After reflecting on reviews I’ve done over the past year that are more budget-friendly, I definitely need to spend a little more time on cheek color in the upcoming year. Good thing I’ve already gotten a great start on that with some of the upcoming products for spring! (So stay tuned!) Here is a mix of cheek colors, face tools, and a few polishes to round-out our last top ten for budget-friendly products.
- Fyrinnae Nordic Angel Powder Blush — warm-toned, pink-tinged peach with a satin-matte finish
- Physicians Formula Natural Happy Booster — light-medium pink with warm undertones and a luminous finish
- Maybelline Coral Burst Blush — a pop of brightened orange with a golden sheen
- Physicians Formula Warm Happy Booster Blush — a warm, coral-pink with a soft, sparkling sheen
- Wet ‘n’ Wild Bikini Contest Bronzer — medium-dark, orange-tan with a champagne sheen
- Real Techniques Expert Face Brush — a fantastic brush for applying foundation
- Real Techniques Contour Brush — a easy-to-use brush for highlighting, blush, and cream blush
- Wet ‘n’ Wild Mazel Tov Nail Lacquer — deepened navy blue with faint micro-shimmer
- L’Oreal New Money Nail Lacquer — a true chartreuse
- L’Oreal The Reign of Studs Nail Lacquer — a cool-toned, light-medium purple with silver sparkle and silver sequins
What are your favorite budget-friendly cheek/face and/or nail products from this past year?
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush ($8.99) is designed for applying and blending cream or liquid foundation. The brush head is 25mm in length, 30mm in width, and 20mm in thickness. The brush had a total length of 6 inches/15.5 centimeters. The brush is soft, dense, firm (with some give but not fluffy or springy). The edge is slightly rounded, but the most noticeable characteristic about the brush is just how dense it is. It is even denser than the Buffing Brush. I bought this brush after a few readers asked how it compared to Tom Ford’s Cream Foundation Brush, and I don’t think they’re similar in terms of shape, density, and so forth, but the end results achieved with both brushes are more comparable. I do get better and more effortless results with Tom Ford’s, as it doesn’t streak at all for me, but this brush does so occasionally. The rounded, slightly tapered edge makes it easy to buff and blend out any streaks, though, and the synthetic bristles of this brush means it works better with cream and liquid products and is easier to clean. In a blind softness test, I ran both brushes across my husband’s forearm (and I had him do the same for me) three times for each (and at random), Tom Ford always came out on top as softer, but Real Techniques is still very, very soft. I would not complain; I would not even notice, if I didn’t have Tom Ford to compare it to–the way I used this often reminded me of how I used to use MAC’s 109, and this is softer than that brush.
Real Techniques Core Collection ($17.99 for set of four brushes) includes a Buffing Brush, Contour Brush, Pointed Foundation Brush, and Detailer Brush, plus a case to carry them in. For the price, you’re getting a nice amount of brushes, but as with kits, they’re not all as equally useful and ultimately whether you love and use all four regularly will depend entirely on your personal routine and brush preferences. The Buffing and Contour Brushes are both shapes that I think many would use and appreciate, while the Pointed Foundation and Detailer Brushes will be less applicable for all. I really wish you could purchase these brushes individually as well, because I could easily see getting a second Buffing Brush, or if you loved the Detailer Brush, having two or three might be nice for anyone who needs the precision.
Buffing Brush is a medium-sized, wide circular brush that widens at the end and has an ever-so-slightly domed edge. The brush head is 30mm in length, 35mm in width (at its widest point), and 30mm in thickness. In total, the brush has a length of 6 inches/15.5 centimeters. It’s a really nice, multi-tasking brush that can be used to apply foundation (though it says powder, I’ve used it with both powder, cream, and liquid, and it worked fine across all three), blend out blushes and bronzers, or to apply setting powder. It’s densely-packed with soft bristles that feel nice against the skin.
Contour Brush is a small, domed-shaped brush that’s soft, lightly fluffy, and not too dense. The brush head is 30mm in length, 18mm in width, and 18mm in thickness. The brush has a total length of 6.25 inches/15.7 centimeters. It has a good amount of spring so it blends, but it isn’t floppy, so it still retains its shape. It fits nicely into the hollow of the cheeks, so it definitely works exceptionally well for contouring (especially with cream products), but I also quite liked it for applying highlighters on the cheek bones and down the nose as well as for applying cream blushes for a more feathery application. Of the brushes in the set, this was my favorite.
Pointed Foundation Brush was surprisingly small for a flat foundation brush. The brush head is 27mm in length, 15mm in width, and 5mm in thickness. The total length of the brush is 6 inches/15.5 centimeters. It would work better for applying a liquid or cream product to the face, but then using another brush to actually blend and work it into the skin. I often use a concealer brush to dab my liquid foundation in spots on my face before blending the foundation all-over with something larger and denser, so that seemed to be a better use for this than applying foundation all-over. It was very prone to creating lines when I used it for all-over foundation application, so I still needed to go back with something else to buff out all the visible lines. I also tried using it to dab cream highlighters on the cheeks and it was decent, but it doesn’t blend or diffuse the product well enough, so again, a second brush becomes necessary–and I could have just used the second brush for both initial application and subsequent blending.
Detailer Brush is a teeny, tiny firm, flat brush with a tapered edge. The brush head is 9mm in length, 6mm in width, and 3mm in thickness. The whole brush is just under 5.5 inches/14 centimeters. If you have small eyes or deeper crevices around your nose, it might be more useful than your traditional concealer or lip brush as it is much shorter and thinner. This brush was scratchy/rough; when I would pat it underneath the eye for concealer, I could feel a few bristles “stabbing” the skin.
Every brush seemed well-balanced; they weren’t top-heavy or bottom-heavy, so I had good control and they felt good in my hands and as I used them during application. I’ve been using these brushes for several weeks (with the exception of the Expert Face Brush, which I’ve only been using for almost two weeks). I had few splayed bristles on the Buffing Brush when it arrived and haven’t quite been able to get them to re-shape perfectly, so I might trim those stray ones out. I’ve only had a few bristles shed during the first few uses with the Buffing and Expert Face Brushes (which is normal!). I haven’t had any issues cleaning or re-shaping them, and they haven’t bled dye during washes or smelled funny after drying.