Tools of the Trade: Makeup Brushes
In order to achieve a great makeup application you need the proper tools. One of the most important investments you can make is in high-quality makeup brushes that will allow your inner makeup artist to shine through. But before you dash out and purchase a set of expensive brushes, you should consider your needs: think about your skin condition and your lifestyle — are you a makeup minimalist or do you tend to wear more makeup?
Applying foundation with a brush is the best way to get a smooth finish and the most cost effective; your fingers can be messy, and sponges absorb too much of the foundation (although a damp sponge is great for blending). There are different types of foundation brushes that suit different needs. If you have great skin you’ll want a densely bristled kabuki type brush to apply powder foundation. For those desiring more coverage with liquid foundation, try a flat, rounded foundation brush like MAC’s #190. If you have dry skin and prefer a cream foundation, then MAC’s #191 will serve you best.
For powder, you should use a large fluffy brush that delivers a uniform, sheer veil of pigment. MAC’s buffer brush #182 achieves this nicely. This brush is perfect for powder and for all-over blending.
One of my favorite brushes is my Trish McEvoy #40 for applying concealer. This concealer brush is perfectly sized to smooth concealer under the eyes. For concealing blemishes, a smaller, pointier concealer brush — I like #195 by MAC — is recommended.
For blush, a smaller version of the powder brush, like MAC’s dual bristle #187 will get the job done. If you’re an avid cheekbone sculptor/facial contourist, you’ll want to invest in a contour brush, such as MAC’s #168 angled contour brush. A fan brush is perfect for dusting your cheekbones with highlighter.
Using the correct eye shadow brushes affects the quality of your makeup application — good brushes allow for a high degree of precision that separates the true artistes from the makeup dilettantes. At minimum, you’ll need a rounded crease shadow brush, a flat blending brush, a pencil smudging brush and a flat eyeliner brush.
You can tailor this selection depending on the size of your eyes (large fluffy brushes can overwhelm smaller eyes, especially creaseless Asian “monolids”). I like using Trish McEvoy’s #23 for a perfect shadow application in the eye crease and the Trish McEvoy #41 precision smudge for blending eye shadow with pencil liner. A flat precise eye lining brush such as Trish McEvoy’s #11 is perfect for transforming any cream or powder eye shadow into liner.
Having the correct tools will make creating smokey eyes a snap. The secret to a professional-looking makeup application is blending, making a good brush collection indispensable.
If you’re looking for an excellent value eye makeup brush kit, check out the versatile Sonia Kashuk Essential Eye Kit.
A lipstick brush is a must for all you red lipstick women out there. While smearing on light, translucent colors from the tube is perfectly acceptable, if you’re wearing a vibrant red or deeper shade, a lip brush can give you a more controlled application.
I also like to keep a retractable lip brush in my handbag for touch-ups throughout the day.
Synthetic or Natural?
Some makeup artists prefer synthetic bristles while others prefer natural. They each have their advantages and I’ve found that some of the best brushes combine the two.
Natural bristles are great for applying powder — they tend to be soft and fluffy. Animal hair, like its human counterpart, has a cuticle, which allows it to hold pigment until it’s deposited on your physiognomy. Natural bristles come from a variety of animals, including goat, pony and kolinsky sable. The soft hair from the blue squirrel is considered the best and is, of course, the most expensive.
Synthetics are typically made of either nylon or polyester fiber, which are either tipped or abraded to improve their color-carrying ability. They’re generally better for layering and blending foundation and concealer. Synthetics are easier to clean (as they absorb less pigment) and less prone to damage than natural bristles.
Remember to protect your investment by washing your brushes in mild shampoo at least once a week. I even use conditioner on my natural bristle brushes to keep them soft and conditioned.