Sunday, September 28, 2008

Makeup Brushes for the Middle Class - Part One

I cannot stress enough how important the right brushes are when you're applying makeup. Way back when, when relied on two random brushes and the sponge applicators that came in makeup packaging, I found it almost impossible to create the looks I wanted - even the standard three color (lid, crease, highlight) look pictured on Cover Girl packaging. I thought it was me, and found myself pretty frustrated at that!

However, now that I have the proper tools, I find that even pretty complex looks aren't quite so complex anymore. When you have the right brush for the right job, you find the brush does most of the work for you, and you can get that gorgeous blended look you see in pictures after only a few practice sessions. Not only that, but brushes are just so much more LUXE than those applicators, aren't they? The feel of a firm handle and silky bristles on your skin makes makeup application more fun, more sensual.

But, you say, what am I supposed to do when a drugstore brush feels like straw, and those MAC brushes can run $50 for a powder brush??? Should I suck it up, save, and get one brush every six months to a year until I have enough to do my face?


Do not even go near MAC for brushes. You are paying for the name, and that is not something that is worth your money. MAC wants you to think it is, but it is not. If you have the money and really want it, then go ahead, but I promise you you can get some great brushes that are just as good for a lot less. In fact, some great brushes are about $1.50. Don't believe me? Read on....


Crown is truly a gem. Their prices are amazing, and you get the same quality brushes you'd get from many other more expensive companies. In fact, it's possible that Crown is supplying those companies with wholesale brushes, and those companies are then putting their name on them and jacking up the price!
Crown has several lines of brushes, but in my opinion, the best are the Studio line and the Italian Badger line, followed by the Backstage line. The Studio line has the largest selection and has just about every brush a true artist would need. The Italian Badger line has fewer brushes in it, but the brushes are beautiful - mahogany colored handles and the lovely two-tone badger hair - in addition to highly functional. Prices in the Studio line range from, get this.. $1.20 for a mini smudger brush to $12.95 for the biggest, fluffiest powder brush (the one that MAC sells for $50). Prices in the Italian Badger line range from $1.49 for a brow/lash groomer to $15.95 for the biggest fluffy powder dome brush. Pretty amazing, huh?
Do not let the price fool you. These brushes are QUALITY. I got a set of Italian Badger brushes as a gift from my husband on my birthday, and they are incredible. I use most of them daily. I have touched MAC brushes in the store, and I would not trade my IB's for those brushes. They provide the same smooth application and the same control, and they take up product and hold it just as well. I also have a few brushes from the Studio line, and these are probably even more like MAC - they look like MAC, with the same black handles and silver ferrules (that metal part holding the bristles to the handle), they feel like MAC both in terms of softness and in the weight of the brush as you hold it, and most of all, they work like MAC.

Minimum order from Crown is $25 - but you will get enough brushes to do your entire face for that...and probably more.

This Florida company does a little bit of everything - they provide mineral makeup (nice stuff, by the way), micas and other colorants for making mineral makeup, bath products and scents, some outrageously popular makeup palettes that have a cult following on the Internet (and with good reason - I have two and they're awesome), and of course, incredibly good deals on makeup brushes. Many brushes are under $5, and they also often have brush sets that come in cases or brush rolls for easy storage and travel. They have a lovely looking synthetic hair brush set that I was considering buying as a backup set.... ;)

Makeup is an art, so why not use artist's brushes? Good paint brushes make wonderful makeup brushes... I'm serious! As one of my favorite examples, Loew-Cornell makes a series of brushes called "Maxine's Mops." These come in different sizes, from a 1/4" brush head to a 1" brush head, and they are made of white natural hair. The head is firm and flat, great for packing on shadows across the lid. In fact, it is becoming widely known that the 3/8" sized Maxine's Mop is identical to the famed, coveted MAC 239 brush. Okay, so the handle is purple and slimmer than the MAC, but the brush head is exactly the same size (which is what matters) and texture, and besides, the Mop is usually around $2.... and the 239 is $24.50. Art stores usually have a great selection of other paint brushes - just head in there and touch them all to see what will work for you. As a hint, these stores often have a large selection of Taklon brushes, which are great for applying cream shadows or for applying your mineral shadows wet (foiling), but use your imagination ... you might find the perfect brush for getting into those places your other brushes won't go!

Yep, I am including a drugstore on this list. That's because CVS sells a brand called "Essence of Beauty," and the brushes included in this collection are surprisingly...awesome. The smudger/crease brush has a cult following on the Internet. I don't have it yet, but I've touched one and it's a great brush. I do have a large powder brush, which I've had for, oh, I don't know, maybe 7 years... and it's still going strong. Soft, soft, soft... and no shedding, even when I wash it. They also have Boots brushes (a British brand sold in the US only at CVS), and Lumene brushes - although I don't know as much about the Lumene other than they look nice and are priced decently. These are definitely options to check out, especially since they are super easy to obtain - just head into your local CVS and grab one.

So, there you go... three options you can try for getting a great brush arsenal without spending your entire paycheck on them. But... now that you've got these brushes, you're going to want to keep them for a long time... so part two of Makeup Brushes for the Middle Class is going to be about caring for your brushes without spending a fortune on fancy schmancy brush cleaners and shampoos. Stay tuned!!!!

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