Saturday, August 4, 2012

Best Synthetic Makeup Brushes - Part 1

I am extremely excited about writing this post. As you may have read in my previous posts, I do not use real animal hair brushes. All of my brushes are synthetic. However, I have not in any way sacrificed quality.  When I was looking for quality synthetic makeup brushes, I really had a hard time finding information online. I've learned what works, and what doesn't through trial and error. I have an extensive synthetic brush collection, and have decided to share the information that I so wish was available to me when I first started my quest. I hope this comprehensive guide answers all of your questions, but if it doesn't, please leave a comment in the box below with any questions. You'll notice, I don't show many foundation brushes here because nearly all are synthetic, and I prefer using a sponge for foundation on clients.

Why use synthetics?
  • It's the only way I can be sure that no animal suffered in the creation of the brush
  • They are easier to clean
  • They repel bacteria better than animal hair. 
  • Many people have allergies to animal hair brushes.  
  • Synthetic brushes work with both cream and powder products.

Quality synthetic brushes are available at ALL price points. I will show you the best of the best (pro level), Mid level (makeup artists just starting out, or someone who wants to invest in good quality brushes), and the perfect inexpensive ones for someone just starting out.

I will also show you my personal favorites regardless of price point.

First up, is Professional Level / Luxury: Hourlgass, Illamasqua, Christopher Drummond, Sephora Brand.

Others to note:
Branded J, OCC, and Cozzette also make very high end synthetic brushes that are supposed to be amazing quality, but I have not tried them other than the OCC lip brush, so I can't comment on their quality. In my personal opinion, the brushes listed below are superior quality.

From left to right: Hourglass Powder Brush No. 1, Illamasqua Blusher Brush 2, Christopher Drummond Air Blender Brush (this brush is awesome for applying blush or highlighter), Sigma Precision Flat -P80, Sephora Brand Pro Airbrush #55, Sephora Brand Pro Angled Blush Brush #49, Crease Brush from Sephora Brand Advanced Airbrush Set, Concealer Brush from the Sephora Collection Deluxe Antibacterial Brush set

Mid Level Price Point (Makeup Artists, or for a makeup lover who wants really good quality brushes):  BDellium (I only buy their synthetics or Green Bambu series which is a totally vegan and environmentally friendly line), Urban Decay, Tokidoki. In no way am I saying these are of poor quality by calling them mid level. These brushes are excellent quality. However the price point is much more affordable when compared against the Hourglass brushes above. The quality of these brushes are great, but they are not a luxury line and it's really like comparing apples and oranges to compare one of these against an Hourglass brush (for example). However, these are superior among their price point. For comparison; the Illamasqua Blusher Brush 2 above retails for $41.50, and the Hourglass Powder Brush retails for $65 while the Urban Decay Good Karma Blush Brush below retails for $32, the Good Karma Powder Brush (not pictured) is $36.  The handles are also much shorter on the Urban Decay & BDellium brushes when compared to the pro brushes above. There is nothing wrong with this, it is simply a matter of personal preference. Some makeup artists prefer a shorter handle and use it as an extension of their own fingers/hands, while some prefer a longer handle.

From left to right: Urban Decay Blush Brush, Tokidoki 24K Brush (discontinued), BDellium Tools Eco-Friendly #957 Precision Kabuki 

Personal Use (For Beginers / Budget Friendly): This price point probably is the most difficult, because there are so many poor brushes out there.  Just because you don't have a lot of money, doesn't mean you can't still have a quality makeup brush. These brushes come highly recommended by me, and if I were someone just starting out with makeup, these are the brushes I would (and did) buy.  I wasted a lot of money buying garbage brushes before I found ones that are worth the money.  I am trying to save you the trouble, by offering you my honest review. I still use these brushes when I am doing my own makeup, or want some extra precision brushes to throw in my bag.

From Left to Right: E.L.F. Blush Brush (Stuido Collection), E.L.F. Powder Brush (Studio Collection), E.L.F. Large Powder Brush from their Mineral Collection, Real Techniques Powder Brush, Real Techniques Blush Brush, Real Techniques Stippling Brush, ECO Tools Flat Top Kabuki, Eco Tools Eye Shader Brush

Of these brushes, Real Techniques are hands down the best quality brush in this category. They are extremely affordable, and EXCELLENT quality.  These were created by makeup artists Samantha Chapman. I am extremely impressed with the quality of her brushes.  If you invest in one set, this should be it.  However, I realize that due to price constraints, different interest levels in makeup, availability etc, you may want a different brand.  E.L.F. brushes are very good, and very affordable as they frequently have sales. The one thing I will say about the E.L.F. brushes, is that I have had several come loose at the Ferrel, some with the bristles falling off completely. However, I was able to just glue those back in to place. These brushes do have a place in a makeup artists kit as well. I do buy the concealer brushes from the Essential Collection and treat them as disposables, using them until they break because they only cost $1 each.  The Powder Brush from their E.L.F. Studio Collection is a cult favorite and for only $3 it functions very much the same as the BDellium brush I have listed above in the mid level section. The difference between the 2 brushes is going to be mainly seen in how long the brush lasts. For example, my E.L.F. one did come apart (though was fixable), while the BDellium is showing no signs of breaking anytime soon.  ECO Tools is in many ways the brand that first raised awareness about quality synthetics. This is the brand that is most available (carried at Walmart), and the one most buy as their first brush set. Some brushes, most notably the Alicia Silverstone collection are quite good, and will work very well for beginners. 

How do the various price points hold up against one another? I tried to show you comparison across brush type. If you'd like to see a more in depth comparison let me know.

 Angled Blush Brushes left to right: Sigma Angled Kabuki -F84 (Pro), Sephora Brand Pro Angled Blush Brush (Pro), Illamasqua Blusher Brush 2 (Pro), E.L.F. Angled Blush Brush (Beginner), Urban Decay Blush Brush (Mid)
Note how much fuller the bristles are on the Illamasqua brush compared to the E.L.F. one.
 Above you can see E.L.F on the left, compared to Illamasqua on the right (beginner vs pro)
 E.L.F. on left, Illamasqua on right - a closer look

You can really see that the Illamasqua brush head is much fuller when compared to the E.L.F. (above).
 Flat Top Kabukis: Sigma (pro), BDellium (mid), Eco Tools (beginner), E.L.F. (beginner), The last 2 are Real Techniques Buffing Brush & Stippling Brush (beginner)

 Blush/Powder/Foundation: Sephora (pro), Tokidoki (Mid), Aveda (Mid), Real Techniques (Beginner), E.L.F. (Beginner)- please note that since these brushes are synthetic they can be used for both powder and cream products.  They can all be used to apply foundation, blush, or dust off powder.

This is part one of my very long brush review. I honestly hope you find it helpful. I'll post part 2 shortly where I will show you the top 5 brushes you need,  and the best and worst synthetic eye blending brushes (VERY HARD TO FIND!).


  1. Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for reading. My brush collection has grown quite a bit since this post, so I plan to do an updated post this summer.

  2. You should check out the body shop brushes

    1. Thanks for reading. I have tried them in the past. I have a mini kit that is very old, but I think they still make it. I also have their eyeshadow blending brush, which I've had for years. I do think they are good quality personal use brushes. I noticed they have a new Kabuki brush they've added to their line as well. Have you tried it?

  3. wow post is awesome ......can suggest me how can i buy it ??

  4. hi Angela. which brushes are you interested in buying? do you live in the USA?

  5. LOVE this...very helpful. i learned a lot....thank you!

  6. very informative, helpful....thank you!

  7. Can you tell me what are your top brushes

  8. Hi,

    I live in the UK and have never heard of the majority of the brushes mentioned above. Are there good one's available that you can purchase from the UK?


  9. my favorite brushes change all the time as I try new brands. if I could only use one brand for the rest of my life it would be Kelley Quan. but you should also read my collab post where I chose my top 5 brushes. Real Techniques and Illamasqua are sold in the UK. Zoeva is a brand I hear a lot about. and Furless is an Australian company that I highly recommend.

  10. Girl… Zoeva brushes are the best! They are way better than Mac's quality and they have a lot of the same brushes. I bought every brush they make and can tell you they are amazing! Now, about OCC and Cozzette… have you still not tried them? Cozzette make some of the best brushes I own… I hope you try them out. OCC's brushes are they same quality synthetic hairs so I am assuming they are just as good. Thank you for this post!

  11. hello and thanks for reading! this is an older post, I do have all of the Cozzette brushes now and most of the OCC ones. I still haven't tried Zoeva yet though, but have heard great things. My favorite brushes professionally are Kelley Quan, Bdellium Tools Pink Bambu line and the Royal and Langnickle Revolution line. Personally I use mostly my IT Cosmetics brushes. I just got a new set from Antonym that I haven't tested yet and I'm currently testing the new Sigma Advanced Artistry set. if you expand the grouping that says Synthetic Brush guide you can see my review of OCC and I mention some of the Cozzettw brushes in my pointed crease brush post. Which Zoeva brushes are your favorites? I hear the stippling brush is a must-have.

  12. Hi Liza! I learned about the Kelley Quan from you since I read this post and OMG - I'm obsessed! I have a bunch of the Bdellium in the green bambu and one pink one. Have you seen the LE one on amazon's site with the purple hairs? I have that one too - it's so pretty:) IT brushes are some of the next one's on my list. I'm really wanting to try the powder ones as foundation brushes. At the moment I'm obsessed with foundation brushes - although I have quite a few… a girl can never have enough though right? That's SO funny you mentioned Antonym. I literally just discovered them today! I want the kabuki one. I have a Tarte with a similar wooden base that is also synthetic (discontinued I think) and it is just amazing and comes in an adorable faux leather pouch with silver findings. I def want to try the new Sigma line you mentioned too. I have one Royal brush from the Revolution line, the crease brush, and the bristles are the by far the scratchiest most painful I've ever tried, are any of yours like that? I love all my other royal brushes SO much though. I will definitely check out your review but now that you mention that I think I've read it before maybe about 6 months ago or so. Now, the Zoeva brushes. The stippling set is really amazing because it has brushes in it that I've never really seen exact ones of. I adore the one that is shaped like the 217 and 239 (both much softer than my Mac ones), the Luxe powder brush is amazing, the silk finish brush is one of my fav foundation brushes I own, the face shape is a great little guy for cream contouring, the concealer buffer is great, the eye blender 225 is a beautiful brush - extremely soft squirrel hairs, all the vegan brushes are just phenomenal… I'm trying to narrow it down for you, I really am, but I just can't! There was only 1 brush I didn't like, the 111 flawless cover, the bristles are just cut in a way that is not gradual so it's not very pleasant to use. But aside from that one out of about 20 I ordered, they beyond exceeded my expectations. Very well made, never have had one brush shed and each brush, each and every single brush, came in this cute like rubberized zip pouch, I mean they just go above and beyond. The thing is shipping cost more than like 5 brushes, that's why I ordered them all at once like I did. I do hope you try them out. I love brushes, as you can probably tell…. So I'm here to chat about them anytime! I think I've said "brushes" way too many times:)

  13. I was looking for articles on top cosmetics brands in India and I came across yours inspiring read. Thanks!

  14. Very helpful review. I am looking for additional synthetic brushes and was not sure which brands to look at for good quality ones. I have almost all Urban Decay ones and love them. I have one I bought about 20 years ago and I can't believe it still looks like new (talk about a good investment :) I have a couple of RT ones and they are good but they feel quite cheap so I am not keen on buying any more of those. And I cannot bring myself to buy the hideous Bdellium Tools ones; to me they look so cheap with the colored brisles and handles. I will definitely look into the IT brushes and the Zoeva ones.


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