My subconscious mind gathered so many brushes in the past year(s) that my brain crashes every time I have to select my favs, whatever the strategy, I freeze. I am not able to mention every single brush I love, if I do you will probably end up choking on my post, well, if I ever finish writing it.
So, to avoid brain injuries to both of us I decided to keep it simple and select the most used ones, and also split my 2014 brush favs into several categories, today I’ll share my top fav brushes of 2014 for:
- foundation – liquid and mineral
- sculpting with creams
I can’t hide it any more, I am a brush fanatic, lover of many materials, shapes and techniques, just keep in mind while you are reading this that my selection reflects my very own preferences, we all have a different approach and vision of what makes a brush tick all the required boxes, although most of us here dream of brushes that go beyond the basic ticking.
Billy B. says: “The best brush for you is the brush that does the job”. I love his personality and creativity and I agree with him, but how easily, how fast, how pleasantly are also facts that some of us would like to take into account, you can achieve fantastic results with an affordable tool just like you can drive from A to B with different vehicles and still reach the same destination at the end.
If you are satisfied with just one brush that does the job, it’s totally normal, you really don’t need more… unless you are a brush aficionado or enjoy the pleasures of experimenting with different tools or your curiosity takes you to the other side of normal, anyway, do whatever makes you happy. As far as I am concerned, it’s too late! I tried the other side and I am stuck there, probably for as long as I live I’ll be as curious as a cat, hope it doesn’t hurt me. Of course there are a few brushes that I just couldn’t live without, but who knows what the future has for us brush lovers and I know 2015 will be “the” brush year.
In the past, I couldn’t wear any foundation at all. Due to the condition of my skin, it was too dry and no skincare or doctors could help. Putting foundation onto my skin wasn’t an option. Seven years ago it got better and so did the foundation products, they also improved. I started with Nars liquid foundations and Bare Escentuals powders. All was fine until very suddenly, it became more and more tricky to play with foundation, my small lines were getting more visible and some products were enhancing my wrinkles instead of doing my skin any good at all, a very cold brutal welcome to the 40’s 😀 Following to those findings, I had to completely change my foundation routine and started looking for products focusing a lot more on the anti-aging factor. This just means that your needs will evolve and are different based on your age, your skin, or your usage, specially if you are a professional. So keep your mind open and flexible to skin changes.
Today, I use mainly two liquid foundations: Ellis Faas and IT Cosmetics CC Cream (not really a foundation but on my skin it acts as so), a few others also do the trick but I am safe and happy if I stick to those two products. These both foundations deliver approx the same coverage, the Ellis Faas is a bit more glowy, the IT does more for my wrinkles but both are fantastic but with both, I need to keep a very lightweight application since my skin does not tolerate a heavy or powdery coverage.
I only use a powder foundation occasionally and it has to be a very lightweight one, Serge Lutens is the one that works best, it’s a pressed powder. Laura Mercier loose can do the trick but again really in small quantities and in special good days.
I don’t usually set my foundation with the IT CC cream, with Ellis Faas sometimes I do and I use the Suqqu finishing powders.
The trick now is to find a brush that is efficient enough to allow a quick application in the morning while keeping it natural, effortless and pleasant.
The ones that I could never be without are the Rae Morris 23 and the Chikuhodo GSN-05, two very different brushes but two absolute gems to me.
RAE MORRIS 23
The Rae Morris 23 is a dream to use on delicate skin, it’s 100% synthetic, the surface is dense yet flexible so it’s doesn’t feel like a dense directional mass against the skin. There is a thin shield of fine little bristles that go 3 mm further from the surface, this shield is what makes that brush so gentle and facilitates an even distribution of product.
The main difference when using a “shielded” brush like this Rae Morris, apart from increased softness, is that the product is more easily spread and you have more control on the layering, there is also less product absorbed into the bristles.
The application with a brush that is entirely flat without a shield will often deliver a heavier coverage and you have less progressive control on the layering while having to put quite a lot of pressure on the surface of your skin, all that is a no go for me.
This RM 23 is the brush that helps me to achieve a controlled and lightweight application faster and easier.
How I use it:
I apply some product on the back of my hand, gently pick up the product with the fine shield of bristles, then stipple several times in the centre and around the centre of the face, after a few times there will be no visible product on the surface of the brush, so I start buffing it from centre towards the sides of the face.
Since I have just a few minutes to apply all my make-up, once I have finished with the foundation and the head of the brush is clear of product, I use this same brush to apply cream blush. It’s not a very precise brush as it is but it’s precise enough for me for blush application, I just stipple the cream blush in the centre of the cheeks and blend towards the temples. I have a big face anyway so that brush can do both foundation and blush. I also use this brush for cream bronzer or to add dimension with cream contour products.
I am not really concerned on dipping recently used brushes into cream blush and mixing with foundation, honestly I don’t mind if I am using the products on myself. I am not going to use 20 brushes just for the sake of using brushes when it’s not necessary or when I don’t have time. I wash my foundation brushes every week, after approx 7 applications. That will depend on how much bacteria your skin can handle without showing signs of distress…. gross but true.
Pros: Effortless, super soft, works with all the foundations I have, I don’t need any other tool or step to finish up the application, it’s a super multi-tasking brush for me.
Cons: It’s not that easy to wash, it’s quite dense and to get the dirt from within the mass of synthetic bristles it takes some time, so I know the washing will take me longer than any other natural hair brush. All synthetic dense brushes have the same issue. It’s not cheap.
My other fav is the Chikuhodo GSN-05, these GSN series are known to work with a huge variety of liquid foundations, they actually target a professional audience and they were designed with the make-up artists in mind.
This is the brush that will be always present in my kit, I will automatically grab it if I don’t know what liquid products I will be using or on what type of skin I will be working on. It’s goat bristles with wash of dye. At first I thought they looked a bit “dirty” but this colour is not because these are lower quality bristles, it’s because they are dyed on purpose, and that makes it look less dirty when it’s dirty for real… 😀
The size of the brush is also spot on, not too big, not too small, it won’t take you long to achieve your application and you won’t need any other brush after this.
I use it with cream blush, cream contour, cream highlight, etc.
Pros: Works with most products, multi-tasking, perfect size.
Cons: I don’t see any. Even the price is reasonable specially if you consider all that you can do with it.
RAE MORRIS RADIANCE 27
The Radiance was my must-have brush for years, since the day it got released actually. At this moment I don’t use it that much because the RM 23 that I mentioned before is doing all the tasks by itself. Also, since I cannot over blend at the moment due to my extreme dry skin, using only the 23 delivers a glowy yet finished application.
When that Radiance is really acting at its full potential is when you apply your foundation with a flat brush or your fingertips and you need a quick fixer that will make all application imperfections disappear.
As you may know, at the moment I am kind of forced to apply my make-up in the dark since I am temporarily installed in the living room and at 6:30 it’s still night here…. When I am not sure that all looks even and is blended nicely and my bf is already waiting, I shout “JUST A MINUUUUUTE” and I grab the Radiance, jump underneath the unforgiving light of the bathroom and check if there is anything to even out or to blend, it does indeed take me just 1 minute to fix any irregularities.
Pros: The solution to many irregularities and a time saver
Cons: The price and its size, may be intimidating to handle for some and it takes a few times to get used to it.
KOYUDO FU-PA 07p
The Fu-Pa 07 is less dense than its sister the Fu-Pa02 hence it feels softer on the skin, is more flexible, more than moving the product around like a Fu-Pa02 would do on its worst days, the Fu-Pa 07 follows much better the face features and does a better job at not molesting the skin while blending the product efficiently.
If you are familiar with the Koyudo Fu -Pa family, there are so many to choose from, the 07 and 13 below are the ones that I use the most.
Pros: Easy to use, feels like a mini Radiance, gets the job done fast, unique.
Cons: Can sometimes absorb a little too much product, depending on how you use it.
KOYUDO FU-PA 13P
I strongly believe that this is their most valuable Fu-pa for liquid foundation. It’s a perfect size and angled! The shorter side will deal with the product, the longer side will handle the blending, again, without abusing your skin. You can more easily access the difficult corners of your face.
Pros: Perfect size, flexibility and density
Cons: Don’t find any
With the Koyudo Fu-pa01, these are basically the same brushes, they are super soft, softer and denser than the Fu-pa 13 and 07, it’s great but not all foundation brushes should be as soft and dense because at some point they will stop buffing and blending and they will just suck all the product like thirsty vampires.
To limit the sucking and benefit from their high quality and softness, I use them once there is no much product left to suck on the skin.. and leave their job to just softly blend and balance the finished application, on my skin and specially in summer, they also remove the excess shine that the foundation+skincare build up and leave behind a perfect finish, not too oily, not too matte.
KOYUDO FU-PA01 white
Exactly same comments as for the Houkodou, very similar, one is the dupe for the other.
You look at it and you just want to use it with no reason 🙂 If you like to massage your face skin to enhance blood flow, you can softly use it, it is gentle and you can put pressure without hurting your skin.
Pros: dense, super soft.
Cons: dense, super soft…
There is a special connection between this brush and me, it has been following me along for years, starting with the application of the Mac cream foundations or helping with the finishing for any foundation application. I believe this is what foundation brushes (goat) should have as type of material, a bit thicker, not too soft, dense but not overly dense that it stops you from working in a lightweight manner. I can also use it for pressed powders and it has a strong buffing and swiping power. Not really for liquid foundation though.
Pros: It’s like a Swiss knife, I can use it for many things, with several products, powder, cream, it plays happily with my creativity and challenges the products that I don’t use because they are either too thick or too dramatic and this brush makes them work.
Cons: It’s really big, it can do many things but its role is not written in advance, it may do things that you thought not possible or it may totally not work for you, it’s difficult to find its perfect mission in life.
KASHOEN WASHING BRUSH
Another Swiss knife, can do sooo many things, I cannot express how much I love it specially thanks to how it looks. It’s a bit like the BP013 but this time with a reasonable size. Same kind of goat hair, not too soft, not too rough. It’s a washing brush, you are meant to use it with lotion or soap but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other things. I like it with mineral foundation, to finish the blending of any other foundation, to set, to apply blush when the blush is like a stain and so difficult to grab. This brush is directional but not as dense as the Koyudo Fu-pa01 white or the Houkodou so it’s more forgiving and more multi-purpose.
Pros: does many things and it’s just so beautiful…
Cons: none to me, but I am a bit afraid that the logo rubs off, it’s so beautiful that it will be too sad if the logo starts to fade away.
– in summer or during my holidays or weekends, I just apply a very thin layer of Serge Lutens powder and no liquid foundation at all unless I am going out at night.
– when I want a little bit more coverage after I apply liquid foundation, I add some powder as a thin layer.
I don’t like very dense brushes for that, they tend to load too much product but of course it depends what you want to do yourself. The denser and flatter the brush, the more coverage you’ll get with it.
This is the brush that deserves the most raving of 2014, for those of us who enjoy dense brushes but who can’t find a soft enough brush for them, this is gold. This brush is dense but still allows control, it’s soft but still buffs like a true buffer. They have found a very nice balance between softness, flexibility, density and they kept it at a nice price, its quality is outstanding and I can’t get enough of it.
Pros: A gentle buffer and an unique brush with a fair price.
Cons: None although the application can result too heavy and directional depending on how you use it and with what, I do prefer very sheer layering that is accomplished with less dense and longer bristles.
KOYUDO PURIN FPR001
I love this brush to pieces, I think it’s a totally underrated brush. I use many powders that are a pain to pick up in a fair amount, for example the Ladurée, or the Guerlain Meteorites, sometimes I just want to load and rub the brush also with the insurance that I am not going to destroy it.
Perfect density so it doesn’t feel like a solid mass of hair on the skin and its flexibility follows the face features perfectly well. Unlike other similar ones (Hakuhodo J527 for example), this Purin has more flexibility and is more easy to use, specially on sensitive skin.
Pros: It’s so soft yet solid, fantastic for many uses, mineral loose, pressed, finishing powder, etc… I usually don’t like pink but I do like the pink surface and doesn’t bleed. Great price.
Cons: The pink surface is cute, although there is a lot of pink going on in there… it goes well with it but I wish this shape was also on their other series that are more neutral.
RAE MORRIS 21
I have the same comments as the Koyudo Purin, similar shape, a bit smaller and more dense. Although this is squirrel hair, it feels similar softness as the goat hair of the Purin above. It’s stronger and has thicker squirrel bristles, a bit like Paula Dorf, much more resilient than Chikuhodo Z series in case you wonder.
Pros: I love that it’s dense and yet does not feel like a mass of hair, super nice also with finishing powders and the Ladurée I also mentioned before. I love the look.
Cons: More expensive.
It’s not the softest brush but I love it because it’s just a no-brainer, it’s not as soft and pleasant as other finer goat brushes but it gets the job done really well and that’s why I don’t see myself without it. It’s a real huge mama powder brush.
Pros: Gets the job done really well, fast, doesn’t ask questions. On holiday it’s the one I take to do everything… it’s really too big for that but I have one small brush that can do whatever I need on holiday so I am happy.
Cons: Not overly rough but not overly pleasant either…
As far as I am concerned, I love to apply mineral foundation with brushes that aren’t overly dense and domed, unfortunately, I often find that so-named “mineral foundation brushes” are often too dense to allow an easy control on the application, I prefer to work in layers, layering more product only where it’s necessary, not layering where it’s not. When you use “mineral foundation” brushes (or kabukis) that are too dense, the application may not be very easy to achieve, specially for beginners. I personally don’t mind using “washing brushes” for mineral foundation.
For example this Kihitsu (gold and red), the Chikuhodo (black and red) and the Kashoen are all “face washing brushes” and yet, fantastic for mineral foundation. Specially this Chikuhodo, it’s very airy, remains firm enough to buff and soft.
SCULPTING WITH CREAMS
It’s my fav for cream contour, not the right size for foundation unless you need to work only on small zones, but for contour it’s fantastic. There is also the Shu Uemura 18 or the Chikuhodo G-10 that are similar but this is the softest of the 3… and I believe today it’s the cheapest.
Pros: High blending power without messing with the underneath foundation application
Cons: None to me, as long as I don’t use it for foundation, too small for that.
Well, here’s one Mac… surprise!
With cream highlighter it’s as good as it gets. I hate to use a dense brush for highlighter because you are supposed to work lightly on the surface of whatever you applied before, specially without destroying that base. I can stipple and work with care any type of cream highlighter. It’s truly a clever gem. I wish their foundation brush was similar but bigger, the Mac 187 is too floppy to be efficient enough imho, but it would be great if it was more like the 130.
Pros: The one and only for cream highlighter.
Cons: I don’t like handle and I wish the bristles were white goat and synthetic, instead of black goat and synthetic.
I have two strategies for concealer: either I want to enhance and simply enlighten a zone or I want to conceal something in particular. My concealer brushes will either work with precision or on a very wide zone.
On myself, I use the Burberry pen when I want to have something in my bag, otherwise recently I started using the IT Cosmetics Bye Bye under eye concealer for a daily use. I use just the smallest speck because that product goes a very very long way. I heat that tiny speck of product between the fingertips, apply it straight with the fingertips underneath the eyes, pat pat pat and use the remaining product on the top lip (cupids bow) and on other parts of the face where I want it. Then when I want to set it (I don’t really need to), I usually set it with the Chikuhodo Takumi T-6 and that’s it. This IT concealer does a great job, my under eyes remain hydrated and it really enhances the appearance of my skin, amazing.
The beautiful Chikuhodo Takumi T-6 is a dream for the skin, so fluffy and so soft, absolutely divine brush, specially for setting the foundation in very specific and sensitive zones, I just simply adore it!
RAE MORRIS 24
It’s the one I use the most, I am lucky I don’t feel like I need concealer but I do love to enlighten the under eye area or other parts of the face where it’s appropriate. I love its thickness, it’s blending power, its shape. If I don’t use this one because it’s too dirty to perform, then I take the Hakuhodo J4005, but it’s thinner and the surface is not as “fluffy”.
Pros: Clever shape and thick enough to be used with its surface, can also do sculpting and placement of foundation or contour.
Cons: None really.
RAE MORRIS 20
I just love to apply the concealer with synthetic brushes, I feel like the finish is not as dry, this brush is the perfect medium size for me.
Pros: Great size, great shape that comes to a point but the point is not floppy.
Cons: Unknown yet… so far so good.
KOYUDO PURIN PR005
These series have a few gems, I hate the short handles but I have to admit that they are uncommon brushes, fun and actually efficient.
Pros: Great head size, not floppy at all yet super duper soft, amazing for the delicate under eye skin.
Cons: Such a short handle is killing me…
I hope you enjoyed this post, sorry it takes me so long to post, hopefully I will be back soon for regular posting 🙂
I don’t have Brushtemple links for all the brushes yet but hopefully 2015 will allow me to work on it 😉 In that Brushtemple you will find more specific details about the brushes.