Natasha Denona’s Star Palette ($169) launches today at Sephora and Beautylish and it’s a stunning beauty with 18 eyeshadows. The shadows are cased in a magnetic flat palette similar to the Eyeshadow 28 Palette (Green Brown reviewed and swatched here). The overall color theme of the Star Palette is warm, bold and glitzy. She’s launched some other basics for eyes over the past few months and today I have a roundup to share with you today.
Up first is the Star Palette which is just breathtaking at first glance. I’ll say up front it probably will most likely not be for everyone just
based on the color options, especially if you’re on the conservative
side for makeup. I rarely ever wear glitter shadow (except for ones by
Tom Ford and Charlotte Tilbury) as it’s not something I feel comfortable
wearing. I also don’t wear reds or wine colors on my eyes. Still this palette has a mix of colors and textures that is mesmerizing. In general I really like Natasha Denona’s mattes and shimmers – they are really great in quality, smooth in texture and have the prettiest finishes. Her glitters come in a mix of really fine shimmer/glitter and then chunky. Out of all the colors in this palette I would say there are 2 glitters I won’t wear and 2 of the reds that I don’t think I would wear on my eyes.
The left side of the palette has:
Spectrum is an antique gold sparkle with tiny micro glitters
Earth is a dark chocolate matte brown
Bellatrix is a metallic peachy champagne
Flesh is a matte warm peach flesh
Orion is a duo-chrome blue brown shimmer
Gemma is a soft satiny brown plum gold
Atria is a sparkling copper orangey shade with tiny micro sparkles
Titania is a matte warm brown
Cosmo is a sparkling brassy gold
For the right side of the palette:
Diadem is a matte dusty grey-mauve
Vega is a matte pink peach rose
Galaxia is a sparkling glitter icy white with a chunky finish
Phoenix is a bright red satin shimmer
Supernova is a silver taupe shimmer
Electra is a red magenta satin
Polaris is a glitzy pale gold
Atik is a matte brown sand color
Rhea is a gorgeous peach red copper with shimmer
The colors are all very soft in texture. The glitters and crystal shimmer colors are a bit chunky and prone to have more fallout when you apply so it’s best to use with a damp brush or over a super creamy base in a patting motion rather than brushing. Quality-wise her shadows are excellent. When it comes to palettes if there are 2-3 shades I don’t think I will use I try to restrain myself from purchasing so in this case if I had applied my rule I would have probably skipped it (this was kindly gifted by Natasha).
For the Eye Light there are four shades, my best match is Shade #2. These come in a twist up click pen applicator with a brush. #1 for some reason was a dud for me as there was a lot of separation that happened inside the tube and the product came out very watery. The other three shades had no issues. These have what Natasha calls “spherical powders” inside which means they don’t need to be set with powder after application. I always set concealer and foundation with powder, but the formula really is one that sets well and doesn’t need power. Swatch comparisons for reference to NARS Radiant Creamy Concealers, Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Concealer (review here) and MAC Pro Long Wear Concealer in NC35.
I use these under the eye and they cover my moderately dark circles really well and brighten the area. It goes on smooth, there’s no creasing and they blend to a flawless finish. Many look dry under my eyes (the NARS, MAC and MUFE are among the few I can wear) and the Natasha Denona one joins the club of Beauty Look Book approved undereye concealers. It doesn’t darken which is a huge plus for me in terms of color matching.
Next are the eye bases which are creamy and dry to a soft smooth finish. I feel as though I’m one of the few who does not have oily lids – I usually need a base with some kind of emollient texture and to date the Edward Bess Illuminating Eye Base has been my favorite. Others like ones from NARS, Urban Decay, Too Faced, etc. dry out my lids and make my skin look wrinkled.
The Natasha Denona Eye Shadow Base is perfect for evening out the lids and has a creamy feel to help powder shadows adhere better, not just with her brand but also other powder shadows. I find it tied in terms of quality and finish with the Edward Bess one.
Last but not least are the Eye Lash Curler and Blackest Black Mascara. I found both to be just ok, but not great. For some reason the Eye Lash Curler just would not curl my lashes, although the shape and size worked well for my eye shape. No pinching and my fingers fit inside the loops just fine. I just found the curling pad didn’t help create a curl like the MAC Eye Lash Curler or Chanel Eye Lash Curler (my two favorites).
The Mascara has an odd shape brush, almost pear-shaped and I had a difficult time getting my lashes coated with the brush. It did add depth and dimension. There was no smudging which many readers know is rare for me with most mascaras. I just need lots of volume and this was lacking in that department for me. For reference two that work for me right now are the Stila Huge Lash and Bobbi Brown Eye Opening Mascara.
I think the Star Palette has some amazing colors but palettes can be hard to love if you don’t love all the colors. There are only 4 out of the 18 I don’t see myself wearing on a regular basis and perhaps I’ll experiment more with the glitzy ones in the upcoming weeks. The Eye Light Concealer and Eye Base are both excellent – I hope the swatches help if you’re ordering sight unseen.
You can find select Natasha Denona products now at Sephora and Beautylish. Do note that the Sephora Rouge 20% off sale starts soon and will run from 11/4 to 11/7 so if you have this on your wishlist you may want to wait until the sale to buy this.
Many thanks to Natasha for sending a lovely package of items for me to try out.
Wayne Goss and Beautylish have teamed up to launch a collection of brushes called The Anniversary Set ($225 for 8 brushes). This special launch is timed to celebrate the second anniversary of Wayne Goss’s best-selling brush set- this one includes an updated release of the popular Brush 01 (limited edition) and introduces the new Brush 05 which will become a permanent addition to The Collection.
According to Beautylish, each brush has been meticulously handcrafted by traditional artisans in Kumano, Japan with jewel tone name and number lasering on the handles unique to the Anniversary Set. They are all made with cruelty-free natural bristles that have been selected for luxurious softness and then bundled uncut into a durable brass ferrule. I was able to preview the brush set last weekend in Santa Monica. I just received the brush set two days ago courtesy of Beautylish so I haven’t had much time to experiment in great detail but since it’s limited-edition I have a first impressions review on each the set today.
This is my first Wayne Goss Brush Set. I’ve accumulated a few individual brushes and they are well-loved in my collection. These brushes come with black lacquered handles that are medium-sized in length. They fit in my small hands nicely and are lightweight which makes them easy to use. There are eight brushes in this set for eyes and face. My quick take is that I think these brushes are very well made and the design and quality is excellent. They are extremely soft and the bristles are evenly distributed for flawless application. If you’re looking for a nice set of brushes to start a collection I think this is a very good place to start.
The eight brushes in the set include:
Brush 01 – The much-loved Brush 01, now three times larger for fast, flawless application of your favorite foundation. This elegant duo-fiber Brush makes blending creams, liquids, and powders to a poreless finish quick and easy. This one is limited-edition and exclusive to the set.
Brush 02 – A soft-as-silk Brush that seamlessly buffs powder products—blush, bronzer, highlighter, or setting powder—onto skin. Its tapered shape makes maneuvering around the contours of the cheeks a breeze.
Brush 03 – Fluffy, slightly pointed bristles make this Brush ideal for sweeping pigment all over the eyelid. It can also be used to highlight the nose and brow bone or to buff powder into the T-zone.
Brush 04 – Perfect for blending and distributing color into the crease of any eye shape. With its softly tapered silhouette, this Brush is also an excellent choice for concealing and setting the delicate undereye area.
Brush 05 – Completely redesigned with detail work in mind. The fine-point tip and supple bristles allow for the utmost precision when applying pigment to the eyes and lips.
Brush 06 – Topped with dense, dome-shaped hairs, Brush 06 effortlessly blends and softens eyeshadow in a single stroke. Use it to apply concealer to imperfections for a natural, even finish.
Brush 07 – Designed for lipstick or eyeliner, this small, flat Brush has just the right amount of stiffness for ultimate control. Apply precise amounts of color to the lips and eyes, or highlight specific parts of the brow bone and cupid’s bow.
Brush 08 – A tiny Brush with a short, flat tuft, ideal for tightlining the eyes with ease. Its unique shape makes working pigment directly into the root of lashes or brow hairs easier than ever before.
I have put these to the test for two days so far. Here’s what I tested each brush with and thoughts. First up is the Brush 01. I tried it with two liquid foundations. I thought the NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation would be a good one to try it with to see how smooth the finish would be. This is an ultra pigmented foundation and for the most part it’s flawless with fingers or a beautyblender sponge, but with most brushes streaks are visible. With the Wayne Goss Brush 01 it was pretty much streak-free with a few swipes. Brush strokes were still visible but required minimal blending and buffing to get completely smooth. I also tried it with the La Mer Reparative Skin Tint and it blended out product flawlessly. (Also shown below, recycled Diptyque Baies and RMS Luminizer Nail Polish.)
For Brush 02 and 04, I tested them with highlighter and concealer. Brush 02 (left) is a small tapered brush. It’s super soft and plush making it extra gentle on the skin. The tip is slightly domed and rounded which gives a very soft blended look. I tried it with detail highlighting using the Charlotte Tilbury Norman Parkinson Dreamy Glow Highlighter (swatched here). The brush picks up quite a lot of product which is nice. Some brushes don’t catch enough powder for some reason, but this one does.
Brush 04 (right) is a small detail brush. It’s similar in shape to Brush 03 but the 04 is smaller. It’s designed for crease but I don’t have folds in the eye area so I decided to try it with concealer since it was suggested in the product description. I would never have thought to try a non-synthetic tapered brush with a cream concealer but it really works. I took a dab of the Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer in 07 and it gives a super natural blended application on spots and under the eye. I’m really impressed! (On the nails below is Chanel Rouge No. 19).
For the eye brushes I’m surprised I don’t own any of these yet. From left to right is 03, 06, 05, 07 and 08. I know tapered brushes are huge with many and are considered a staple. I prefer fluffier brushes but the Wayne Goss 03 is really quite lovely. It’s dense enough that it’s not flimsy and it picks up just the right amount of product to give a sheer all over wash to the lids.
Brush 06 is a flatter but rounded brush, it’s described as a one-sweep brush and it really is that. It’s perfectly sized to give my lids color with one swipe.
Brush 05 is a detail brush that’s been redesigned. I don’t think I own the original one so I can’t compare but it’s an amazing smokey detail brush that picks up pigment really well and applies it in the inner corners or under the lash line. For the bottom lash line I like soft blended colors so it doesn’t look harsh and this one is perfect. I think I will need to purchase another once it’s launched individually.
Brush 07 and 08 are also detail brush perfection. I own tons of smudge brushes and Brush 07 is definitely one of the better ones I’ve tried. It’s super dense but soft. The material picks up color really well and applies it onto the skin beautifully. I feel like I’ve been waiting for Brush 08 my whole life. I know there are tons of skinny angled brushes that people use and love for getting into the lashline. I’m super uncoordinated with those and can never really get the color into the lash line easily, there’s almost always a gap so I have to blend and layer a lot. This one makes detail application super easy. It’s super dense and non-flimsy and non-floppy at the tip. If Wayne ever made a slightly larger one that is also angled for eyes I think I would fall head over heels in love with it. (He has one for brows in his brow trio which is utterly perfect but I think it’s too stiff for my delicate sensitive lids.) I tested the eye brushes with different textures of eyeshadow from the Urban Decay Naked3 Palette (swatched here). I thought it would be a good one since it has a mix of matte, satin, shimmer, chunky sparkle and metallic. All brushes worked really well with multiple textures making them really versatile.
One last shot of the brushes lined up:
I’m overall impressed. I knew that this set would be very well made and each brush would be perfectly crafted but I wasn’t sure if any would be that different from the dozens of tools I already own. Sometimes brushes are just brushes and if you have a collection of tools that work, it can seem redundant to own multiple tools from different lines. The brushes in the Anniversary Set all are phenomenal tools I know I will reach for and use on a daily basis. The Brush 02 is one of the softest brushes I’ve ever touched (just as soft as the Tom Ford ones). If there were one that I would say I could skip, I would say Brush 03 and 04 are very similar, but I really like 03 for the lids and now that I’ve tried 04 with concealer I’m converted. I think the detail Brush 08 is absolutely genius – if you’re unsure about getting the full set, I would say hands down the 07 and 08 are must-haves for perfect smokey eye detailing.
You can find The Wayne Goss Anniversary Brush Set exclusively online at Beautylish for $225. It is limited-edition.
Many thanks to Beautylish for sending a set for review consideration.
My friends and I often chat about beauty and since I’m a beauty blogger that tests quite a few things, I’m often asked “what do you think is the best _________?” Foundation brushes were the topic of discussion last month. My top three favorite tools are the Beautyblender Sponges (the pink one, the white and black ones are not as good even though they’re supposed to be the same), Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush and the Tom Ford Foundation Brush. As soon as I said “Tom Ford” ooohs and aaahhs followed by the question, “ok, but how much do they cost?” At $72 each, neither of my friends were willing to splurge. They asked what made the brushes so good and I told them they were the only brushes I’ve tried that applies foundation streak-free and it requires no extra work to blend into the skin. Even though I had tried quite a few, I was tasked with a project to find a cheaper alternative that performed just as well. Suggested brands included Marc Jacobs Beauty, Urban Decay, Chanel and MAC. I have already tried and tested the Chanel #6 and MAC #190, both of which are good, but still give me streaks, luckily both brands have new ones out so I was able to test those. Given the fact that I am super picky about brushes that leave any kind of streaks, I was skeptical I would find anything as good as Tom Ford.
For quick reference, here are the brush tips/tops shown for size reference and shape, same order as what’s shown above:
Foundations I tested the foundation brushes with: Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick (review), NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation (review here), Marc Jacobs Genius Gel (review), Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting Foundation (review + swatches), Chanel Perfection Lumiere Velvet Foundation (review)
I went into my local Sephora store to look at the Marc Jacobs Beauty brushes. I have had a really good experience using the Shape and Contour Brush for pressed powders, contouring powders and also foundation. It’s super dense though so it’s better suited for contouring. One of the makeup artists at Sephora recommended the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 for flawless coverage. She said it’s the best brush she’s ever used – the shape allows you to get in the corners of the nose and blend easily and the wide flat shape allows for full coverage with just a few strokes. There’s also the Mini Size #53.5 and Large Size #53XL for the body/decollete. I liked the look and price of the mini, but the regular size comes with a flip open cap that comes in super handy for storage/travel. It keeps the bristles in tact without coming in contact with other tools so it won’t get kinked or smashed.
In the interest of wanting to see which one was better, I bought both. The artist was right. The regular size #53 is indeed better. It’s larger and fluffier and allows for easier application with a few strokes on the face. The mini is still good but the size requires more brushing back and forth to cover the entire face. I was worried the regular size would be too large or that it would soak up a lot of product, but it actually is the perfect size and doesn’t absorb too much foundation. These are made with Naturon fibers that are made from a synthetic PBT, it feature waves and pointed tips to emulate natural fibers.
I’m truly impressed with how good my foundation looked with these. These give flawless coverage that is completely streak free. I liked these best with liquid foundation (versus stick/creams). Huge huge thumbs up.
The Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush is something I’ve actually had sitting in my drawer for a while. It was gifted to me earlier this year. I’ve tried some other Urban Decay brushes before including the ones that come in the Naked Palettes. I’m usually not a huge fan of synthetic brushes although I’m slowly trying more and finding some really good ones these days. I put this one to the test. It has an ultra soft feel with a rounded tip. Urban Decay describes this as a vegan brush. The description of this one: “The brush’s handle is made of recycled aluminum, and its synthetic, cruelty-free brush hairs are more hygienic than real hair (but never get that stinky wet-hair smell).” I found it ultra soft and also does an amazing job at blending foundation flawlessly. For the price it’s a really good option, but I can’t call it a favorite for two reasons. The first is there was a bit of shedding before I washed it. The first washing resulted in a tiny bit more shedding but after that it was done. The second hesitation I have in giving this a glowing review is the brush head is a bit small. It’s not bad – it’s still easy to use, but after testing other brushes, I find others easier and better to get full coverage with less strokes and less blending. Still – if you’re looking for something relatively inexpensive and that will blend liquids without any streaks, this is a good option. It blends foundation sticks on the face really nicely too and is super gentle on the skin.
Two of the Marc Jacobs Beauty foundation brushes have been on my wishlist for a long time, but since I was already 100% happy with the Tom Ford Brushes, I decided to pass, but in the end caved to test them. If you’re like me you probably wonder if glowing reviews are often due to hype. In the case of Marc Jacobs Beauty brushes – the hype is real.
The newest brush The Face III Buffing Foundation Brush is on the expensive side but it’s worth every penny. It’s an ultra plush brush with a super dense head and rounded domed tip. It’s dense but still very soft so it allows for easy blending and buffing in a circular motion. It works well with sheer and full coverage foundation. The material helps the foundation meld into the skin in the most amazing way – you get flawless coverage and is 100% streak free and it applies foundation evenly on the skin.
The Face II Sculpting Foundation brush isn’t a new one but it’s new for me. It has a beveled/angled tip that is perfect for sculpting the face. It’s good for all over foundation – the angled tip glides along the sides of your face, temples and cheeks smoothly. Since the tip is slightly angled, it’s skinny along the top and allows for perfect blending along the sides and corners of the nose. It’s perfect for cream bronzer.
Between the two, I can’t pick a favorite – they are both really phenomenal. They both blend liquids and creams flawlessly. I tried them both with liquid and cream foundations. The Buffing Brush is better to blend out stick/solid cream foundations on the face. The Sculpting is also versatile for liquid products and blending out cream bronzers or contouring products.
Side views at different angles to show the tapered shape of the Sculpting Brush:
Last but not least include two of the newest slanted flat top brushes from MAC and Chanel. The MAC Slanted Flat Top Brush #196 was really hard for me to locate – it was sold out almost everywhere I looked but I did find one counter that had one left. I was told that it’s not limited-edition and will be permanent in stores but I’m not 100% sure. This was my ideal pick because it has a large brush head which I prefer for foundation – it allows for less blending. Unfortunately it did leave some streaks – it was easy to blend out but didn’t give a streak-free finish like the others I tested. That being said this brush was designed for the MAC Studio Waterweight Foundation which reminds me of the Armani Maestro Fusion Foundation – both of which are very fluid and thin in texture. I prefer thicker more traditional foundations that are still liquid but not super thin. Perhaps it works better on thin texture foundations.
Chanel just launched a 2-in-1 Fluid and Powder Foundation Brush #8. I’ve tested this for about a week now and think it’s amazing. It’s still on the pricey side but relative to Tom Ford, it’s pretty reasonable. This one glides on the skin perfectly and gives streak-free application. It has a smaller tip compared to the other brushes which means I had to dab and blend 3x as much to cover my entire face. It does seem to soak up a tiny bit more product compared to the other tools but I’m willing to deal with it since the application is so good. I haven’t tested it with powders but for liquids I’m impressed.
Below you can see the MAC has shorter bristles while the Chanel has longer ones:
Side view, you can see the difference in size. I prefer the size of the MAC, but the performance of the Chanel is better.
I’m really impressed with a number of these brushes I tested. I wonder what took me so long to try out the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 brush (it’s better than the mini version). It’s amazing and at $38 the price is right. Marc Jacobs Beauty of course never ceases to impress me. Both the Face II Sculpting and Face III Buffing Brushes are more expensive and quite a splurge – but they are really well made with sturdy handles and they have a well constructed design. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with either and I don’t think owning both is redundant.
I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the Urban Decay Good Karma Optical Blurring Brush or MAC Slanted Flat Top Brush #196. Both are good brushes for the price. The Urban Decay is a bit too small for my taste although it’s super soft and blends liquids beautifully. The MAC leaves visible streaks and although they are minimal and easy to blend out, I’d rather have something that gives me a flawless finish to save time. The short tip also makes it a bit hard to wash out – the liquids get up into the middle and it took extra work to get completely clean.
The new Chanel #8 Foundation Brush gives a flawless finish and I would say it’s definitely superior to the original #6 Foundation Brush. I don’t gravitate towards small angled brushes because I think they are better suited for detail application. For foundation I want something that will apply product in larger sweeping motions. The #8 is very good though – if you’re in the market for an angled brush this is a good one to look at that won’t break the bank.
In summary, I have found brushes that perform just as well as my beloved Tom Ford brushes at a cheaper price. My top two picks include the Sephora Pro Full Coverage Airbrush #53 (found exclusively at Sephora) and the Marc Jacobs Face III Buffing Brush (found at Sephora and Marc Jacobs Beauty).
I hope you found this roundup helpful! Do you have a favorite foundation brush?
For many years I was a loyal user of Shiseido Face Cotton. Even though it’s more expensive than the cotton pads you find at drug stores, I found it significantly softer in texture, relatively thick and dense and didn’t disintegrate with makeup remover. I like to use it on the face to remove makeup or for skin toners. For nail polishes I mainly use drug store rounds from Rite Aid although quality isn’t consistent among all the options, many leave tiny bits of fibers on the face, so I save them for polish removal. Out of curiosity and raves from friends, I started exploring more options over the past few years. Today I have a roundup of the five cotton pads I like to rotate between. I’ve stocked up on several since I go through these quickly.
Chanel Le Coton ($20 for 100 pads) are the largest cotton pads I’ve bought. I purchased a box of the Chanel at a makeover event to qualify for the gift with purchase they were offering and fell head over heels in love. The Chanel is larger and thicker in size compared to the Shiseido. I find it sturdier but still very gentle on the skin. The square is large enough that I can use one half for my dual-phase eye makeup removers and the other half for cleansing water for the rest of my face. Just when I found my holy grail of luxury cottons, Chanel discontinued it for a while which broke my heart. Thank goodness they brought it back. The thickness allows for just the right amount of toner or makeup remover to be absorbed and apply to the skin. This is by far my favorite. These come in a white box which helps keep the shape in tact and protects the cotton from getting smashed.
A few friends told me to try the face cotton from Clé de Peau Beauté ($20 for 120 pads) stating it was the best thing they’ve ever used. A couple readers had e-mailed me too saying they thought I should try it so I did. It’s really quite amazing. It’s the thickest of all the cotton pads I’ve tried but still has a relatively tight weave making it sturdy. In terms of size it’s larger than Shiseido but smaller than Chanel. I like that these come in a box so they keep the shape.
Shiseido Facial Cotton ($9.50 for 165 pads) is a classic staple. It’s soft but firm and won’t fall apart easily. One pad is sufficient for the entire face. It is thinner than Chanel or Cle de Peau Beaute though. These come in a soft plastic casing without any support so make sure you store them away from things that can smash the package or else they will become smushed.
Rite Aid and CVS have cotton pads that I buy frequently. Below are the Premium Cotton Rounds from Rite Aid. I prefer the ones with a vertical line weave at the top versus the honeycomb because I find those softer in texture and they also don’t leave any fibers on the face but I can’t always find those specific ones. These run around $3-$4 depending on the store and what sales they have going on.
Sephora Collection Soft Touch Cotton Pads ($4 for 70 rounds) are softer than most drug store brands. Since they are smaller and thinner I usually need 2-3 rounds to remove my makeup entirely. For the price if you can get away with one pad these are really good although they are significantly thinner and not as plush as the Chanel, Shiseido or Cle de Peau. I had hoped these would be the same as the other luxury cotton rectangles at a cheaper price. They just aren’t the same.
In summary, my top two picks are Chanel and Cle de Peau Beaute – it’s impossible for me to pick between the two. Shiseido is the next best option but still not as thick or plush and the smaller size means I have to use 2 pads on occasion. A quick reference on pricing and availability of each. You can find the cotton at a number of retailers, I’ll list places I’ve bought mine before:
Clé de Peau Beauté Cotton Pads are $20 for a box of 120 pads = $0.17/pad
I have a handful of new-to-me cheek and face brushes that I’ve been playing with for the past few weeks. When it comes to trying or purchasing new beauty products I’m usually pretty open to buying things sight unseen except for makeup brushes. There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part I primarily buy the mainstream brands that I can see or test in person. Roundup of my staples here and here. After testing just a few brushes from Chikuhodo, Hakuhodo and Hourglass, I can say that these are truly incredible tools worthy of their higher price tags. The materials used and the way they are cut are phenomenal making a huge difference in makeup application and feel on the skin.
The Chikuhodo MK-2 Brush ($178) is one of three new brushes in the Makie Series. These are brushes that come with a beautiful print on the handles. These are made of grey squirrel hair and are incredibly soft and plush – it’s the softest brush I have ever felt. It’s semi-loose/semi-dense making it really good for all over powder or a soft wash of bronzer. It has a round shape but is semi-flattened which I like in a powder brush. This is the first Chikuhodo brush I’ve tried since they’ve been hard to find. Beautylish now carries the brushes and I’ve been thrilled with their quick shipping and awesome customer service so I’ve been doing some research to plot a sizable purchase. If you have any recommendations I would love them. The MK-2 along with all of the Chikuhodo brushes are a luxurious splurge but they are incredibly well made and soft.
Front view versus side view:
Hakuhodo has been on my radar for ages. I saw the line for the first time at The Makeup Show LA this year. The website is a bit overwhelming with all the options for those new to the line. I should have done more research ahead of time, but picked out a few to buy based on density and shape. I picked out white brushes because they felt ultra soft. The three face brushes I picked out include the Fan Brush White ($45), J 501 ($100) and J 505 ($72).
The Fan Brush White is made of 100% goat hair. it’s a wide and fluffy but dense kind of brush. This one is ideal for powder and finishing. It’s ultra soft but still medium-to-full in density so it will provide medium coverage if you layer on powders. I’ve used this to dust powder all over the face and also to blend powders along the sides of my face whether it’s a soft bronzer or to blend in blush. The compact shape and size is designed for it to be purse-friendly, but you do need a case for it to keep the bristles in tact. There is a small black case you can buy from Hakuhodo for it that retails for $10. It’s something I should have picked up but did not.
Next up are two synthetic fiber / goat hair blended brushes in J 501 ($100) and J 505 ($72). Both are ultra soft and plush. They remind me of the Tom Ford Brushes but are more tapered at the ends. They do fluff up a bit after washing but for the most part still keep their shape. J 501 is larger option, it was recommended to me for pressed powder because it’s a dense brush. J 505 is smaller and ideal for blushes. To me they feel identical in density and softness compared to the Tom Ford. The only difference is the shape.
Front vs side view:
Below the 2 Hakuhodo brushes compared to the Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush ($72) for size and the Cheek Brush ($78). I have a slight preference for the more tapered shape of the Hakuhodo just for looks, but they perform the same and I’ve been such a huge fan of my Tom Ford Brushes I don’t know that I can pick one over the other.
Last but not least is the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder Brush ($35). This has been on my radar for forever but it’s something that has always escaped my shopping cart. It’s a densely packed brush made of high-grade Taklon bristles (synthetic fibers) and comes with its own pouch to store. This one is designed to be used with the Ambient Lighting Powders to dust all over the face or the angled portion to apply contour/highlighting products but it’s quite versatile. I also like to use it with the Ambient Lighting Bronzers because you can control the intensity of product easily with this brush.
Quick peek at more Hourglass brushes from the Abbot Kinney Boutique in Venice Beach:
Do you have any favorites from any of these lines? I have enough brushes to last multiple lifetimes but if I could start my brush collection all over again I would certainly choose to invest in ones from niche brands. They come at a steep price but the design, quality and way they apply product is truly phenomenal.
The Hourglass and Chikuhodo brushes were provided courtesy without charge for review consideration. All other items purchased by me.
After discovering beautyblenders last year I fell in love and have been using these sponges on a regular basis to blend my foundation and cream-based makeup products. The latest from beauty blender is a small duo called the micro.mini ($17.95 for a pack of 2). These are ultra cute baby-sized sponges designed for detail application like the inner eye corners, brow bones, sides of nose, and cheeks. According to beautyblender, the micro.mini is 1/4 the size of the original version and made of the exact same material. Online reviews are mixed on these, many state that it’s simply too small to even fit in the fingers, but I think the key to using these is to use them damp. When you get these wet they expand and double in size and become more bouncy. The expanded/damp application blends cream products flawlessly and smoothly versus a dry sponge.
I’ve been testing the micro.mini for a few days now and I’m a fan. I really like these for applying makeup under the eye or blending products around the nose. I’m always twisting the full size version when I blend concealer under the eyes to get a more precise blend, the mini is the perfect solution for those tiny areas you want to blend where a sponge is too big but a brush is too detailed. I’m one who doesn’t like to use the same tool for foundation and concealer (I just don’t like mixing two products on one tool), so the micro mini is perfect for me. I know many like tools that are multi-purpose. If you don’t mind using the same sponge for concealer and foundation then this won’t be a necessary tool.
When the micro.mini is dry it’s ultra tiny making it difficult to hold even in small hands or fingers. The best way to use these is damp where they expand to double the size. Below shows the size difference dry vs damp. Even when they are damp they are still small. If you find it slips out of your fingers try squeezing the excess water out with a paper towel. The first couple times I used it I found I needed to dry it more.
The uses are endless with the beautyblender sponges. You can apply product on the face and then blend with the sponge. Or you can mix products on the back of your hand (or makeup palette) and dip the sponge in and then apply to the face. There’s no one method I use for applying concealer. Sometimes I like to dab straight on the face. Other times I’ll apply it to the back of my hand first.
I really like the micro.mini. For someone who like to keep separate tools for concealer and foundation this is perfect. I’ve been one who usually blends concealer with fingers, a clean end of a sponge or a small makeup brush. I find if there is excess foundation on a sponge, the dewiness or luminous texture of the foundation will sometimes dilute or mess up the pigment of concealer if it’s mixed with the same tools. It’s not always a bad thing but sometimes I really want concealer to cover up areas, so using a clean tool is a must for me. The small size of the micro.mini works really well for me for concealer, although I don’t suspect it will be a must-have for all. Some will probably prefer a brush, fingers or just use a regular sponge. They are ultra tiny so I suspect they might be difficult to hold for some (it’s just the right size for me but I have smaller-than-average fingers).
There are multiple uses listed for the mini version which includes contouring and highlighting, but for me I think it’s too small for either of those purposes. I prefer powder for contour and for cream or liquid highlighters I prefer brushes. If you’ve tried these I’d love to hear how you use them.
You can find the micro.mini beautyblenders in packs of two for $17.95 now at Sephora and Nordstrom. Have you tried these yet? What did you think?
The micro.minis were provided as press samples for review consideration.
I’ve compiled several detailed brush guides this year but several of my readers have asked for a more consolidated list of recommendations. Like most of my beauty routine, when it comes to makeup tools, I rarely stick to just one brand. I think different lines have certain strengths in particular areas. Some have a better shape while others are made of better materials. There is a lot to sort through in terms of brush shape, size, material and price point. For me, it’s really important that I am able to test a brush in person before purchasing it so I tend to stick to main stream brands. Today I’ve compiled a list of my most reached-for tools for face, cheeks and eyes.
My top picks for brush brands include MAC, Chanel and Tom Ford. In my experience, the overall best brand for quality and price is MAC. I own many MAC brushes that have lasted me over a decade. I like that the brushes have a simple and sleek design and the quality is consistent among all the tools regardless of material or type.
Chanel is also another great brand that I use a lot for brushes and tools. They recently redesigned all their brushes (I think in the last year or so) for a more modern look. The tools work really well with all brands of makeup. There are many similarities in shapes between MAC and Chanel although the material is very different in most of the tools.
If price is no object, Tom Ford hands down makes the best brushes I’ve ever tested. All the brushes are super soft and plush and perform the best out of all the tools I’ve tried. The cream foundation brush is the only brush that gives me a streak-free application for foundation or tinted moisturizer. Tom Ford’s brushes are among the few brands I ordered sight unseen. I splurged on a brush set a few years ago and although it made a serious dent in my wallet but I have no regrets and it makes applying makeup a truly luxurious experience each day.
1 / Beautyblender ($19.95) is the best sponge I’ve used. I just discovered it this year and don’t know how I ever got along without it. There are multiple colors and types of beautyblenders but the pink one performs the best. Use it damp and it expands and applies foundation flawlessly.
2 / MAC Duo Fibre Face Brush #187 ($42) everyone needs a good skunk brush. These are fluffy brushes with two types of material mixed in. The uses for this are endless. I like to use mine to apply powder bronzer or highlighters to the face. You can also use these with cream products or to buff out powder foundation or to blend items. MAC also makes the Duo Fiber brushes in a number of other formats like the Short Handled #187 and a tapered Blush #159 version. I like the classic version the best.
3 / MAC Large Angled Contour #168 ($35) is super soft and fluffy angled contour brush. I use this for bronzer or blush (primarily powders). It’s also a good blending tool. The angled edge helps control application.
4 / Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush #02 ($72) is the best foundation brush I’ve used. It’s one of the most expensive tools I own but worth every penny. When I use this to apply liquid or cream foundations, application is flawless and completely streak free. I normally prefer to use sponges for foundation but often times they soak up so much product. This is the closest thing I have to getting a sponge-finish look with foundation but in brush format.
5 / Chanel Foundation Brush #6 ($45) is my most reached-for foundation brush. It’s not quite as perfect as the Tom Ford, but for me it’s the next best thing. I like this for cream blushes too.
6 / Chanel Blush Brush #4 ($54) is my favorite blush brush because of the shape and material. It’s medium-sized and compact but has just the right amount of density to pick up color and dispense it perfectly on the cheeks. MAC makes a lot of good blush brushes too which are very good quality, but I find myself reaching for the Chanel the most.
7 / Chanel Powder Brush #1 ($65) is my favorite dense but soft powder brush. I use this for loose powder, pressed powder and powder foundation. It comes out of the box tapered but once you wash it it fluffs up quite a bit while still retaining a round shape. I like that it’s sturdy with a substantial handle but still easy to hold and maneuver.
1 / MAC Blending Brush #217 ($24) is the best white fluffy brush you can find for $24. This is key for me in terms of blending shadows for a subtle gradient. I also like to use this as a regular eyeshadow brush when I want an all over lid color.
2 / MAC Eye Shading Brush #239 ($25) is in my top 2 picks along with MAC Brush #217. This is my all time favorite eyeshadow brush. It picks up color really well and blends powders together nicely. I like that it’s dense but super soft.
3 / Tom Ford Eyeshadow Contour Brush #12 ($56) is another favorite. This is my do-it-all kind of brush. It applies shadow on the lids, it will contour or smoke out darker colors and the tip is dense for a smokey eye.
4 / MAC Shader Brush #242 ($25) is what I like for cream shadows (or concealer too). This one has lasted me the longest, I think it was one of the first MAC brushes I bought for myself. It has a really nice round tip making application easy and smooth on the eye (so it doesn’t poke the skin).
5 / Chanel Large Eyeshadow Brush #25 ($38) is a medium to large eyeshadow brush that isn’t too big or fluffy. I do like a good fluffy brush, but these days I find myself reaching for this one because it isn’t as thick or dense making it easier for me to control color and application. If you want something fluffy, soft and more dense, the Bobbi Brown Eye Sweep Brush is one of my favorites.
6 / Laura Mercier Smudge Brush ($24) is a good dense detail brush. It’s stiff but not too stiff so it’s easy on sensitive skin or eyes. I like this one to smudge eyeshadow or eyeliner. I use this instead of a regular liner brush because I like a more smudged softer line to define the eyes. It offers precise application but if you are looking for something super precise, I’d recommend the Bobbi Brown Eye Liner Brush or the Angled Eye Definer Brush.
7 / Trish McEvoy Laydown #40 ($42) is one of my favorite multi-purpose brushes. I like this for powder eyeshadow, cream eyeshadow and concealer. I owned this back when Trish McEvoy had gold handles for the brushes (they are now lucite). It’s the perfect shape, size and density for creams to get a good smooth and even application.
8 / Charlotte Tilbury Eyelash Curler ($20) is one of the newest eyelash curlers I’ve tried. When I first tried it I wasn’t super impressed because it’s called the “Life Changing Lashes” eyelash curler and well, it simply didn’t change my life. I found it just as good as my Trish McEvoy and Chanel eyelash curlers but not anything super special. I’ve since tried a few others from other brands like Shiseido and Shu Uemura and have really come to appreciate the design and shape of the Charlotte Tilbury. It has just the right amount of curve to fit my eye shape. Many others are too flat or not curved enough. The wrong shape will either pinch my eyes around the corners or miss lashes making the curl uneven. I give the Charlotte Tilbury a huge thumbs up for the way it performs.
9 / Trish McEvoy Eyelash Curler ($20) is a classic go-to for me. I have several of these right now and it’s been my most-replaced tool (some recommend you change or the pads these every 90 days, I tend to use these longer replacing once every 6 months). It just works the way an eyelash curler is supposed to. It grabs all the lashes and curls them evenly and in a round flared up shape.
I have some additional thoughts on brushes focusing on double duty or recycling. Based on the above guides, you might be wondering what I recommend for eyeliner, concealer, crease, bronzer, brows or lips.
I think a lot of tools can be used multiple ways which means you can stretch out the uses. Having multiple brushes can be extremely useful so you don’t have to worry about mixing colors or washing brushes frequently if you change from a light to a dark color for a certain tool. I do like brushes that will do multiple things though. For bronzer, I will sometimes use my blush or powder brushes. For the eye crease or contour I find the MAC #217 works just perfectly. For concealer I like blending with the fingers or a sponge.
For brow a lot of brow pencils come with a brush on the end to smooth out the color. I’ve bought a few brow combs before but find they don’t last me very long so I like to recycle my mascara wands after they are used up. Rinse the end with soap and warm water and you’ve got a lash comb and brow comb in one that you can toss whenever without worrying about throwing money away.
Lip pencils often come with a lip brush at one end so I don’t find the need to purchase a separate lip brush for gloss or lipstick. Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana have lip brushes which I find handy.
Last but not least, long time readers know I’m a fan of recycling candle jars. I use them to store brushes, pencils, lip gloss and office supplies. Diptyque and Jo Malone are my favorite to recycle. I just clean them out with warm-to-hot soapy water and a dish sponge. My candles don’t always have a clean burn so often times there are remnants of wax stuck on the sides. Some recommend freezing or using boiling water. I find that using anything too drastic with temperature changes can crack the glass or melt off the sticker (which I like to keep in tact).
If you’re just starting to build up your collection of makeup tools I hope you found this guide helpful. It can be overwhelming to sort through all the options so I have found the best way to start is to focus on one area at a time (i.e. start with eyeshadow brushes or blush brushes) and do your research. If you’re an in-store kind of shopper, I highly recommend bringing a small list of options you’ve found interesting or with high ratings. Having a list can be helpful in case you want to see different brands in one store. Some brushes go by number so writing the numbers down is handy unless you have a super good memory, I often have to look at the numbers on my MAC brushes when someone asks me “which brush is that?”
Building a good brush collection will take some time but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Brushes can be pricey especially when you add them up so I do recommend taking your time to research in advance to make sure you find ones that work best for your specific needs or wants.
I hope you found this guide on my favorites helpful to start!
This post was sponsored by Nordstrom. All opinions my own. All tools my own. For more information you can refer to my Disclosures.