Makeup artist applying liquid tonal foundation on the face of the woman

I have always wondered what the deal is with cosmetic brushes. They are a necessity if you wear makeup, of course, but what is all the fuss about? Have you ever noticed how often cosmetic brush sets – with sky-high price tags – are recommended in gift giving guides? With bristles from goat, badger, mink or, no joke, squirrel?

My preference has always been to invest in the cosmetics themselves – brushes have been an afterthought. It turns out that the tools – i.e. brushes – matter as much as the product. I have put together a “Cosmetic Brushes 101” to help up our makeup game.

First of all, some brush basics. A cosmetic brush is made up of three parts: bristles, handle and the ferrule that connects the two. Handles are most often made of wood, plastic or resin. The ferrule is almost always made of metal. The bristles, however, are more complicated.

Bristles were traditionally made of animal hair, until synthetics came along. Here is a breakdown of cosmetic brush bristle basics – try saying that three times fast!

Animal Hair

• More expensive

• Softer feel, depending on type of hair used

• Hold powder-based cosmetics better

• Harder to clean due to irregular surface of the natural hair

• May break down over time

• Animal treatment concerns


• Wide price range, from economy to luxury

• Firmer feel on skin

• Ideal for creams and liquids

• Easy to clean and dries quickly

• Extremely durable

• Cruelty free

Is it necessary to purchase a whole set of brushes at once? Nope. In fact, most people I talked to built their collection over time, purchasing a variety of brands and bristle types depending on what kind of brush they were buying. Following is a basic list of brush types and with an example or two of each to help you assemble your toolbox.

Liquid Foundation

  • Merle Norman Makeu Artistry Face No. 7 Brush - Angled Foundation - $46


  • MAC 182 Synthetic Buffer Brush - $53
  • Morphe E2 round Powder Brush - $22


  • IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe French Boutique Blush Brush No. 4 - $35


  • MAC 239 Synthetic Eye Shader Brush - $26.50
  • BH V5 Vegan Blending Brush - $4


  • Sephora Collection Pro Airbrush Detail Brush No. 57 - $24
  • Morphe M421 Concealer Brush - $4

Eye Liner

  • Beauty Junkees Pro Precision Eyeliner Brush - $10
  • Morphe M250-0 Detail Liner - $3


  • Merle Norman Makeup ARtistry Lip Brush - Retractable - $12
  • Sonia Kashuk Retractable 2-in-1 Brush - $12

I have too many friends who swear by the Beautyblender Original makeup sponge ($20) not to mention it. Though not a brush, my friends love it for smoothing textures and excellent blending.

To ensure your brushes are performing at their best, it is important to keep them clean. Cosmetics giant Bobbi Brown recommends the following cleaning schedule: For concealer and foundation brushes, at least once a week to prevent a buildup of product. And because these brushes are used on your face, the cleaner the better. Brushes that are used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a month, while all others can be washed once a month.

You can buy special cleaning solution for your brushes, but many people recommend using Dawn dish soap because of its ability to break down oily substances. Work the soap and water through the bristles and rinse until all makeup residue is gone. Once clean, squeeze excess water from the brush with a clean towel then reshape the bristles. Lay the brush across a cup or extended over the edge of the sink so the bristles are exposed to air on all sides in order to dry properly.

When looking for a new cosmetic brush, remember that what works best for YOU – feel-wise and price-wise – is what matters. And if you maintain your brushes with regular cleansing, they should perform well for years to come.


I have disappointing news to report about my collagen experiment. You may recall that I intended to drink collagen powder for 30 days to see if it actually made a difference in my skin texture, hair, nails, etc. My hair stylist says she can tell a difference in her clients who take collagen supplements. The reviews of collagen supplements are amazing. I started this experiment a number of times, but I simply could not choke the stuff down. All I could think about was the fact that I was drinking connective tissues from a cow. Yuck. I am sorry to have failed you. Hopefully you will remember the good times, times where I actually followed through on my experiments — veins stripped from my legs, plasma needled into my face.