Brush Off!

In the magical world of professional makeup artistry a great artist possess three very important attributes that make them stand out from the crowd - Attitude, Knowledge and...Makeup Brushes.

Professionals invest in quality over quantity and brushes are no exception. Like a writer needs a great pen, a ballet dancer needs the right toe shoes, a photographer needs the best camera, a makeup artist needs amazing brushes! Brushes can enhance an artist’s skill level and they can be a BIG investment, but one that with proper care, can last 20 years!

To look your best everyday whether you are a professional or a novice, investing in good brushes should be a top priority. Let’s start with the basics…

Makeup brushes are divided into three parts: Hair, Ferrule and Handle. Doesn’t sound that complicated right? Well, did you know that there are approximately 13 types of Natural Hair makeup brushes? Badger, Squirrel, Squirrel Mix/Blends, Pony, Raccoon, Ox, Goat, Sable, Kolinksy Sable, Red Sable, Weasel and Pahmi. There are Synthetic brushes – Taklon and Nylon. All these hair types can affect the overall value of the makeup brush hence also their prices.

Confused? Then keep reading!

Natural hair = soft makeup brushes and are mostly manufactured for the larger brushes in an arsenal, such as a Powder, Blush, Contour, Blending, or large Eye Shadow brush. Those types of brushes usually are made from Squirrel, Pony or Goat. Smaller brushes, such as Lip, small Eye Shadow and Eyeliner brushes are also made of natural hair most likely different types of Sables or Pahmi hair.

Natural hair brushes hold or trap the powder cosmetic they pick up so, when you press the brush to your face, you release the powder more effectively with little to no fall out (or in laymen’s terms – the cosmetic goes where you want it to and not where you don’t! Capisce?).

Synthetic brushes are Nylon or Taklon and are not “absorbent” or will not “trap” powder cosmetic to the bristles. They are best used as Concealer, Foundation or creme product applicators. If you have a brush made of synthetic bristles and you are using it for powder products, you probably get “fall out.”

The ferrule of the makeup brush is the metal “tube” designed to hold the glued hair in place and they are usually made of brass, copper or aluminum alloy. Brass is the strongest of the three. Higher end brush lines can also have nickel-plated ferrules for appearance and corrosion resistances.

Today, brush handles can range from acrylics to fancy metals. Most professional artists prefer wood handles for both durability and control.

Now that you have had quite the education on makeup brushes, here is a list of brush lines I use both personally and professionally:

Ve's Favorite Brushes – one of the most renowned makeup artists in the motion picture industry is Ve Neill! She has created the characters for some of the most iconic movies of our time and is a three-time Oscar winner! Now you can own the same brushes Ve uses when she is making up Johnny Depp, Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Edward Norton, Keira Knightly, Robin Williams or Julia Roberts.

Tricia Sawyer Beauty's Foundation and Powder Brushes – hands down these two brushes should be a “must have” in every woman’s arsenal! TSB’s Foundation Brush is made of taklon with a rounded tip, which allows for better blending over the natural curves of the face. TSB’s Powder Brush is made of a natural blend of Squirrel and Pony hair with a wood handle. Designed to buff your powder into your skin when setting your makeup.

adesign Brushes– Shana King’s professional career as a makeup artist includes such national credits as Smirnoff, Cadillac and Cirque Du Soleil and she has created high-profile brand campaigns in the fashion and entertainment industries. She was also the regional manager of over 35 salons for Aveda. She designed this brush line to improve the function and skill of makeup application for both the professional and consumer.

I also use brushes from MAC, Sephora (silver handle pro line), Japonesque and have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of Sonia Kashuk's line for Target.

Taking good care of your makeup brushes is easy and takes very little time. I recommend using Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner for quick disinfecting. Pour a little brush cleaner on an old, clean towel and wipe the brush gently back and fourth over the towel or pour the brush cleaner into a metal or glass bowl and soak the brush hairs into the cleaner. Gently stroke the brush over a clean towel to remove excess cleaner and place on the side of your bathroom counter to dry. Do not stand your brushes up (or put them back into your brush holder – dry them flat first – or the cleaner will drip down into the ferrule and cause the glue to disintegrate and the hairs will shed or fall out). I also recommend cleaning your brushes with a gentle shampoo (baby shampoo works great), after all – it is made of natural hair (but please don’t use conditioner).


Stacy H. wants to know:
Why do my brush bristles fall out?

Pro suggests:
It’s actually called “shedding” and it happens to brushes sometimes, but if your brush tends to shed all the time, it is time to get a new brush. Here is how you can “test” a brush to see if it is prone to shedding or loosing it’s bristles before you purchase it: Step 1) Run fingers through the hair. Step 2) gently sweep the brush on the back of your hand. Expect a few strands to fall out. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 – if you notice more strands on the back of your hand, pass on the brush and test a different brand.

Kim A. wants to know:
Can dirty brushes cause breakouts?

Pro suggests:
The answer to that question is a big YES!!!! Dirty brushes are full of bacteria and are unhealthy for the skin. They can cause breakouts and rashes because oil, bacteria and makeup build up on the brush. You must clean your brushes regularly to ensure they stay in tip-top condition! My friend Karen, who writes the Makeup and Beauty Blog, suggests using Wet Ones for quick and easy cleaning if you don’t have time to properly shampoo your brushes. Good tip Karen!!!

Christine C. wants to know:
I have under $75 to spend, which brushes would you recommend I purchase?

Pro suggests:
The most important brushes to have in your bag would be the following: Foundation, Powder, Blush, Large Eye Shadow, Small Eye Shadow, Blender, Eyeliner, and Lip. You could also start with a “travel” brush kit and look for the type that have “dual” ended brushes (more bang for your buck because it is like getting two brushes for the price of one).

In My Professional Opinion will be posting a product review featuring the skin care line Jurlique. As always, if you have a comment, suggestion or beauty question, click on the Ask The Pro button on our side bar and send us an email today!


  1. I have been forever looking for a cure for eye shadow fall-out! Lots of my eyeshadow brushes are 100% goat hair - 1st shearing too - and they still let a little eyeshadow fall onto the undereye area.

    Have you ever found brushes that don't do that?

  2. Hi Rebecca! It is annoying huh? I have noticed that sometimes it is the brush and sometimes it is the product you are using. My squirrel blend brushes seem to grab the product and hold it well - Ve's brush line holds and so do adesign. I have had very little fall out with Red Sable brushes also. Hope this helps!

  3. I know this is an old post, but I just discovered it, lol. I sell natural hair brushes 10:1 over synthetic, even though I offer both types of brushes. IMHO, there is no comparison to the two, even with technological improvements in synthetics. They still do not grab the powder as well. If you're having shadow fallout, make sure that you've tapped the handle end of the brush against a hard surface first - this will help distribute the powder better onto the brush.

    Cinema Secrets brush clean is a good quickie - I do believe it is the same as Parian Spirit, which is what I use on my shadow brushes (get the glass container with the screen), since those get washed daily. The absolute BEST brush cleaner for a thorough washing? Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap. It's inexpensive, organic, and sucks every bit of makeup out in a jiffy. Always try to hang your brushes to dry - this will keep the water away from the glue in the ferrule.

    This isn't meant to be a blug for my products, but these brush protectors have become a must-have for my brushes. They protect your brush hair in your train case, your purse, or in my case, my over-crammed brush cup on my bathroom counter. You can also reshape a newly washed brush using them, let them hang over the hairs about 1/4", and they are strong enough (and breathable) to support your brush standing upright (or should I say hair-side down) while drying.

  4. Wow Robyn! I have never seen those brush protectors before! Cool! And thanks for the great tips!!!

  5. You will soon, lol. They were part of the goodie bag.

  6. So excited! Can't wait to try them!!!

  7. hello! i have a question. why should conditioner not be used when washing brushes? thanks! and great blog! =)

  8. Hi Juli - my meaning behind the "don't use conditioner" comment in this post was that it is not necessary to shampoo and then condition your brushes like you do your own hair - you can use a 2 in 1 shampoo with conditioner inside of it. Shampooing and conditioning separately is not necessary.

    Thanks for the comment and for subscribing to the blog!

  9. hello melissa! thanks for the reply! =)
    how about olive oil and bar soap? are they any good in removing grime from makeup brushes? i also read your latest post about the beauty blender, i've heard about it too. do u advise getting the beauty blender cleaner to wash my brushes?

  10. Juli - I have never tried that combination (olive oil and bar soap), but my instincts say to stick with a gentle shampoo (like a baby shampoo). You can wash your brushes in the Beauty Blender cleanser and I believe there is a video (maybe on YouTube or their website) that explains about using the cleanser for brushes.

  11. thanks! haha but i meant olive oil or bar soap not together! but i shall stick to your advice! thanks so much =D