Thursday, November 4th, 2010

MAC Tartan Tale: Viva Glam, Sir Teddy, & Brush Sets Video Review

I filmed my Tartan Tale Kit/Sets review yesterday, and my throat was scratchy afterward, which had to mean I talked way too long–sure enough, I did! We ended up splitting the video into two parts. It worked out, though, because I spend half of this video on why Viva Glam (and Sir Teddy) are great charitable campaigns, and then the other half on a rant review on MAC’s brush sets.

For my written review and photos of the brush set, you can view it here. (Link to vote is here — I’m Christine Mielke.)

Monday, October 25th, 2010

MAC Tartan Tale: A Lady and Her Tricks Brush Set
MAC Tartan Tale: A Lady and Her Tricks Brush Set

MAC Tartan Tale: A Lady & Her Tricks Brush Set

This year, MAC has three brush sets to choose from, and the one I am reviewing this year is A Lady & Her Tricks ($49.50). This set includes special edition sizes of the 168, 187, 209, 219, and 252. For reference, the other sets are Sweep Me Off My Feet (129SE, 190SE, 227SE, 212SE, 275SE) and She’s Got It All (194SE, 204SE, 224SE, 266SE, 275SE).

I do not recommend MAC’s brush sets, as cute/pretty as they can sometimes be. I just don’t think the quality is representative of MAC’s full-size brushes, and instead, they’re sub-par variations. $49.50 isn’t pocket change, and while it’s certainly a good deal when it comes to purchasing five MAC brushes, it’s not a good deal if the quality isn’t there. I find that these brushes are scratchy, and in the past, seem to get scratchier with time/wear.

The biggest problem I have with this particular kit this year (I did not bother last year or the year before) is these brushes really don’t seem to have been made very well. The 219SE is incredibly rounded, no pencil tip is distinguishable, while the 252SE is quite thick. The 187SE doesn’t seem to flare out enough and doesn’t have the same firmness as the full-size version.

I also think it’s a shame that they include the 252SE; it’s one of MAC’s biggest eyeshadow brushes, so it feels a little unwieldy for eyeshadow application. I’d rather see the 217 or 239 included, both are very popular brushes with more utility.

When it comes to buying MAC brushes, buy them slowly, over time, and build up your collection. I spent two or three years doing so before I completed my brush collection. If you need brushes in the meanwhile, consider more affordable brush sets available through brands like EcoTools and Sonia Kashuk. Affordable brushes have come a long way in the past few years!

The included bag is similar to the lip bags, except it’s a good deal larger–definitely more like a purse.  It also has a glossy black strap that attaches so you can wear it as a shoulder bag.  It doesn’t feel cheap, and it seems sturdy enough to be used for more than just toting brushes around.

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 18/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

RECOMMENDATION: If you’re sold on having to have MAC brushes, and you feel you’ll actually use all the included brushes in the set, it may be worth it. I don’t personally think the quality of these brushes is on par with full-sized brushes and would pass.

AVAILABILITY: MAC Counters/Stores on October 28th

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Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Urban Decay Eye Brushes
Lip, Shading, Liner, Blending, Crease, Multi-Tasker, Smudger, Shadow

Vegan, Eco, and Planet Friendly Brushes

For fall, Urban Decay released a whole slew of brand spankin’ new brushes (and as such, are now discounting their older brushes by 50%). There are seven eye brushes, one lip brush, and three face brushes. This post features the eye and lip brushes, and I’ll do a separate review for the face brushes (which I’m still testing). I’ve only had these for a little over a week, so I can’t speak on heavy duty usage and just how well they’ll serve you over a multi-year period.

All eleven new brushes are cruelty-free and vegan, as the bristles are made out of recycled PET plastic bottles. The handles are made out of recycled aluminum. Even the boxes these come in are from recycled egg crate material. However, each box is housed in a plastic sleeve–which I don’t know if it’s recycled or not, but even if it were so… it is unnecessary. The box is sturdy and large enough to contain that single brush and travel across country.

  • Shadow ($26.00) is a flat, domed shape brush designed for application of eyeshadow onto the lid. It’s dense and stiff enough to pat on color but flexible enough to use it to blend out color, too. I’d say it’s about 10mm across and 13mm in height.
  • Smudger ($26.00) is a stumpy dome-shaped brush used for smudging eyeshadow or liner on the lower lash line. It’s pretty soft (which is not always a feature of smudgers, because they are so short), and it’s stiff and densely-packed. It’s around 10mm across and 5mm in height.
  • Multi-Tasker ($24.00) is a tiny slightly dome-shaped brush (we’re talking around 6mm wide and 7mm tall). Because of its small size, I think those with smaller lids may have more use for this than others. Personally, I just know this is not a brush I’ll be using regularly–maybe as a lip brush. It’s quite small, so it’s not my favorite brush for concealer or primer.
  • Crease ($26.00) is a densely-packed rounded, dome-shaped brush. It’s rather thick–as crease brushes often are–but it holds its shape quite well. It’s not floppy or particularly fluffy, so it’s really good for depositing color into the crease as well as blending out crease colors. It’s about 18mm in height and 10mm at its widest point.
  • Blending ($26.00) is a very large, flat and dome-shaped brush. It’s very similar to the Shadow brush, except three times as large. It’s about 18mm in height and 15mm in width. I could see this being used for an all-over wash, but it’s like half the size of my eyelid, so it’s just too large for me to use for much else. It’s a bit too thick/dense to be a go-to for creamy products like eyeshadow bases (I think too much would get caught in the bristles).
  • Liner ($24.00) is a small angled brush. It’s my least favorite brush out of the bunch, because it’s considerably thick, particularly for an eyeliner brush. I’m used to using very thin angled brushes for eyeliner, and then just thin angled brushes for brows–this is thicker than my usual brow brush (MAC’s 266). It has a great angled edge, but it’s rather thick, so I found it difficult to achieve thin, precise liner. It’s about 7mm in height at its tallest point and 7mm wide and 2mm thick.
  • Shading ($26.00) is a medium-sized, circular brush with a slanted cut. It’s stiff without being sharp. It looks an awful like the Crease brush, except someone cut it half-way and at an angle. I don’t have any brushes like this one, and to be honest, I was pretty confused by it initially. I’ve used it primarily to apply my brow highlight. It can also be used to apply color to the crease or blend it out. It’s about 12mm in height at its tallest point and 8mm in diameter.
  • Lip ($20.00) is a skinny, long dome-shaped flat brush for applying your favorite lip color. I have no issues with the brush itself, but it’s a pain in the butt to use because of the packaging. It comes in a retractable container, so you push the brush up to get it out of its container, but as soon as you start applying your lip color, it starts moving back into its home. You have to make sure you keep a finger on the slider and apply pressure to keep it in position. It’s annoying but you can maneuver it so it’s functional.  I tried to put the cap on the end to keep it in place, but my cap didn’t stay on well.  It’s about 11mm tall and 5mm wide.

The brushes I liked most were the Crease and Shading brushes. I liked the Crease brush for its stiffness, though with my lid size, I could use something a little skinnier and more tapered, but it’s a nice brush even for me without those modifications. I also liked the Shading brush just because it’s an interesting brush that I don’t have yet so it’s giving me something new to work with.

I also really liked how each brush has its usage labeled on the end–it makes it easy to keep track of them, especially for those who are newer to brushes.  I’m always a sucker for gunmetal packaging, too, so I dig the look of the brushes as well.

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 27/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

RECOMMENDATION: If you’re trying to stay away from natural fiber brushes, Urban Decay has made a solid alternative that’s eco-friendly and animal-friendly.

AVAILABILITY: Urban Decay

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Monday, May 24th, 2010

MAC 130 Brush

MAC 130 Brush: New Cream Blush Hero

The MAC 130 Brush ($38.00, supposed to be permanent now) is described as, “A short, round, flat-topped brush ideal for the smooth, easy application of foundations, creams, emulsions, and select powder products [and] features a blend of natural bristles and synthetic fibres.”

How does it work for…

FOUNDATION: I think those who normally use the 187 will find the 130 a welcome addition to the duo fibre line-up. Though the brush head is much, much smaller (think like a stumpy 188), the compact, dense brush head allows for greater control and blending as well as it’s small enough to get into the nooks and crannies (like around the nose). The shorter fibres also provide for significantly less streaking and clumping of the bristles (huge reason why I’m not a big fan of the 187 for foundation). If you liked the application of the 109 but found yours shed unbearably, I think you’ll also like the 130. I still prefer my 109 a little bit over the 130.

CREAM BLUSH: I’ve been finding that the 130 is better than the 188 for cream blushes lately. I like the firmer, stiffer brush head, rather than the more springy fibres of the 188. It gives me more control, precision, and helps to blend out the color in small, buffed circles. You can see me demonstrate how to applying cream blush using the 130 in this video (along with the 131).

POWDER BLUSH: Really not a big fan of this brush in powder products — I just don’t find that it delivers the soft, natural, and effortless color and finish that traditional blush brushes do, like the 116.  It’s better for buffing out blush than so much for applying it.

The 130 is definitely a must-have brush for those who wear cream blush or bronzer on a regular basis. The stiffness (it still has give, though!) makes it so easy to apply and the circular brush head makes it easy to buff into the skin. The bristles themselves are as soft as you would expect from MAC.

The only thing I noticed is the brush has a tendency to have some splayed bristles if you aren’t extra careful to reshape it perfectly after washing. (I re-washed the 130 brush last night, and it’s much tighter, with only 3-4 bristles pulling away.) It doesn’t affect the utility or the application of the brush, but it’s something I noticed when photographing.

What do you use the 130 for?  Is it a must-have for you?

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 28/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation: If you’re in the market for a brush to apply liquid foundation or cream blush, the 130 excels at both tasks. It’s better than the 187, arguably as good as or better than the 109 (depends on who you talk to, ha!), and beats out the 188 for cream blush.

Availability: Nordstrom

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Monday, May 24th, 2010

MAC 131 Brush

MAC 131 Brush: A Duo-Fibre Multi-Tasker

The MAC 131 Brush ($40.00, limited edition and available with To the Beach) was originally released with Colour Craft (July ’09), and I’ve owned it since and used it once. I spent the past couple of weeks testing it out for the first time and seeing what it works best for. MAC describes it as, “Flat, tapered brush that contains a combination of short and long fibres … [i]deally suited for Mineralize Skinfinish Powders.”

How does it work for…

FOUNDATION: When it comes to liquid foundation, it does the job. I liked the application and finish better than the 187, because it seemed a lot less streaky (which is why I moved past the 187 to the 182 and now use the 109). The application with the 131 is quite a bit different, given that it’s a flatter, slightly tapered and angled brush–you don’t blend in a circular motion here. It’s more about soft sweeps and pulls to get the product blended on your face.

CREAM BLUSH: I prefer the 130 (also available with To the Beach but appears to be permanent) or the 188 (permanent) over the 131. The 131 is nice for blending out the color initially, but I find that being able to buff small circles is one thing I really find preferable in technique that the 131 doesn’t make so easy. You can see me demonstrate how to apply cream blush using a stippling brush like the 131 in this video (along with the 130). It is better with more emollient/thinner cream blushes than thicker consistencies.

MINERALIZE BLUSH/SKINFINISH: Like the 187, using the 131 to apply mineralize color products like the blushes, blush duos, and skinfinishes helps to soften the color and diffuse some of the glittery particles. It gives a very soft, subtle color and deposits a light layer of the sparkler/shimmer. I think it’s nice on some of the more pigmented, dirtier, or glitter-heavy shades, particularly for those with more visible pores. I think if you have the 187 or 188, you may not find the 131′s application far superior. I like the 131 a bit more, but it’s a close race. It’s also smaller than the 187, so it may be more manageable on cheeks in comparison.

MOISTURIZER: I actually found myself liking the 131 more to apply moisturizer than anything else. I spritz the brush with a little water, and then I apply my moisturizer–very clean, sanitary, and soothing. Of course, whether it’s vital to have a single brush for this purpose is debatable!

My personal feeling about the brush is that it’s a nice, high-quality brush that certainly is useful and can be used with different products, but if you are an avid brush collector, it may not be a must-have brush. I just didn’t and still don’t find myself reaching for it very often. I just want to repeat that there is nothing wrong with this brush–it has the same excellent standard of quality from the softness to the construction to the ability to multi-task as MAC brushes. It hasn’t reinvented the wheel for me, since I already own the 187 and 188.

I did an entire series of reviews on all of MAC’s Face Brushes, so definitely check that out if you’re looking for a particular brush.

What do you use the 131 for? Is it a must-have for you?

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 28/30
  • Value: 8/10
  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation: If you already own the 187 and 188, you may not find this brush revolutionary. You may not even find it’s worth it, if you’re on a budget, and you own those two. It’s better suited for blush and mineralize products from the testing I did.

Availability: May 25th online at maccosmetics.com, May 27th in-stores

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Thursday, March 25th, 2010

EcoTools Bronzer Brush

Cruelty-Free Brushes:  EcoTools Bronzer Brush

EcoTools Bronzer Brush ($9.99) is a large, dome-shaped bronzer brush that’s really more of a multi-tasking face brush than specifically a bronzer brush.

It’s great for pressed or loose powder, buffing, bronzer, and even liquid foundation if you don’t mind washing it often! The brush is so dense that it feels more like a kabuki brush, actually. I personally liked to use it for buffing and application of loose powder to set my makeup. It’s easy to clean and wash (and no funky smell or bleeding dye!), though expect a longer drying time with such a densely-packed brush (much like any kabuki!). Your best bet is to wash it after you use it, so it’s ready for the next day.

I appreciate the earth-friendly packaging, but I do feel like the handle is a little too thick. I could go for a slightly thinned out handle so it doesn’t feel chunky in my hand. Otherwise, I can’t think of any complaints about the brush itself! The softness and density of the brush itself make it nearly fool-proof to use to apply your favorite powder products.

EcoTools makes their brushes with sustainably grown bamboo for the handles, recycled aluminum for the ferrules, and Taklon bristles, which makes them 100% cruelty-free.

Celebrity makeup artist Meredith Baraf uses the bronzer brush in this video…

If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ! :)

  • Product: 29/30
  • Value: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 5/5
  • Packaging: 4/5

Recommendation: If you’ve been wanting a kabuki/buffer brush but haven’t wanted to shell out $40+ for one, EcoTools makes an excellent, affordable alternative.

Availability: Drugstore.com

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