With the exception of one year when I worked full time in retail, I have been a perpetual student, with a student budget. I'm also not a make-up pro, as much as I love to play with the stuff. So, a combination of limited funds and not always really knowing what I'm doing has meant I've never really had anything close to a good collection of brushes. I have owned and used some brushes in my time, but mostly cheap ones, bought in sets and usually nothing much use beyond applying blush and basic eyeshadow.
I've wanted to improve my make-up skills for quite a while, specifically when it comes to applying eyeshadow. Also, the blogging world has exposed me to a whole world of beauty blogs full of gorgeous girls with flawless make-up! Both of these things have only served to fuel my desire for a good brush set. But, no matter how much I want good brushes, I'm still totally at sea when it comes to knowing what brushes I might need and which brands are any good (or at least, good on a budget).
Ok, I'm not completely ignorant about brands, but I put some feelers out on Twitter and did some of my own research to be sure. The usual suspects all popped up; MAC, Japonesque, Bobbi Brown, NARS. It was only when I started looking at and reading about some of the individual brushes that a few terms kept popping up - synthetic and natural - and that made me stop and think. So many of these high quality, big brand brushes are made from natural fibres or a mixture of natural and synthetic fibres. Now, some people might chose to ignore the fact, or just not realise, but natural fibres mean animal fibres - animal hair.
I wasn't really sure how I felt about that.
Now, I don't want to get into my overall views on animal cruelty, but, basically, when it comes to cosmetics, I try to avoid animal testing as much as possible and I certainly would never wear real fur (with the possible exception of vintage). So why then, would I want to apply my cruelty free make-up with animal hair brushes?
Come to think of it, why are these brushes even made of animal hair in the first place? Reports on the benefits of natural versus synthetic fibre brushes are mixed, I suspect due to improvements in producing synthetic fibres as well as the price you pay for a particular brush. Supposedly, natural fibre brushes are softer and create a more natural finish. However, they are no good for applying cream based products and can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. Some sources say that synthetic fibre brushes are not as soft, shed more and become brittle and easily caked with time. Other sources say more or less the exact opposite; that they are softer, shed less and have the added bonus of being cheaper.
Whatever the benefits, I still can't get my head around the idea of using the hair of a squirrel, goat, pony, sable or badger to put my make-up on. That's a real sticking point. If I let myself think about it too much things get even worse as I know synthetic fibres are made from oil, and that's not exactly environmentally friendly either. All this ends in a bit of an internal ethical debate, but I still come out the other side preferring the idea of synthetic fibres.
When you look at a lot of these brushes it can be hard to tell what they are made from. Most website, like MAC and Japonesque, simply describe brushes as being made from natural or a mix of natural and synthetic fibres. As a result of this, I think a lot of people could end up using animal hair brushes without realising, if they don't know what 'natural fibres' really means. On this point, the NARS website is really good, telling you exactly what type of hair each brush is made from.
Just because these well known, high quality brands use natural fibres doesn't mean that natural is the only way to go if you want a good quality make-up brush. If you take a little time to look, there are actually loads of synthetic fibre brush ranges out there, some from specialist companies and some from brands you've probably heard of.
An eco-conscious beauty brand using environmentally sound materials and supporting environmental charities. Their brushes are made from synthetic taklon fibres with bamboo and recycled aluminium handles.
I've heard a lot of good things about this brand, these are amongst the synthetic brushes that I've heard are as soft if not softer than natural fibres. They have a good, clean look with their natural bamboo handles and the price range is good, definitely cheaper than most of the high-end natural brushes.
|Bamboo Foundation Brush. £6.25 from Cocktail Cosmetics|
|Bamboo 6 Piece Eye Brush Set. £11.05 from CutECOsmetics|
The Bambu range from Bdellium is certified vegan friendly. As with the EcoTool brushes, they are made from synthetic fibres with handles made from bamboo and recyclable aluminium. Apparently, bamboo is the most sustainable plant in the world (according to their blurb on Cocktail Cosmetics). They have a funkier look than the EcoTools brushes, going for a bright green finish to the handles and brush fibres, still reflecting their 'green' eco credentials. They're a bit pricier than EcoTools, but still cheaper than a lot of natural fibre brushes.
|Banbu Green Vegan Foundation Brush. £10.50 on Cocktail Cosmetics and cutECOsmetic|
|5 Piece Bambu Smokey Eye Brush Set. £24.95 on Cocktail Cosmetics and cutECosmetics|
You may not know the brand name, but you might have heard of it's creator - Sam Chapman of Pixiwoo! The brushes are made from synthetic Taklon fibres with aluminium handles. There's clearly been a lot of thought put into the design, as the brushes are colour coded by stage of use, have their names printed on them so you don't get confused and stand up on their ends so you can display them on your dressing table. Again, they're priced well, much cheaper than the big brands using natural fibres.
|Foundation Brush. £8.95 from Cocktail Cosmetics|
|Starter Brush Set. £20.95 from Cocktail Cosmetics|
I love Illamasqua make-up, and all their brushes are made from cruelty-free synthetic fibres. If it's good enough for Illamasqua then it's good enough for me. In-keeping with the general image of Illamasqua and their products, the brushes are all sleek black in design. In terms of price, these are more on a level with other big brand brushes, but are probably worth it!
|Foundation Brush. £26.00 from Illamasqua|
|Eye Shadow Brush. £18.50 from Illamasqua|
These aren't the only brands specialising in synthetic brushes. Urban Decay brushes are all synthetic and vegan friendly, however, I couldn't easily find the brushes I wanted so didn't feature them. Also, some of the brands I mentioned earlier do have some all synthetic brushes. Cocktail Cosmetics make it quite easy, splitting brushes by natural, synthetic and vegan. CutECOsmetics specialise in eco-conscious products, so all brushes they sell are synthetic. Either search specifically for synthetic brushes or make sure you read about the materials used. If you prefer to buy these things in shops rather than online, ask about materials!
You might have guessed by now, that I'm most keen on getting a foundation brush and a set of eyeshadow brushes. I think I'm leaning towards the Real Techniques brushes at the moment, I really like the style and the starter set looks awesome!
I'd love to hear if any of you have any input on this subject; Do you use natural or synthetic? Do you think about your brushes being made from animal hair? What brands do you love? What brushes are in your essential selection?
Hope you've all had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend! If you're going to TOWIB, have loads of fun, I will be at the next one!