BRUSHES

This post is getting back to square one – talking about the very basic and essential makeup brushes that everyone needs in their makeup kit. I have been blogging for years, and I hardly get a chance to share my thoughts on the essential products, and introducing them to girls who just started their venture into the fancy makeup world which can get confusing. I am a makeup brushes collector who started collecting brushes from the mainstream brands, and later advanced into more  premium brands. Not everyone is willing to buy brushes from the very exclusive brands such as Suqqu and Chikuhodo, and this post is inspired by my most frequently asked question from my girlfriends “What MAC brushes should I invest in”.

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Why starting with MAC..? Perhaps it’s to do with their successful brand image and a lot of their products truly stand the test of time. I have had some MAC brushes for more than 10 years and they are still in good condition. Though I am having a lot more options these days , the MAC brushes in this post are still the most used and practical, and I highly recommend them in a heartbeat to everyone.

Starting with Eye makeup brushes.  MAC offers an abundance of options for eye makeup brushes – some are nice to have, and some are absolute essentials in my opinion. I have lots of them, and the must-haves for me are:

1. MAC 217 Blending brush – If you can only have one blending brush, make it this one! I have 3 of them – one for blending powder eye shadows, one for applying cream eye shadows, and one as a stand-by! Perfect size for blending color across the eye lid, and it’s soft but not super soft so it picks up pigments easily and does a good job for blending with some degree of resistance.

2. MAC 224 Blending Tapered brush – Bigger, less dense and more fluffy than 217. This brush picks up less pigments, and it is great for applying a sheer wash of color. I mainly use it for applying shading color to the eye socket area all the way to the upper nose bridge for contouring. Very easy to use and it’s fool proof!

3. MAC 226 Small Tapered Blending brush: The 3rd blending brush you need is the MAC 226. It’s slightly slimmer, smaller, more dense than 217, and it has a more tapered pointy end which gives you better precision control. Great for blending the colors in the crease area.

4. MAC 219 Pencil brush: Pencil brush is for drawing lines then smudging it for a softer blended finish. This is a firm and dense brush so it picks up lots of pigments, and the pencil shaped tip allows precise application around the eye corners and along lash lines. Absolutely must have if you like to smudge a soft wash of color along the lower lash line.

5. MAC 227 Large Fluff brush: Last but not least for blending, the MAC 227 is magical! It’s a big, fat and round-shaped brush that is the best brush for softening any harsh lines. All you need is to dab a beige color and blend it under the brows for a cleaner eye makeup look.

6. MAC 239 Eye Shader brush: Having a couple of shader brushes is also essential, and you can’t miss MAC 239. Perfectly designed for laying down the shadows on the lid and prevents fall out to build a more intense finish.

7. MAC 242 Shade brush: Designed for laying cream based color. It’s made of synthetic fiber, quite soft and very flat, and I like to use it for packing on the colors on to the eye lids, or drawing lines using the tips. It can also be doubled as a concealer brush over smaller areas. MAC also have the bigger sister version 252 which is more ideal for applying concealers than eye shadows.

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Face Brushes – I have less recommendations for the MAC face brushes than their eyes. Simply because I think there are much better options from other brands for face brushes, so I have only picked a few that I absolutely love.

MAC 168 Large Angled Contour brush: If I could only have one MAC face brush, it would be the 168! I have had this one for more than 10 years and it is being used on a very frequent basis, and the condition is still excellent! It’s very soft, doesn’t shed, and it’s a versatile brush as it can be used for applying blushes, as well as for buffing highlighting/shading colors for contouring purposes with the slanted angle design.

MAC 129 Powder and Blush brush: A good and basic design for a dome shaped blush brush. It has the right size and shape for multiple ways of application for the cheeks, as you can use it in a swiping motion, or pat it and swirl it for a wash of color effect. The full rounded shape gives an even and smooth finish. Not the softest brush, but it means it will pick up the pigments from even the most sheer blushes.

MAC 130 Short Duo Fiber brush: Stippling brushes are great for buffing face colors into the skin in a natural effect, and it works well with both powder and cream products. I love the size of 130 and the flat-top design, as it is perfect for blending concealers for under the eyes areas, or applying highlighters over the T-zone, and applying cream blushes over the cheeks!

MAC 159 DuoFiber brush: Another super versatile brush. The paddled-shaped brush is great for applying foundations and concealers for a natural finish. Also works well for applying a sheer wash of powder and cream blushes. Overall you can pretty much do your whole face with this brush! Experience slight shedding during the first few washes.

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In Australia, the MAC Brushes are available here online.

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I always get really excited during the months leading to the Holidays, as there are so many beautiful makeup releases and gift packs during this time of the year. I have been devouring online as well as hauling here and there at the stores over the past weeks, and here is the wishlist I came up that will put a big smile on every girl’s face!

1. Suqqu LE Christmas Kits –  This holiday season Suqqu has released two limited edition kits – each kit includes an eye shadow palette, a gel eyeliner pencil and a 50ml makeup remover in a lovely tweed pouch. As usual they are selling out extremely fast, and I have purchased both sets (this and this) as I love the design this year. Along with the Christmas Kits, Suqqu also released the Murasaki Dahlia set (sold out within minutes), and a glamorous Kimono set.

2. Giorgio Armani has just released a set of new premium makeup brushes that are hand-crafted in Japan – now available in the US and UK. It is interesting to see how these brushes are made by the Japanese artisan in this video.  I absolutely can’t wait to try them out once they become available in Australia! Another palette that I am highly anticipating is the Giorgio Armani Luxe is More Palette.

3. Guerlian Winter Fairy Tale Holiday 2015 Collection – needless for me to say how crazy this collection is. The must-have products are the LE Meteorites Pearls and the Rouge G Collector Lip Color which have probably been all sold out worldwide. If you are interested in Australia, the Meteorites Pearls are on back order for a limited number at the David Jones Sydney store.

4. The iconic Burberry Military Red lip color now comes in a limited edition gold packaging. Also loving the new Eye Color Cream in festive gold.

5. The highly coveted Charlotte Tilbury Life Changing Lash Curler can now be purchased individually! On Nordstrom in the US.

6. Head over heels with this new Bobbi Brown Luxe Lip Color range (available here in Australia) – love the colors and the highly intense and moisturizing formula of this new range

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One of my most frequently asked questions is how do I clean my makeup brushes, and I’ve finally decided to put together this big post about everything I do to keep my beloved brushes in their pristine condition.

There is no such one product that fits all. I use different types of brush cleaners based on the brush functions, types and colors. I don’t always go for ‘professional brush cleaners’, and I don’t mind using shampoos to clean the brushes that are made of natural hair. At the end of the day if this shampoo is good enough for my own hair, it is also good enough for a brush!

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When to clean your brushes and how often

Ideally, it would be good if you can clean/wash your brushes once a week. If you don’t have the time, another good indication is that when you find the bristles of your brushes are no longer as soft as they originally are, or you notice your makeup has an oily film on top that hardens the powder, which is normally due to the grease from your brushes being transferred to the powder.

Tools

I’ve only recently started washing my brushes with the Sigma Brush Cleaning Glove, and I love it to bits! It has 2 designs – one side for cleaning the face brush, and the other side for cleaning eye makeup brushes. The glove is made of soft silicone, and each side has different patterns and textures for different uses. It is definitely a very useful tool for a deeper and effective clean, and most importantly, it cuts the washing time in half!

There are a lot of rinse-free brush cleaners in the market that allows you to clean your brushes on the go. It is very convenient to use, and is recommended to be used to clean the brush after each use. I normally spray some on to a paper towel (cotton pad and tissue are not as good as they can become fluffy) and swirl the brushes multiple times till the colors are removed. If you have brushes made of white hair, this is a very important cleaning job to keep the bristles white for as long as its possible.  Otherwise the pigments will stain the white hair if the color is not removed immediately. My picks are the MAC Brush Cleaner, Shu Uemura Brush Cleaner, and the very affordable cleaner from Daiso. They all contain a bit of alcohol so they also help to disinfect the brushes.

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Foundation Brush

Foundation and concealer brushes take the longest time to clean in my opinion. They are normally made of synthetic hair, and there is always a lot of build up over time. I like to use a bit of makeup oil just to dissolve the grease in the first wash, and followed up by a shampoo for a thorough wash. My current favorite is the QV gentle shampoo or ECO Store Baby Shampoo to wash synthetic hair brush – they are gentle, chemical free and forms a rich lather which is great for washing the dense brushes and removing oily makeup products from the bristles.

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Natural Black Hair brush

I have invested in a lot of premium brushes such as the Suqqus, Tom Fords, CHIKUHODOS etc . Since they are all made of premium natural hair, I like to use an organic animal shampoo to wash these brushes. My current favorite is the John Masters Organic Pet Shampoo; other pick is the Aesop. They are all made of 100% organic natural ingredients so they are safe to use on expensive brushes. They also contain some conditioning agents which are great for keeping the bristles soft, glossy and protected.

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Natural White Hair brush

As mentioned above, I always use a rinse free brush cleaner to remove the color pigments after each use, and every few weeks I wash them with an organic shampoo. If you want to make the white hair even whiter and cleaner, or if there is any tough stain to remove. I have a great tip from the MAC MU – the SARD Wonder Soap literally gets rid of everything and makes the hair incredibly clean and whiter. However it does tend to dry out the hair a little, so I suggest to apply a little bit of lightweight conditioner for another rinse.

Sponges

Sponges and powder puffs should be washed  more frequently than brushes. My everyday sponges include the Beauty Blenders and the Shu Uemera Sponge (can’t live without them!). I always wash them with the Beauty blender Cleanser which is made of all natural ingredients. Recently I discovered a very cheap makeup sponge cleaner by Daiso Makeup Sponges Detergent.

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Compact foundation is one makeup item to splurge on as the high end brands are far more superior than the drugstores. Whether you wear it as a full foundation or simply for makeup retouching, the new Tom Ford Flawless Powder Foundation ticks all the criteria for probably the best you can get in the market now.

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It comes in Tom Ford’s signature ultra luxury case. The enclosed sponge has two different textures – the smooth side for a sheer application, and the velvety side for a fuller coverage application.

Texture and Finish

I was blown away the first moment I felt the product at the counter – it has the silkiest, most finely milled powder texture.  The powder foundation blends in to the skin seamlessly, and applies evenly with no creasing nor patches.  The coverage is equivalent to a sheer-medium foundation. If you apply the powder foundation with the enclosed sponge, or a fluffy powder brush, it sets even more natural than a normal liquid foundation. The finish is a clean and poreless version of ‘your-skin-but-better’ and semi matte that lets your own skin’s radiance through. For a fuller coverage, I prefer to apply it with a kabuki brush (or a flat top brush)  that would cover most of the mild imperfections. The finish is flawless and porcelain-like in a natural way but not cakey and heavy.

Shade Cream

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Lasting Power

As the weather is getting hotter in Australia now, I particularly love wearing this foundation as it is more mattifying than my other foundations.  Lasting power is about 6-8 hours on me with very little oil coming through at the end of the day for my dry skin. It also doesn’t oxidize, crease nor settle into the pores throughout the day. For makeup retouching, the powder foundation also applies well on top of your existing makeup. If you have cream based products underneath, I would wait till it dries then apply the powder foundation on top. Otherwise they will not blend well.

Shade Reference

I am between NC15-NC20, and I bought the Tom Ford Powder foundation in shade Cream which matches me perfectly. I pulled out some other powder foundations including the YSL Touche Eclat Powder Foundation B10 (reviewed here), Cle de Peau Beaute Radiant Powder Foundation B10, Tom Ford finish powder in Ivory Fawn (reviewed here) for comparisons.

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Comparison Swatches:

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Brush recommendations include (clockwise): THREE Powder Brush (more info here), Tom Ford Bronzer Brush; Suqqu Face Brush (reviewed here); MAC Blending Brush (similar here); CHIKUHODO Powder Brush

The Tom Ford Flawless Powder Foundation is available online here in Australia.

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I fell in love with HOURGLASS Cosmetics after acquiring the highly raved Ambient Lighting powder and the blushes palettes – particularly the lighting powders as they just give the perfect balance of glow that really illuminates your face softly without enhancing the pores. Since then I have been slowly adding more to my collection, and here are the other Hourglass products that I am loving at the moment, and many of them are available at NAP which is currently offering free shipping on any order.

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Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette – A must have from this beauty line!

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Diffused Light – I like the lighting powders from the palette so much so I added this color to my stash. It’s lighter than the colors in the palette, and works really well for my complexion as a highlighter. Next one to add will be the Mood Light!

Hourglass Ambient Powder Brush – I love buying the matching brush designed for a particular product, and this brush is fantastic for applying the ambient lighting powder.

Hourglass Double Ended Complexion Brush – Been looking for a good quality portable and retractable brush for a while, and finally found one! This brush feels so lush and adore the double ended brushes for both the powder and cream products application.

Hourglass Large Concealer Brush – Taklon bristles are the best for blending concealers, and this brush is soft but firm and the large size is perfect for applying concealer to the under eye areas.

Hourglass Hidden Corrective Concealer – Reminds me of the Cle De Peau Beaute Concealer but at a fraction of the price. It’s creamy and very pigmented so it offers great coverage that still looks natural. My shade is fair.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette (reviewed here) – Unfortunately this palette is not available anywhere as it was limited edition, but more color options are available in the single ones.

 

 

 

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Today’s review is for the most beautiful eyeshadow palette that Tom Ford has ever released – The Nude Dip Eye Color Quad from the Fall 2014 collection, and the Contouring Cheek Color Duo Stroked. I don’t really go out of my way to buy things, as my motto has always been “if it’s meant to be mine it will be”. But I hunted frantically for this quad (see this post) as it’s simply too irresistible!

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As the name suggests, the colors of this quad are very neutral and nude in a very elegant and sophisticated way. The texture is buttery and extremely finely milled, so I prefer to use a dense eyeshadow brush to apply these shadows to get the maximum impact. All the shades are highly shimmery and that’s the beauty of this quad. Had this quad been in a normal matte to satin finish, then it would have certainly lost its glamourous appeal and made it too common. Since the colors are so soft and neutral, the high shimmer gives a glistening effect that just makes your eye makeup stand out more. Of course you can always tune it down by using a less dense brush.

Color Description

Top Left – beige champagne

Top Right – peachy-pink champagne

Bottom Left – cool taupe

Bottom Right – cool chocolate brown in satin finish

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Except for the dark brown shade, the rest of them are classic colors for a wash of color on the lid. I like to layer them to get a soft gradient look for more depth and dimension. When these colors are layered together, the combination pulls quite cool on me.

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On my cheeks is the Tom Ford Contouring Cheek Color Duo which is another must have from his Fall 2014 Collection. This palette is actually quite good value for money as you get both the highlighter and the blush for a much cheaper price than if you buy them individually from Tom Ford. The blush appears to be a saturated coral from the pan, and I was a little worried that it might pull too dark and brown on me. It actually transforms to a very fresh, bright yet soft coral when I applied it gently. The highlighter also deserves a thumbs up – it gives a translucent veil of glow on the cheekbones that works well with my skin tone, and it is just as good as the highlighter in the Filmstar palette by Charlotte Tilbury (reviewed here)!

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Close up

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Total look

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tom-ford-nude-dip-eye-color-quad-review-swatch-fotd-2Other products used:

Tom Ford Traceless Foundation

Tom Ford Translucent Finishing Powder (reviewed here)

Elegance Perfect Brow Powder (reviewed here)

Tom Ford Lip Color Twist of Fate (reviewed here)

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Bobbi Brown is the queen of neutrals, and I love her eye shadow palette if the colors are done right for me. My last palette from BB was from 2 years ago, and finally she released this Nectar and Nude Eye Palette from her recent Nudes in Bloom Collection that captured my heart again. It retails for $95 in Australia (I bought here) which is double the price than in the States, and I made sure I absolutely wanted it so I dropped by the counter 3 times to swatch the colors!

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The palette contains 4 matte and 2 shimmery/sparkly eye shadows, with the latter two being the standout for me. They are very smooth to apply and blend, and complement any matte neutral shades for a multi-dimensional look. They bring the matte shades to life, and in my opinion without these two this would be quite a boring palette!
Pale Cream (new shade and matte) – exactly the same color as my skin so it doesn’t show on my skin in the swatch below. It’s excellent for using it as a base color.
Soft Buff (new shade and matte) – matte taupe with mauve undertone. It’s relatively smooth for a matte shade and easy to blend.
Golden Bronze (new shade and metalic) – shimmery pale golden bronze. It’s the most buttery soft and smooth shade out of the palette. Stunning!
Pink Bellini (new shade and sparkly) – very smooth with pink micro glitter for a fine sparkle
Earth (new shade and matte) – a true medium brown shade which would be the most used color out of this palette for me.
Rich Cavair (new shade and matte) – goes on dark chocolate brown. Not as pigmented as the other shade, and it is dry and not easy for blending.

bobbi-brown-nectar-nude-eye-palette-review-swatch2Here is a tutorial of how I would use this palette for a natural eye makeup.

bobbi-brown-nectar-nude-eye-palette-review-swatch-2bobbi-brown-nectar-nude-eye-palette-review-swatch-tutorial-3Brushes used in this tutorial include CHIKUHODO Z5; Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush; Suqqu brush Medium, Suqqu brush F, Laura Mercier Smoky Eye Liner Brush , Laura Mercier Smudge Brush

Overall this is a classic neutral and very versatile eye palette and will be a staple in my makeup rotation. My next Bobbi Brown will definitely be this new stunning palette!

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After my success with the Suqqu Cream Foundation, I have been exploring the beauty of cream foundations of different brands and I am absolutely loving the result! So naturally I started looking for a brush that is designed especially for cream foundation application, and the Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush was on top of my wish list. Tom Ford makeup brushes have won a lot of raves amongst the bloggers, and I have waited a long time before delving into this hype as I knew I would be addicted to them. And I was right – the brush is ultra luxurious and functional which makes me want to collect the rest of the collection, but they will seriously burn a hole in your wallet!

tom-ford-cream-foundation-brush-review-1The design has a round and fat brush head, and it is extremely densely packed. The hair is ultra soft which feels to me like the finest goat hair so it has some degree of resistance in it. Perhaps that is why they recommend this brush for cream foundation as it has more ‘strength’ to blend thicker and creamier product into your skin than a conventional flat head foundation brush. Having said that, I have tried this brush with a runny liquid foundation, and it works just as good. So please note that it is not restricted to cream products only.

Why should you get it?

The brush feels unlike any other foundation brushes I have used. It feels ‘cushiony’, meaning I can barely feel there is any hair against my skin – it almost feels like I am applying foundation with a piece of marshmallow on a handle!  It’s soft, bouncy and dense. and it gives a completely streak free result. I don’t have problem working around the corners with this brush, but you might need a small brush for more precision work.

Other similar brushes:

Tom Ford brushes are made in Japan. As you all know, the Japanese excel in making brushes, and here are some relatively cheaper Japanese brushes that are comparable to TF:

Shu Uemura Natural 18 Goat Brush: It retails for around the same price in Australia so I opted for TF. The hairs are equally soft but less dense.

RMK Foundation Brush: RMK is also known for this brush which I have yet to try, but I have heard good reviews about it.

Chikuhoko GS10 Foundation Brush

Bottom Line: I probably won’t suggest this brush as your first foundation brush because of the high price tag. But if you are looking into expanding your collection, this is the one to invest. It brings a totally different experience in foundation application.  I know it’s expensive, but good brushes will last you for a very long time.  I bought mine from David Jones for AUD$108, and you can get this brush here in the US.

On a side note, I have been asked by many of my readers where do I store my brushes. I store my favourite (expensive) brushes in a roller as I like to keep them dust free, and lie them flat so the bristles don’t change it shape over time! For my other brushes I normally place them in my Anna Sui brush holders and leave them on my vanity table for easy access.

Tip: If you are after a brush roller, make sure it is made of non-stick fabric such as canvas, cotton or nylon. Though leather or faux leather look better, they tend to get sticky in hot weather and might scratch the paint/writing off the handles.

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