Posts Tagged ‘makeup brushes’

No Shame In Your Game

You know how it is:  you see a picture of something on Facebook, then your mind wanders to something related in your own life, then perhaps you reflect on the past.  A post about makeup brushes today had me thinking about the first one I bought, which in turn had me thinking about you.  Yes, you.

Over many, many years I’ve had many, many clients say things like, “Oh, I don’t know how to do it like you do,” or, “Brushes confuse me,” or, “I’m embarrassed I’ve reached this age knowing nothing about makeup.”

(I would like to break away for a moment to address that–even though makeup is my business–knowing about makeup is not a life-requirement for anyone.  We could all live a whole life never knowing how to put on eye shadow and life would still happen joyously.  Makeup is fun and can be functional, but it is by no means necessary.  I definitely do not think anyone should feel shame for not being versed in it…at any age.  I’m specifically talking to the people who are interested in makeup and who want to learn about it.)

I cannot draw.  I cannot paint.  I have tremendous difficulty summoning a unique picture from scratch.  Where my specific Visual Arts talent lies is in being able to look at someone’s face and determine the best way to bring forth their features.  This is why I’m a beauty artist and why, though I have mad respect for it, I do not work in latex and F/X.   That is what gives me my ability to do makeup as a job, but my clients don’t even need that specific talent to be able to do their own faces.

Also, though I’ve always been drawn to the beauty industry as a consumer, large swaths of it puzzled me.  That first makeup brush I mentioned?  I bought it in the earliest of the 90s, back in those pre-internet days when Anita Roddick still owned The Body Shop and the only way my small-town Illinois self could acquire any was mail order.  I bought a brush from the Barbara Daly Colourings line.  I felt like such a big deal when it arrived, yet I had no idea what to do with it.  It didn’t seem to work with my shadows, and I was young enough to not be bothering with concealer at the time, so I sort of collected it.  It sat in my Caboodle looking all grown up, getting dirty from other makeup that would shed onto it–but never from actual use.  Makeup obsessed as I was, I was still using sponge-tipped applicators and my own fingers to put on my eyes, just like many of my clients do today.

I taught myself liquid liner by using a regular pencil as a guideline until I got the knack, but the cool, blended eye shadow looks eluded me.  It was not until I got a job in retail makeup that I started figuring out how to properly use brushes, what brush did what, and the difference they made.  I also did not figure out until then that my beloved Colourings brush was not useless–it was only useless with my thinly pigmented drugstore shadows at the time.  Who knew?  Not me, not until I was shown.

I was self-taught on a lot of different makeup techniques, but everything went a lot faster (and looked a lot better) when I allowed other people to explain things to me.  After that, it was a lot of practice.  I did not pick up that very first palette (Merle Norman, btw; it belonged to my friend Angie) and go to town expertly because I had some latent inner artist.  I had to practice techniques.  Even now, sometimes I’ll go to try something on myself and say, “Oh…no, no, no, not doing that today.”

If you want to learn how to put makeup on yourself, you can do it.  You may need to be taught and–sorry–you may have to practice a bit, but you’ve got it in you.  Brushes confound you?  They did me, too.  Techniques elude you?  They did me, too. I do not care if you are 18 or if you are 80.  If I can go from being flummoxed by my first brush to being a professional makeup artist, I promise you that I (or someone like me) can teach you how to do your own face.

Brush Math & E.L.F. Review (kind of)

I’ve seen an uptick lately in people espousing the wonders of E.L.F. brushes because the price point is so low.  Ditto for a lot of mid to low range brush kits commonly found in the fall and close to holiday.  I have pretty strong thoughts about the E.L.F. brushes in particular because I’ve had terrible luck with them, but this fable could be told about other inexpensive brushes as well.  There was a time, when I first bought some of the E.L.F. brushes, that I recommended them.  They were soft and cut well–I thought I’d found a drugstore gem!  I love finding those.  I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the YouTubers, bloggers, etc. raving about them might not have had to wash them much yet.  Every last E.L.F. brush I’ve bought (more than 20 of them) has died an early death, thus changing my tune about them drastically.

A common comment I hear when I’m at counters or with clients is,  “Oh brushes are so expensive.  I’m sure I can find something at Target or Walgreens that is just as good.”  I would love to tell them yes, but more often it is a matter of math.  Since I’m indicting E.L.F. in particular, let’s look at those.

A decent E.L.F. brush from their Studio line–not the basic $1 ones, which are uncomfortably bristly on your face and packed unevenly–will run you $3 a brush.  Not a bad deal, right?  Their Studio line brushes have nice cuts, decent fibers, and are generally a seemingly nice deal…except I’ve never had one of these last more than 6 washes without getting wibbly.  My favorite cut (I bought two because I loved it so much) both completely separated from their handles after the first two washings. 

I’ve got other more expensive brushes that are on 100+ washings, and that isn’t counting the dozens of times I’ve cleaned them with a daily brush cleaner.  If we are really real about it, many of them are over 200+ washings.  Also consider the makeup counter brushes, washed almost every day.  When I worked full time at a counter, we had brushes that were four and five years old–well up over 1,000 washes–that were still in great shape.  Were those cheap brushes, they would have been replaced many, many times over.

Let’s go with that lower number, though. 

Take a cheap brush that dies inside six washings.  That’s a $3 replacement each time it falls apart or becomes too wobbly to function correctly.  Let’s divide that six washings into the one hundred washings the more expensive brush can handle.  That more expensive brush is going to last roughly 16.67 times longer.  16.67 x $3 = $50.  $50 is how much you are going to spend replacing that $3 brush over the minimum life span of the more expensive brush.  That’s not even taking into count the fiber, cut, selection, etc. that typically comes with buying nicer brushes. 

This means there are well-cut, soft, get-the-job-done brushes that will help your makeup application look its best  that you could very feasibly buy once and only once, never needing to replace it again unless it is lost or stolen. 

Not everyone has a budget to run right out to the department store and plunk down on a full set, though.  Or, possibly, someone is trying brushes for the first time, not sure if it is something they want to truly get into.  Some good quality value-priced brushes that have longer life spans are Real Techniques and Eco Tools.  I’ve still had these give out on me before their spendier counterparts, but they are nowhere near as disposable as the E.L.F. brushes.  However, it should be noted there are definite gaps in both lines when it comes to both cut and fiber–the selection isn’t as broad as one gets with an artistry line of tools.  For example, I dislike Real Techniques eye brushes for crease work, but I love their face brushes. 

Quality doesn’t have to mean you are buying your brushes from the most expensive brand in Nordstrom, either.  Lines such as BDellium and Sigma are still bigger investments than brushes one would buy at Target or Walgreens, but they keep up very well with their department store brothers.  Most of the newer brushes I’m buying (particularly for work) are from these brands because they are workhorses.   I’ve been using these like mad this year and I will say they are holding up every bit as good (and some better) than comparable brushes in lines like MAC and Bobbi Brown.  I particularly recommend these lines for aspiring makeup artists who are stocking their brush belts. 

Moral of the story/TLDR:  Unless you are a rare makeup wearer (we’re talking less than six times a year), it pays to actually invest a bit in your brushes.