Tools of the Trade: Makeup Brushes

In Makeup for Women, Makeup Products, Makeup Tips, Tools of the Trade by Julie Brown0 Comments

NOTE: This article originally appears in Fresh Vancouver magazine on page 19 of the Sept/Oct 2010 issue.  Download the original article PDF by clicking on the right, or read the entire article below.

tools-of-the-tradeUsing good quality make up products helps make a lasting, flawless face, and using proper, good quality brushes for each area of application is paramount. Just as a painter wouldn’t use one brush to paint a whole painting, nor should you rely on one brush or bad quality brushes to apply your make up. Make up professionals believe that a good make up brush is a beauty secret and is akin to what a good set of knives are to a chef. In addition to using the correct brush for each area of application, the quality of the brush does make a difference. Quality brushes aren’t cheap but they are worth every penny.

What your Brushes are Made Of

There are two types of brushes; natural animal hair brushes, and synthetic brushes. Natural hair brushes are graded by length, evenness of cut and firmness. Some of the best powder brushes are made from badger hair. Sable is often used for smaller, finer brushes because of its silky texture. Squirrel hair is quite expensive, and my even be mixed with cheaper but also very fine pony hair. Handmade goat hair brushes are also popular, being nearly as fine as squirrel. The best synthetic brushes are made from Taklon, which is made from a polyester fiber designed to mimic the characteristics of natural hair. It is smooth, and soft. Synthetic brushes are more hygenic that real hair brushes, as natural hair has an irregular surface which traps powders, dead skin cells, and bacteria, and cleaning may not necessarily remove all of these particles. Taklan lacks these surface irregularities, making it easier to clean properly. They are also vegan, and are animal cruelty

Which Brush For Which Make Up?

For a well blended, flawless base use a brush with good blending ability. One that has thicker, firmer bristles is just right for putting colour where you want it. They are good for applying and blending larger amounts of liquid or powder make up, and for creating contour. Powder brushes, also called kabuki brushes. My personal favorite brush is by LANCOME, the Mineral Powder Foundation brush which is made of synthetic fibers, that are ideal for brushing on either ordinary face powder, or ultra fine mineral make up. If you can only have one brush in your make up bag, make it a fluffy powder brush, because there is nothing better than a brush that blends the perfect finish. For liquid foundation application, I recommend, MAC # 188 or # 130.

For the base shadow, (all over the lid) use a brush that is flat, thick and stiff. This will be the largest of the eye make up brushes, as you are covering the entire lid with shadow. I recommend, MAC # 227, or # 252. For the lid colour, (on lid up to the crease) use a brush that is firm, flat and compact as you will be placing darker pigmented colour in this area and you want control in placement so you do not have fallout of shadow onto the face. I recommend MAC #239. For the crease colour, (outer corner and in natural fold in the lid) use a rounded, tapered, soft brush. This brush will move smoothly back and forth in the crease and blend in shadow beautifully. I recommend, MAC # 223.

Eyebrow And Eyeliner
These areas you can use the same brush. A slim, firm, angled brush. I prefer the synthetic one as it is stiffer for more precise application. I recommend, MAC # 263

The best shaped brush to apply blush is an angled, rounded, medium firm brush. The angle helps create contour on the cheeks, and is also great for application onto the temples, and apples of the cheeks. I recommend, ADESIGN angled cheek brush, or MAC #168.

They are about the same size as eye make up brushes. It should be a soft brush to blend the concealer right into the skin. I recommend, MAC # 252, #217 or ADESIGN medium concealer brush.

If you are looking to purchase good quality brushes, I would recommend brushes from MAC, ADesign, Bobby Brown, Giorgio Armani, and Ve Neill ( You can find professional cosmetic brushes online for a fraction of the price you would spend on brushes found in a traditional beauty supply store. Don’t ever cheat yourself out of quality make up brush: the right brush puts make up on the right way; no finger smudging or messing around with Q tips or ratty cotton balls. When you use make up brushes, you take your look to the next level. A high quality professional make up brush makes a difference in the way your make up goes on and stays on. Its a difference you can see!

Julie Brown has been drawn to makeup artistry from a very young age. She has parlayed this lifelong hobby into a career that spans from bridal makeup and runway fashion show to makeup for TV and film. An honours graduate from the renowned makeup school Blanche Macdonald, Julie loves to help women bring out their true beauty potential. She loves sharing tips and techniques with women and testing products to share what works and what products to avoid. It is this combination of inventiveness and skill that she hopes will set her apart from her contemporaries. She writes a free monthly newsletter available on her website at

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