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…
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Ease of Use: 5/5
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.
Start by choosing either a mild shampoo or brush cleanser. There is a slew of brush cleansers designed with makeup in mind from just about every brand that also has brushes (and some that don’t!). You can also use a mild shampoo that’s designed for human hair as well. Either method works just as well–it depends on what you like.
Shampooing requires at least an eight hour window for drying (a little less for eye brushes, a little longer for denser, larger brushes); brush cleansers are often alcohol-based and can be used as a spot cleaner between applications or dry within minutes as opposed to hours.
If you use brush cleanser, read the instructions. I know, that sounds way too basic, and almost like a cop out, but brush cleansers vary in technique. Some brush cleansers require water, others don’t. For instance, Sephora’s Brush Shampoo works much like a shampoo and requires the same process, while on the other hand, shu uemura’s Brush Cleanser has you pour the brush cleanser into a small glass, swirl the brush in it, and then press the brushes against a towel to reshape. Often, an alcohol-based cleanser is a process that doesn’t need water and will also dry faster than cleansers that need water. Lay flat on a towel to dry. Always lay your brushes flat (or clothes-pin them so they hang with brushes pointed downward) to avoid water getting into the handle and ferrule (which can cause rust or deterioration of the brush).
If you use shampoo, begin by wetting the brush you want to clean with lukewarm water (never hot) and then dip in shampoo/cleanser. Brush the brush back and forth to absorb the shampoo and start to work up a lather/foam. With larger brushes (like for powder or blush), I also like to squirt a little shampoo into the center of the brush and really work up the lather. After you’ve worked the shampoo into the brush, gently run it under water and repeat the back and forth brushing motion until the water runs clean (and there are no signs of suds, either). Gently squeeze out any excess water and lay flat on a towel to dry. Always lay your brushes flat (or clothes-pin them so they hang with brushes pointed downward) to avoid water getting into the handle and ferrule (which can cause rust or deterioration of the brush).
If your brushes are incredibly dirty or stained, try using an oil-based product, either jojoba oil or a marketed “cleansing oil” (Bobbi Brown, MAC, and shu uemura all make one). Apply a little bit to the brush, swirl and work it in, and then add a bit of lukewarm water. Swirl some more, get a little lather going, and then rinse until the water runs clean.
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!)
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.
The six brushes you get are: blush brush, foundation brush, blending brush, small eyeshadow brush, smudge brush, and lash/brow groomer brush. The only brush I felt was kind of a throwaway was the lash/brow groomer – it’s just not a great brush, and it certainly couldn’t comb my lashes worth a darn, so I wasn’t pleased with it. The other five brushes, however, are much better and certainly more useful.
Sonia Kashuk is an extremely reliable, trustworthy brand, particularly for beauty tools. Whenever someone asks me about a budget-friendly brush brand, Sonia Kashuk is my go-to for a reommendation. These brushes are soft, fluffy, and useable. They’re not as good as my MAC brushes overall (I would say MAC brushes are softer, particularly for face brushes), but they’re around 75% there. Close, but not the same – but much more affordable.
In comparison, I would say the blush brush is similar to MAC’s 129 (a little bigger and not as rounded), the foundation brush is closest to MAC’s 190 (but a little smaller and thicker), and the other brushes don’t have as close matches. If pressed, I’d say the small eyeshadow brush is similar to MAC’s 239, while the blending brush is similar to MAC’s 222. Finally, Sonia Kashuk’s smudge brush is closest to MAC’s 231.
Even though the brushes are totally great for the price (and pretty good, period), my favorite part about the set is the CLUTCH. I usually hate the bags, clutches, etc. that come with brush sets and never use them again (they just sit around collecting dust, because I feel guilty tossing them), but this one is really fun and perfect for the holidays. It’s big enough to actually be used as a clutch and looks elegant and festive. I’d probably pay $19.99 just for the clutch!
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Ease of Use: 4/5
Recommendation: For affordable brushes, Sonia Kashuk always has you covered!
Once you’ve made the investment in brushes, take care of that investment by regularly washing and cleaning your brushes. Regular maintenance of your brushes will provide you with years of use, but it will also keep your makeup, brushes, and routine more sanitary. It is particularly important to regularly wash face brushes if you are acne-prone — it is best to do so after every use, especially with brushes that have been used in cream or liquids.