Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Benefit Tweezerman Tweezers

Benefit + Tweezerman = Cute AND Practical

Tweezerman for Benefit Slant Tweezer ($25.00) are cute white slant-tipped tweezers with a light pink and coral-pink design on the outside. I LOVE Tweezerman tweezers. I absolutely love their slant-tipped ones in particular. I think I have five of them scattered around my house–I never want to be without one.

They just feel so maneuverable in hands, and they grip incredibly well. They’re sharp without being painful, but you can get at stubborn hairs that need a pluckin’. I also like them for applying false lashes: use the tweezers to grip them and set them on the lash line, then flip it and use the end (the flat side–opposite of the opening) to press the false lashes into your lash line.

I will also say that they stay sharp and as good as when you first buy them for ages. I know that you can mail them to Tweezerman and get them sharpened, but I’ve never done it–because I’ve never felt like my tweezers needed it, and I’ve had some of them for years. (It reminds me that, someday, I should!) These tweezers are worth every penny. They’re the only tweezers I keep stashed away the entire six years I’ve been playing with makeup!

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

RECOMMENDATION: If you pluck stray hairs around the brow/upper lip, these do an excellent job grabbing even the shortest, thinnest hairs.

AVAILABILITY: Benefit, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s

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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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Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Sigma Makeup Brushes vs. MAC Brushes

Make sure you check out my standalone review for Sigma Brushes, which considers them on their merit and by themselves, not as an alternative to MAC specifically.

Q. Are they on the same level as MAC? Or are they a more affordable alternative, but not as good?

The majority of brushes are not on the same level as MAC, and there are some subtle differences that translate in application that makes me think Sigma really would be better off having their own numbering system and designing original brushes and improving upon their existing designs or similar-to-MAC brushes. Though the numbering system has made me hesitant to review Sigma since I first heard of the brand (because I don’t like copycats, diversion, knockoffs, etc.), I think they could do just as well without the MAC numbers. I think it automatically invites very tight, very critical comparisons between the two brands.

Sigma Makeup brushes are definitely a more affordable alternative to MAC brushes or any other high-end brushes. They are good, but not always great and sometimes just so-so. Like all brush ranges, not all brushes are made equal. Some brushes aren’t as soft, others not as useful. I have all of the currently available MAC brushes, and there are certainly brushes that I have no use for and some that I don’t love or even like. To expect every Sigma Makeup Brush to be outstanding or to surpass MAC or other high-end brands is a very tough expectation to meet.

I think if you go in with “this is an affordable alternative” rather than “this is exactly the same or better” mindset, you won’t be disappointed. (Of course, also make sure you’ve read my thoughts on the brushes themselves, because some might still disappoint you–e.g. 187!)

See brush-by-brush comparisons, photos, and more Q&A… Continue reading →

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Sigma Makeup Brushes Review

In mid-January, I asked all of you what do you want to know about Sigma Makeup Brushes. Instead of my usual review format, I’m going to go through and answer your questions, because at the end of the day… my review would have answered the majority of those questions anyway, but this way you can look for your answers more easily.  I am reviewing the brushes I have tried, which include: SS109, SS150, SS168, SS182, SS187, SS188, SS190, SS194, SS208, SS219, SS224, SS239, SS266, and SS275.

This post is a review for Sigma Makeup Brushes on their own merit, aside from MAC, not compared to MAC. I will post a follow-up shortly comparing the two as requested.

  • Brushes I liked: SS182, SS190, SS219, SS224.   I found these were the brushes that really stood out to me both in quality and in use.  I think all of the brushes are of good quality, but inevitably, they’re not better or different (and thus meet a different need!) than brushes I already have in my collection!
  • Good value for the money: these are worth getting if you are keen on building up your brush collection faster and without breaking the bank.  I would definitely love it if you could purchase more brushes individually, so you didn’t have to pick up brushes you didn’t like or weren’t going to use often.  Sigma offers quality brushes are a more affordable price point, and I can understand that not everyone wants to or can spend money on high-end brushes.
  • Read reviews and buy the brushes you need that also work well.  Not all of Sigma brushes are super-fab, some are good brushes (regardless of looking at price!) but some don’t hit the mark on what you expected to use the brush for.  e.g. the 187 isn’t stiff enough to stipple but it still works fine for applying blush with a softer, more diffused look.
  • My recommendation: I like Sigma Makeup brushes for the short-term.  There are a few (the ones I mentioned I liked) that are worth picking up not just to get your hands on more makeup brushes, but I think they’re a good starter set.  It’s a good way to get to know makeup brushes, learn what you need and like, and if you love one brush, maybe consider upgrading that one or others you use often later on down the road with something pricier.

See review and photos… Continue reading →