Monday, 6 January 2014

An Amateur's Guide to Makeup Brushes

Yesterday I shared some makeup terminology that had me puzzled when I first started reading up on makeup. A second, equally perplexing area of makeup knowledge is makeup brushes.

(image courtesy of Style'n Naina)

How in the hell are there a bazillion different makeup brushes? Can't you just get, like, an eyeshadow brush and a foundation brush and call it good? Use the foam sponge they include in those $3 eyeshadow kits at Target? Apparently not.

Many very talented makeup artists and beauty bloggers have addressed how to make sense of makeup brushes, so here are some great explanations:
  • A succinct explanation of eye makeup brushes and product recommendations can be found here.  
  • A great guide to face brushes can be found here--this guide also notes that, "Natural bristles hold and distribute pigment evenly. Opt for natural bristle brushes when applying anything powdered. Liquids will soak into natural bristles and cause them to clog or degrade. So reach for synthetic bristles when applying foundation or any cream formulas." Thank you Lauren Conrad!
  • A post by Blushing Basics with great explanations of her favorite brushes, what they do, and why she likes them.
  • This post by MaskCara outlines a makeup artist's guide to a basic brush set. Her whole blog is fantastic and very understandable and she's so sweet!
  • This post by Drugstore Princess has visual aids, descriptions of brushes, and various uses. So helpful!
(Image courtesy of Drugstore Princess)

Were you ever in a college class, like chemistry, where the professor's explanation of something complex was essentially nonsensical, but when a peer explained it to you it made perfect sense? That's the theory I'm going on for the rest of this post--that it's sometimes easier to learn about makeup brushes from someone who is, herself, learning about brushes (rather than an expert who is too familiar with the tools to break it down simply enough).

(image courtesy of 15 Minute Beauty)

In my own words, as far as I can tell, here's what various brushes are designed to do:

  • Angled liner brush: a stiff brush with bristles cut on an angle, this brush helps apply gel/cream/powder eyeliners and brow color.
  • Bent liner brush: this brush helps to apply liner directly into the lash line--it's bent for more precise application.
  • Blender brush: helps to blend multiple eyeshadow colors together so there aren't clear lines where one color was applied versus another.
  • Crease brush: bigger than a pencil brush, and designed to get color into your eyelid's crease.
  • Lash brow comb: a two-sided brush, this typically has stiff bristles on one side to brush your brows into place, then a metal or plastic comb on the other side, which can be used to separate eyelashes post-mascara
  • Pencil brush: this brush helps apply color in a specific spot, like your crease or the inner corner of your eye. The bristles are round and tapered into a point.
  • Shadow, or fluff, brush: This is a pretty basic brush used to apply eyeshadow across the lid. Also comes in an angled version to help create an 'outer V'
  • Smudge brush: this looks similar to a shadow/fluff brush but with much shorter bristles. Seems like it's stiffer than a shadow brush and designed to help smudge eyeliner for a smokey eye look or to smoosh a color into your crease area.
  • Spoolie brush: this is essentially the bristles at the end of a mascara wand, only as a separate brush. Used for applying mascara or brushing your eyebrows into place.
  • Straight/flat liner brush: the bristles of this brush are stiff like the angled liner brush but cut straight across rather than on an angle. It's also designed to apply eyeliner or eyebrow powder/cream
A beauty newbie like myself is unlikely to need all of these brushes. I'm thinking I could create most of the looks I have in mind using an angled liner brush, fluff brush, pencil brush, and smudge brush.

(image courtesy of MaskCara)
  • Beauty blender: this isn't actually a brush, but it's used to apply makeup. It's a sponge with pointed and round edges, and you wet it to apply makeup to blend away lines
  • Blush brush: used to apply blush and bronzer. Basically a compact version of a powder brush.
  • Bronzer blush: used to apply bronzer. Fluffy and round, like a blush brush. I honestly don't know the difference between the two?
  • Concealer brush: small flat brush with dense bristles cut into a curve to apply concealer
  • Contour brush: seems like this is a subtype of a powder brush; instead of a round, full brush head this has a tapered edge to help apply contour makeup to the cheek bones, hairline, jawline and temples to create shadows and 'contours' in your face
  • Foundation brush: used to apply liquid/cream foundations to the face, this brush will give fuller coverage than using a stipple or powder brush. Usually flat with a square or rounded, tapered shape to the bristles.
  • Powder brush: used to apply any face powders, but typically powder foundation
  • Stippling/kabuki brush: a flat-topped round brush used to stipple liquid/cream foundations, blushes, and bronzers onto your face/cheeks. There may be a difference between stippling brushes and kabuki brushes but I can't tell. Stipple brushes will give lighter coverage than applying with a foundation brush or powder brush.
Again, I'm unlikely to need all of these brushes, particularly since I rarely use foundation. I'm thinking it would be good for me to start out with a contour brush, concealer brush, and maybe a beauty blender?

So now that I somewhat know what these brushes do, I ordered this set of brushes (at the recommendation of a new favorite blogger Oxana on the Silk Naturals forum) and am excited to start playing with them!

Did you find this post helpful? Any major errors in my interpretation of this crazy brush world?

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