22 Apr 2012

Where to buy makeup brushes

Bet she wishes she hadn't offered to model now...
Long overdue post.  Suffice it to say time is a very precious commodity at present; this is both a good and bad thing...

Today I want to talk about makeup brushes.  When I started this out, I knew nothing about brushes, other than a small handful I owned (one Estée Lauder foundation brush, one Clarins blusher brush, one Clarins powder brush).  I also knew nothing about how to use them, in fact I found the notion of brushes quite intimidating.

When I started my venture into makeup several years ago, and needed to purchase kit brushes, I presumed that MAC was were the only brand of makeup brushes available to me.  As I couldn't afford a full set of MAC at the time, and as I had no idea where to start looking, I purchased the set that the makeup school sold me (at a phenomenal premium, I later discovered, much to my extreme annoyance).

In the intervening years, I've discovered some brilliant (and inexpensive) brands, I've bought and used them and here are my thoughts on the good ones...

The Cheaper Brands...

Caveat Emptor: some, but by no means, all, of the Sigma brushes are genuinely and truly amazing.  In particular, I find their eye brushes very scratchy, whereas their synthetic kabuki brushes are fantastic.  The reasons that Sigma brushes are lauded everywhere are (a) Sigma used to model their brushes on MAC brushes (even down to the numbering) in order to position themselves as a cheaper MAC alternative.  This practice has since stopped, they have expanded their range significantly, and their prices have taken a hike as a result.  Reason (b) is that Sigma has a very clever affiliate programme for bloggers and makeup artists, so they are advertised quite a bit on blog sites.

Site http://www.sigmabeauty.com
Where I buy                  http://www.love-makeup.co.uk

Sedona Lace
These are great brushes, in particular the Vortex collection, and not terribly expensive.  There are some unusual shaped/sized brushes available in this collection which are not available elsewhere.  Shipping is relatively inexpensive and reasonably quick, and the company is a pleasure to deal with.  Recommended overall.

Site                                 http://www.sedonalace.com

I've only started using Bdellium brushes lately (the "b" is silent!) but the ones I've got - all dual fibre brushes - are very good.  Bdellium brushes are coated with an antibacterial solution that's supposed to last a few uses.  I personally recommend the Maestro series.

Where I buy                 http://love-makeup.co.uk (they also offer 20% Pro discount)

I know that a lot of people like E.L.F. brushes but I personally found them disappointing.  They're not bad, but they're just not great, considering you can get others for the same price.

Site                                 http://www.eyeslipsface.co.uk

The Conservatorie
This is a really great site where you can purchase cheap brushes, packaging and disposables; their mini synthetic brush set is particularly good.  The brushes are not the best in the world, but they're quite acceptably good considering the price.  They also offer discounts on bulk purchases and you can also buy private label cosmetics and own-branded cosmetics/brushes for resale, should you wish.

Site                                 http://theconservatorie.com

These are really great brushes but starting to get into slightly more expensive territory.  These are all vegan brushes made from synthetic fibres, and features some brilliant tapered eye blending brushes in particular.  I purchase from love-makeup.co.uk (a wonderful company to deal with).  My only gripe about these brushes is that the handles are too long for my personal taste.

Where I buy                 http://love-makeup.co.uk

Real Techniques
I've already done a review on the Real Techniques brushes here;  some of the Real Techniques brushes, in my opinion, are quite good, and some are poorly thought-out.  They've recently released some new brushes that might be worth investigating.  Like the Cozette brushes, they're all synthetic and all vegan-friendly.  Boots now stock them in Ireland, and frequently have these brushes on buy-two-get-one-free offer.  I think the idea behind Real Techniques was that it would be an inexpensive brand, however by the time they reached Ireland, this certainly was no longer the case.  I definitely recommend the Core Collection, but sadly most of the brushes can't be purchased individually, only as part of one set or other.

Where I buy                 http://love-makeup.co.uk

Lauren Luke
I've written a review on the Lauren Luke brushes here.  These are great brushes.  Hands-down, these are my highest overall recommendation in terms of good quality, inexpensive brushes.  These are great workhorse run-of-the-mill standard brushes; great shapes, great density, soft enough and they last through usage and multiple washes.  You can purchase directly from the site, shipping is reasonable and is relatively fast.

Site/Where I buy                                 http://laurenluke.com/shop

Crown Brush
Some of the Crown Brushes I've used are good and some are not so great.  The confusing thing I've found about the Crown ranges is the dizzying volume of choice, but in general, the more you spend the better the quality.  Their Studio and Studio Pro ranges are probably the best, I've found that some of the other ranges just look and feel a bit cheaper, and the Badger series in particular is quite scratchy.  Shipping from their site, as I recall, used to be expensive enough, but I haven't purchased from them in quite some time.

Site                                 http://crownbrush.co.uk

There's no Sephora in Ireland but I do manage to squeeze in a visit to a Sephora store anytime I travel :-)  If I'm honest, I don't really rate most of the Sephora brand of products in general (with one notable exception: their eye makeup remover, which is brilliant).  I don't find their makeup lasts particularly well, and (in my opinion) their brushes are a little too expensive for "only ok" offerings.  The Pro range has a definite edge, but I wouldn't personally bother.

Where I buy                                 Sephora is not in Ireland or the UK and their other online sites don't ship to here.

The More Expensive Brands...

The ubiquitous MAC has a wonderful range of brushes of different types and shapes.  Periodically they release some interesting limited edition brushes, which can be very annoying if you don't manage to get your mitts on them, however you'll generally find all the shape and size brushes you're ever going to need in the standard range.  Like all brushes, if you treat them well they'll last.  Most makeup artists will have a decent amount of MAC brushes in their kit.  This is at least partly because of the discount (30%) that MAC offers qualified makeup artists.

Where I buy                 Brown Thomas Dublin.  The UK online store won't accept Ireland delivery addresses; you can mail-order purchase over the phone, but the delivery charge is quite high.

Makeup Forever
I have only a dozen or so Makeup Forever brushes, but the ones I have I absolutely love.  They're more expensive than MAC or most other Pro brands, but the brushes are exceptionally well made and I've yet to ever have a problem with any of the ones I own.

Where I buy                 Makeup Forever Clarendon Street Dublin

MUD / Makeup Designory
These are excellent brushes, probably better in terms of shape/density/fibres than MAC brushes, but you'll only get them in Flair (Ireland) to my knowledge, they're expensive, and there's no Pro discount.

Where I buy                 Flair Dublin.  There is also an online site http://www.flair.ie but shipping is expensive and they don't have everything listed 

I just don't like NARS brushes... I find that they're expensive and mainly quite scratchy.  I've bought some NARS brushes in the past and they actually fell apart after one or two washes, poor quality from an otherwise excellent brand (I love NARS makeup and books, but I won't repurchase their brushes).

Site                                 http://www.narscosmetics.eu

Laura Mercier
Laura Mercier brushes are ridiculously expensive for what they are, but they do have some more unusual brushes in the range; however as most of the time you don't need "unusual" brushes, these are not necessities.  I have a dozen or so Laura Mercier brushes and do recommend, but cautiously; there are as good out there and at a fraction of the cost.

Where I buy                 Brown Thomas Dublin

These are just beautiful, and the company is a dream to deal with, pleasant, friendly and personal.  I have only a half dozen or so of their brushes but I am gradually (slowly) getting more.  They are a thing of beauty; soft bristles, extremely well made, no shedding at all before or after washing... but some of them are really very expensive.  But definitely, categorically, if you don't mind building up a collection really slowly, highly recommended.  I am in love with their Japanese Traditions range.  Purchase is only from their site, and shipping is expensive enough but if you are buying a few things at a time, well worth it.

Site                                 http://www.hakuhodousa.com

I think Illamasqua pretty much sums-up what makeup means to me; theatrical, artistic, fun, outré, inspired and inspiring.  Some of the Illamasqua brushes in particular are amazing (angled brow, angled eyeliner).  The range largely consists only bog-standard workhorse brushes, nothing unusual, nothing particularly different, nothing "limited edition".  In terms of Pro discount, they offer 40% which is significant, so, suddenly MAC is not the only Pro brush range worth considering in terms of discount for standard kit brushes.

Site                                 http://www.illamasqua.co.uk

I love most things Chanel, and their brushes are no exception, but they are quite expensive.  Being honest, I don't think you need to spend this much on basic brushes, but that said I have a few that I really love.  Recommended?  Yes.  Necessary?  No.  Furthermore, the Chanel brushes have undergone a reboot, and a lot of the older brushes are now no longer available, and to add insult to injury, about half of the (new range) of brushes is not available in Ireland.  Grrrr.  Check out this link here for some more information on Chanel brushes.

Where I buy                 Brown Thomas Dublin

Bobbi Brown
Some of my Bobbi Brown brushes fell apart after very little use (now, you can always get a bad batch, but these were purchased over time so it's unlikely they were from the same batch).  I do love the Bobbi Brown blusher brush in particular.  A Pro discount is offered (35% online only), making these a little more affordable for kit purchases.

Where I buy                 Brown Thomas Dublin or mail order over the phone from Bobbi Brown UK (but the shipping charge is eyewateringly expensive)

Louise Young
The Louise Young range of brushes are really beautiful brushes.  I have gradually purchased all of the range and some in particular (fine sable eyeliner, fan brush, large foundation brush) are the best you can get.  I generally purchase from Harvey Nichols in Dublin but you can also buy online from Louise Young directly (but shipping runs on the high side).

Where I buy                 Harvey Nichols or http://www.louiseyoungcosmetics.com

Estée Lauder, Yves St Laurent, Dior, Shiseido...
I have a handful of brushes from these brands, but I find it hard to get excited about any of them in particular... that's not to say they're good or bad, I just don't bother enough about any of these brands' brush offerings to merit spending their (relatively high) prices.

Some other brush links (on this site)...

My vote...

Best all round brushes (inexpensive)                   Lauren Luke
Best all round brushes (expensive) MAC
Best standard Pro discount Illamasqua (40%)
Best quality (inexpensive) Lauren Luke
Best quality (expensive) Hakuhodo
Don't bother NARS
Best "unusual shapes" Louise Young, Laura Mercier


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