Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush (02) ($72.00) was created to be used with Tom Ford’s Traceless Foundation Stick, but it can easily be used with liquids as well as true creams. The brush is about 6″ long, while the brush head is about 1″ in height and width and is about a 1/2″ thick. It’s made with natural hair, though I haven’t been able to confirm exactly the type of natural hair (likely goat and potentially something else). The brush is made in Japan, and it’s rumored that Hakuhodo manufactures these, but I haven’t seen it confirmed or mentioned in a press release (only that Tom Ford engaged the world’s leading brush maker in Japan to make them to his exact specifications). The handle is well-balanced, and the brush head is densely-packed and very, very soft. It’s not a small face brush, but it’s not a large one, so it can still maneuver underneath the eye and around the nose without issue.
This brush excels at both cream and liquid foundation application, as it does not take any more product than is necessary to achieve a natural, even finish. It doesn’t soak up the product, which can sometimes result in a heavier application than you really need. Because it’s so densely-packed, it’s not a fluffy brush, but it is soft and holds its shape well and never leaves streaks or brush lines. It’s really as if all you do is apply the foundation, because there’s no need to blend it afterward–it’s already done. It can also be used with cream blush (even powder), but it stands out most for liquid and cream foundations because of the streak-free finish it leaves behind.
I’ve been using this brush for a year and a half, having received in late 2011. Oh, I’m sure you’re wondering why so long, and that’s really because it’s at such a luxury price point that I’ve wanted to not just put it through the paces but incorporate it into my regular routine. I really wanted to see how it held up to consistent, prolonged use. One of the things I was most surprised about was how clean and pristine the brush looks after over a hundred washes (I wash my brushes after each use)–still as white as the day it arrived. I haven’t experienced any shedding or funny smells after washes. It’s retained its shape well over time, and it really shows no signs of wear. The ferrule is perfectly in place, bristles aren’t splayed at the edges, and it still looks new and shiny.
The majority of my brushes are MAC, though I do have other brands in there, and my often-used brush for foundation is Hourglass No. 2 Foundation/Blush Brush (which is a nice alternative if you prefer Taklon bristles, rather than natural hair). Tom Ford’s brush is easier to clean and requires even less attention to get a flawless, even finish in comparison, so between the two, yes, Tom Ford gets my personal vote, though the two are both great brushes. Tom Ford does, however, easily beat my previous go-to MAC 109 for liquid foundation application.
This brush excels at both cream and liquid foundation application, as it does not take any more product than is necessary to achieve a natural, even finish. It doesn't soak up the product, which can sometimes result in a heavier application than you really need. Because it's so densely-packed, it's not a fluffy brush, but it is soft and holds its shape well and never leaves streaks or brush lines.
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MAC Illustrated Brush Kits ($49.50) are available in two selections, one for just face, one for face and eyes. Both kits come with a brush roll, which holds five brushes with a clear plastic flap that protects the brush heads. The brush roll itself is made out of a vinyl-like material. If you recently purchased any of the Illustrated bags, it’s made out of the same material as that. Smooth, slick plastic that’s not quite as shiny as vinyl. The brush roll has a 3/4″ wide black strap that ties the roll together. Each brush has a shiny black handle with a matte black ferrule.
All Over Brush Kit features the 168SE, 287SE, 224SE, 219SE, and 266SE. The 168SE is not as dense or as soft as the full-sized version, but it wasn’t scratchy. I actually felt like the 219SE was softer here than the one I have in full-size, but the 266SE is very scratchy and would work better for brows than on the lid. The 224SE seemed a bit floppy, but it wasn’t scratchy. The 287SE wasn’t scratchy and was soft when I patted and brushed it across my eyelid.
Face Brush Kit features the 129SE, 188SE, 190SE, and 195SE. The 129SE is a big longer and floppier compared to the full size version, which felt slightly denser, too, but it was as soft as my full-size (which isn’t my favorite brush, as it is somewhat scratchy at times). The 188SE is less dense and a bit floppy–seemed narrower at the base. The 190SE and 195SE seemed comparable to my full-size brushes.
Both kits are available exclusively at Nordstrom, as part of their Anniversary sale.
MAC 159 Duo Fibre Blush Brush ($35.00) is a new brush with a blend of natural and synthetic bristles that launched alongside MAC’s Tropical Taboo collection, which featured many Mineralize Blushes/Skinfinishes. It will be added to the permanent range as well. It has a tapered, dome-shaped edge, with the white bristles coming out just a bit further than the black ones, so the edge has a softer, fluffier feel and less density compared to the rest of the brush, which was dense and firm (but not too firm). At its widest point, it’s just under an inch wide and about an inch tall. It’s somewhat similar in size to the 109 brush, but this is flatter and not as circular (and of course, the shapes are different), but they have a similar height and width, just not a similar depth or circumference.
I’ve been using it for about a week now, and it’s definitely one of the better and more versatile brushes that MAC has put out recently (a lot of them have felt more like uni-taskers!). It works well with any face product that is incredibly pigmented or too glittery, as it seems to apply product very softly and evenly, while allowing for easy blending because of the fluffiness of the bristles at the edge. The brush also felt very soft, and I didn’t have any issues with it shedding unnecessarily (there were two or three after the first wash, none on the subsequent four washes) or the dye bleeding. For reference, this brush was made in China as many of the recent duo fibre brushes have been.
MAC 167SE Face Blender Brush ($34.00) is a limited edition brush designed to help blend out products used on the face. It is gently curved along the edges but has a rather flat, only slightly domed, shape overall. It’s fairly dense with bristles with some give, so it is movable but not floppy. The bristles felt soft against the skin. I liked it best for use for all-over face powders or bronzers, as well as blending and fading out blush and the like.
I reviewed it here previously (which I recommend reading for a more in-depth review). My original review stands and is the same for this one. Despite the fact that my original brush has the designation “SH” (for short-handled) and this one is marked as “SE” (for special edition), I didn’t notice any differences in bristle density, shape, cut, or texture. The biggest difference is how they look, as this has black bristles and a bronze-hued handle.
MAC Baking Beauties Brushes include two styles: 252SE Large Shader Brush ($31.00) and 129SE Powder/Blush Brush ($35.00). Now, the first thing I noticed was that both brushes are listed as SE and are printed with “SE” on the brushes themselves. This distinction is important or, at least, curious, because in the past, MAC has used “SH” to denote a short-handled brush that is still made in the same fashion as their full-sized brushes, while “SE” has been used to denote special edition brushes that are machine-made (as compared to handmade). The majority of the brush sets MAC puts (think Nordstrom’s anniversary sale and the holiday kits) are SE, and SE brushes can have great inconsistencies in quality–from density to the way the bristles are cut (and shaped) to quality of the bristles themselves.
I really hope that they are, in fact, made the same way the full-sized brushes are, because you’re paying the same price as you would be for the long-handled versions that are available permanently. (You can even purchase a short-handled version of the 129 brush, actually.) Both my full-size 252 and 129 were manufactured in Japan, as indicated by the imprinting on their handles, and I’ve had both for a few years now. The handles of the SE brushes from Baking Beauties has “China” imprinted. Several of MAC’s more recently launched full-sized brushes have also been stamped with China, so MAC may have moved some of its production to China. There were some minor shape differences I noticed, but the density, fullness, softness (or lack thereof), and so forth were consistent with my full-sized versions.
The densities seemed about the same across these limited edition brushes and my full-sized ones. What I noticed was that my full-sized 129 brush had a more dome-like shape and wasn’t as wide as this 129SE, and then the 252SE had more of dome-like shape than my full-sized 252, which was slightly less curved on the edge. The SE brushes are both very light, which is somewhat expected, given they have a lot less handle–but they did feel lighter than they looked. I’m not in love with either brush, period, full-sized or not, because the 129 is one of MAC’s scratchier face brushes, and the 252 is really large. If you have normal or smaller eyes, it’s not the most versatile brush, and it can be a little scratchy at times. I’d recommend MAC’s 116 instead of the 129 and MAC’s 242 in place of the 252.
Hourglass Ambient Powder Brush ($35.00) is described as a “densely-packed, baby-soft powder brush.” It is, like its name would suggest, designed to be used with the brand’s Ambient Lighting Powders, which are finishing powders. The bristles are made using high-grade Taklon bristles.
The brush is short and wide; it has a stubby kind of appearance. It’s like a horizontal brush, as it is thin when you look down on it, but it is rather wide. It fits the width of Hourglass’ Ambient Lighting Powder perfectly. For those who prefer shorter-handled brushes, you’re in luck, as this one has a short, wide handle. It has incredibly soft bristles; not a single poorly cut bristle in the bunch–very soft and smooth and felt like silk caressing the skin. As described, it is also very, very densely-packed with bristles.
When I washed this brush, the bristles were easy to clean, though it did have a tendency to want to slip between my fingers due to the very short handle. It took longer to dry than the majority of the other face brushes I had washed that night (MAC’s 116, 129, 134, OCC’s Powder Brush, Bobbi Brown’s Blush Brush), though it was on par with Hourglass’ #2 Brush. It holds its shape well, and I’ve washed it five times now. I didn’t have any problems with the bristles shedding when used or while washing it. The only thing I didn’t love about the brush is that the handle appears to be made out of plastic, whereas my other Hourglass brush is definitely made out of metal.