Full Brush: Embracing the Tools of The Trade

Confession time.

For years the only makeup brushes I had were the ones that came in the Bare Minerals starter kit, circa 2007. I used them for everything, without actually ever knowing what they were meant for.

Any other makeup brushes I had were those objects that just sort of appeared in my life. You know, those things you have and use, but have no recollection of how you got them. I accumulated a small assortment of (mediocre) bushes that did the job, and never gave it any thought.

Even as I got more into the beauty world, I didn’t give much thought to brushes. Little hairs attached to a stick, what could one do that another couldn’t? I figured that surely what mattered was the product you were using them for, not the method of application.

I’m not saying that I was trying to apply eyeshadow with a foundation brush or anything, I knew different ones did different jobs. I was just operating under the assumption that any difference in quality was just clever marketing. I mean, the product did get on my face, and it pretty much did what I wanted it to.

It wasn’t until I got a Spectrum eyeshadow brush in my Birchbox one month that I understood. For the first time, the colour of my eyeshadow matched what was in the pan instead of a washed out anaemic version of the colour that needed multiple layers. I realised that this was how it was supposed to work. A good brush makes your job easier.

If you don’t occasionally post pics of your makeup brushes in up-cycled candle jars they take away your instagram and you can never use the shelfie hashtag again. It’s a hard world for a beauty blogger.

The thing with brushes is that it is actually very hard to understand the difference until you use them. The subtleties are in how they apply, and until you learn that it’s hard to see the difference in the final product, i.e. how it looks in real life, on your face.

I started paying more attention, and thinking about what I wanted from a brush. I realised that they were tools of the trade, not simply a means to an end. I never supposed that Michelangelo used a kitchen knife to chisel David’s abs, or that Vermeer was using the plastic bristled brush that came in a kids watercolour kit; why was I not applying the same reasoning to makeup?

At this point it is possible that I over corrected. I am now something of a brush junkie, and buying, looking at, and researching good ones brings me the same thrill as skincare or makeup.

I’ve worked out a few favourite brands, tips and brushes that I reach for time and time again that really do make my morning routine a little easier! So if you’re thinking about expanding or upgrading your makeup tool arsenal, these are all good places to start.

Eco Tools

You do not need to be spending an arm and leg for good brushes. EcoTools are a brand found in most drug stores and most of their brushes are in the £6-£12 range. Every brush I have from them is great. Soft bristles, they wash well and everything applies smoothly. The top brush in this photo is the Wonder Cover Complexion, it has super densely packed bristles and is good for applying base products, but it really shines for contouring. Its oblong, oval shape lets you get right up and under your cheek bones for a nice and defined look. I don’t contour much, but this what I use when I do.

Real Techniques

Real Techniques is a brand that I’ve just started using and wish I’d discovered sooner. They are another really affordable drugstore brand. Their core collection is the same price range as Eco Tools, but they have slightly higher-end collections as well. These four came in a set, and they have all gotten good use.
With this brand you do have to go off book a bit. I don’t always think their descriptions or names for the brushes fit the best use. For instance that purple one 2nd from the left is called a Deluxe Crease Brush, but I cannot imagine a situation where I would use it for eye makeup. However, it is the best concealer brush I have ever used!


Zoeva might be my favourite brush brand around. They are slightly more expensive than the drugstore brands, but they have the best quality for money balance I’ve seen. The Brush on the top is their 102/Silk Finish Brush, and out of every brush I mention here this is the one I would hands down recommend EVERYONE get. It is my all time favourite brush for blending out base products, and it works with every texture I have thrown at it. But it also works for just about everything else too. I have used it for my base, and then used it for my bronzer and blush as well. It will pull more than its fair share of weight in your collection; I’m considering getting a second one so I can rotate. Am I crazy?

Ok, so these next 2 entries are brushes that even a year ago I would have said anyone was crazy for even considering buying. We are definitely kicking things up a few notches cost wise with these dudes, and I will admit that you don’t need them.

I don’t think anyone does.

For me these are luxury items, and I definitely did my research before pulling the trigger on them. And even then, one was purchased with a gift card courtesy of my mom (thanks Mom!), and one was purchased in duty free when I was stuck in the Tokyo airport with the flu and a 7 hour delay. Neither of those are what I would consider everyday scenarios.

But now that I have them I love them, and while they honestly don’t do anything that another brush couldn’t achieve, some things they do a little better, and some things they simplify just a bit. So if you’re ready to really invest in your makeup application, I offer these for your consideration.

It Cosmetics No 7 Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection – £35

This brush gets a lot of love from beauty bloggers, and I have to say it does live up to the hype. It tackles any type of base product as quickly and smoothly as my beloved Zoeva Silk Finish. The concealer end is even better, hiding dark circles and spots and making it all look very natural. Like the Zoeva I’ve also used it for bronzer and blush and it works just fine. When I travel this brush does the job of 4, and that is where it really sings. Jettisoning 3 small makeup brushes might not seem like a big deal, but as I’ve said before when it comes to luggage I’ll take the space and weight wherever I can.

Shiseido Daiya Fude Face Duo – £52 ( i know!)

I am the first to admit that the beauty of this product swayed me rather than any particularly glowing reviews. (unless you count spotting it being used by Alexa Chung in a GRWM video she posted) And it wasn’t love at first use. The gel tip end won me over straight away. It does an amazing job blending just about anything. I especially like it for blending out the edge of cream blush. But the actual brush end took some trial and error. It’s not as densely packed as my usual, and it doesn’t work on stiffer product, i.e. anything that comes in a stick. But it works wonders on powders and liquids. And nothing beats it for when you want a really light diffused touch of either blush or bronzer. Also, its girth takes a little getting used to, it needs a different type of control than your standard skinny handled guys.

A word of warning. As you can see, once you do get into makeup brushes, it is a slippery slope. So start small, and really think about what you are trying to achieve before laying out the cash. And if you ever see me even considering the Artis Fluenta Oval no.10, please do what ever you need to stop me.

My only other thought is, why do makeup brushes need such long damn names!?

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