Make-Up Tips: Which Applicator Brushes Are Essential, And Which Aren't

Save money on beauty costs: Not all makeup applicator brushes are essential. Learn what different applicators are for and how to use them, how to make them last, and natural hair vs. synthetic fiber brushes.

If you've ever gotten a glimpse inside a makeup artist's bag, you might wonder if all those applicator brushes are essential. Good news""not every brush is essential for each individual. Which brushes you consider essential is likely a function of which part of your face you emphasize with makeup. For example, if you don't have to spend any time taming flyaway eyebrows, it's unlikely that you even know eyebrow brushes exist or that you could pick one out of a bag full of makeup brushes.

If you've always applied makeup right out of the container, you've probably never had the occasion to use an applicator brush. Many women apply lipstick directly from the tube, cream eye shadow and blush, and pressed face powder, none of which requires an applicator brush.

Makeup applicator brushes come in two varieties: those made from synthetic fibers and those made from natural hair, such as squirrel hair. The natural brushes are often superior to the synthetic brushes, but synthetic brushes made from Taklon are high quality. The worst synthetic brushes can feel like you're dragging sandpaper across your face. When you invest in brushes, make sure that they are soft to the touch and that the handle fits comfortably in your hand. If you care for your brushes properly, they should last for many years. It pays to purchase quality brushes if you're willing to take care of the brushes. You'll find your makeup easier to apply, your finished look more natural, and the whole makeup process faster with the proper tools.

Applicator brushes include:

* Concealer brushes

* Eyebrow/Mascara brushes

* Eyeliner brushes

* Eye shadow brushes

* Blush brushes

* Face powder brushes

* Lip brushes

* Makeup (foundation) brushes

We'll explore how each brush is used, and then you can determine if you need or want to experiment with applicator brushes to achieve a different look. If you invest in quality makeup applicator brushes, wash them thoroughly once a month and allow them to dry naturally.

Concealer brushes

Concealer brushes are small, narrow and firm, tapered toward the end. If you hide dark circles under your eyes with concealer, it's best to apply and blend a liquid concealer with a makeup sponge. Applicator brushes work best with cream concealers.

Eyebrow/Mascara Brushes

Eyebrow brushes are often two brushes in one: eyebrow brush and mascara comb. You can purchase either separately, but if you need both, purchase a two-in-one combination brush. At one end you'll find a brush to tame flyaway eyebrows and coax them into submission. Turn the brush in your hand one-half turn, and you'll find a brush to separate eyelashes after applying mascara. While many women find no need for an eyebrow brush, almost any woman who applies mascara will find the mascara tool indispensable.

When a mascara tube has been open for several months, the mascara begins to lose moisture and dries out. No amount of pumping the applicator brush in the tube will restore the mascara to its former silky texture. It's a futile exercise. If you want to extract and use every bit of mascara, you need to separate the clumps with a mascara brush immediately after application, before the mascara dries.

Eyeliner Brushes

If you wear liquid or cream eyeliner, the eyeliner applicator brush is an essential component of your makeup arsenal. The brush is similar in appearance to a lip brush, thin and tapered to a point toward the end. If you use an eyeliner pencil, you will need a sponge to smudge the eyeliner, not a brush.

Eye shadow Brushes

You're probably wondering why you would need an eye shadow applicator brush when eye shadow comes with a little sponge or brush applicator. If you apply the eye shadow to one eye with a used sponge applicator, the application is often uneven and sometimes the sponge disintegrates right onto your eyelid. The sponge applicator is good for exactly one application. After that, the shadow becomes compressed on the sponge applicator, and you'll receive an uneven application. After a few more applications, the sponge inevitably falls apart. You don't want little pieces of sponge creeping into your eyes. You'll receive a more uniform application and a more natural finished look from the proper eye shadow applicator brush. Further, those miniature applicators that come with eye shadow are unwieldy and uncomfortable to hold, if not impossible to manage. What you save in expense by using the little sponge applicator, you lose in lost time correcting the eye shadow application.

You'll need two eye shadow applicator brushes. Use one for dark colors and one for light colors.

If you highlight the eyelid crease with a darker shade, you'll want to invest in an angled eye shadow brush. The brush is flatter than a regular eye shadow brush, and the angled end makes application easier in tight spots. This applicator brush is essential to properly apply and blend the darker shadow into the crease.

Blush Brushes

If you use powder blush, a high quality blush brush is essential. Cream and liquid blushes require a damp sponge for proper application. Those little brushes that often accompany powder blush are worse than useless. If you have ever used one of those brushes, then you know that the blush looks streaky, and it's next to impossible to blend the blush properly with those brushes. Blush is supposed to give you a healthy glow, not an angled streak from mid-nose to the upper cheekbone. The brushes that come with powder blush are usually flat, and a proper blush applicator brush should be fluffy, and rounded at the end. The brush is almost identical to a face powder brush, except smaller. If you apply blush away from home, invest in a quality travel brush.

Face Powder Brushes

Most women who use powder use loose face powder at home and pressed powder away from home. Applying face powder too heavily accentuates wrinkles. Application is much easier to control with a brush. The face powder brush is fluffy and fat, and it's rounded at the end. In fact, it's the fattest of the makeup applicator brushes. For the most natural application, buff powder onto the face, and use less than you think you need. Add more as necessary. When using pressed face powder, instead of using the powder puff, invest in a high quality travel brush. If you don't, pressed powder can look unnatural and resemble stage makeup.

Lip Brushes

The professionals will scream at the top of their lungs that no self-respecting woman would apply lip color without a brush. Every makeup artist in the world uses these thin, tapered-to-a-point brushes. Whether or not these brushes are essential is up to you. Lip color is applied in a variety of ways, and is probably best applied in the manner you find most comfortable and which produces the most appealing look.

Makeup (Foundation) Brushes

If you've never heard of applying foundation with a brush, that's because you've never tried the new powder-based foundations composed of minerals from the earth. There is no other way to apply this foundation. You buff the foundation on the face with a face powder brush. In fact, it is a face powder brush, but you'll need one brush for the foundation, and an additional face powder brush for the powder.

If you're considering switching your application methods, practice really does make perfect when it comes to applicator brushes. Practice in your spare time, and when you feel you have perfected your touch, apply makeup to half your face with the makeup applicator brushes, and then apply makeup to the other half of your face using your old methods. Your mirror will not lie.

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