Brushes are all about bristles, so which is best? Natural or synthetic? It depends on what you want it to do.
Because of their permeable nature, natural bristles are best for picking up, evenly distributing, and blending powder products.
Because of their smooth shaft, synthetic bristles made from nylon and similar polymers are most suited to applying liquid and cream products. Unlike natural bristles, they gravitate inwardly to prevent streaking, and won't absorb more product than you need.
If you are vegan, there are synthetic brushes that apply powder almost as well as their natural counterparts, especially those made of taklon. The rest of us look forward to the day when they are equally as good—they are less expensive and more durable. Natural brushes shed and after several washes lose their shape, regardless of how much you pay for them.
Cheap natural brushes are never a good idea. They are invariably made from "cut-offs" rather than bristles with round ends, which leave minute scratches on the skin.
The Large Powder Brush
The large powder brush allows even application of over large areas. It can be used for loose and pressed powder, as well as powder blush if you only want to add a touch of diffused color to the apple of your cheeks.
Because it leaves a diaphanous finish, the powder brush is also ideal for dusting bronzer over the whole face for a subtle, sun-kissed glow, or to veil the cheeks with a translucent highlighting product after applying blush.
To apply powder properly, don't literally brush on. Instead, push the brush against the skin working from forehead to chin. This creates a perfect finish and won't disturb your foundation.
The Kabuki Brush
Like the large powder brush, this one also allows even application over large areas.
For powder foundation, you’ll get better coverage with a flat kabuki brush, which can be used to apply any powder product over a large area, including blush, bronzer and loose or pressed powder.
The rounded kabuki brush is more suitable for applying to the cheeks and temples, as well as for blending and buffing. For a warm glow, go over the temple, cheek, and jaw with bronzer in a figure "3".
No matter what you want to do, always apply from forehead to chin in swirling strokes.
Use an angled blush brush to create a defined effect, and a tapered one for a more subtle, blended look. Color intensity on how much pressure you apply and size—the smaller the brush, the more intense the color.
For contouring, you’ll get more sculpted look with a tapered brush.
When applying brush, sweep outwardly towards the ears and temples.
Using a brush rather than your finger to apply concealer enables you to better control how much you apply and makes working it into your foundation easier.
A rounded concealer brush can be used not only to cover spots and other irregularities, but to highlight areas like the eye and mouth corners, too. Use a liquid concealer for this a couple of shades lighter than your natural skin color. The brush’s flat shape is also ideal to blend over larger areas, e.g., the chin and the bridge of the nose. For best results, apply with one side of the brush and blend with the other.
The precision concealer brush, which is pointed rather than flat, is lends itself to covering small flaws.
Finding the right foundation for your complexion and the best way to apply it is a matter of experimentation.
Using your fingers will make liquid and cream foundation stay matte for longer. A dampened sponge will result in a super sheer finish. And a foundation brush will leave a sheer, perfectly blended, almost airbrushed finish.
There are two types of foundation brush—tapered and rounded. The latter is suitable for powder as well as liquid and cream foundations, so you could use it in place of the kabuki brush.
The trick is not to literally paint the foundation on, which would leave a streaky mess, but to apply in short, downward, criss-cross strokes working from forehead to chin. Use only one side to apply, then go over your face again with the clean side using the same criss-cross strokes to blend.
Foundation brushes are also suitable for applying liquid and cream highlighting products.
A lip brush needs to be firm in order that lipstick can be delivered evenly while using a fair amount of pressure. The tip may be rounded or pointed. The latter is useful for applying a matte lipstick as lip liner.
The advantages of applying lipstick with a brush are that it stays on longer and leaves a smooth, defined finish. It also makes it easier to stay within the contours of your lip liner.
For a softer, more casual look, you’re better off applying straight from the tube.
Eye Shadow Brushes
Whether you need eye shadow brushes depends on the effect you want to create. For a casual look, you can use your finger or an applicator, but if you'd prefer something more polished, you’ll have to invest in brushes.
Flat Tipped Brushes
Two eye shadow brushes you definitely can’t do without are a soft and a firm flat tipped brush. Use the soft brush to blend and to apply shadow to the upper lid and the area beneath the brow, and use the firm brush turned sideways for the lid crease and lower lash line.
Round Tipped Brushes
A firm, round tipped brush is ideal for feathering, while a soft round tipped brush is good for blending. You can’t do without these two if you want to create smoky eyes.
Pencil and Angled Brushes
To apply powder kohl or eye shadow as eyeliner, use a stiff pencil or angled brush, the latter of which is also perfect for applying eyebrow powder.
Use a soft pencil brush to apply eye shadow to the lid crease.
How to Clean and Care for Makeup Brushes
To clean makeup brushes, deposit a tiny drop of shampoo or brush cleaner in the palm of your hand and rotate the bristles in it for about fifteen seconds. Rinse under tepid water until it runs clear, squeeze out excess moisture, then carefully tease back into shape. Lie brushes to dry on a counter edge so the bristles are in mid-air.
To avoid damaging natural bristles, wash with baby shampoo or a special cosmetic brush cleaner—never use strong detergents.
Brushes take up to 48 hours to dry, so wash them only when you won’t be needing them the following day. If you feel you can’t go a day without a particular brush, buy a spare one.
Never use or store makeup brushes after washing until they are completely dry.
Between washes, gently wipe on a dry, cosmetic tissue after each use.
Store in a lying position in a roomy case to protect from dust.
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