Thursday, February 21st, 2008

MAC Cosmetics: Guide For The Newly Addicted, Part 6


  • Face | These are the brushes I could not live without: 129 (for blush and powder), 168/169 (to contour), 182 (for buffing), and 187 (for stippling). Brushes that are good, but you could get away with not having are: 150 (good for powders), 188 (smaller stippling, more precision), 183 (flat buffer), and 194 (concealing).
  • Eyes | These are the brushes I could not live without: 210 (for precision lining), 219 (for lining with shadow, precise crease definition), 239 (shadow application), 249 (cream product application), and 266 (for upper lash line lining and brows). Brushes that are incredibly popular: 217 (blending), 222 (blending), and 224 (blending).
  • Lips | I like the 318 because it is a retractable version of the 316, which makes it convenient for on the go. The 311 is nice, but I find I can line well with cremestick liner already.
  • Sets | Once or twice a year, MAC puts out brush sets with four to five brushes in them. Each set comes with a brush bag and then four or five miniaturized brushes. Typically, they have a basic set, which includes both face and eye brushes; an eye brush set; and a face set. I always encourage newcomers to check these out as a great way to get quality brushes for less. They also make excellent travel options.
  • SH vs. SE | SH stands for “Short Handled,” which means the brush is specially made for a certain launch or collection. It may be pink handled or ornately decorated, but the brushhead is of the same quailty as the typical version. SE stands for “Special Edition,” which tend to be short handled brushes included in brush sets. These are man-made, mass-produced, and do tend to have less quality than a full-sized version. However, they are packaged in sets, which are much less expensive than individual, full-size brushes making them a good deal. To be sure, I personally find that the difference in quailty is not really that big. I mostly can feel it in a fluffy brush like the 129, which does feel a bit rougher compared to the full-size version.

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.

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117 thoughts on “MAC Cosmetics: Guide For The Newly Addicted, Part 6 — Brush Basics

  1. tatiana

    this helps alot, im currently saving to get more brushes 😀
    for the 217, 219, and 239 plus 129 and 190 aannnnnndddd i think the 150… lol so i got a long way to go!!! i got 50$ right now… anywho thanks this really helps !!!!

  2. Kirsten

    what is your opinion on the 134 brush?
    i use it for mineralize skin finish and bronzer everyday, but no one else seems to use it often even though a MAC artist recommended it for the products i bought about 5 months ago, so im just wondering =]

  3. D

    What do you think is better and more useful if I had to pick one of the two mac brushes for blending etc…the #219 or #224

  4. Hi :) Quick question, do you know if the 242 and 249 are really similar, maybe just a size difference? I got the 242 thinking (or rather, being told) it was good for cream product application, but I hope I didn’t make a mistake…

    Thanks so much, your articles are wonderful :)

  5. Donna Edwards

    What is the best brush for doing crease work. One that will not make me look like I have black eyes.

  6. Kiarra

    I use a matte mousse foundation, what brush would you recommend?

  7. Suzie

    Hi Christine,
    I went to MAC today to buy the 249 brush. I wasn’t paying attention but when I got home discovered the artist gave me a 252 brush. Could that brush be used the same way as the 249? So frustrated! =) If not, it’s back to the store tomorrow!

    • It’s similar, and it could do the trick. I personally have both, and I never use the 252, but it would work in a pinch. If the store isn’t out of your way, then I’d probably return it for the 249! Then again, what are you using it for?

  8. Donna Edwards

    Hi Christine,
    I see you like the 210 for lining. Is this brush good for use with the fluidlines? I like a real thin precise line. When you line your eyes do you start at the front or the back?


    • Hi Donna! I use it for fluidlines to get more precision, as well as a finer line. I know everyone loves the 266 for fluidlines, but I find it is a bit too thick for my preference. I usually start in the middle, actually!

  9. Natasha

    I’m off to a good start i have most of the brushes since I brought the recent brush set =)

  10. miss anna

    Hi Christine,
    i’m new to this makeup stuff and all.. can you help me?
    i’m trying to decide whether to get MAC 134 or 150 to apply my mineralize skinfinish natural pressed powder? i’m not sure which one to get..

  11. Mariann

    Dear Mac lovers,
    Do you think buffer brush 182 is good for applying powder blush?
    I am considering getting one now. Thanks

  12. uscpharm07

    did you mean “machine-made” and not “man-made” when describing SH/SE brushes? i heard that’s why they are not as good b/c they are mass produced via machines vs the full brushes are handmade. Is this true?

  13. A

    I have a question? which set is more useful the one with the basic brushes or the one with the eye brushes? did u say they are miniature brushes?

  14. A

    I was reading about the brushes that come in gift sets and it sounds like they are not the same quality, do u strongly recommend to get the full size ones instead?
    ANother question, which is the best foundation for flawless look and that doesnt cake after a few hours. And one that doesnt emphasize lines?

  15. A

    thank you so much for your advice.
    You mentioned the brushes are not as good as the originals although the difference is not that big. Would you recommend getting the full size ones better?
    Its very nice of you to take time and respond to emails. I appreciate it! by the way your website is awesome!!!! You know a lot of everything..lucky you!

    • If you can afford full size, then go for that. I still think having one mini brush set is great – travel and all that – and it’s a better value. I think the face set is the best value, as well. It’s more a matter of budget, IMO, because if you can go for full-size, then you should. They are better, not leaps and bounds better, but still better.

  16. A

    Thank you sooooooo much for your advice on the brushes and the sets i appreciate it! YOur website is awesome!

  17. Thanks for this!! I’m getting the Red She Said Eye brush set this weekend! I heard that the brush sets aren’t as good as the regular brushes because they are machine made, but I’m just starting out so I think that this would be a good investment…or a more econmical one. lol. Then I’ll work my way up! Thanks!!!

  18. A

    Cool! it does look like the set has useful brushes. I think you should hurry and get your set because i bet they will be sold out quickly. I bet on Monday or Tuesday it will be on maccosmetics website that you can order online and its free shipping to US and Canada till the 25th!

    Thank you!

  19. Tiara

    I’m not sure if you answered this one or not but of the blending brushes (217, 222, 224) which is THE must have? I could probably get all 3 eventually but which one would you recommend for a beginner?

  20. NinjaB


  21. Salma

    Hi, I have a combination skin and oily in T-zone, what foundation and powder you recommend? I dont want my skin to look oily after one hour or so coz thats what usualy happens. Thanks by the way very informative website!

  22. Kendra

    Do you think that the 165 brush is a good brush to do contouring? if not what would you recommend. i have sort of a small face so i dont know.

  23. Patrixia

    Hi Christine,

    I just recently got hooked on bloomer…anyway..I bought 2 mac products the satin finish foundation and the skin finish powder..also bought nars deep throat blush….For a beginner on a tight budget..can you recommend 4 essential mac brushes?…

    Thanks! :)

  24. Esther

    Hi Christine
    what do you think of 213 brush? i bought it wrongly n i dunno whats it good for.
    Appreciate your advise.

  25. Fiona

    Hi Christina,

    I recently bought the 129 brush and I was so excited to use it when I got home. I did as the store lady instructed to wash the brush before my first use. Upon the first shampoo, the brush shed. I was very surprised as I did not expect the Mac brush to do that. Then I thought maybe this is the first wash so it should be expected. I let it dry for a day and used it the next morning. I was even more surprised when it shed as I was using it! A few hair came out and some landed on my face. I was very upset as I expect Mac to be top of the line brush. On my way to work, I looked into the mirror and found another hair on my temple that I had missed.

    Is this something to expect from a new brush? This is the full size brush i got. I was wondering if it is possible I got a ‘defective’ brush and if I should go back to the store to exchange for a new one.

    It also come in the shorter version that I was initially going to get. Is the full size and shorter brush the same quality?

    • Brushes do shed, though they shouldn’t shed excessively after you use them a few times. If you feel like it is shedding excessively, I’d definitely say exchange it for another one.

      The short handled version is the same quality :)

  26. Sienna

    Hi there, I just started getting into makeup and i have liquid foundation(studio fix) and im really undecided on whether to get the 187 or 109 i really want to get both but because im just starting out i really just want to get one for now. Which do you reccomend i should get? thanks

    • Both are really great brushes, but for liquid foundation, I’d recommend the 109 over 187!

      • Sienna

        THANK YOU THANKYOU THANKYOU… I bought the 109 and i cannot believe the difference it made!!!! Thankyou so much for your help christine i really appreciate it!!!

        • YAY! I am ecstatic to hear it is working so well for you, Sienna! What are you using it for?

          • Sienna

            I am using the 109 for liquid foundation application… it’s awesome, I am saving the amount of product I use and it looks flawless. So many times now people have commented on how flawless my skin is!! I cannnot thankyou enough for the advice, this brush was well worth the money. Thankyou again Christine!!!

  27. Hii i was wondering if you’ve heard of the two new brush sets out in mac, i forgot which brushes were in it. i live in hong kong and a single face brush costs $200 divided by 7 if your in america; and the brush set which contains 2 face brushes and other brushes costs $520 divided by 7 in america. do you think its worth buying, im young and don’t have a job so i won’t be able to buy single ones all the time.

    can i have your opinion?
    thanks :)

  28. carrie

    Hi Christine and other MAC lovers! I dont have a duo fibre brush yet; I already use a 116 for blush but I need another one for more pigmented blushes like Dollymix, MSFs (like shimpagne) and other cream blushes.., . What do you recommend? The 187, 188, or do you think I should wait for the 130?

    Your posts are always very helpful! Thanks!

  29. carrie

    Thanks Christine!

  30. vctoria

    so the holiday brushes arent good ???

  31. Meagan

    Hi I just bought studio sculpt foundation, what is the best brush to apply it with? Also I purchased strobe cream
    how would you use it, a d with what brush? Help!

  32. Meagan

    Hi again, I forgot to mention that I have a liquid fondation. Is the 109 still best for that? Thanks again!!

  33. Hannah


    I was wondering which brush do you think is better for foundation. The 187? or the smaller 188? Eventually I will probably get both (im a makeup artist so I can always do with the brushes) but cause im out of work at the moment im trying to figure out which i should get first. I heard the 187 is really good for cheeks and the forehead but that its harder to get in really well around your nose. Should i just get the 188 and spend the extra few minutes stippling?

    • The 188, then, because you can get around the nose and eyes. I don’t love the 187 or 188 for foundation, personally (prefer the 109!), but I’d say get the 188… more versatile :)

  34. claire

    hi christine… sorry, this is a really old post, but i am hoping that you will still respond to this question, as i am incredibly new to the makeup world (not to mention inept). I have heard that MAC is the best high end, low cost, cosmetics brand. i am frustrated with cheap quality drugstore makeup, but am on a SEVERE budget. i am south asian (vietnamese) and have many of the defining physical characteristics (i.e. “hooded” lids – NO crease – narrow, small eyes, olive-golden skin, ect.) could you give me some specific advise for which MAC basics i should buy? and also which brush is better for the crease if u would like precise application, the 222 or the 219? thank you so much, i love ur posts. (sorry this comment is so long!)

  35. Lucy

    ive got the:
    168, 190, 150, 239, 275, 194, 266 and the 316
    i love mine but i want some more which others should i buy?

    • How about the 222/224, 208, and 109?

      • DEENA

        Hi Christine…i have only just recently discovered MAC (im way so late i know lol) i have a few brushes that i would like to purchase but since im new was just wondering if my selection is quite good??? and what else to could reccomend…i want to get:
        thanks in advance xxx

        • I don’t love the 190 or 195. I prefer the 189 for a flat foundation brush or the 109 or 187 for liquid foundation. I also like the 217 for blending concealer rather than the 195!

          • DEENA

            thanx so much christine…. i was only thinking of brushes but now i have been tempted into the products. my skin colour is a goldish brown (my parents are from the island of mauritius dnt if u heard of that country) and i would like to purchase MAC blush, foundation n concealer and possibly a highlighter. would you be able to recommend colours for my complexion please? i rally need help if needs be i can u a pic of myself so u can see my complexion. also would you be able to tell me HOW you highlight and contour. THANK YOU….SORRY FOR THIS LONG ESSAY

            • What is your skin color? Light, medium, or dark?

            • DEENA

              just lighter than hallie berry so i’d say medium. Also is it ok to spray fix+ on mac brushes? thank you

            • DEENA

              well actualy i’d say a lil bit darker than what u look like in ur tutorials with foundation. lol soz its so hard to describe it.

            • Hi Deena,

              You can use Fix+ on your brushes for sure.

              Try Margin or Sunbasque blush — I think both would be lovely on your complexion. It sounds like you are probably around NC40 or NC45. I am NC25/NC30 for reference!

              A great sheerer foundation is MAC Face & Body, more coverage would be Studio Fix Fluid. I like Select Cover-up for a concealer. You should check out Soft & Gentle for a highlighter.

            • DEENA

              hey christine…thank you so much for ur gna pop into mac tomro…im so glad i found this website as im from london and there are limited tutorials about MAC products from people around london…lol i dnt think its quite popular over here though tbh. thanks anyways

            • DEENA

              hey christine just want to say thanks again i bought the face n body foundation it is so good!!! i just wanted to ask u though if u have a 224 and a 266 brush and if u do are the black handles lighter than ur other mac brushes? and also are the MAC logo and number on ur brushes especially the face brushes slightly slightly indented in the brushes like if u were to run ur fingers across the logo n number its not totally smooth?

            • Hey Deena,

              They all seem the same to me… all the same black and all pretty smooth.

            • DEENA

              okay thank u so much christine.

  36. Donna Edwards

    Hi Christine,
    Which brush do you think is easier to use for lining with fluidline without being an angle brush. Do you prefer the 209 or 210?


  37. DEENA

    are the brushes 109 and 129 suppose to shed like every time you use them? when i washed my 129 brush it stopped shedding (for now) but the 109 is keeps shedding :(….i dnt seem to have ne probs with the white brushes
    thanx in advance

    • They shouldn’t, but I know that some have had a lot of shedding issues with their 109 (mine doesn’t shed really… one hair every few uses?).

      • DEENA

        hmm i done so much internet research my brain hurts lool loads of people are having the same prob…maybe thats just the way these brushes are.

  38. Donna Edwards

    Hi Christine,
    I tried the Mac Opulash Mascara and was really underwhelmed. I have lots of length but no volume. Which mascara would you recommend for me by MAC.


  39. Donna Edwards

    Hi Christine,
    Do you like Plushlash better than the new Opulash that came out at Nordstrom?


  40. Mia

    How much do the special edition sets usually cost? I was given one of the christmas 2008 red sets but I do not need it as have all the MAC brushes I want and I would sell it on.

  41. cherry

    hi, Christine, which is absolutely the best goof-proof brush for using with the MAC Blactrack gel eyeliner ? Also do u use blacktack on ur waterline and would u recommend it? thnks and regards !

  42. Simone

    Hi– what brush should I use to apply Elizabeth Arden mousse foundation??

  43. Iqra

    Hi ! Im new to MAC brushes ! Are short handled , limited edition ones as comfortable to use as the normal ones ?

  44. Heather

    Do you think that these are real MAC brushes at a discount price or they are fakes??? I was really curious about buying them but don’t want to waste my money.

  45. Jane Lee

    Christine, what do you think about this wonderful MAC set ?


  46. natalie

    hey christine :)
    i wanted to get a few basic brushes since i don’t really have any of my own,
    i’m thinking getting the 182 for face, 139, 217 (for crease), & 224 (for blending)
    does that sound like a good beginner combo?
    tell me what you think please.
    thank you!

  47. Khyaati

    Hi there!!!
    I have stumbled upon your excellent website, and it has helped me make some great choices. I have recently become sucked into the MAC cult and cannot stop myself from buying MAC. However it is quite expensive here in New Zealand and only marginally cheaper than brands like chanel or dior. I am wondering if you can recommend any ABSOLUTE must haves in the way of brushes? The only MAC brush I own is the 188 (?) small stippling brush and I absolutely LOVE IT. Unfortunately, it gave me a heart attack at NZ$85.00 but I love it so much, I THINK I’m willing to dish out NZ$135 to get the 187. Being a uni student (= poor),I don’t have a hugely time consuming make up regime. Usually just blush, gloss, fluidline and mascara, but I love putting more effort in for going out. Any recommendations?
    Thank you ever so much! (Sorry for the long message!)