Makeup application does not have to be a complicated process that can only be mastered by the makeup artists. Anyone can use makeup brushes to get a flawless makeup application every time. This article will explore the types of bristles, brush selection, what brushes to start with, how to use the brushes, and how to take care of the brushes. Finally a brief mention is made of some of the more common brands.
Two Types of Bristles
There are two types of makeup brushes; those that have natural bristles and those with synthetic. The natural bristles are made from animal hair that might come from badger, pony, goat, squirrel, or sable. The synthetic brushes are made often of taklon or nylon. The advantage of the natural bristles is they hold powder much better than synthetic brushes. The advantage of the synthetic brushes are they are easier to clean and they hold onto creams much better.
Selecting the Perfect Brush
When choosing your makeup brushes, try them out in the store. Rub the brush against your skin. It should feel smooth, not rough or scratchy. Run the brush against your hand and see if any bristles fall out. If so, don't get that brush. Don't think that just a few will fall out and then stop. If some bristles fall out now, they most likely will continue to do so the life of the brush. The brush handle needs to feel comfortable in your hand. Try holding it in various positions and see how it feels to work with it. It needs to feel balanced. See if the handle feels too slippery or too rough. Some brushes come with bamboo handles which are very nice and inexpensive.
You do not have to spend a lot of money for a good makeup brush unless you are going into the makeup profession. Some nicer brushes start at $5-20 per brush and go up from there. If you are new at this, start with a set of brushes costing $15-25 total. Get experienced with using the brushes and then upgrade to better brushes as your budget allows. I know of some $10 brushes that do just as well as a $25 brush so don't think price is the determining factor for a quality brush.
The Essential 7 Brushes
There are so many different types of makeup brushes available you can get overwhelmed with choices. If you are just starting out, these are the absolute minimum brushes I recommend to start with. Of course, you can become a brush junkie and start adding to your makeup brush collection as your budget allows.
- Foundation brush - If using a liquid or cream foundation, then a synthetic bristle brush works best for applying the foundation. The brush is a cleaner way of applying the liquid or cream because your fingers contain oil which can cause the liquid or cream foundation to clump. Using a brush is less stressful on the skin. Apply a small amount of foundation to the brush and touch lightly to several areas on the face (cheeks, chin, nose, forehead) and then begin blending the color all over the face. An alternative method of application, is to apply a small amount to the back of your hand between the base of the thumb and the base of the first finger. Then use your brush to dip into the foundation and apply to face and neck. Blend the foundation with a makeup sponge if needed, paying particular attention to the jaw. Make sure you don't have a "line" along the jaw.
- Concealer brush - This can be a synthetic bristle brush because the concealers are usually liquid or cream. Apply a small amount of product to the brush and lightly paint under the eye area OR you can put a small amount on your pinkie finger and lightly tap under your eyes. Then use the concealer brush to even the pigment and blend. You can carry the concealer to the inner corner of the eye and to the outer edge of the eye. Just be sure to blend so the line doesn't show. Some people prefer to put concealer on first and foundation later. You can decide what works best for you. Also if money is tight, then this brush can be dropped from the essentials list. The fingers work just fine for applying concealer.
- Powder Brush - This has the largest bulb size. A natural bristle brush is recommended for powder application. If you are using a mineral foundation, then you will want to choose a Kabuki brush. These are the brushes that look short and stubby but they are the best brushes for mineral foundation application. Slide the brush back and forth across the powder (or dip into the powder) and then knock off the excess before applying to your face. Apply powder in a downward motion from forehead to chin and neck. This keeps the little hairs on your face lying against your skin.
- Blush brush - This is the next smaller size from a powder brush. This can also be used for bronzer application. Just as with the powder brush, a natural bristle brush is recommended. Run the brush over the surface of the blush, knock off excess powder, then apply to your face. Start just below your pupil of your eye and brush along the cheekbone to the hairline just beside the eye and above the ear.
- Eyeshadow brush - This has a small head about the size of your fingertip. You can use the same brush for each color of eyeshadow applied, just brush or wipe off the excess pigment with a tissue or cloth. Because you are working with powder, a natural bristle brush works best with this. Apply the lightest shade all over the eye from the lash line to the eyebrows. Use a medium color on the eyelid and/or in the crease. Then choose a dramatic color to sweep on the lash line just above and below the eye. Use this same color in the V at the outer corner of your eye.
- Blending brush - This is an eyeshadow brush that has a contour. This works well with blending and smudging. It can be used with eyeshadow and eyeliner finish work. Because you are not actually applying the powder, this can be a synthetic bristle. You will notice the bristles are gradually tapered toward the end which gives this an excellent shape for blending and smudging. Always go back and blend or smudge the eyeshadows or liners you applied to the eye. Let one color fade into the other.
- Angle liner brush - This is a brush with a tight set of bristles (natural or synthetic) cut on an angle. This is great for applying powder right along the lash line or to apply a liner. It can also be used for using powder to apply as your eyebrow color. Some people prefer the softer look of powder eyebrow/eyeliner color rather than a brow pencil or an eyeliner pencil. Experiment with both and see what works best for you.
Care and Maintenance of Makeup Brushes
Ideally, your brushes should be cleaned every week. The brushes you use with liquid or cream foundation need cleaning more frequently than the powder brushes. You can actually get away with cleaning your powder brushes once a month but do try to clean the synthetic brushes used with liquid or cream products more frequently.
The natural bristle brushes should be cleaned with a shampoo. Remember they are an animal fur. A gentle shampoo is best, such as a baby shampoo. However if this is not available at the time, then use whatever soap you have available. Gentle shampoo is better for cleaning the natural bristle brushes and the better care you take of your brushes, the longer they will last for you.
The synthetic bristle brushes can be cleaned with soap and water. Apply a small amount of soap to the palm of your hand and swish the brush in the soap. Rinse. Repeat until all pigment is washed from the brush. Then pat gently with a towel and lay flat to dry. Try to have the brush head elevated slightly off the counter so that air can get evenly distributed for drying. Do NOT place your brushes in an upright position during cleaning or drying. This will allow water to get down into the handle and attachment area.
Store your brushes in a case when not in use. This keeps the bristles in good condition. Don't just drop them into your makeup bag to mix with your other cosmetics.
Brands of Makeup Brushes
Brushes, like makeup, are an individual choice for most shoppers. Here is a listing of some of the more common brands of makeup brushes available at retail stores: Target's Sonia Kashuk, Mac, Bare Escentuals, Bobbi Brown, Prescriptives, Sephora, Nars, and EcoTools to mention a few. The last brand has the bamboo handles and taklon bristles and advertises it is an environmentally friendly purchase. This article is not promoting one brand over another.
Do your research and select the brand in your price range and level of quality. Let me know what you select and how they work for you. I think you will be greatly impressed with the way your makeup application works for you with the makeup brushes.