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I started this little series last year. I did really good with the first two posts. Then my adult ADHD (self diagnosed) kicked in an- SQUIRREL!! Fast forward 6 months and here we are on part 3!
And now we’re on highlight and contour brushes! I tried to pick brushes that were slightly different from one another. I also did a mix of affordable and more pricey. I want to add that, like with all makeup, brushes are subjective. Just because I like or dislike something doesn’t mean that you’ll feel the same way.
The brushes in this section are synthetic with the exception of three. I can’t remember if I talked about this already so allow me to go off on a tangent before we get started. To me ‘cruelty free natural hair brushes’ is an oxymoron. Technically they are cruelty free because that term refers only to animal testing. But I refuse to co-sign with the notion of magical squirrel farm where all the animals are happy and free and voluntarily submit to weekly haircuts. Or better! I love when I hear that the hairs are collected from brushing. I would LOVE to see someone brush a damn squirrel. Goats can certainly get haircuts but you have to question their living conditions. Are they allowed to roam free, frolicking around the hill side with their goat friends doing goat stuff? Or are they caged their whole life? And how can you know for sure? This isn’t meant to be a lecture. I’m not vegan. I use natural brushes. I still use Mac and other brands that test on animals occasionally (but I feel like shit about it…). So I’m not passing judgement here. At all. But if animal welfare is something that you’re passionate about, I’d recommend sticking to synthetic. Tangent over. Let’s do this!
Starting with the highlight brushes:
Makeup Geek Cheek Highlighter Brush ($10)- synthetic. This is a stipling brush, also known as ‘duo fiber’. The white fibers you see at the top of brush are longer and more feathery than the densely packed black fibers at the base. I like this brush for cream or liquid highlighters. When using a duo-fiber brush, the goal should be to only use the fine fibers at the top to both apply and blend your makeup. Doing so will result in an ‘airbrushed’ finish. To apply you’ll want to gently dab the product onto the desired areas and follow that by buffing in small circular motions until it’s blended to your satisfaction.
SIGMA BEAUTY SOFT BLEND CONCEALER BRUSH F64 ($22) -synthetic. This brush is meant to be used for undereye concealer but I like using it to apply dense powders or highlighters with a more creamy texture, like the ABH glow kits for example. This brush is ideal for two reasons. First the fibers are firm so they pick up product better than a soft brush would. Second the compact shape allows for precise application. This brush is a good partner for the MUG brush we discussed previously. I like to apply product with the Sigma brush and then use the MUG brush to soften the edges.
WAYNE GOSS FAN BRUSH #15 ($25)- natural (goat). This is the only fan brush that I’ve ever loved. It’s incredibly soft. Obviously. It’s Wayne Goss. But it’s also on the smaller side allowing for better control. A lot of fan brushes are on the larger side and I end up getting product all over the place. I use this brush for soft powder highlighters, the kind where you have to make a conscious effort not to pick up too much product. I run the brush lightly over the pan, tap off the access and have at it. I only like this brush for my really soft indie highlighters or loose highlighters. With anything else, I find it easier to use more compact brushes so I can be precise in my application. But that’s just a personal preference.
SEPHORA COLLECTION PRO HIGHLIGHTER BRUSH #98 ($28)- synthetic. I just got this brush during the Sephora VIB sale. I dig their pro line brushes. It’s a small, dense domed shaped brush that’s perfect for any powder highlighter regardless of the texture. It’s also slightly tapered making it ideal for that detailed application I’m always rambling on about. Even though I’ve only had this one a short time, I can tell it’s going to be one of my favorites. It will probably replace the next brush as my ‘go to’ highlight brush.
ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS A23 BRUSH ($25)- natural (goat?). This was my most used highlighting brush before I got the new one from Sephora. They’re actually very similar. The Sephora brush is more dense and this one is a little diffused. But I’ve also washed the ABH brush 5347 times (approximately) and the Sephora brush has only been washed a handful of times so it will most likely loosen up over time. Mostly everything I said about the Sephora brush applies here as well. I find this brush works well for me when applying any type of powder highlighter.
So to recap… for me the ABH and Sephora brushes are the most universal. I’ll use them to apply any powder highlighter. I like the MUG brush for liquid and cream products and blending. The Sigma brush for dense or creamy powder highlighters and the Wayne Goss for soft or loose powders.
ARTIS OVAL 4 ($46)- synthetic. Here’s my review of the Artis brushes. And I also compared them to the popular (and cheap) my makeup brush set brushes. This is the brush that I like using for cream contour. The shape and angle of the brush as well as the density of the fibers are ideal for applying cream contour products. I also like using a small brush like this to blend the contour line without diffusing it.
JUVIA’S PLACE ANGLED CONTOUR ($35, save 10% with code BEAUTYCULT)- synthetic. This brush is only sold of part of a set that also includes a pointed powder brush, 2 blending brushes and an angled liner brush. I decided to include it anyway because it’s my favorite angled brush and I think the set is a good value. But mostly any other large angled brush would function the same. The reason I like this one so much is because it’s extremely soft even after washing it a million times. And the narrow shape and angled tip fits the curves of my face perfectly. I like this brush for applying a soft, diffused contour to the perimeters of the face and also softening a cheekbone contour applied with a more precise brush.
SEPHORA COLLECTION PRO FEATHERWEIGHT BRUSH #90 ($34)- synthetic. I know I already mentioned that I’m a fan of the Sephora Pro brush line but the ‘featherweight’ brushes are amazing. I wish they’d expand this line as there’s only five. I think it’s safe to say that they’re called featherweight due how light they are. They’re also exceptional soft. I’m going to have to replace this guy soon because it’s starting to lose its shape. Through no fault of its own, mind you. I’ve just smashed it into my freelance kit one time too many trying to vacate the premises asap.
As you can see here, new this brush is significantly more tapered. It’s very multifunctional due to it’s shape. I’ve used it for blush, bronzer and setting the undereye but I also love it for contour. I pick up and apply product with the side of the brush and use the tip to gently blend. It will give you a more precise application than an angled brush would but the results will be more natural than what you’d get with a chiseled brush.
MAKEUP GEEK CHISELED CHEEK BRUSH ($18)- synthetic. This brush is comparable to the famous Nars Ita brush (But a lot more durable, IMO). You’ll use a brush like this to really sculpt out your cheekbones and face contours. I don’t use this style of brush very often because ‘ig makeup’ is too much for most people in real life. Note I said MOST people. I’ll rock glitter eyes and lashes that touch my eyebrows to run errands at 11am on Tuesday. So if a Kim K contour is your thang, do you booboo. I see your vision mama and I love it. Anyway these brushes are going to give you a more dramatic contour. Use a light hand and then lightly blend with a bigger brush and you’ll be fine.
CHIKUHODO Z-3 CONTOUR ($42)- natural (gray squirrel). The Z series are the more ‘luxurious’ chikuhodo brushes. The Z-3 has short, dense fibers with a flat top and of course it’s incredibly soft. This is another brush that I use for multiple functions. I love it for the undereye area because of soft it is. It’s great for concealing and setting. It also has multiple uses when it comes to contouring. The shape is ideal for sculpting the jawline and cheeks. But as I mentioned with the last brush, I prefer a more natural contour. I prefer using it to blend out both cream and powder contour lines. You can buff or stiple over a sharp line to soften it without diffusing the product, which really defeats the purpose of contouring.
Recap: The chiseled brush will give you the most dramatic contour. An angled brush will give you a soft contour. The Sephora brush is in between those two. The small Artis brushes are great for cream contour and the Z-3 can be used to apply cream or powder products but I prefer using it to blend.
Phew!! Holy shit! Congratulations for making it this far. No wonder I’ve been putting this off for months. In hindsight I should’ve made this two separate posts. Next I’m going to do blush brushes. That will be a MUCH shorter post. Then I’m going to do undereye brushes and include both concealer and setting brushes. After that it’s on to my favorite… eye brushes!! I hope at least a few of you made it to the end and found this helpful. I feel like I’ve been typing for hours!