Thursday, November 24th, 2011

The Hit List

What’s the Worst Affordable Makeup Brushes…?

What brand/products win this category? What makes them so terrible?

Discussion and debate are highly encouraged, and we expect community members to participate respectfully. When asking a question, please check the FAQ section (above) for information about purchasing, price, dupes, and the like. If you have general feedback or need technical support, please contact us.

Comments that include advertisements, self-promotion, insults, etc. may be in violation of our comment policy and subject to deletion. Please see our comment policy for more information.

49 thoughts on “Hit List: Worst Affordable Makeup Brushes

  1. e.l.f. standard line (the Studio is wonderful)
    Crown Brushes, I’m sorry they turn just awfully scratchy and a few cleanings with the natural hair they use.

    Both lines use second cut hair use that need to be treated to make them feel soft and with most cheap brushes that treatment starts to break down.

    • I have quite a few crown brushes which is what i started buying when I first became a makeup artist, I have since added royal and langnickel to my kit. But I have had my crown brushes for 2 years ish and they are all still in wonderful shape, soft and shed free.

      I wash them with mane and tale shampoo, and use conditioner the same as all my brushes and they have lasted the duration.

      I agree some of the elf studio line leaves something to be desired, though I still use the eyeshadow brush and the lip brush on the regular (i loveee both)

      I really dislike eco tools. I bought a few to try and the foundation brush shed so much it lost like half its bristles + you can find the exact same brushes from qosmedix where you can bulk order.. for half the price. Im pretty sure eco tools just buys them there and repackages and resells them at a huge mark up.

      • Actually the mane and tale condition using the same ingredient to soften the corser hairs they use in their brushs. I’m not surprised i help but it’s more of a clear coat band-aid the the underling proplem.

        Water Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine Lactate Distearyldimonium Chloride Stearyl Alcohol Emulsifying Wax NF Cetyl Alcohol Coconut Oil Glycerin Sodium Chloride Vegetable Oil Fragrance Hydrolyzed Protein Lanolin Phenoxyethanol Methylparaben Propylparaben F D & C Yellow #5

      • Logan

        Strange, I have 2 sets of ecotools plus one of their powder brushes that arent included in any of the kits. On qosmedix they look to be the same kind so thank you for the heads up. I still think the kits are pretty affordable (you get 5 brushes or so and a roll for 10 to 12 dollars). Also, apparently you can’t buy from Qosmedix unless your some kind of company that sells cosmetics etc (might work if you had a small net based indie company though) and they ask for a minim of a 100 dollar order plus shipping. So in the end, not really saving using that site vs buying eco tools. My ecotools have never shed once and the bristles are really sturdy in the ferrules. You might have just gotten a bad brush or something.

      • Ashley

        Almost all of my brushes are Eco Tools and I love them. My foundation brush never sheds … wonder if you got a bad one?

        • I really like my EcoTools as well. I bought a travel set for my purse, and just got a set for my daughter for Xmas. I love how soft they are!

          Worst–the sponge tip applicators that seem to come in every “drugstore brand” makeup set.

    • There recent stock has be terribly scratch to the touch when I went to IMATS as I wanted to give the brushes another shot.

      The brushes I got 4 years ago all the natural hair brushes were very scratchy on my skin and caused irritation/micro exfoliation no matter how I conditioned them.

    • Avatar of Gina Gina

      I agree. I got a couple Crown brushes because xsparkage uses them in a lot of her tutorials, and I threw them all away. They were incredibly scratchy, and shed like nuts.

      • Oh dear :( I hope it’s not the case with all Crown brushes–I just bought a set on Hautelook (I love buying different brushes lol). Crossing my fingers they work for me….or at least my daughter….

    • Tabitha

      Oh hmm, I’ve heard mixed things about ELF’s essential brushes. One of my friends swears that the studio line is far superior, but my other best friend doesn’t mind the essential brushes. I only have one, the essential angled liner brush, and I really like it. It’s much fluffier than my other angled brushes (like the ones from ELF’s studio and mineral lines) and works great for a quick smokey eye, it’s also soft enough to be used to blend out my liner, unlike the other brushes which are far too thin and stiff. So I guess it really just depends on what you want, but I haven’t found any shedding, and very minimal scratchiness if any, and I’ve had my brush for over a year now.

  2. Avatar of Shelly shelly

    e.l.f.’s from their regular ($1) line. I’ll concede it’s possible they may’ve changed over the years, but I bought a set of them in 2005 or so and most of them, as it turned out, sucked. Either the bristles were scratchy or they were too fluffy and not dense enough.

    • Sadly, this is true. The eye brushes are, alright, given the price. Most of the brushes do serve some sort of function- ie, the paddle foundation brush works wonders for putting on a face mask- however, the red bristles brushes are just garbage.

  3. Christina

    Here in Canada the e.l.f. standard brushes are sold at our Dollar stores and their quality is terrible! Like using porcupine quills to apply powder or eye shadows! haha.

    QUO brushes (sold at Shoppers Drug Mart and on sale for 40% off almost every weekend) are tempting when on sale, but their quality is REALLY subpar considering their regular price. The bristles are not overly soft, they shed like crazy, and after a while their ferrels become loose. Not worth the price, even on sale.

    • Audrey

      AGREED. Quo brushes are not worth the price at all! I made that mistake once, and I’ve been hesitant to try Quo products ever since.

    • Brandi

      I have had awesome little brushes from the ELF essential line but also some huge fails. I wish they would get their shiz together and come out with the same product as opposed to “What am I going to get this time?!” method :(
      The crease brush I recently got is far too scratchy to be using around an eye, which is unfortunate because I love the shape and size.

      • Ashley

        Yep, Quo brushes aren’t that great. I have two of the fluffier eyeshadow brushes that work fine, but they are a bit scratchy and I don’t use them much since they are not dense enough for anything more than soft blending or sheer overlay of colour! I have one of their angled brushes too, which I find works just fine, but the bristles did splay around a bit. Nothing that affects application. I also remember that they sometimes smelled really, really badly. Like, disgusting. I’ve had that with a few brushes though, I think Sephora brand was one!

    • Avril

      I’ve never had problems with Quo brushes (their eyeshadows, on the other hand…), but they’re definitely not worth the ticket price.

  4. miriam

    I bought a flat top brush from POSH a few days ago. When I got it home and tried applying my foundation with it, it gave off the stinkiest smell ever!!! I thought I’d wash it and maybe the smell would go away, but it just made it worse. It smelled like a dead animal, never again will I purchase from that line again. On a positive note, Real Techniques brushes were a great find.

  5. Ulta’s are quite bad. They’re very scratchy and shed everywhere.

  6. Avatar of Alice Alice

    Elf’s regular line and the H&M powder brush. Scratchiest things ever.

  7. elf’s Essentials Powder Brush was pretty bad. I can’t say anything about the rest of that line (I’ve heard the concealer and basic eyeshadow brushes are wonderful), but I do love the Studio brushes!

  8. I had a couple of essence of beauty brushes from CVS and most of those fell apart. The only ones I like from that line is the duo crease brush. Those are awesome.

  9. i totally hate the GOSH makeup range in superdrug (UK) its awful. elf basic range is pants as well.

  10. Avatar of Sarah Sarah

    I know alot of people love sigma, but I absolutely hate their brushes. they shed everywhere and are very scratchy.

    • Bee

      I was thinking the same thing. I found it strange no over would mention that sigma brushes are Bad. I agree they shred like crazy and bleed like no other. Plus they have become way over priced. Or maybe they always were?

  11. Like everyone else is saying, by and large, e.l.f. essentials line brushes are horrible. I’m not fond of their mineral brushes either.

    Ulta brushes are pretty poo, too.

  12. I have to say, the ELF $1 brushes, after awhile even with the best of care cheap is just cheap.

  13. hannah

    the sonia kashuk kabuki. it shreds like crazy!

  14. Cher

    Elf! Never encountered such terrible quality! Only a weeks use and no washing yet the ferrule is coming off! :(

  15. Sara

    I’d have to say the worst brushes I’ve ever used came from Crown Brush. I was super stoked when I first got the set and when I used them, they immediately began to shed. When I emailed Crown Brush about the issue, they basically just accused me of ‘washing them wrong’ but I wash all my brushes the same way and it isn’t damaging to any of my other brushes – Crown Brushes just suck. They refused to do anything for me, their customer service is horrible and they ended up just ignoring all my other emails about the issue. Unfortunately, I still have to use these silly brushes because I haven’t had a chance to buy any nice new ones and they STILL shed.. no amount of washing or conditioning has helped, not to mention they are quite scratchy. I never look forward to applying blush anymore hahaha

    Personally, I’m quite shocked at how many bigger ‘gurus’ around the web endorse these brushes.

    • Avatar of Courtney Courtney

      It’s weird. I have the Crown equivalents of the MAC 187 and 188. The 188-like brush is spectacular and I’ve been using it for blush every day since July without a single problem. The 187-like brush sheds like crazy so I never use it.

      Sorry to hear their customer service sucks, though. I hate when companies act like that.

  16. Avatar of Zinnat Zin

    The NYX angled eyeliner brush is the worst. It’s so scratchy and feels like sandpaper on your eyelid. I haven’t tried any other NYX brushes and I’m not likely to after my experience with their angled brush.

  17. cp3honingcomplex

    Maybelline. By far. I made the mistake of buying some of the brushes when they were on sale, and they were the coarsest and scratchiest brushes I’ve tried. And they shed a lot. Wet n Wild’s brushes are also really terrible. Poor fibers, not very dense, and hard to use. But their price point is lower than Maybelline’s so Maybelline still wins this dubious honor.

    Essence of Beauty is hit or miss for me. I really hate their pencil brushes, but I still have a double ended foundation/concealer brush I bought 6 years ago.

    Coastal Scents/Crown Brush too are hit or miss. Some of the eye brushes are beautiful, but others are pretty crappy. I’ve had ferules fall off of foundation brushes I’ve bought. A few powder brushes I bought were also pretty scratchy.

  18. Laura

    they aren’t really “cheap” but the Sigma brushes which try to copy MAC. they shed like crazy! the face brushes leave bristles all over my face. the eye brushes are ok but they shed too.

  19. Niki

    OK, I am going to say it…the Bare Essential Brushes, no they are not cheap but they are so scratching the I literally use the eyeshadow brush to clean in between the keys of my laptop and they keyboard looks brand new — that is how scratchy that brush is.

  20. Avatar of Gina Gina

    I agree with above that Crown brushes are completely horrible. I grabbed a few from different lines they had, including the “pro” quality ones, and they were so scratchy it hurt to use them on my eyes. It was $25 wasted. I could’ve used that money to buy one quality brush from MAC.

  21. Lucie

    Sigma! Floppy, shed/bleed everywhere, and break down after a couple washings! Yuck!

  22. you get what you pay for.

  23. Leah

    Though I’ve been really impressed by Elf’s studio line, their $1 is pretty bad…even for a dollar.

  24. Xia P.

    The white ELF powder brush. I have bought 3, hoping the next would be better than the last and I’ve given up! They bleed this awful rusty red/brown color when washed, smell like burnt plastic, and are extremely scratchy. Funny because the studio line ELF powder brush is my favorite brush EVER!

  25. oshin

    Crown brushes have very poor quality. I bought a lot of brushes from them after Kandee J raved about the quality and reasonable price. Sadly, I was quite disappointed. Not to mention the $14 shipping fee for a domestic package, nor worth it. I had throw out one brush without even using it once. It was that bad.

  26. I bought a benefit brush set and it was terrible! It was those gift, not-for-sale brush set but somehow they were available online. I was so happy when I received it as the package was so beautiful so benefit. But when I started using them, it’s a nightmare. The powder brush shed shed shed. The bristles were on my face whenever I use it or in the sink when I wash it. The flat eyeshadow brush was so scratchy that it was literally painful. The fluffy one was a bit better but it absorbed too much product. The angle liner brush was the only less awful one.

    Even though Benefit was never famous for their brushes, but I still expect better brush quality from them. And it was just a huge disappointment.

  27. Andrea

    NYX!! I’ve purchased two NYX make-up brushes and they both shed like crazy and feel really cheap. The ferrel completely fell off after a weeks use for the blending brush. Never again.

  28. Avatar of Violet Violet

    The worst brushes I ever had were Clinique brushes that were a free GWP. I thought brushes would be a great GWP item… nope.

  29. The worst brushes I’ve tried are some of the ELF “professional” $1 brushes. They do function some sort of purpose, but lots are just gross. The worst brush I’ve EVER EVER EVER tried was an Estee Lauder brush. It shed everywhere and the hairs clogged my sink! It’s the only brush I’ve ever thrown out. It did nothing.

  30. Shalimar

    I would say the black and pink packaging brush set sold or was sold at Wal-Mart. I forget the name but it was the worst brush set I have ever bought because it shed like a sick cat and it didn’t apply makeup well at all. Using my fingers gave me better results than that brush set. Another one is select numbers of e.l.f. brushes, like the studio eyeshadow brush, professional (white handle)definer brush for eyeshadow, (white handle) powder brush, and countless of others. The bristles are either too stiff, shedding, or not dense enough. Another one is eco tools powder and blush brushes. They are too floppy and doesn’t apply powder where I want it. And the distribution sucks.