The Brush Series: Face

As a blogger, I am seriously lacking creativity. Take a look around and you'll see a lot of me-too posts. This one is no exception as the lovely Bellyhead came up with the inspiration a while back. Like a loong while back.

I love makeup brushes but I feel brushes are like mascaras: they are equal-opportunity makeup item, especially in this day and age. Price point may dictate quality (especially for fine ingredients like squirrel, weasel, etc.) but not always. I think function is also equally important in the consideration. Don't get me wrong, none of the brushes below are of low quality. I buy brushes to keep so they have to perform and so far these brushes have stood up lots of washing and usage from me.

I do have core brushes in rotation that I've used for years and still function admirably. In fact, some of my most-used brush are quite low-end, a freebie even (see case points #1 & #2 below). In terms of function, I strive for my brushes to have dual/triple/quadruple functions if possible. The more multi-tasking a brush is, the better. I like researching brushes in terms of size, density, function, material, etc. over and over again until I found one that suits me. The problem is sometimes I can't see the brush in person so I have to just buy it blindly, but this is why beauty bloggers out there can be extremely helpful in determining purchases of exotic items, or not -- which we will see in my case below. 

Core Face Brush
O.k. onward to the meat.

Case point #1: the two Sonia Kashuk brushes circa 2000. That was the very first time when quality makeup brushes were available for us, regular people. There used to be Bobbi Brown who was renowned for her brushes (which are, ahem, perform far below what SK has to offer, I should say, for a lot more price). You can read more about Sonia and her brushes here -- it really brings back good memories of the times when I first really got into makeup.

These brushes, my friend, are still phenomenal. They are dyed goat, so yes, they do bleed when I wash them (considerably less now), but they are still very durable, and the tip of the fibers are surprisingly NOT trimmed, making them feel soft across the skin, and dare I say it rivals the squirrels. These are perhaps the hardest working brushes in my arsenal, and it has been with me close to 14 years. The 01 is wider and thicker; I use for powder bronzer, but now that I hardly wear any powder, I use it as more of a buffing/finishing brush. The 02 is narrower and more directional, I'd use it for powder highlighter, blush, etc. 

Case point #2: see the wooden-handled brush which I got as GWP from Prescriptive back in the late 1990s. Prescriptive (do you still remember that line?) It is the best brush to apply highly pigmented blushes, it beats any skunks that I've came across. It is made from.. goat maybe? some natural fiber for sure, but again, the tip of the fibers are not trimmed and it is surprisingly soft and sparse at the same time. The head size is very small so it is very versatile. This is the only powder brush that I'd pack for traveling.

Rounding up the core face brush is Hakuhodo J5521. I needed a brush for contouring, highlighting and blush all in one, and this one fits the bill. It is dense enough to apply powder/cream blush, but the tapered head allows me to blend and control how much product to pick up. The head is small enough for contour and blush and highlight. Triple checks!

Now that I use more cream products on my face, I get quite a bit of a use from my Real Tehcniques brushes and sponge. The sponge has been torn in two, courtesy of the Tod, but still works very well. It is almost -- if not the -- exact dupe of Beauty Blender sponge for a fraction of the price. It is often sold out in Ulta, so do call ahead of you are interested. The RT Expert Face Brush is my go-to foundation/cream bronzer brush. The gripe about cleaning foundation brush, especially if not the paddle-type, is how to get the brush completely cleaned, especially when the foundation went into the middle of the fibers. Being synthetic, this brush can stand up a thorough cleaning -- definitely worth the money. Another RT brushes that I use as face/concealer brush are from the eye brushes line up. Again, they are synthetic, withstand repeated washing and are suprisingly soft.

I must admit I don't get a lot of use from the SK Paddle foundation brush, but it's there occasionally to... maybe blend blush? or tap some liquid highlighter? The white ELF concealer brush is of perfect size to cover imperfection and pat it down to oblivion. Did I mention that it is $0.99? I have another one dedicated to clean up nail polish around the edges of the nails. 

These three brushes have specific functions and as such, they are not often used. The Hakuhodo K001 is mainly used to lay down loose highlighter/pigment. It is small and quite compact, sometimes I even use it to blend eye lid colors. The two Burberry Kabukis are super useful for compact powders and bronzers. Both came with their own pouches and the smaller one is especially handy for traveling.

No brush round up is complete without the duds.. er, nope. These are the least-used ones. RMK blush brush was a goodie I got a while ago. This one turns out to be not as useful as I thought, especially since my SK 02 brush is still performing well. In fact, RMK's head is denser than SK that I feel it picks up too much product at a time and not as blend-able as the SK 02. Still every now and then I use this as a travel brush since it comes with a nice pouch. 

Finally, pardon my blasphemy, Suqqu Cheek brush. Initially, I purchased this as a replacement of several brushes above in order to cut down the number brushes even more. Alas, I don't particularly find this brush quite useful, again since the SK 02, GWP Prescriptive, and J5521 above have taken care of my needs so well. It is not a bad brush, per se, but I found it not dense enough to contour (which J5521 does so well) or a tad too dense to pick up pigmented blush (which GWP Prescriptive does so well) or too floppy to blend (which SK 02 does so well). Perhaps, there is no such brush to replace all three brushes at once, I did have an unreasonably high expectation for this one. I still use the Suqqu every now and then for products that I need to apply ever so gingerly (like the shattered Charlotte Tilbury blush, or loose pigment or highlighter -- but K001 will function as well in this case). This is a good example on why millions of glowing reviews alone won't necessarily translate to a product that fits the need of an individual. 

Washing and care: I wash my brush once weekly, if I remember to do so, or at least once monthly (yikes!). Don't call the brush police yet, because I love washing brushes; it does not feel like a chore for me and I love taking care of them, it's just I hardly have time to wash myself, left alone the brushes. I use liquid hand soap (which is usually from EO) and a squirt of non-silicone conditioner (the travel-sized variety I accumulated from hotels, etc.). For more tenacious stains/products, I use liquid dish detergent. I dry them on bathroom counter overnight.

Next installment will be a shortie as it only includes eye brushes and maybe other brushes I've missed. I want to see your brush collections, would you share them with me on the comment below?


  1. I totally totally agree that it is not necessarily the price point that makes an excellent brush, but really in its functionality (and your preference). I still use my old SK brushes and find them to be excellent, especially the big powder one. Can't apply specific products (like the Guerlain Ballz) without it and certainly better than the scratchy Guerlain one! I also really like the J5521 for it's precise pointy little head. Makes an excellent one for highlighting small areas AND can use the sides to apply to larger areas AND blend. Such a great brush. :D

    Erm... you know how I feel already about the kitten paw. BAM BAM!

    1. Meeeooooww! Don't worry, Mama Belly, the kitten still has its rightful place in my brush collection :-) If I ever go to one of those IMATS thing, the first thing I'd look for is brushes so I can feel/try them in person. In the meantime, I live vicariously through you & other brush masters :-)

  2. Hahaha, now I wish I could get my hands on the old Sonia Kashuk brushes! I just recently got two Hakuhodo brushes and I just can't get over how fantastically soft they are and how well they apply my make-up - I'll definitely be buying more in the future. I also use a mix of high and low-end brushes, with the less expensive ones making up the majority of my collection. And I don't own a single MAC brush!

    1. I think the new SK brushes are not quite the same as the old ones. Some are still v. nice, but you just have to check them out first. Yes, I mix high end v.s. low end brushes. I really think brush are equally both functionality and quality, so if some lower-end brushes serve you well, why not? P.S. I think I only own one MAC brush. Wait.. two, I think :-)