What do you like about makeup brushes? What don't you like?

Tell us what you love and hate about...

Makeup Brushes

I still find I prefer natural-hair brushes over synthetic for most eye and cheek application as I find synthetic brushes seem to dig more into powders and create more powderiness/fallout than picking up color. I love makeup brushes, though, and they are my preferred tool for application for pretty much everything except cream/liquid blush/highlighter.

— Christine


Comments that do not adhere to our comment policy may be removed. Discussion and debate are highly encouraged but we expect community members to participate respectfully. Please keep discussion on-topic, and if you have general feedback, a product review request, an off-topic question, or need technical support, please contact us!

Please help us streamline the comments' section and be more efficient: double-check the post above for more basic information like pricing, availability, and so on to make sure your question wasn't answered already. Comments alerting us to typos or small errors in the post are appreciated (!) but will typically be removed after errors are fixed (unless a response is needed).

We appreciate enthusiasm for new releases but ask readers to please hold questions regarding if/when a review will be posted as we can't commit to or guarantee product reviews. We don't want to set expectations and then disappoint readers as even products that are swatched don't always end up being reviewed due to time constraints and changes in priorities! Thank you for understanding!

Comments on this post are closed.
Jen Avatar

I feel like I have better control of the product when I use a brush, however not all brushes are created equal and it can be a trial to find something that feels good in my hand and works the way I want it to. I use brushes for just about everything, except I still haven’t found my HG for foundation. I’ve tried a variety of styles and brands and they just make my pores look larger, and I definitely don’t need any help with that. Lately I’ve even been having luck using my fingers for foundation, which feels all kinds of wrong, but it’s working.

DVa Avatar

Love brushes. I have so, so many.
I just wish they were self-cleaning 😉
Personally, I don’t have any natural-hair brushes.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to have cruelty-free natural-hair brushes, unless you walk around behind an animal and pick up their hair, which I’m sure doesn’t happen.
If anyone knows differently, I’d be curious to be corrected, but I’d still use the synthetic version.

Isabel Avatar

Curious about that too, since we don’t need the hair follicle (or even the base of the hair shaft) at all, can we just trim the hair from the animal? Human hair wigs don’t require humans to be scalped…

Jo Avatar

I actually was looking this up recently. On the website Humanely Chic, the author, Camila, wrote to the Sonia Kashuk company to ask them if they were cruelty free, and this was the response, which the author was very happy to receive:

“Hi Camila,
Thank you for contacting us! No, all of our products are cruelty-free and we are completely against harming any animals in any way for the production of our products.
This stance on animal cruelty applies to our cosmetic products as well as our brushes. We also ensure our manufacturers and suppliers do not test on animals as we are extremely against it!
Our company is very passionate about this as I’m sure you are too and we will diligently keep our policies as such. However, our products are not vegan, since we do use animal by-products in our line. That being said, all animal by products used are still cruelty free. For instance, beeswax is used in our lipstick. This is an animal by-product making the lipstick non-vegan, but obtaining beeswax does not harm the bee. Another example is our natural hair brushes. The bristles are made of animal hair, which is an animal by-product, but the hair is obtained through a simple hair cut, just like cutting human hair, leaving the animal alive and unharmed.
You can go to our website, http://www.soniakashuk.com for full ingredient listings of all products to determine which products have non-vegan ingredients and of course, all synthetic brushes are vegan.
As I stated prior, we do NOT test on animals, we are extremely against this and we are very passionate about anti-animal cruelty so we always rigorously maintain these policies. You should also be happy to know we are not sold in China, currently just the US, as I’m sure you are aware of their requirement of animal testing. As for the origin of palm oil/carnuaba wax, I am not sure if we even use this in production of our product but I will look into this matter further. I hope this helps and if you have any further inquires please do not hesitate to ask.
{names are omitted], Inc.”

Jo Avatar

*However*, I then found this on the “Sterling Minerals” website. Sterling Minerals switched to all synthetic brushes, apparently, and said with new technology, they are making synthetic fibers that work for powder products. (Also, thought, I think if people are committed to buying cruelty free products, but already have non-synthetic brushes, they shouldn’t throw them away. I think that would be a waste, but deciding to not purchase any new ones, and only purchasing synthetic from now on, would be better).

“The Reality Behind Marketing “Cruelty Free” Makeup Brushes

There are many that sell mineral makeup brushes with the tag line, “cruelty free”, yet they are made from animal hair. We also bought into this theory until we did some serious research as to what cruelty free really meant for these animals (unwillingly) giving up their precious hair.

First cut hair was touted of the quality you would receive in a brush and the animals supposedly are not killed for their hair. Well maybe not, but once we learned how they spend their lives, animal hair was no longer an option for us. They are kept in cages or confined to tiny pens on animal farms, and they are not roaming free and then captured to get the first cut for the softest application, and then released once more. (In a perfect world maybe) This is not economical or practical in terms of the fur trade market. In fact many of the fur bearing animals are trapped and killed for their hair.

Spending an entire lifetime in a confined space is not our idea of cruelty free, just so they can lend us a bit of hair for a mineral makeup brush.

Examples of animal hair used still today in mineral makeup brushes: Pony, Squirrel, Red Sable, Kolinsky Sable (actually mink), Badger and Capra (goat). Many times a combination of two or more are used for a different texture.

An Inconvenient Truth About Fur Trade Markets

Once animals are aged out and the quality of hair declines, they are not released, but are euthanized, and as far as whether it is humanely done, well this depends on the farm. Also, “cruelty free” continues to be debatable especially with pony hair since we have seen some info that the hair actually comes from ponies and horses slaughtered for their meat, and goats are sheered like sheep, typically getting injured in the process. Either way, since this fur trade practice can be shrouded in mystery, and we cannot be sure of the confinement, and are not absolutely sure they are not indeed killed for their hair, we decided not to support using animal hair of any kind. And most animal hair for makeup brushes comes from Asia and some Eastern European countries, and they do not have the animal cruelty laws we possess here in the United States.

You can check out the Humane Society of the United States Website, if you are wanting the facts as to the real treatment of animals in regard to fur for fashion and makeup tools. Based on the horrific videos we have seen, leaving us sickened, the promise of cruelty free is not what is captured on tape. If at all possible, join us in supporting the Humane Society of the United States, so they can continue with their valued investigative research, providing in the future, a world where cruelty in the name of fur can be abolished.

WARNING: Not for the faint of heart if you should decide to watch. Images are quite graphic, including those of our beloved cats and dogs that are used to create faux fur or to deceive the public that it is a more expensive fur provided by other species typically found in the fur trade market. Simply appalling!”

DVa Avatar

Jo: What you’ve pasted above have also been my findings.
I can only assume, while in some cases, the animals are not killed for their hair/fur they are kept in captivity to provide/capture the hair/fur.
Therefore I personally do not feel comfortable purchasing any natural-hair brushes.

Jo Avatar

Yes, I totally understand! I won’t get rid of my Bareminerals brushes, but now that I’ve read more, I think I’ll stick to higher quality synthetic if I need anything new.

Genevieve Avatar

I think using makeup brushes is essential to achieve the kind of look you are going for. Back in the bad old days, everyone applied makeup with their fingertips and look how that went for applying blush (or rouge as it was called). Having an angled brush certainly makes the whole process easier and better.
Having different eye shadow brushes makes the application easier and you can easily add different shades for an effect.

Dislike: Getting the right makeup brush bundle – most have too many complexion brushes for me and it can be tricky working out the ones you really need.

Jo Avatar

I’m just getting into “real” makeup application, but I see makeup brushes just as I see my art brushes—you need the right tools for the right medium, and garbage brushes don’t paint a masterpiece. I’m thinking a lot about the synthetic vs. animal hair brushes and I am massively concerned for our environment, which supports all living things. And I think it’s important to see that buying quality items that last a long time, is better than purchasing brushes that end up thrown away and need to be replaced often. I can’t see that the production of cheap synthetic brushes is good for the environment, when we are in a crisis with global warming and plastic trash clogging up the ocean. I don’t know. It’s funny you asked this today, Christine, because I’ve literally been researching makeup brushes all day, so all of this was on my mind!

Ana Maria Avatar

Good points. And with so many companies starting recycling campaigns, would be nice to see something including brushes. For example, why can’t MAC accept brushes as well for Back-to-MAC? They could offer incentives, like an eyeshadow brush for X returned, as they offer free lipstick / eyeshadow for makeup packaging returns.

Brushes are somewhat sustainable. They last years if takes good care of, so they don’t generate constant waste. The materials are mostly recyclable (wood handle, metal ring) or biodegradable (natural hairs), but usually curbside recycling won’t take those small parts even if you disassemble the components in the different materials. Even plastic handles could be recycled in specialized facilities. Would be nice if big makeup brushes companies like Sigma or Real Techniques would partner with programs like Terracycle.

Jo Avatar

It’s all so crazy with plastic “recycling” pretty much being shown to not really have been happening very much. Only 9% of plastic people put into recycling bins was actually being recycled. And that’s the stuff people were honestly trying to recycle! I just was looking it up, (and I don’t know anything else about this company, and I’m sure there are others like it), and the company, “Shangyang” makes their makeup brush handles from the coolest stuff (see below). I wonder if they’ll figure out how to make makeup brush fibers out of bamboo or something!

“Shangyang Green Products?
1)Wheat Straw (PP)
2)Red Wood (PP)
3)Bamboo Fiber (PP)
4)Rice Bran (PP + Starch)
5)Coffee Ground (PP)
6)Tea Fiber (PP)
7)Wheat Straw (PLA)
8)Bamboo Fiber (PLA)
9)Coffee Ground (PLA)
10)PLA + Rice Bran
11)Hisun PLA213S
12)PLA Heat-resistant Hair
13)No.8 Degradable Hair
14)Completely Degradable Fiber
15)Biodegradable Fiber
16)Renewable PET Fiber

4、Description of 100% completely degradable handle: How is it degraded? What are its benefits?
1)Wheat Straw Handle (PLA): Mill waste wheat straw into powder, mix PLA extrusion granulation and form wheat straw handle by injection molding. This handle can be completely degraded in the environment.
2)Method of Degradation: The common degradation method in nature is microbial degradation. PLA is degraded by micro-organisms, such as Penicillin, Humus, Sickle Enzyme, Candida, etc. Wheat straw handle (PLA) is discarded in the environment for composting, through microbial degradation, the lipid bonds in PLA will be decomposed to produce lactic acid. Finally, the lactic acid is degraded to CO2 and H2O.
3)Benefits: Main materials of Wheat Straw Handle(PLA) are wheat, straws, and PLA. The PLA is polymerized with lactic acid as the main raw material. The source of the raw materials is sufficient and renewable, mainly using corn, cassava, etc. The production process of PLA is pollution-free and its finished product is biodegradable. So the PLA is an ideal green material.”

The use of plastic products has promoted the development of science, but the ensuing environmental problems have become increasingly serious. At present, most of the waste plastics are treated by incineration and landfill methods, but they have failed to solve the pollution problem. Since plastics are difficult to degrade naturally, the toxic gas generated after incineration causes the pollution to spread further. Another approach is to bury plastic products in the ground, which usually takes nearly 300 years to degrade completely. If plastic products are discarded in the ocean, they will threaten the lives of marine organisms. According to statistics, at least millions of marine animals die every year due to accidental ingestion of plastic. Therefore, it is imperative to replace ordinary plastics with degradable materials.”

Brenda Avatar

I love brushes – I painted through high school and early 20s and love the feel of brushes. I love how each different brush applies the same product in a new way. I also prefer natural fibres to synthetic. And I quite enjoy washing them!
I DISLIKE the cheap, scratchiness of,well, cheap brushes. They hurt! I hate the shedding. I find it extremely frustrating that it seems Canada has limited options for brushes – not available here, shipping from international companies is insanely expensive and/or exchange rates are as well.

Helene Avatar

I wish I could find synthetic brushes as good as my favourite real hair ones. I also wish the producers were more open as how they get the hair from the animals, and how the animals are living.
These days I can’t do makeup without brushes, I used to use the foam tipped thingies one got with the eye shadows, and the scratchy brushes that came with some blushes.
I love brushes that fit my and and the area of the face I use them for, I have a few I love. I don’t mind cleaning my brushes, I find it meditative.
I dislike scratchy brushes, I bought one from Charlotte Tilbury, a powder brush I think it was, it was painful to use and it wasn’t cheap.

Ana Maria Avatar

Having the right size of brushes for my hand and face features is indeed a plus. I used to hate cheek brushes, until I discovered that I like smaller brushes, with an angle cut. Also, I need shorter handles (but not mini brushes), for my it’s difficult to work with longer ones.

Ana Maria Avatar

Brushes are definitely my preferred tools when it comes to powders (for base cream / liquid products I just like using my fingers).
Loves and hates clearly depend on the quality of the brushes. I mean… there’s everything to love about a good quality brush that picks product enough, it’s as dense or soft as I need for that purpose.

And there’s everything to hate when you have poor quality brushes. When the hairs shed even after the n-th wash and you have to pick hairs from your face and makeup. When the handle cracks or the metal ring rusts. When they’re harsh and scratch the skin. When they can’t pick any product.

I personally somewhat enjoy washing my brushes (that’s why I do it weekly, along with my cleaning obsession), but I hate washing those dense foundation brushes which are such a pain to clean completely.

I also like that they are tools that last a long time, a good investment. I still have old brushes from 6-8 years ago, from my old MAC 270 (the new version simply doesn’t compare, I don’t know what I’ll do when it finally breaks) to the brush that came with Urban Decay Naked Smokey palette (I trashed the expired palette 4 years ago, but th brush is like new).

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! 🙂 If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!