brush brand that is available in China but is not well known abroad, much like Lam Sam Yick brushes from Taiwan. You’ll have a hard time finding reviews in English (believe me I tried). The brand belongs to a vendor on Aliexpress. Pre/post sale services and communications were really smooth and quite speedy, though there’s a little bit of funky grammar due to the language barrier. It’s nothing unbearable and worth putting up with because the brushes (that i got) are worth it.
Makeup Cat offers all natural bristled as well as all synthetic bristled brushes. The brushes offered are quite reasonably priced around American drugstore level or lower, and those brushes are usually pony or synthetic hair. The Makeup Cat synthetics are around the price of Real Techniques or cheaper but being the snob that I am, I went for the natural hair brushes right away because trying to find a good one under $15 is like trying to find another person in Antarctica. Can be done but takes a lot of time.
Makeup Cat’s quality is not on the level of handmade Japanese brushes, but they are a better deal than MAC at one third the cost or less and approximately the same quality. Nothing can replace my Japanese brushes but there is no way I can deny the fact that the price points on these are much more attractive. I feel less guilty tossing them in a makeup bag or leaving them flat on their side. Also, do note that the MAC brushes that I borrowed for comparisons of softness were my friends’ and were heavily used so that may have impacted on my judgment. I do not own any Sigma brushes to compare these to so I can’t be of much help there. **10/27/15 EDIT: Since writing this, i have gotten my hands on some Zoeva brushes. I would equate the quality of the white goat hair brushes to the ones by Zoeva (if you happen to own Zoeva brushes). The hairs are silky and fine, but there is the slightest bit of drag from the texture of the hairs. In contrast, my Japanese white goat brushes are softer feeling, and the hairs are so silky that they feel eerie. Here’s an analogy: both velvet and silk feel soft to the skin, but velvet has a “drag” that silk does not. The Zoeva and Makeup Cat white goat bristles are the equivalent of velvet while the Japanese white goat bristles are the equivalent of silk.
Out of the batch that I picked i absolutely love two, dislike one, and like the rest alot (enough to recommend to strangers). The presentation and overall look of all the brushes is aesthetically pleasing as well, so bonus points for nice design.
Face & Cheek
Let us start with the big face brushes. My eye was first drawn to these because of the resemblance to the Tom Ford 05 and 06 brushes with their sleek, classy and shiny design. Jessup also makes face brushes that resemble the TF brushes but I’ve heard that those have a lot of shedding.
These Makeup Cat brushes are all undyed goat hair and have shiny-gold, open ferrule joined to a weighty acrylic handle. There is the Makeup Cat brand and a cute “Cat” graphic logo, but no name printed on the handle. Both are nicely balanced and come with brush guards – a nice touch – but they cause a few issues (which i will detail).
Fine Goat Powder Brush – $11.90 as of August 6, 2015 ($17 normally) – Oh my freaking Zeus. This brush has more hair in its head than i have on mine. It’s incredibly densely packed and HUGE. It’s very plush and the size makes this a speed monster when applying makeup. Usually, very dense brushes will deposit too much color/product. Not this brush. The cut is so thick that product sits on top of the hairs (none gets pulled into the hairs of the brush) and the excess just falls away with a shake or a tap so you get just the right amount of color or coverage. The long bristles also blend for you as you stroke it against the skin so that you’re left with a sheer layer and no harsh lines. It takes 5 quick strokes to cover my neck and another 5 to cover my face. Application of all over powders (finishing powders and bronzers) is very quick and effortless. I’ve used it to bronze my arms and legs too with great success.
This brush is great for knocking off excess product and setting powder. It’s soft enough not to move the foundation underneath, but the density and plushness picks and sweeps off any excess so I don’t look cakey. I also use it to “polish” my foundation and make it look more smooth. I lightly buff the clean brush all over my face to smooth out any texture. Some product does get wiped off and transfers onto the bristles but foundation-concealer coverage is not affected..
The bristles are snowy white but they’re very easy to clean and return to white. It shed 7 floater hairs the first time i washed it and none more since. This goat is not the softest I’ve every felt (I’m spoiled) but they are softer than a black dyed goat brushes by MAC or other mid-range cosmetic companies. I can feel some texture when i run it against my palm because some of the hairs are slightly wavy. There’s also a firm “push” feeling because the hairs are packed so tightly at the ferrule, but the brush still feels very soft because the hairs are so thin. The tips are naturally tapered with shiny, semi-translucency indicating that they are indeed fine quality. When i run it against my face, everything feels like one, big mass of satiny fluff. Mine does have an errant blunt hair here or there, but it never feels scratchy, rough, or otherwise uncomfortable. (fyi: I do not have the most sensitive skin) Is it as soft as the TF bronzer brush or my Hakuhodo white goat brushes? No, but at less than 10% of the price do i have any complaints? Heck no.
Okay i do have one complaint: the brush comes with a sleeve guard. However, it is not big enough to slip up and over the head of the brush. To remove it, you have to pull the guard toward the butt of the handle which causes some of the hairs on the perimeter to bend and kink. This can be fixed by washing the brush and reshaping the hairs a bit while the head is still damp, but it bugs me so much so i no longer use the included guard. I use a stretchy net-guard instead. The sleeve-guard is a nice inclusion but it is flawed. I have since given it to another brush.
Fine Goat Blusher Brush – $9.10 as of August 6, 2015 ($13 normally) – This one is one of my favorites out of the batch that I picked. It’s like an oval pompom for the face. It’s quite dense for a cheek brush. The hairs are nice, straight and silky in addition to having naturally tapered tips. It feels very soft. Not Saikoho soft, but I feel like the quality is even better than that of the powder brush. There are no blunt hairs as far as i can feel or see, but there are a few wavy hairs mixed in so i can feel texture against my palm. The brush head feels completely silky on my face and is a joy to use. This brush also comes with a too small sleeve-guard which caused kinky hairs which pulled it off. Those hairs were fixed by washing (it’s also very easy to clean) and reshaping in a net-guard. I also gave the sleeve-guard that came with this brusher brush to another brush.
The shape of this brush ideal for applying blush, sculpting cheeks and target bronzing around the face or where not. It’s too wide for highighter. This brush can also remove excess setting powder: the hairs are soft enough to not mess with liquid/crream underneath, and firm enough to sweep excess product away. The size of the brush head is Goldilocks-sized. It will fit and work with most faces. I’m not sure what else to say besides I really, really like it. It would be perfect…. if it didn’t shed 2 hairs the first time i washed it and two more the second time, but I’m just nit-picking.
This brush excels at applying softly to moderately pigmented products but it can also be used with highly pigmented things, assuming you only tap once into the product pan. The length and density of the brush head makes it great at blending and if you have a heavier hand and often go overboard, you can wipe the excess product off with a clean section of the brush to tone down the color.
There will never be any harsh lines if you follow your sweeping application with a few circular buffing motions. The blusher brush doesn’t blend automatically like the bronzer brush does, but it does a pretty good job on its own and is quite fast. The goat hairs of the brush allows me to use it with cream brush. It takes longer to apply than powder blush, but the density of the brush head allows me to blend the product out, resulting in a very natural finish.
If you have a soft pressed product (coughcough Ambient Lighting Blushes), this brush is firm enough to kick up a lot of excess. If you moosh the brush into the pan as hard as you please, there’s going to be a powdery mess in the compact and waaay too much product loaded into the brush which may cause clown cheeks.
All of the Eyeshadow brushes that I ordered are in the traditional paddle shape. Surprisingly I don’t have that many paddle shadow brushes, but by some people’s counts 9 might be more than enough. I’m very picky about paddle eyeshadow brushes when they are available in stores. I only buy them if
- they are better than my fingers at packing on color
- superb at blending (soft, fast, and effortless)
- do both of the above mentioned really well
when it comes to online purchase, I buy blind and hope for the best. Obviously, that is what i did here. The following brushes (other than the goat ES brush) all have wooden handles. Once again, the brushes have the brand name and logo, but no brush name or number. I threw the Shu 10 (black handle, silver ferrule) for comparison to the Sable ES brush,
Large Goat Eyeshadow Brush – $5.70 as of August 6, 2015 ($10 normally) – This is the last of the brushes that i picked form the gold ferrule + black acrylic handle series. This is also the one that i don’t like. Maybe it’s defective, I don’t know. I’m saddened because the shape and build of it has SO much promise. The shape is perfect for use as an universal eye brush. The wide face of the paddle can be used for quick all over shadow application, the skinny side can be used for eyeshadow application on smaller lids or more detailed areas like the corner-V and on the brow bone, while the tip has the perfect taper for blending . The tip is literally perfect for blending with back-and forth sweeps.
HOWEVER, the hairs are relatively coarse. They are thick, wavy/kinky, and give the head a lot of texture. I can feel it against my palm and face-skin. The tips are still naturally tapered so it’s not scratchy but It’s not fun to use either. The diameter of the hairs causes the body to be very firm and have a lot of snap. This all results in one very unyielding brush. I had to wash it with conditioning shampoo to make it more silky and tolerable. I suppose if you had a really shit-pigmented product, the wavy-ness in the hairs would assist in grabbing and depositing product.. but
Once upon a time, i might have thought it was the best brush ever. The design is excellent, but the hair quality leaves much to be desired. If the goat hairs were the same quality as the blusher or powder brush, I happily get a second brush or more and give them as gifts – because it is just so multipurpose (which makes the fact that I can’t stand to use it even sadder). Plus, look at how goddamn elegant and beautiful it is. What a waste (T_T) The other reviews seem to be positive though, so like i said, maybe mine was defective.
Large Sable Eyeshadow Brush – $7.35 as of August 6, 2015 ($10.50 normally) – I ordered this hoping that it would be a dupe for my Shu Uemura 10 because I’m afraid of losing my Shu 10 every time i travel with it. That little (money) sucker goes with me where ever i go, and i always double check my makeup bag before I get up and leave to make sure that it is safely packed away, rather than sitting out on a counter. But I digress.
My verdict on the Large Sable ES Brush: you need this now. No questions. Go put in in your cart before you forget or I will nag you forever about why you didn’t get it. It’s that excellent.
About the brush itself, it’s slightly wider than the Shu 10. It’s pretty much the same length and thickness. The Shu 10 is a kolinsky + sable mix while the Large Sable ES is pure sable, which theoretically should not be as soft. My eyes and finger tips can’t tell the difference. The tips of the hairs in the Large Sable ES brush are naturally tapered and the bristles are packed tightly into a flat paddle. The body of the brush has an excellent ratio of springiness and flexibility that makes product application effortless. It can be used to paint on cream or gel textures in very even layers or pack on eyeshadow (dry or damp) for opaque color. The brush is not fluffy like a traditional blending brush but it can be used as so to do a smokey or gradient eye.
The sable hairs handle cream and powder eyeshadows beautifully and can do just about everything except tearduct corner highlight. It hasn’t got a point enough to do that. The bristles wash clean very easily. It can also be “refreshed” between products by wiping it on a dampened towel or tissue so it can pretty much do a whole eyelook.
Small Sable Eyeshadow Brush – $6.65 as of August 6, 2015 (9.50 normally) – This is the little sister of the above brush. It’s almost like a very thin smudger. The small size of the brush head means that it takes way too long to use this to apply product to my upper lids so i use this for detail work and small areas. I’ve had success using it to “push” liner into my tightline, apply eyeshadow and smudge/blend liner on my lower lash line. It’s a great companion to the Large Sable ES brush because it can take care of finer details, like the inner corner highlight which the Large ES is too big for.
In addition to cream and gel liners, I also use this for concealer. I can use the fine edge to clean up areas (like around the lip line) and the broader paddle side to apply concealer to little areas of blemishes or post-inflamatory hyperpigementation.
This one is also made of pure sable, packed into a flat paddle. The hairs are just as soft, but the brush head feels firmer due to the shorter length hairs. It’s not physically possible for this brush to have much give or flexibility. The tips of the hairs all naturally taper and don’t hurt unless you press too hard because unlike the larger sable shader, i can feel a few pokey bristles if i angle or use the brush a certain way. Another flaw i can cite is one floater hair that likes to stick out on the side, but I usually must moosh it back into the main body with a little bit of water.
This is sort of my miscellaneous section with detail brushes for the eye and face. I got these brushes for the look and the material.
Sable Eyeliner Brush – $8.50 as of August 6, 2015 – This is a standard fine eyeliner brush made of pure sable so it can be used with any formula eyeliner, except pencil. Despite the pointy tip, it never feels scratchy or harsh. The hairs have a moderate flexibility so it feels soft and yields to moderate pressure, but it is still easy to control. I can draw very fine lines and layer more product for a thicker line.
The point is very fine and stays fine. I’m pleased to say that there is absolutely no splaying and the tip is retained quite well. I do keep it in its included brush cap when not in use. It’s hard to get me excited about eyeliner brushes. Sorry. Alll you need to know is that it works well and is a high quality tool.
Squirrel Nose Shader – $11.50 as of August 6, 2015 – this is supposed to be used for shading down the side of the nose (aka contouring) but i use it to shade my socket-crease too. I just load it up with the powder shadow, stuff it into the crease-socket and wiggle-swipe it around. So fast and effortless. Everything blends out seamlessly with minimal effort. The angled-round shape is just perfect for the crease. I don’t contour my nose very often but i tried it just to test it out. It works quite well but i use it on my eyes much more often. Needless to say, i am happy with the quality and softness of the hairs to use it so liberally on my lids.
It’s impossible to overdo color because the brush head is airy with a barely there feel. This is due to the material and density. Or rather, lack of density. (Refer to the below picture to see what i mean)
See all that space when the hair has been pushed to the side? Yeah, this brush is on the less packed side, but I can’t really complain because it makes applying dark/contour colors fool-proof. Watch out for that rim, don’t press too hard or you might poke yourself with the edge of the ferrule. That is a design flaw that i would like to see corrected but it doesn’t bother me as much as it should because i haven’t stabbed myself with it, yet. This brush would benefit from having the edge of the ferrule curled in toward the hairs.
The hair is Canadian or Pine squirrel. (I’m putting my bets on pine as it is less expensive and picks up color better). Consequently, it looks very funky like all other C./P. squirrel brushes. The coloring makes it look like the hairs are coarse and uncomfortable. Don’t worry, they’re not. The hairs feel very silky and whisper soft on the skin. An added bonus: they spring back into shape quite readily. Even after being squished in a brush pouch, the brush head will re-shape well, with little help from me.
All Thoughts in One Place + Comments
Overall I am very impressed with the quality of these brushes. My recommendations to start out with are the Large Sable Eyeshadow Brush, Fine Goat Blusher Brush, and Squirrel Nose Shader Brush in that order. There are the universal crowd-pleasers with perfect shape, size and build.
I do like the Small Sable Eyeshadow Brush a lot but it is prickly from some angles and might be too small for most eyes; it will take a long time to cover large lids. Of course, you could always use it for applying product to the lower lash line, lip filling and concealer like i do. It is a good, multipurpose companion to the large Sable brush.
I hesitate to recommend the goat powder brush because it’s so massive and hard to fit in a brush case/brush roll. It’s a wonderful brush but it’s not for everybody. If you are attracted to big, silky, cushion-like fluffy things, definitely go for it. It is not an essential tool but it is reaalllly nice to own and use if you have $12 to spare. I am most impressed by this brush out of all the ones i got for price:quality. There’s just SO much hair packed in, one can only wonder how the vendor and manufacturer is able to profit, selling it at such a steal price. Side note, one of my friends got some Makeup Cat brushes too and likes her powder brush way more than the blush brush because it feels softer than the blush brush she got
The little sable eyeliner brush is nice (keeps shape well with no splaying) but i suspect that many of you may already have a liner brush that came with an eyeliner that you bought. If you don’t already have a pixel-point eyeliner brush, this is worth checking out.
The only one that i don’t recommend or like is the goat eyeshadow brush, but you’ve already heard enough about that one already. I’m done being salty now. As noted there are discrepancies in the quality of the brushes so who knows, maybe i just got one from a bad batch.
One of the important things (I think) is that the brushes don’t reach full softness until after a couple washes so you won’t be impressed right off the bat. There’s some heavy starching with the goat brushes. The powder brush wasn’t puff-soft until after 4 washes, but the blusher brush only took 2 (I used plain baby shampoo each time). The goat eye brush, I had to break out my conditioning shampoo for.
The brushes washed clean easily, as i have already mentioned. I may have forgotten to mention any smell or lack therefore of. Scents usually don’t bother me. Only the goat face brushes have slightest hint of goaty-ness to them. The rest of them only smell like the plastic packaging for a brief stint. The goat smell is nothing unbearable by any stretch of the imagination, just a little something to note.
I’ve had these and have been testing them for about a month now. I was mostly waiting to see if they would fall apart or start shedding really badly (stigma against cheap things), but they haven’t and I could not wait any longer to share them, hence the mini reviews. Stay tuned for full reviews and comparisons to other more well known brushes!
I am eyeing the Pahmi angled eyebrow brush among others for my next order. I normally don’t buy eyebrow brushes without glowing recommendations but I’m going to make an exception because I am very curious. I don’t own a pahmi brush and it is something not found in western brands. As far as i can tell from my cursory research, pahmi is gathered from the dense underfur of the Asian Ferret Badgers.
Availability and Safety
All of the Makeup Cat brushes mentioned in this post can be found here at this link. I won’t list the links for the individual brushes because the store occasionally relists things so the links may become broken over time. There aren’t 50 different brushes so the ones you’re looking for should be easy enough to find with a little patience and time.
For those of you wondering if this Aliexpress store is safe, yes it is. I chatted with a vendor representative for a bit (Sara), checked out the store’s near 100% approval rating and read a lot of customer feedback before I bought my brushes. I said in the beginning of the post that the replies are very prompt (assuming that it’s daytime in China).
They send stuff by registered, tracked shipping. My tracking took 3 days to kick in and everything went quite smoothly. I finalized my order on June 29th, got a notice 3 days later saying that my order had been shipped out, and received my package on July 13th. The speed is reasonably fast (for free shipping). The brushes come in their own little plastic sleeves, get wrapped in liberal layers of bubble wrap, then stuffed into a bubble mailer. There was a little gift of 5 stretchy net brush guards which i favor over the sleeve-guards that came with the face brushes. So yay~!
I did contact the store again after my purchase to give my concerns on the quality of the goat eyeshadow brush as well mention that the sleeve-brush guards were messing up my face brushes. Another rep (Lily) responded and offered a favorable solution quite quickly. All in all, I am impressed with customer service and quite satisfied with my shopping experience. I would highly recommend contacting the sales rep with a message or via “chat now” (if they are online) before you place your order because they are willing to give a discount if you buy a large batch of brushes all in one go. If they ask you which bastard told you that they give discounts…. *runs away*
Would i order Makeup Cat brushes again? Absolutely. Would I order the goat eyebrush again to see if maybe the one I had gotten was defective? Probably not for a while (I have a lot of other brushes on my wishlist), though one day i might revisit it. If you can’t tell, I’m still hung up about the fact that the shape and build was perfect, only to be ruined by the low quality hair…. Dammit, i said i was done being salty.