Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Should I get full size brushes or a brush set?

It isn’t actually a question of which one to get, but which one will better suit your needs. There is often debate between brush set quality vs. full-size brush quality. In the case of MAC brush sets, they are machine made, while full-size brushes are handmade. These brushes contained in sets aren’t terrible, and they get you good value for the price. They just aren’t identical to full-sized brushes, and it makes sense, because you’re getting the brush set for much less than if you bought the full-sized brushes together.

Value is the number one reason to purchase a brush set over individual brushes. The MAC face brush set contains the SE 187 and the set retails for $49.50 (as of Holiday 2008)–and the full size version retails for $42.00! Say you rarely use the 187, then you really don’t need the full-size version, right? You just get more brushes for your money than you would buying individual brushes. Budget beauty addicts may find brush sets a way to invest in good brushes without breaking the bank.

Finally, those who are new to makeup might find this an excellent opportunity to take advantage of trying out multiple brushes at once. This way they can figure out what brushes they actually will use and how often will they be used. If you love eyeshadow, you might find you just need to have MAC’s 239 brush–and perhaps even a few of them.

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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49 thoughts on “Makeup & Beauty FAQ: Should I get full size brushes or a brush set?

  1. Kelly

    Thanks for this, I didn’t know the difference in hand versus machine made. I’m getting all the Adoring Carmine brush sets but I’ll be honest it’s mainly because I want a full matching set that looks cute :)

  2. jess

    I own some full size and some SE MAC brushes and I honestly like my SE brushes just as much, if not more, than my full size ones. They store easier (I can throw them in a regular sized cosmetics bag), I feel like I get more bang for my buck and haven’t had any problems with any of the SE sets I’ve purchased (I have the patternmaker set and one of the holiday sets from last year).

    • Thanks for giving us your two cents, Jess! I only feel a slight difference, and I do think that on occasion, some aren’t as soft. But I wouldn’t say there are drastic differences… at least not with the sets I own.

  3. Julia.

    I bought “Basic Brushes” set from Nordstrom’s/Bay’s exclusive Colour Forms. It seemed like a good deal at the time, the only brush I already had was the 266. After using them I can honestly say I regret that purchase. Good deal if you want more brushes or if you’re a collector but the only one that really isn’t crap is the 266, which I already had in full size. They feel like poor quality in my hands and on my face. The face brushes are especially terrible. I would never buy another brush set from MAC.

    Sorry to be so negative! I still love you, MAC.

    • Allysha

      Strongly agree.

    • Jen

      I bought my MAC brush set through Nordstrom during the Colour Forum too! I was really excited about it, but then I opened it and I wasn’t too impressed. I pretty much got what I paid for. The 187 brush isn’t bad, but I don’t catch myself using any of the other brushes on a daily basis. But I would recommend getting a brush set if you’re just getting into MAC. Now that I’ve tried the 187SE, I’m really anxious to get the full size one.

      TIP: Check out the outlets in your area and see if they have a CCO (Cosmetic Company Outlet). I went to one 2 weeks ago and I saw the 187 brush for only $29 bucks! I’m anxious to go back.

    • I’m really to hear that they didn”t work well for you :(

  4. Hillary

    I ordered the new face brush set online(if you didnt know just type in brush under the search its thereand you can order it, they already shipped it out too. and its not even in stores, well not mine at least, yet.)

    and now im scared :(
    ive never bought a MAC brush before
    and wanted the 187 and 168 to try out.
    i hope they are alright.

  5. cloudburst

    I totally agree. The brush sets are great for travelling, especially if you have a tendency to lose things when you’re abroad!

  6. sej

    I have always had good luck with the brush sets! Maybe they aren’t handmade, but the fibers are the same as in the full size and the shapes are the same. They definitely work and are a great deal!

    • Yep, they are the same, but I guess since they’re machine made, they aren’t put in the 100% correct way all the time (some bristles are backwards or whatever).

  7. Thanks for the useful advice, I didn’t know the SE brushes are machine made, though I always knew they somehow feel different from the full sized ones. I am thinking of getting the Adoring Carmine sets, because they make good travel sized brushes, and besides the SE brushes always look so cute with the different colour handles.

  8. Katie

    I mean yes, the brush sets are a case of you get what you pay for…you’re not going to get the handmade goodness of a full-size brush when you buy a brush set. However, because I still am relatively new to more elaborate makeup application, the brush sets work really well. I got the holiday eye brush set from last year at the CCO, and I have problems with none of my brushes. I actually do prefer shorter handles so that I can have a lot more control. Brush sets are also good for me because I am definitely on a budget…however I am trying to buy one full-sized brush a month.

  9. victoria

    the SE aren’t bad,from last years collection,i think the ones i didn’t like were the 129se(i found it scratchy)and 266se(because it’s only good for brows not liner). other than that, the rest are okay for the price. i still prefer the full size but i do prefer the 187se over the full size one for foundation, i like more of the white bit. i bought the se just for that brush and i use the full size for bright blushes which need less of the white bit.

  10. Great post! I have all the brushes in full size, but then again, I spend tons of money on makeup and tools and I realize that all people are not so keen on that. I too find that you can get some full sizes and some brush sets!

  11. TT

    In my opinion, if you are a professional makeup artist, then you want to opt for the full size brushes. If you are not a makeup artist and want a set of brushes to take with you when you travel, then you want to get the Christmas sets when they launch during that season. Otherwise, for daily makeup application, the best polished look is with the full size brushes, hands down!

    • Oh, totally agree! If you are using these everyday for professional use… you should definitely have full size. I would use travel sizes as perhaps backups, that’s about it!

  12. SnickerDoodle

    I DEFINITELY plan on getting at least the face brushes set this year. I don’t have any MAC brushes and figure this is the perfect place to start, plus my favorite MA at my local MAC counter highly recommended the SE brushes, and I trust her with my life! Well, my face.

  13. Yardena

    Thank you for the post, Christine. I am still in doubt if I get the basic set or not… I don’t have any MAC brush, I only have the Coastal Scents brushes (which I hated them). So I’m thinking to get at least the basic set because I don’t wear make up very often.

  14. Thanks!! I’m going to try the eye set, and once I gain a little more experience, then I’ll begin splurging on individual brushes. Hopefully I can find a CCO around here somewhere!!

    • Good idea, Jasmine :) Plus, you can figure out if you’d even use all of the brushes in the eye set. You might find you only like one or two enough to buy full size!

  15. Vee

    I prefer full size. I was told by a MAC MA that brush sets are not made the same as a regular full size. The quality is still good, but not the same as a normal single brush.

  16. Nicole

    I have never bought a brush set, so I can’t compaire the quality.

    The disadvantage of a full size is, that I don’t use all of the brushes. With the full size brushes I can only buy the brushes I really need and use. I don’t regret a single purchase.

  17. Kirsten

    I’m having somewhat of a crisis on what brush set to buy cause I only want to buy one. Any of them would be usable really, because the only MAC brushes I own are 239, 242, 134 and 109. Does anyone recommend one of the 3 in particular? thanks so much!

  18. Natasha

    Thank you for this!
    I’m excited for the brush sets this year and will hopefully be able to purchase all three.

  19. classic

    I prefer full brush

  20. sreyne

    I just got my brush set today. This is the first time lve purchased them…l have to say they do feel a little stiff and and just abit smaller than l expected l knew they were gonna be small but still. But l still do love them..lm sure once you get a couple of uses out of them they will be fine. I got them face and eye brush sets.