Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Make Up For Ever #242 Large Blender Brush Brush
Make Up For Ever #218 Medium Blender Crease Brush

Make Up For Ever #218 Medium Blender Brush ($25.00) is described as a “medium, rounded brush.” It’s a rounded, stubby brush with a softly rounded edge; it reminded me of a larger pencil brush. The brush head is 11mm in length, 6mm in width, and 6mm in thickness. It had a round, open metal ferrule and a total brush length of just over 6.5 inches or 16.5 centimeters.

It works well for depositing both cream and powder products into the crease, and it can lightly blend and diffuse the color without blending it too far outside of wherever you applied it, so it was able to blend with more precision than a fluffier crease brush. It felt soft, had just a little give but was quite densely packed with fibers. Inglot 18SS ($21) is a bit larger and squatter. Make Up For Ever #14S is smaller overall, slightly more tapered/rounded along the edge.

Make Up For Ever #242 Large Blender Brush ($30.00) is a “long, rounded blending brush for light eyeshadow application.” It’s a moderately long, rounded brush that flares out at the edge and is fluffy, soft, and flexible and has synthetic fibers. The brush head is 20mm in length, 9mm in width (at its widest point), and 9mm in thickness (at its thickest point). It works best for dusting color all-over a large area or for blending and diffusing color. The fibers are very soft against the skin, but I suspect that this brush may flare out too much at the end for those with small to medium-sized eye areas. I did like using it to apply a brow bone highlighter or a transition shade to blend out the crease to the brow bone highlighter.

Sephora Pro Crease Brush (10) ($20) is similar–slightly fluffier and not as wide. NARS Large Dome Eye Brush ($33) is also also similar but not as flared out. MAC 224 ($32) is similar. Though I was hoping it was going to be similar to the now-discontinued Make Up For Ever #17S, it is quite flared, whereas the #17S tapers.

The Glossover

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#218 Medium Blender Brush

It works well for depositing both cream and powder products into the crease, and it can lightly blend and diffuse the color without blending it too far outside of wherever you applied it, so it was able to blend with more precision than a fluffer crease brush.

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#242 Large Blender Brush

It works best for dusting color all-over a large area or for blending and diffusing color. The fibers are very soft against the skin, but I suspect that this brush may flare out too much at the end for those with small to medium-sized eye areas. I did like using it to apply a brow bone highlighter or a transition shade to blend out the crease to the brow bone highlighter.

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Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Make Up For Ever #214 Small Precision Crease Brush
Make Up For Ever #214 Small Precision Crease Brush

Make Up For Ever #214 Small Precision Crease Brush ($25.00) is described as a “firm, but flexible brush … [for] the crease of the eye.” It’s a long, narrow, and pointed crease brush made out of synthetic fibers. The brush head is 15mm in length, 4mm in width, and 4mm in thickness. It had a round, open metal ferrule and a total brush length of just under 6.75 inches or almost 17 centimeters.

I really didn’t like this brush, as it was incredibly point and didn’t do a good job of placing product in the crease or blending it out. This was also a brush that suffered from continued oiliness/greasiness in the way the bristles felt and acted, so you could squeeze or shape the brush and it would stay that way before very slowly releasing and returning to its original shape (somewhat). It’s a really weird feeling, and it’s not something I remember ever experiencing with other brushes except some of the ones in the Artisan range (I believe this is the third one with this issue). Unfortunately, this doesn’t help the brush in any way, because it makes the brush even less pliable/flexible. Again, I tried washing this two dozen times with an assortment of soaps from dishwashing liquid soap to alcohol-based brush cleansers. The only other brush I have that’s similar in shape is Hakuhodo J5529 ($16), which is a small, narrow crease brush (that actually works).

Make Up For Ever #232 Medium Precision Crease Brush ($28.00) is a long, narrow crease brush with a tapered, point tip. The brush head is 25mm in length, 5mm in width, and 5mm in thickness. It had a round, open metal ferrule and a total brush length of 7 inches or 18 centimeters. The edge felt too tapered and pointed, because using it in the crease made it feel like using a sharp, rough edge, even though if you just brushed the bristles across your hand, they would feel soft. It can deposit color moderately well for both cream and powder products, but it doesn’t blend them out at all, and so many crease brushes are capable of both, so I’m not keen on something as uni-tasking as this shape (plus, it’s not comfortable to use).

I didn’t have any oiliness/greasiness with this particular brush, which was good, but I really didn’t like it. The most comparable brush I have is the MAC 223 (discontinued), which is a longer, narrower crease brush that’s still dome-shaped and rounded at the end, so it is a more ideal shape for crease-work. Make Up For Ever #17S (now discontinued) is not quite as long, wider, and more rounded (as well as fluffier).

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#214 Small Precision Crease Brush

I really didn't like this brush, as it was incredibly point and didn't do a good job of placing product in the crease or blending it out. This was also a brush that suffered from continued oiliness/greasiness in the way the bristles felt and acted, so you could squeeze or shape the brush and it would stay that way before very slowly releasing and returning to its original shape (somewhat)

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#232 Medium Precision Crease Brush

The edge felt too tapered and pointed, because using it in the crease made it feel like using a sharp, rough edge, even though if you just brushed the bristles across your hand, they would feel soft. It can deposit color moderately well for both cream and powder products, but it doesn't blend them out at all.

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Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Make Up For Ever #208 Small Precision Shader Brush
Make Up For Ever #208 Small Precision Shader Brush

Make Up For Ever #208 Small Precision Shader Brush ($22.00) is described as a “small paddle brush ideal for shading.” It’s a small, dome-shaped flat brush. I noticed the edge was visibly uneven at a glance, not just in some crazy magnified macro photo. It’s thin, flat, and very springy. There’s a lot of give and flex to the bristles. It was so-so for applying powder eyeshadow, but I felt like it wasn’t picking up enough product, though it worked well for applying cream eyeshadow to the inner third of the lid as it fit well into that area. The brush head is 5mm in length, 7mm in width, and 2mm in thickness. It has a pinched, metal ferrule and a total brush length of just over 6.25 inches or 16 centimeters.

MAC 228 ($20) is a bit fluffier, and to that end, I think a better all-around brush in comparison as it can apply powder and cream equally well and still get into the nooks and crannies. Hakuhodo G5513 ($16) has a straighter edge across the top (not as dome-shaped) but is similar in shape and use. Tom Ford Eyeliner & Definer ($50) is firmer.

Make Up For Ever #220 Small Shader Brush ($22.00) is described as a “small paddle brush.” It’s a small, flat, thin, dome-shaped brush–and yes, it is like a bigger version of the #208 mentioned above. It’s both wider and taller, though the #220 is actually even thinner. The bristles felt much finer and compacted together, which gave it a firmer, flatter shape overall. It had some flexibility but not too much. The firmness made it good for laying down creams, but for powders, it seemed a bit too stiff/flat and didn’t deposit color (from a powder eyeshadow) well. The brush head 7mm in length, 9mm in width, and 1.5mm in thickness. It had a pinched, metal ferrule and a total brush length of just over 6.25 inches or 16 centimeters.

I couldn’t think of anything similar that I’ve tried, as the size is larger than the ones I have that are at least similarly shaped (but they’re all smaller and mentioned in comparison to the #208). What I did notice with this brush was it always felt oily–no matter how many times I washed it or with what (from dishwashing soap to alcohol-based cleansers). It just has a slick, oily feel and as a result, it can be manipulated into whatever shape you want and then slowly releases back to its original shape. This oddity, which is not the first I’ve experienced with the brand’s new brushes (not all are like this but more than one) is quite curious.

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#208 Small Precision Shader Brush

It was so-so for applying powder eyeshadow, but I felt like it wasn't picking up enough product, though it worked well for applying cream eyeshadow to the inner third of the lid as it fit well into that area.
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#220 Small Shader Brush

It's a small, flat, thin, dome-shaped brush--and yes, it is like a bigger version of the #208 mentioned above. It's both wider and taller, though the #220 is actually even thinner. The bristles felt much finer and compacted together, which gave it a firmer, flatter shape overall. It had some flexibility but not too much.
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Friday, September 20th, 2013

Hakuhodo G5513 Eyeshadow Brush
Hakuhodo G5513 Eyeshadow Brush

Hakuhodo G5513 Eyeshadow Brush ($16.00) is a small, flatter eyeshadow brush with domed edge. It is made using horse hair. The brush head is 6mm in length, 7mm in width, and 2mm in thickness. It has a pinched, silver metal ferrule with a total brush length of 5.75 inches or 14.5 centimeters. This type of brush shape and size is good for smaller, more precise work on the lid or underneath the eye. If you have less lid space, it can be useful for applying eyeshadow to the inner area of the lid, inner corner, and so on. It’s also nice for patting on eyeshadow underneath the lash line. In a pinch, it could be used to apply eyeliner, but it’s a bit longer and not as firm/stiff, so it wouldn’t be my go-to for that purpose.

As I mentioned in my review of Tom Ford Eyeliner & Definer ($50), this brush is somewhat similar, but the G5513 is longer, and as a result, not as stiff or as firm. MAC 228 ($20) is very similar, both in shape and size; it felt slightly springier. Make Up For Ever #208 Small Precision Shader Brush ($22) is shorter and more bendable.

Hakuhodo J162 Angled Eyebrow Brush ($18.00) is a small, very slightly angled brush designed to be used for brows using horse hair. The brush head is 6mm in length, 5mm in width, and 2mm in thickness. It has a pinched, silver metal ferrule with a total brush length of just over 5.5 inches or almost 14.5 centimeters. The brush is also available in the B-series ($20, weasel hair) and S-series ($36, weasel hair).

This was actually one of my least favorite brushes that I picked up, because I didn’t feel it had the firmness/stiffness required of a good brow brush; it is a bit floppy and too springy. The edge also tended to splay and widen, so I couldn’t get thin, precise strokes at all (like for the tail of my brow). It also meant that the color was dispersed easily and needed to be built up more often. For applying cream/gel eyeliner, I found similar issues–you just can’t get the crisp, defined line you’d expect out of an angled brush like this. I found it best for blurring and softening brow powder I applied with another brush. The brush itself feels soft and didn’t shed, though, so I wouldn’t say it’s a poor quality brush, only that it didn’t seem to function well as an angled brow brush (or eyeliner brush) in my experience.

MAC 266 ($20) has a much, much more severe angle and is a thinner, stiffer brush (this is my go-to for brows) but the overall size is similar. OCC Angle (009) Brush ($18) is a bit larger, slightly wider and more angled, not as firm as the MAC 266 but not as springy as the J162. Urban Decay Liner Brush ($24) is wider and thicker.

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G5513 Eyeshadow Brush

This type of brush shape and size is good for smaller, more precise work on the lid or underneath the eye. If you have less lid space, it can be useful for applying eyeshadow to the inner area of the lid, inner corner, and so on. It's also nice for patting on eyeshadow underneath the lash line.
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J162 Angled Eyebrow Brush

For applying cream/gel eyeliner, I found similar issues--you just can't get the crisp, defined line you'd expect out of an angled brush like this. I found it best for blurring and softening brow powder I applied with another brush. The brush itself feels soft and didn't shed, though, so I wouldn't say it's a poor quality brush, only that it didn't seem to function well as an angled brow brush (or eyeliner brush) in my experience.
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Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Tom Ford Eyeshadow (11) Brush
Tom Ford Eyeshadow (11) Brush

This post wraps up all of the Tom Ford Brushes I’ve tested for the past several months. Generally, they’re well-made, high quality tools that likely won’t disappoint you–except if you already have high-end, well-loved tools. The handles are exceptionally well balanced and nice to hold, while the brushes are soft, durable, and easy to wash. I worried that the white bristles would really stain over time, but they’ve held up quite nicely since I’ve been using them. I can’t weigh on the Eyeshadow Contour, Shadow/Concealer, Foundation, Smokey Eye, Shade & Illuminate, or Lip Brush, as I don’t have those. My favorites have been Tom Ford’s Cheek, Cream Foundation, and Eyeshadow Blend Brushes.

Tom Ford Eyeshadow (11) Brush ($55.00) is large, lightly fluffed-up, eyeshadow brush with a flatter, wider shape that is dome-shaped at the top. The brush head is 15mm in length, 14mm in width, and 6mm in thickness. It has a pinched, gold metal ferrule, and a total brush length of 6.75 inches or 17 centimeters. The handle is etched with the brand’s logo and the brush’s number in gold foil at the end of the handle, and the very tip of the handle is flat.

The brush head is soft, not too densely packed, and just fluffy enough to allow for blending and diffusing of color in addition to being able to pack it on. I expect that this is a brush that is less universally applicable, because it is a larger brush, so if you have more eyelid space or you tend to wear one or two eyeshadows at a time, you may find it handy. If you have smaller eyes or you tend to work more precisely, it is not a must-have. It is similar to the MAC 252 ($32), which less fluffy, not as soft, and not as dome-shaped, but the overall size and shape are definitely similar–it is made out of synthetic fibers. shu uemura #10 ($68) is smaller, narrower, flatter. OCC Large Shader Brush ($22) is quite similar and made out of synthetic bristles. For this type of size and shape, I like to apply cream eyeshadows, pat powder over under eye concealer, or pat a powder eyeshadow all over the lid.

Tom Ford Eyeshadow Blend (13) Brush ($55.00) is a long, narrowed brush with a rounded, domed edge that fits well into the crease. It’s not so long that it becomes floppy, and it’s wide enough to blend as well as deposit color. It also has good resistance, so it doesn’t splay easily. The brush head is 17mm in height, 9mm in width, and 9mm in thickness. It has a rounded, open gold metal ferrule, and a total brush length of just over 6.75 inches or 17 centimeters. The handle is round, not too thick or too thin, and flattens at the bottom.

This was definitely one of my very favorite brushes from Tom Ford, because it’s well-made, works well for its purpose, and is a shape and size that I would often reach for. It’s soft and never scratchy, and it lays down color well into the crease as well as blends and diffuses it above and below the crease as you want. Hakuhodo J142 ($18) is very similar, just slightly narrower–but at a third of the price, I would get three of these instead; unless, of course, you’re sold on the Tom Ford aesthetic! MAC 222 ($28, discontinued) has a more flared shape, so it doesn’t come to a point. MAC 226 ($24.50, limited edition) is smaller and shorter; there is also some variance in how these were made, so some are rather pointed and others are more dome-shaped. OCC Tapered Blending Brush ($22) is smaller but similar in shape. Sephora PRO Crease (10) ($20) is fluffier and wider. NARS Large Dome Brush (13) ($33) is more rounded at the edge with more flare. Make Up For Ever #242 Large Blender is less tapered, longer. Urban Decay Crease Brush is less tapered.

Tom Ford Eyeliner & Definer (15) Brush ($50.00) is a tiny, squat brush with a rounded edge. The brush head is 4mm in length, 6mm in width, and 2mm in thickness. It has a pinched, gold metal ferrule, and a total brush length of 6.25 inches or just under 16 centimeters. The handle is well-balanced, rounded, and the handle end is flat.

It can be used for apply eyeshadow very, very precisely, but it worked best (for me) for smudging eyeliner, applying cream/gel eyeliner, applying eyeshadow along the lash line, and cleaning up any mascara smudges. The bristles are soft, but it’s a thin, firm, brush, so if you use too much pressure, you’ll feel the edge somewhat. Hakuhodo G5513 ($16) is longer and has a straighter edge. MAC 228 is also longer and fluffier. Make Up For Ever #208 Small Precision Shader Brush ($22) is slightly longer, but it is very similar–except it is not as firm or stiff, so it’s not as precise or as easy to control for applying cream or gel eyeliner.

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Eyeshadow (11) Brush

I expect that this is a brush that is less universally applicable, because it is a larger brush, so if you have more eyelid space or you tend to wear one or two eyeshadows at a time, you may find it handy. If you have smaller eyes or you tend to work more precisely, it is not a must-have.

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Eyeshadow Blend (13) Brush

This was definitely one of my very favorite brushes from Tom Ford, because it's well-made, works well for its purpose, and is a shape and size that I would often reach for. It's soft and never scratchy, and it lays down color well into the crease as well as blends and diffuses it above and below the crease as you want.

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Eyeliner & Definer (15) Brush

It can be used for apply eyeshadow very, very precisely, but it worked best (for me) for smudging eyeliner, applying cream/gel eyeliner, applying eyeshadow along the lash line, and cleaning up any mascara smudges. The bristles are soft, but it's a thin, firm, brush, so if you use too much pressure, you'll feel the edge somewhat.

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Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Hakuhodo 210 Blush Brush Round
Hakuhodo 210 Blush Brush Round

Hakuhodo 210 Blush Brush Round ($36.00) is a medium-sized brush with a slightly flared brush head that rounds only slightly across the top. The brush head is 28mm in length, 25mm in width, and 25mm in thickness. It has a round ferrule with no pinching at the top, and a total brush length of 6.5 inches or just over 16.5 centimeters. The weight is well-balanced between the handle and the brush head, with slightly more weight towards the top than the bottom but the handle isn’t too light.

This type of brush head shape works in a variety of ways.  It can apply blush, bronzer, highlight, and contour products, and blend any of those products as well.  It can even apply foundation, which is actually the way I’d probably most likely use this brush personally.  It works well with both powder and cream textures, and it is easy to wash out product (but is does bleed dye for several washes, see below) and doesn’t take forever to dry.  It grabs and deposits color very well and has more coverage than not, so you’ll need less product or to use a lighter hand than potentially what you do with other brushes (it just depends what you were using before).

It is also available in the J-series ($44, white goat hair). If you are really concerned about softness, then opt for the J210 instead. I compared the brush against all the other J-series brushes I had, but paid particular attention to the J511 and J5521, as both are similar in size and length, and both are softer. I would not use the words “not soft” let alone scratchy to describe the 210, but if you sweep both across the skin, there is a noticeable difference. If you plan to use this brush with the top pressed against the skin (almost like a buffer brush), you will feel the difference in softness more than if you used the brush horizontally. For example, if I make stippling motions with it with moderate pressure, I can feel some of the fibers, but if I sweep blush on, then I don’t. With the 214, I didn’t feel this except when literally jamming it against my skin with a lot of pressure (can’t say I’ve ever used even half as much in reality), but a genuinely honest-to-softness kind of brush never feels rough, no matter the pressure or direction.

This brush is very comparable to the MAC 109 ($32), and mine is several years old now, so it also appeared more flared out (which may just be the result of years of washing and use), but it does have a flatter top than the 210. The 210 is slightly softer, but it wasn’t significantly softer. Make Up For Ever #152 ($37) is also similar, softer actually, as well as slightly more rounded, and the biggest difference is that has more give and is less firm at the top–which I think works particularly in its favor if you’re applying in small circular motions, but the bristles tend to stick together with liquid so it can leave streaks behind. OCC #011 ($24) is similar in size, but it flares out more and has a more tapered/rounded top, so it is less flat. Real Techniques Buffing Brush ($17.99, part of a set) is larger and wider than any of the others mentioned here, but if you are applying product all-over or on larger areas, not just blush and the like, then it functions similarly.

214 Highlight Brush Round ($27.00) is a small, lightly rounded rectangle-ish brush. It looks a bit like a rectangle but with rounded edges and a softly rounded top edge. The brush head is 17mm in length, 15mm in width, and 15mm in thickness. It has a round, open ferrule (no pinching), and the total brush length is 5.75 inches or 15 centimeters. The handle is well balanced and not too heavy on either end. It’s also available in the J-series ($35, white goat hair), as well as a white goat hair and synthetic blend ($27).

The small brush head enables maximum precision when applying any product. It was designed for apply highlighters (or, apparently, your eyeshadow base), and that was the primary way I tried use it. I didn’t love it. I actually felt like it was too firm and dense to really apply a highlighter for an ethereal, natural-looking glow. It tended to pack on too much product with results always veering towards emphasizing pores, even if that product didn’t normally do so. It’s moderately soft, but it’s not the kind of brush that will make you swoon. I think one of the elements that tends to impress people about Hakuhodo is how much softer the brushes can feel compared to many other high-end brands. Softness isn’t, of course, always a good thing (to a degree) and may not be appropriate in all brush types–here a softer brush with even thinner bristles would deposit less product, and for a highlighter, I think that’s a good thing. Unlike the 210, though, it had the same softness when I swirled, buffed, stippled, or swept–only when I was practically jamming the brush against my face did I feel any of the individual bristles (and I don’t think anyone’s using that much pressure during their application!). Because of the small, rounded brush head, it could be used to place a more defined contour (but I would blend out the contour with another tool), possibly around the nose but it felt too large for my nose for that purpose.

I didn’t have any brush that was comparable to this in my stash. I tried looking across a few of the more popular brush ranges, but it did not prove too fruitful. I think Sephora’s PRO Airbrush Concealer Brush ($24) might be similar in size but seems like it flares out more (looks more like a mini 210). Illamasqua Highlighter Brush ($37.50) seems much longer/taller, but without having it to compare, it’s hard to say by how much.

Some Thoughts on 200-Series vs. J-Series

Both of these brushes are from the 200-series. A lot of the brushes I bought from Hakuhodo were either from the J or G-series with primarily white goat hair, but I know that the dyed goat hair brushes are all slightly less expensive (about 30% less), so I thought I would choose a few in that series to get a better idea of the brand’s ranges. I also know that some are concerned about keeping white brushes white and may opt for dyed hair instead. Both brushes are also available in the J-series with white goat hair (and again, those are more expensive).

When I washed these, the water was noticeably tinged gray for the first dozen washes or so. Eventually, the dye seemed to hold and stopped bleeding, which seems to be considered normal, as one of the distinguishing features of the J-series is, “The natural hair used in this range has not been dyed so keeps its original color” (from Hakuhodo’s website), which seems to imply that dyed goat hair will, in fact, lose color over time. I had noticeable shedding with the 210 over the first week and a half of use, but it has since gone down to about one hair every few uses. On the upside, though, they deposit more color more readily, particularly for products that are not intensely pigmented but are buildable. Oddly enough, the lettering on the handle of the 200-series brushes, though, holds up and doesn’t scratch away like the J-series brushes’ letterings do. There are no numbers on them, though.

I was not really impressed by either brush. The difference in softness between the MAC 109 and the 210 was negligible, and I didn’t have issues with the dye bleeding with MAC’s brush. I also didn’t have any shedding issues with the one I initially purchased, but the second one I purchased sometime later did have some shedding in the first dozen or so uses but no longer sheds (except for a stray hair periodically). I might purchase the J210 and J214 (possibly the J214R–I like the idea of a blend of natural and synthetic for this brush) in the future, but I don’t usually reach for the brush head shape/style of the 210 all that often any more so I’m not sure yet. I worry the J210 will be too soft for the type of multi-use that I normally see out of the shape, while I think the softness of the J214/J214R would be right up my alley in terms of application style and preferences for highlighters.

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210 Blush Brush Round

If you plan to use this brush with the top pressed against the skin (almost like a buffer brush), you will feel the difference in softness more than if you used the brush horizontally. For example, if I make stippling motions with it with moderate pressure, I can feel some of the fibers, but if I sweep blush on, then I don't.

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214 Highlight Brush Round

The small brush head enables maximum precision when applying any product. It was designed for apply highlighters (or, apparently, your eyeshadow base), and that was the primary way I tried use it. I didn't love it. I actually felt like it was too firm and dense to really apply a highlighter for an ethereal, natural-looking glow. It tended to pack on too much product with results always veering towards emphasizing pores, even if that product didn't normally do so. It's moderately soft, but it's not the kind of brush that will make you swoon.

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