Beauty

By Erin Williams

When you hear the words “raccoon”, “squirrel”, and “goat” you may not associate them with beautiful women. Especially goat. But all have been on the faces of every celeb you know and love at one time or another, along with a whole gaggle of other livestock and forest furries. Makeup brushes are a funny topic for people. Think of yours – (and if you’re a q-tips and fingers type girl, it is my mission in life to convert you) do you lovingly maintain them? Or did you run one over with your car and still use it on a daily basis? The woman in my family who did that will remain nameless.

I have to admit that it’s a little crazy to me to watch people drop $15-50 for an eyeshadow and baulk at the idea of spending something closer to $20 on a brush to put it on with. Ladies! Which one will last longer? If you treat your brushes even moderately well, and try not to run them over, they should last a minimum of ten years.

Navigating through the legions of brushes, however, can be daunting. What do you need, how much should you spend, whose brushes will fit you best, etc, are all valid questions. In my opinion, assuming you wear makeup, most women should have a Powder, Blush, Eye Shadow, Eye Liner, and Lip Brush (though even lip brushes aren’t totally necessary to me). I would start there and then see what you wish you had after you’ve done your makeup for about a week or two. If you prefer using brushes that don’t employ animal hairs, Sephora has an in house line that’s really great and reasonably priced.

Something most people don’t think about is the ferrule which is the metal piece that binds the hair to the handle of the brush. Maret Asaro from Alcone Beauty let us know that “if a ferrule is inadequate, the bristles of the brush will fall out during application and end up on your face. It doesn’t matter how nice the hair of a brush is if the ferrule can’t keep the hair on the brush.” Her two faves for hair pics are squirrel because “it is so soft and clients just love the touch of it on their skin”and sable because “nothing has more longevity than sable hair.”

Sets tend to take out the guesswork and there are all kinds of price levels. For the Rolls Royce of brush sets go to Kevyn Aucoin – makeup junkies literally sigh every time his brushes come up in conversation and for good reason. Stand outs include the Large Blush/Powder Brush, the softest thing you’ll ever feel, that’s made up of Bai Jian Feng Hair which is from the chin of a goat and is more rare than cashmere, the Small Contour Brush made of the hair of sweet goats – no mean ones apparently – that allows for easy shaping of cheekbones and noses, and the Small Eyeshadow Brush of blue squirrel hair that lets you get really defined in the eye area. They all have pretty burgundy handles and the set includes 12 brushes in a brush roll for $350. They are also available individually or in a mini travel set of 6 brushes. http://www.kevynaucoin.com.

A true bang for your buck set lies on the shelves of the famous makeup store in NYC, Alcone. For the bargain price of $33.50 you get 5 brushes, a little bag to keep them in, 2 oz. of brush cleaner, and instructions on how to work with the brushes. Included in the Alcone Brush Kit are the Angle Liner for eyebrows and eyeliner, Chisel Deluxe Fluff for the eyelid and browbone, Special Double Angle for the eye crease, Chisel Sable Lip for your pucker, and the Mini Rouge for blush and contouring. Wooden silver handles complete the look and they’re great brushes! www.alconebeauty.com..

If you need a set to throw in your overnight or gym bag my new favorite is Lola’s La Petite Brush Set. It’s about 3×2 inches and has a Powder, Concealer, Full Eye Powder, Eye Shadow, Defining Brow, Pointed Lip, and Flat Lip Brush all in a little red purse. I know! There’s a little handle “attachment” that everything can screw into so you actually have a decent sized brush without carrying around sizable brushes. And the quality is quite good which is a nice surprise for such a little set. http://www.sephora.com

But if you’re a mix and match type person, like me, here’s a list of brushes that you will be excited to say hello to each morning:

For the face –

Shu Uemura is renowned for their brushes and the Natural Brush 18R Black is perfect for powder. The goat hair is great for giving a dusting of translucent powder to set your foundation. www.shuuemura-usa.com. If you’re a mineral foundation girl, or you just like the Kabuki brush style, Benefit’s Bluff Puff is the ideal size and the goat hairs are compact enough to not let your powder fly all over the place. http://www.benefitcosmetics.com. For foundation I really like Pout’s synthetic Foundation Brush as it has a great balance of size and the amount of hairs they use so you get a smooth line for foundation or cream blushes. http://www.sephora.com. La Bella Donna has a wonderful Concealor Brush that is synthetic as well. http://www.labelladonna.com. It’s helpful to use synthetic brushes when you’re working with creams or liquids as they don’t absorb them like natural fibers would.

For the cheeks –


The black squirrel that Chantecaille uses in their gently tapered Cheek Brush is sooo soft and makes popping the apples of your cheeks a snap. http://www.bergdorfgoodman.com.

For contouring I love Becca’s Soft Contour Brush, this time using blue squirrel, that once again, feels amazing on your skin. http://www.beccacosmetics.com. The angle gives a nice cut to the cheek and lets you get those really defined cheekbones without sucking them in. Bronzer wise, everyone has knocked off the Bronzer Brush from Nars. With its wide head gives a sunkissed glow on the cheeks and can be spotted up on the temples, nose, and chin. http://www.narscosmetics.com. For a multipurpose blush/powder/shimmer brush, Make Up Forever’s Fan Brush is fabulous – the goat hair sweeps across the cheek to give a really even coverage. http://www.makeupforever.com.

For the brows –

Eyebrow guru Anastasia Soare has created her own line and says that, for an eyebrow brush, “the ideal brow brush is sable material, angled, and with a thin, sharp edge for precision filling.” Her Duo Angle/Spooley #10A Brush allows you to shape the brow and then brush the hair into place all in one. http://www.sephora.com.

For the eyes –

You’ve seen the work of makeup artist Mally Roncal on everyone from Beyonce to Jennifer Lopez, and you know that their eyeshadow looks good, so for a great shadow brush check out her Round Eyeshadow Brush, available in her Paint the Town Eye Brush Kit. Housed in a pink Faux Suede Pouch, the brushes have brushed pink metal handles and look as pretty as you will. http://www.qvc.com. Another makeup artist who has worked on famous faces is Sonia Kashuk and her new line of brushes, Kashuk Tools is amazing! They are all black with a sleek, ergonomic design and the Large Eye Shadow Brush is perfect for layering colors. http://www.target.com. Jeanine Lobell’s Precision Crease #7 Brush from Stila is compact and will give a great contour to create the ultimate smoky eye. http://www.stilacosmetics.com.

And rounding out the makeup artist divas is Bobbi Brown’s Eye Blender Brush. Made of pony, it blends shadows, gives a nice wash of color, or can even set concealor with loose/pressed powder. http://www.bobbibrowncosmetics.com.

Eye lining brushes are VERY personal – people have really strong feelings about what works for them so these are a few different shapes that you should play with to see what fits your personality best. Angled is easiest for me and I love Trish McEvoy’s Angled Precision Eyeliner #50. It is really tight and doesn’t fray which I’ve found is a problem with a lot of angled liners. http://www.nordstrom.com. http://www.trishmcevoy.com.

I also enjoy working with really skinny brushes for cream liners and Smashbox’s Eyeliner Brush #8 is easy to use. It gives a thin line that you can do in one swoop. http://www.smashbox.com. For a little more smoky/blended look Sue Devitt’s red sable Lashline Definer intensifies the eye and creates a more dramatic finish. http://www.suedevitt.com. Then there’s the flat top crowd. This one is easy because you just pick up the brush, push it in, move over, and repeat. Laura Mercier’s synthetic Flat Liner is great because the hairs are packed very tightly and won’t fray. Fraying makes for a really uneven line and we don’t need any help messing that up. www.lauramercier.com.

For the lips –

I love, love, love Paul and Joe’s brushes because they are just the prettiest things and they’re so portable as they all close in on themselves. Their Lip Brush is a fancy item to pull out of your purse and won’t get things all sticky once you’re finished. http://www.sephora.com.

So, put down the q-tips, throw out brushes that look like they’ve been subbing for teething rings, and go and get something nice for yourself. You don’t have to spend a fortune and you can start with one or two pieces. It will give those squirrels trying to catapult onto your bird feeder a whole new look.

Originally published February 2006
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