Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush
Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush

Tom Ford Cheek (06) Brush ($78.00) is a blush brush with a rounded square-shape, slightly domed along the top edge, with very densely-packed bristles that feel lush and thick to the touch. It is very similar in shape to Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush, it’s just larger. The brush head is 33mm in length, 35mm in width, and 20mm in thickness. It has a metal ferrule that is pitched towards the top, and the handle is well-balanced with some heft (but it’s not heavy or awkward) with a total brush length of just over 6 inches or just under 16 centimeters. The brush handle is somewhat thick at 15mm in diameter, and it has a flat bottom, so it can stand upright (if desired). The brand’s logo and brush number are engraved and have gold lettering (neither have worn off at all so far).

Tom Ford’s brushes, from my experience, are very consistent. There is no question that they’re soft, silky, and feel great against the skin, and the Cheek Brush is no different. The brush is dense and thick, so it’s somewhat firm (but not stiff) with spring and give that’s just right for sweeping, patting, and diffusing powder products. I haven’t had any issues with this brush over the year and a half I’ve been using it–no shedding, no funny smells, and despite it being white, surprisingly easy to keep close to the way it came. The natural bristles pick up color well, and then the shape and texture of the bristles also blends out the powder well. Because it retains its shape during application, it can also work well for contouring or applying bronzer, as the edge fits well into the hollows of the cheek.

Hakuhodo J5543 ($60) is very similar and is only 2mm shorter in length and thickness (though Hakuhodo lists it as 11.5mm in thickness, mine is 18mm after washing and use)–it is not quite as dense, which results in a lighter application, though I felt realistically you can layer and apply as much/as little with either brush, it’s a matter of technique, pressure, and amount of product you initially pick-up. I also think that many will prefer a softer blush application to start than one that provides for a more pigmented application right off the bat. Generally, denser/thicker brushes will yield more color payoff and coverage, and then fluffier, sparser brushes will give you a softer, sheerer color payoff and coverage. I don’t have it to compare, but the J501 ($96) is longer (44mm) and less thick (16.8mm); J505 ($69) is also longer (38mm) and less thick (15mm). MAC 116 ($35) is much less dense, not as soft, and is narrower/more flared.

Bronzer (05) Brush ($115.00) is a massive, dense, thick brush that’s wide, flares out towards the top and has a slightly domed edge. I have to reiterate that this brush is huge, and it’s one of the larger brushes I have. The brush is 45mm in length, 50mm in width, and 30mm in thickness. The handle is quite thick at 21mm across in diameter, flat-bottomed, and the brush has a total length of 6.7 inches or 17 centimeters. It has a metal ferrule that is pinched towards the top. The overall shape is similar to both the Cheek (06) and Cream Foundation (02) brushes, which this being the largest, the Cheek falling in the middle, and the Cream Foundation being the baby of the family. The bristles are layered, so the outermost bristles are shorter than the ones in the middle. They move, feel, and act like one in many ways; you do not feel bristles or fibers against the skin, just a seamless sweep across the face.

While it’s designed for bronzer, and it certainly applies bronzing powder well and blends it out nicely, the brush is quite large and so it will depend in your application and face shape/size whether it’s really a feasible/worthwhile tool. It picks up powder products quite well, which may make products seem too pigmented if you tend to be heavy-handed. Less is more, and you’ll spend less time diffusing and blending out whatever product you may apply. I must admit that I personally like using this for applying finishing, setting, and loose/pressed powders/foundations over bronzer, as I regularly wear those and wear bronzer less, so I can get more use out of it that way. I had two to three hairs shed during the first two or three uses, but after that, I did not have any issues with it shedding. It washes easily, though be prepared for a slightly longer drying time compared to smaller brushes–it’s just so large. It dries in less than a day, though, and some of the synthetic brushes that are closer to this size, take a full day.

If you are even the slightest bit seduced by brush softness and don’t want to splurge on this product, I highly recommend never, ever touching it. Ever. It is like a combination of silk and cream against the skin. One thing I’ve learned is that brushes can be had at all price points, and like anything that’s a splurge, you have to not just love it but use it. If it just sits there, it’s never going to be worth it. If you use it every day, you get joy out of using it, then it might be just the right reward for yourself.

I gathered similar brushes to compare to this one, but its greatest difference is how dense, full, and lush it is. It is just packed with feathery, silky-smooth bristles. MAC 134 ($53) is the brush closest to this that I have, though it feels noticeably rough and scratchy in comparison, is more flared out, and is 30-40% less thick/dense (just my estimate!). OCC Powder Brush ($28) is narrower at the base with a stronger flare, and it is a thinner, less densely-packed brush. I don’t have any Hakuhodo brushes that I purchased that compare to this, but I did try to make an educated guess comparing the measurements, and the closest I could find was the J5541 ($111), which is half as thick (13mm vs. 30mm), and the J501 ($96), which is 6mm shorter in length and half as thick (16.8mm vs. 30mm). Make Up For Ever #128 ($52) is a brush that also has a very large brush head and a fairly thick/dense quality to it, but the shape is really quite different. I do prefer the #128 for loose/setting powder application (I feel like you can press better) but Tom Ford’s is better for dusting, sweeping, and feathering those products across the skin.

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Cheek (06) Brush

The brush is dense and thick, so it's somewhat firm (but not stiff) with spring and give that's just right for sweeping, patting, and diffusing powder products. I haven't had any issues with this brush over the year and a half I've been using it--no shedding, no funny smells, and despite it being white, surprisingly easy to keep close to the way it came.

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Bronzer (05) Brush

While it's designed for bronzer, and it certainly applies bronzing powder well and blends it out nicely, the brush is quite large and so it will depend in your application and face shape/size whether it's really a feasible/worthwhile tool. It picks up powder products quite well, which may make products seem too pigmented if you tend to be heavy-handed. Less is more, and you'll spend less time diffusing and blending out whatever product you may apply.

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Friday, September 6th, 2013

Make Up For Ever #110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush
Make Up For Ever #110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush

Make Up For Ever #110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush ($48.00) is a tapered kabuki brush, and the tapered edge definitely separates it from my other kabuki brushes. The brush head measures 40mm in length, 30mm in width, and 30mm in thickness. It has a short handle (as you’d expect for a kabuki) with a total brush length of 3 inches or 7.5 centimeters.

The brush is incredibly dense, soft and silky against the skin, but it’s flexible enough to easily allow the tapered edge to curve around the nose and underneath the eye. Make Up For Ever recommends this for cream and liquid foundations, first and foremost, though it is also recommended for loose and pressed powders. I liked it best with liquid foundation, and it does tend to apply with heavier coverage, so if you tend to prefer a very sheer or light foundation application, it won’t be a go-to for you. I also used it to blend out edges of powder blush/bronzer, and it works, but I’m more inclined to reach for a buffer brush (like the #126 below) for that.

Make Up For Ever has five kabuki brushes in their range; the #102 is a smaller version of the #110, while the #124 has the more traditional dome-shape. There is also the #132, which is a flattened version, and the #414, which is a body brush. If you actually wanted to really buff and blend using the top of the brush, I would steer you away from this, as the tapered tip is tapered and firm enough that it works better for sweeping at an angle, not straight-on like many kabuki brushes are used.

#126 Medium Powder Brush ($55.00) is a large, dense, dome-shaped brush designed to be used for loose and pressed powder application with “moderate-to-high coverage.” It’s incredibly dense, thick, and very lush. The brush fibers are soft, silky, and glide across the skin almost as if they were one. The brush head is 40mm long, 40mm wide, and 40mm thick. The weight is more concentrated towards the brush head, and I would have preferred a better weight distribution to give the handle more heft. The handle is particular thick–about 3/4 of an inch in diameter at its thickest point. The total length of the brush is just over 7 inches or 18 centimeters. The ferrule is particularly long, even for a face brush, and is an open/round ferrule (no pinching).

This brush actually reminded me of a kabuki or buffer brush–in fact, the shape and size of MAC 182 is almost a dead-ringer, except for the handle. If you’ve always loved the shape of a kabuki brush but wanted a longer handle, this brush will definitely give you that. I loved it for blending and buffing out powder blush and bronzer, and it also worked for applying loose powder all-over. It tends to pick up powder a bit more than a fluffier brush, so for setting and finishing powders, I think it ends up yielding a too powdery finish. For powder foundation, though, it works to give light to medium coverage fairly easily.

One downside to both of these was that they take forever to dry (at least a full 24 hours) if you’ve done a full wash of them. On the plus side, I really didn’t feel like I had much in the way of similar brushes in my stash. The tapered shape of the #110 definitely makes it more unique compared to other kabuki brushes, while the fullness and denseness of the #126 make it different from other long-handled powder brushes I have (which tend to be less dense and fluffier), but it is comparable to the more traditional kabuki brush shape and density.

The Glossover

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#110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush

The brush is incredibly dense, soft and silky against the skin, but it's flexible enough to easily allow the tapered edge to curve around the nose and underneath the eye. Make Up For Ever recommends this for cream and liquid foundations, first and foremost, though it is also recommended for loose and pressed powders.

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#126 Medium Powder Brush

It's incredibly dense, thick, and very lush. The brush fibers are soft, silky, and glide across the skin almost as if they were one. If you've always loved the shape of a kabuki brush but wanted a longer handle, this brush will definitely give you that.

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Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Hakuhodo J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round
Hakuhodo J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round

Hakuhodo J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round ($18.00) is a thin, rounded eye brush with a tapered edge. It is easily most recognized as a brush to apply and/or blend out eyeshadow into the crease. The brush head is 18mm long, 6mm wide, and 6mm thick. The brush has a total length of just under 6 inches / 15 centimeters, and it is made out of white goat hair with a glossy black handle made out of wood. The ferrule is open (no pinching at the top). It is also available in the S-series for $40 (yes, that’s correct, it is made using blue squirrel instead of goat).  The difference between the two is the handle; Hakuhodo has stated that the quality of the brush heads are the same across the series (read more here).

The brush is very well-shaped and works nicely to both deposit rich color into the crease as well as just for blending out the edges in the crease. I can definitely see this being a very practical brush and shape to have in one’s stash, and I imagine many would find use for it. It feels soft and silky against the eye, and even if you’re heavy-handed, it doesn’t feel rough or scratchy. The tip is just rounded enough so it doesn’t feel stiff or sharp but still defined enough to apply product precisely. Because these are natural fibers, this brush is best for powder products and will tend to pick up more pigmented than less. I didn’t have a lot of similar brushes to this (especially ones that were permanent!), because of how it tapers, and it was actually the least expensive ones in my stash. I usually reach for my MAC 226 when I want a brush like this, but I’ll be reaching for this instead.

If you’re a fan of the MAC 222 ($28, discontinued) or 226 ($24.50, limited edition), I think you’ll like it, as it is a combination of both of those for me–it has the more tapered shape and form of the 226 but with the some of the fluffiness of the 222; the 226 is more tapered and shorter, while the 222 is longer, less dense, and less shaped (with more of a rounded, domed edge than a tapered one). Tom Ford Eye Shadow Blend Brush (13) ($55) is very, very similar the J142 in shape and feel–the Tom Ford version is wider overall and as it has a wider opening. Hakuhodo’s brush handles are usually shorter than most other brands’ brushes (MAC, Make Up For Ever, NARS, OCC, Tom Ford). I don’t think the MAC 224 ($32) is comparable, as it is fluffier, larger, and flares outward, rather than tapering inward. OCC’s Tapered Blending Brush (004) ($22) is similar (and synthetic for those who prefer synthetic fibers) that rounds out more at the top in comparison. Sephora’s PRO Crease (10) ($20), NARS Large Dome Brush (13) ($33), Make Up For Ever #242 Large Blender, and Urban Decay Crease Brushes are all very similar to MAC 224: fluffier, larger, and flare outward.

J5529 Eye Shadow Brush Tapered ($16.00) is a tiny, thin brush with a rounded, very lightly tapered, edge. It’s like a shorter, narrower crease brush, but it is rounder and larger than a pencil brush. The brush head is 13mm long, 5mm wide, and 5mm thick with a total handle length of just under 6 inches / 15 centimeters. It has a round, open ferrule (no pinching at the top) and a glossy black, wooden handle. It is also available in the G-series ($21, blue squirrel hair).

The brush head had some splayed bristles upon arrival, and they’re still like that now, even after a few washes. The fibers are soft to the touch and feel nice against the skin when used to blend and apply product to the lid, but I did notice that if you pushed the tip against the lid (like a pushing or tapping motion, rather than a sweeping one), I could feel the fibers more. Not enough to be scratchy but not as “ooh, la la!” soft. This would work well for someone who had smaller eyes and normally finds crease brushes to be too large for them, as well as anyone who wants to do very precise color application. It also works well for softening color along the lower lash line. I don’t think it’s a must-have, relative to the shape of the J142.

The shape of the J5529 is one that I don’t have a slew of similar brushes for. I suspect that Make Up For Ever’s new 214 Small Precision Crease Brush ($25) or 218 Medium Blender Brush ($25) may be similar to this, but I don’t have them to compare. NARS also makes a Small Dome Eye Brush ($27) that appears similar but I don’t have that one.

The one thing I wish these brushes (and all the Hakuhodo brushes that I have) had were the numbers printed on the brush, and I also wish that the lettering held up better. I can, quite literally, scratch off the silver lettering with my fingernail.

The Glossover

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J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round

The brush is very well-shaped and works nicely to both deposit rich color into the crease as well as just for blending out the edges in the crease. I can definitely see this being a very practical brush and shape to have in one's stash, and I imagine many would find use for it. It feels soft and silky against the eye, and even if you're heavy-handed, it doesn't feel rough or scratchy.
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J5529 Eye Shadow Brush Tapered

This would work well for someone who had smaller eyes and normally finds crease brushes to be too large for them, as well as anyone who wants to do very precise color application. It also works well for softening color along the lower lash line. I don't think it's a must-have, relative to the shape of the J142.
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Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Make Up For Ever #222 Sponge Applicator
Make Up For Ever #222 Sponge Applicator

Make Up For Ever #222 Sponge Applicator ($13.00) is a sponge-tipped applicator on a long, wooden (beech) handle. The sponge-tip is 12mm tall, 9mm wide, and 5mm thick. It’s attached to a black knob that has a thin (about 3-4mm wide) plastic piece that has a lot of flexibility, so you can bend the applicator as needed to maneuver around during application. Sponge-tip applicators are good for picking any powder product that is prone to fall out, crumbling, or when you need to really pack on a color; like a white eyeshadow base, sponge-tip applicators can really pack on a product. It is also a useful applicator for smudging eyeliner or eyeshadow underneath or on the lash line.

The sponge really doesn’t feel too different than a mutltitude of sponge-tip applicators that get included in various kits and palettes; yes, the sponge seemed more resilient and durable, as I can try to remove it and it doesn’t instantly rip as cheaper ones do, and it isn’t scratchy. I’ve scratched at it, and it hasn’t shown any signs of wearing, scratching, tearing, or even bits of the sponge flaking off. I’m not sure it would hold up to prolonged or sustained use. Given that Make Up For Ever sells refills (6 for $9) for it, I would expect breakdowns over time. It’s definitely made out of a thicker, more pliable, and sturdier material than the average applicator you’d find in a cheaper palette. If you like handles or have larger hands/longer fingers like me, the long handle could be very helpful. Otherwise, you may find simply buying a 50-pack of disposable sponge applicators for $5-10 is a better option (or merely gathering all the ones you inevitably own–this is what I do; I keep all the random sponge-tip applicators I’ve had in palettes in a plastic cup).

I was most worried about the very itsy bit of glue that connects the actual sponge-tip to the black knob getting broken down over time or while cleaning, you might accidentally tug too much and rip the very bottom of the sponge (where it’s glued) from the knob. For review purposes, I just went ahead and lightly pulled at the bottom, freeing it from the knob, and yes, it will be prone to slipping and pulling off–just patting and lightly blending powder eyeshadow on the lid or smudging eyeliner on the lower lash line didn’t see any slippage, so it will depend on the use.

#272 Eyelash Brush ($12.00) is described as a “spiral brush used to style eyebrows and correct their shape, as well as separate lashes before or after application.” It is a mascara spoolie, so it is good for all things brow and lash. It’s 25mm tall, 7mm wide, and 7mm thick. There is a thin metal wire that extends out of the metal ferrule. Like the #222, you can acquire disposable spoolie wands in bulk and at a low price point (like 50 for $5-10). The difference is that this isn’t designed to be disposable but reusable.

This brush is comparable to MAC #204 ($15.00), which tapers slightly more towards the top so it is narrower overall. This is actually a brush I keep as part of my daily arsenal, as I use it to brush brows and blend out harsh lines when I’ve filled in my brows with powder. I’ve used it for lashes, too, but it’s nowhere near as effective as a metal lash comb for separation. When it comes to lashes, it is best if the mascara is still wet, otherwise it doesn’t do much once mascara has dried on lashes. The same is true for Make Up For Ever’s #272. It works well to comb through brows as well as to diffuse, blend, and even out color from filling in brows. It could also be used to apply mascara, colored mascara, mixing with a product to apply color to the lashes (like a DIY colored mascara), applying brow gel, and so forth.

The #272 can be a total pain to clean, though, which is another reason why I don’t love it with mascara. I highly recommend cleaning it nearly immediately after using with any liquid product like mascara to avoid difficult clean up (everything just hardens and sticks to the interior wire).

Both of these brushes are useful, and I like them, but whether it’s worth investing in one rather than disposable varieties is ultimately something that is going to depend more on how you use it. The #272 is the kind of brush that I do, personally, find necessary, and I can’t vouch for the durability of Make Up For Ever’s (but it’s on my calendar to revisit all my Artisan Brush reviews a year from now to check in), I can vouch for the MAC #204, which seems very similar in length, shape, feel. The biggest difference is that MAC’s ferrule is crimped towards the top, while Make Up For Ever’s #272 is round.

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Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Make Up For Ever #146 Flat Blush Brush
Make Up For Ever #146 Flat Blush Brush

Make Up For Ever #146 Flat Blush Brush ($37.00) is described as a “medium, trapezoid-shaped brush” that is designed to be used with loose and press powders. By its name, one would expect primarily using this with blush, as it is designed for buildable coverage. Make Up For Ever also recommends using it for face painting. The brush head is 26mm tall, 33mm wide (at the top, which is widest point), and 10mm thick with a pinched ferrule. It has a total length of 7.25 inches/18 centimeters.  The brush’s shape is flat, almost a square but slightly flared outwards–like a trapezoid, but it is a squatter one than I envision with just the word “trapezoid.”  It had soft bristles at the tips, and the bristles length-wise were fairly soft but you could “feel” the individual bristles slightly (they didn’t blend together as seamlessly).

I think the shape is somewhat large for a blush applicator, and it’s definitely best for just initially applying color to the cheek and less useful for blending or diffusing blush color. It splays out unevenly, is an odd mix of stiff and springy that never quite blends or applies the way you’d expect. It just seems to make applying blush harder than it is with other blush brushes (with more typical brush heads). I just received another blush brush from the range late last week, so I’m testing that one as well to see if that works better for blush application. I can see the flatter shape working better for face painting, though, and to that end, it was nice for applying liquid primer or moisturizer (I tried with Illamasqua’s Hydra Veil).

There’s something about this brush that felt off, because no matter how many washes (I’ve washed it a dozen times now with four different cleansers), it always feel a somewhat oily or greasy. I can press the brushes together, and it molds that way until I squish the brushes in another way. As of now, this is the only Make Up For Ever brush that I’m having this issue with, so it might be a one-off or more specific to the flatter brush shapes.  I just received a few other face brushes, so I’ll have a better idea of the context of this issue in a couple of weeks.

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Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

MAC x Antonio Lopez 129SE Brush
MAC x Antonio Lopez 129SE Brush

MAC x Antonio Lopez 129SE Powder/Blush Brush ($38.50) is a special edition of the 129 brush, and here, it has a shorter handle. I actually found the shape different, as it is a much longer brush head than the full-sized 129. Where the full-sized 129 has a domed, rounded edge, this special-edition brush doesn’t really flare out that much. (See the 129 here.) Looking back on some of the 129SEs I’ve reviewed, they all seem to be slightly different. This version of the 129SE also comes with a vinyl, zippered pouch that fits just the brush or else one or two lipglosses.

MAC’s 129 brush is not one of its best brushes, as it tends to be scratchy and sometimes prone to shedding (can vary from brush to brush). The 129SE released in this collection is worse, as it was even scratchier, and then the shape was less useful for applying blush. If you’re looking for a blush brush, the 129 would not get my recommendation (I prefer MAC’s 116 over the 129, if you’re looking to stay within MAC’s range).

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