Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Makeup Brush Collection: Review & Demo Plus Bonus Cleaning Tips

Warning: This post is huge and picture-heavy.
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you will have seen photos of my brushes at Iowa City landmarks.  This wasn't a random happenstance- its part of the #RealTechniquesOnTour project requested by the creator of Real Techniques, Sam Chapman, in her last video.  She wants everyone to take photos of their Real Techniques brushes at famous local landmarks and send them to her so she can make a giant collage of them to hang in their teaching studio!  I've loved things like this ever since seeing Amelie, plus it was gorgeous weather that day so I gathered up my brushes and took a little tour of my city.

Anyway, that project reminded me of this blog post idea I had sitting in a folder on my computer- an overview of My Makeup Brush Collection, how I care for them, and how I use them.


As you've figured out, most of my brushes are Real Techniques.  While I will gladly sing you praises of their design and quality, the one gripe I have about them is that the ones that come in sets are not also sold separately.  So for example if you want the Deluxe Crease Brush, you have to buy the Starter Set to get it.  Because her price point was cheap enough I bit the bullet and bought 3 of the 4 sets to get the few brushes I wanted from them.  The brushes and extra Panoramic Brush Case I didn't want or need ended up going to a friend who was happy to get them, so at least they went to good use. 





Cleaning
Spot-Clean, Deep Clean, Dry vertically
Spot-Clean, Deep Clean, Dry vertically
All my brushes are synthetic so they’re cruelty free, bunny-rabbit soft (even after LOTS of use and cleanings), and easy to clean.   I spot clean after roughly every other use, unless I used an eye brush in a really dark color and want to use the same brush in a light color or some situation like that.
I gave ELF's Daily Brush Cleaner a go and it does work very well at spot-cleaning them in between deep cleanings.  I spray the cleaner on the brush, then gently wipe it on an old clean towel, and repeat this process until no more color comes out of the brush.  Usually one round of this is enough for smaller brushes, but 2 or 3 rounds were needed for my bigger face brushes.  All the brushes dried within minutes. 


Once I ran out of the ELF cleaner I decided to make my own instead of repurchasing.  I refilled that same ELF bottle with a mixture of 1/2 water, 1/2 rubbing alcohol, and a drop or 2 of tea tree oil.  This recipe works great on my synthetic brushes but it may be a bit harsh and drying on natural-hair brushes, I'm not sure so use it at your own risk.


Every 2 weeks I deep-clean my brushes.  When deep-cleaning your brushes, be sure to not let any water get up into the ferrule (the metal bit that holds all the bristles on the handle).  This can dissolve the glue that keeps everything together and if you have wooden handles, can rot the wood.  


I squirt a little hand soap (the kind I have in my bathroom is Bath & Body Works Gentile Foaming Anti-Bacterial) in my hand, wet the brush, and then swirl the brush in the soap along my fingers to agitate.  I'll usually set each one off to the side vertically in the sink to 'soak' in the soap for a moment as I move on to the next one.  When all the brushes are soaped up I start rinsing them.  I squeeze the soap out of the brush, then alternate rinsing and squeezing the brush under the running water.  When the water comes out clear, I squeeze the brush one more time, then wipe them dry on an old clean towel.  Don't bang Real Techniques brushes against the sink to knock excess water out, I learned the hard way that it will dent the aluminum ferrule. :(


I spend a few moments shaping the brushes before I stick them back in their Panoramic Brush Cases.  I set the cases on the edge of my counter upside down to dry.  This ensures no water will drip down into the ferrule.  I set something on the cases so they don't fall over (in the photos above I used my ZPalette), and I set my Revlon brush on top so it dries flat (its double-ended so it can't dry vertically).


I don't know about you, but my mom, all my friends, and I all have trouble remembering when its time to clean our makeup brushes.  That inspired me to make up an official Dragon's Vanity Brush Cleaning Calendar to keep at our vanities or with our makeup so we can be reminded when we're due!  We simply mark off on the calendar when we cleaned our brushes last.  Every 2 weeks is a good rule of thumb, but you may need to clean them more frequently depending on how often you apply makeup and what types of products you use with your brushes.




Review/Demonstration: Eye Brushes

Eye Brushes
Real Techniques Shading Brush
Real Techniques Shading Brush 
with Physician's Formula shadow*
This is perfect for basic shadow application.  The size is great for getting product just on the lid or just in the crease or just wherever you want it.  Its dense enough to pack on the color, but is fluffier than a lot of basic shadow brushes so it can also blend the shadow you put down without having to grab a separate blending brush.




Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush
Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush 
with MAC - Black Tied
This one is tapered and pointed at the end, so you can pick up product with just the tip of the brush and the shorter bristles around it will blend the product as you sweep it back and forth in the socket/crease area.  This is the best crease brush I've ever used, and as with all the Real Techniques brushes, the synthetic bristles are unbelievably soft on that delicate skin.
Leesha (AKA xSparkage) calls the MAC 227 brush the 'Magic Brush' because when you use it to put a highlight color on your brow bone, it will simultaneously blend down any crease color that may have gotten too high for your liking.  It just easily and quickly fixes any problems you had with your makeup application.  The Real Techniques Domed Shadow Brush is very close in size and shape to the 227, does the same magical things as the 227, but is infinitely softer, easier to clean, and is less expensive.  Now THAT's magical!




Urban Decay 24/7 Shadow Pencil Blending Brush
Urban Decay 24/7 Shadow Pencil Blending Brush 
with MAC - Sketch
This works great for its original purpose of blending Urban Decay’s 24/7 Shadow Pencils, but I also find this stiff domed brush perfect for precisely placing color and smudging liner or shadow along the lash lines.




Revlon Double-Ended Smokey Eye Brush
Revlon Double-Ended Smokey Eye Brush 
with Physician's Formula shadow* and MAC - Vapour
I normally don’t like double-ended brushes because they can be a pain to store, but with the Real Techniques Panoramic Brush Cases I have no problems storing it with my other eye brushes.  The angle brush’s bristles cling closely together so you can make very thin or thick lines when doing eyeliner (I typically use this brush with dark eye shadow, wet or dry).  The bristles are stiff enough to wedge themselves between your lashes to get rid of that Mascara-Liner Gap.  The detailer end is just the perfect size and shape for highlighting the inner corner of the eye without stabbing yourself.




ELF Studio Angled Eyeliner Brush
ELF Studio Angled Eyeliner Brush 
with MAC Fluidline - Rich Ground
While the Revlon Angle Brush will work with gel/cream liners, this Elf brush just works so much better for me.  The bent angle makes it super-easy to control.  The brush itself is very fine and tapered so you can make ultra thin or extra thick lines easily.  The bristles are very soft so you can comfortably waterline/tightline with it.



Real Techniques Detailer Brush
Real Techniques Detailer Brush 
with all my glittery things
When I do glittery looks I prefer to have the glitter on just the mobile lid.  The size, shape, and density of this brush make it easy to precisely pack on glitter and/or loose pigments.


Urban Decay Good Karma Shadow Brush
Urban Decay Good Karma Shadow Brush 
with Urban Decay - Sidecar
This came with the Naked 1 Palette and I’d have to say I love the brush more than the palette!  The quality of this brush astonished me when I first used it and continues to impress me after a few years of use.  The only sign of wear is that the writing on the handle has completely rubbed off, otherwise it looks exactly the same as the day I got it.  This brush is very stiff but soft so it picks up and packs on color or glitter extremely well.  If I’m in a pinch for time, I’ll often use just this one brush for my whole eye look because it can pack, it can blend, and it can even line (smudgily, but still flattering).




Sonia Kashuk Core Tools Spoolie Brush
Sonia Kashuk Core Tools Spoolie Brush
Is it just me, or is spoolie one of those words that's fun to say?  Spoolie spoolie spoolie!  This brush is nothing special.  It doesn't actually live with my other makeup brushes, it lives in an old Mary Kay pouch with a small mirror, scissors, and tweezers for when I groom my brows.  But its still a 'makeup' brush so I felt it needed mentioned here.





Review/Demonstration: Face Brushes

Face Brushes
Face Brushes
Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush
Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush 
with Milani HD Advanced Concealer
Though this is labeled as an eye brush, Sam often uses this to blend concealer under her eyes and around her nose.  I completely understand why- the size is perfect for those tight contours on the face, and the shape of the brush perfectly blends the product into the skin, whether you're using your foundation as concealer or an actual concealer.  Again, its super soft so it won't irritate sensitive skin like Rosacea or acne/blemishes.




Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
Real Techniques Expert Face Brush 
with Everyday Minerals Semi-Matte Base foundation
This is the best foundation brush I have ever used.  It gives a beautiful finish to liquid foundations like Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation as well as mineral foundations like Everyday Minerals Semi-Matte Base.  It blends and buffs effortlessly and again is unbelievably soft so it doesn't irritate my Rosacea.


Real Techniques Contour Brush
Real Techniques Contour Brush 
with Revlon ColorStay 16 Hour Eye Shadow Quad - Addictive
I use eye shadows as contour colors and the size of this brush is perfect to dip into the small pans.  The shape is designed well too- get the product on the tip of the brush then start blending it on the face.  The longer bristles will place the color, the shorter bristles blend it out.  Contouring is now effortless.




Real Techniques Multi Task Brush
Real Techniques Multi Task Brush 
with MAC Beauty Powder Blush - Fun & Games
As the name implies, this brush will work for a variety of jobs- dusting finishing/setting powder all over, bronzing the perimeter of the face- but I use this for applying and blending blush.




Real Techniques Stippling Brush
Real Techniques Stippling Brush 
with ELF Makeup Mist & Set
As I mentioned in my Setting Spray Review, I spray this brush with MAC Fix+ or ELF Makeup Mist & Set then stipple it over my entire face.  This process accomplishes several things: it evenly applies the setting spray over the face, it does a final blend over the face so there are no harsh lines of demarcation, and it picks up any excess makeup that doesn't need to be there.




Face Secrets Retractable Lip Brush
Face Secrets Retractable Lip Brush 
with Clinique - Raspberry Glace
I normally only use this with one product- my YSL lipstick in #15 Extreme Coral (it wasn't going to look good with the eye look I did so I used a the Clinique lipstick instead).  When I want a full-on in-your-face bold lip, I bust out the lip liner and this brush to make the lip color as perfect and long-wearing as possible (btw this video from Leesha shows a great technique for getting bold lip color to last all day).

Sam's sister, Nic, did a Half-Face Tutorial recently.  I thought it was interesting to see the difference side-by-side so I decided to do that for this blog post. 


~WHEW~  I did a LOT in this post- Brush cleaning products, procedure, and tips; A review of each makeup brush in my collection with a brief description of how I use them; And as a bonus you got a picture tutorial for a semi-dramatic eye look with action shots of each brush doing its thing!

If I missed anything or if you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below.  Have a great weekend!



*These two shadows don't have individual names but they're from the same trio, Physician's Formula Baked Collection - Baked Sweets.  I crumbled up each eye shadow, mixed them with some pressing medium (the kind I used is now discontinued) and then pressed them into pans to stick in my palette. 




Do you like reading reviews? Check out my other reviews!
Setting Sprays- Chemistry, Review, and Comparison
My Contour/Highlighting Palette