This post is about brushes that are more appropriate for professionals or for those of you looking for easy and efficient make-up brushes, these are more on the higher-end side. I want to emphasize that there is no need to go high-end and if you watch Youtube tutorials you’ll notice that make-up artists don’t always use expensive brushes to get amazing results, and actually even with the best make-up brushes we still need to know what we are doing… so practice is the key. Since the question I receive over and over again is about “upgrading to higher end make-up brushes for a professional kit“, that’s what I’ll cover today.
There are several factors that make a brush more or less suitable for professional make-up artists and meeting those factors is what will make a brush best fit for purpose.
Being very close to make-up artists, to brush manufacturing companies and doing some work myself is what made me aware of that criteria, there is certainly more to consider, but the criteria here is what really matters to me. Now, I’ll leave my collector-me outside for a while and let the “more reasonable side of me” select the brushes I put in my kit explaining briefly my thoughts and preferences about each one of them.
I prefer when the “kit” brushes are:
- Not white
White brushes will get dirty very easily, even if you wipe them or sanitize them they may still look dirty and not that appealing to your clients. This is not a generality but for powder products it’s easier to work with darker hair brushes.
That criteria changes if you are using cream products which will be more appropriate to use with white natural bristles, weasel, kolinsky, or synthetic for example. I am not going into detail here but cream or liquid products may damage the dye and coating on the natural hair, therefore bringing damage to the bristles on the longer term. White natural brushes, which are bleached, do not have that same problem and can in general be used with any product, powder or cream.
- Not too soft
If too soft, you will need more time to do your work and you don’t want that unless you are paid by the hour and you can afford to take your time! Often you will have to rush and stronger brushes will get you to the destination faster, ok maybe you’ll be driving on a more bumpy road but consider it like taking a short cut, it has its benefits.
If you find a good compromise between efficiency and softness it will be perfect. On the other hand, if you use brushes that are too rough you will have unhappy clients and you don’t want that either. They used brushes on me that I do not even want to talk about, my face was violently molested, that felt absolutely horrible and I am not going back for more! You may think I am exagerating, but only a tiny bit, she went totally nuts with the buffing, I didn’t even know that buffing could mean torture. It was probably an isolated case -I hope dear God – but still, it happened 😀
- Not too fragile
You will have to wash them often, sanitize them with harsher products that contain alcohol, use them many times repeatedly, so the more durable, the better.
- Comfortable with the balance and length
If too heavy your hand will not have the same dexterity when you get tired, if too light you may lack precision, if too thin you may not be able to hold it firmly, it too short you hand may be standing too close to the client, all these are important considerations and often until you try them, you don’t know if they will be good, it takes time and money to find the perfect tools and we all have different requirements.
- Fool-proof (=easy to use, efficient, versatile)
The easier the brush the better. If you look like you are performing nano-surgery when applying make-up on someone they will think you are not confident, you can experiment while learning at home but on the job better be sure about what you are doing or leave little space for science in public (specially if you are starting) or you could also learn to stay calm and look unsurprised whatever happens… (I can do that but still…)
If you can apply make-up with a tooth brush or a mop, great! But just don’t give your clients the impression that you don’t master your tools! I personally need all the help I can get from my tools, sometimes I am so nervous that I tend to shake so don’t give me a scalpel please.
I also personally prefer to use the same brush for several purposes because it saves on the cleaning and because it gets things done faster, even if I love brushes to the max I will not complicate my work but keeping it simple is what works best for me. A microfiber cloth to wipe the brushes in between applications with the same client is super handy.
Natural or synthetic ?
There are pros and cons for each, it depends on your own preferences and my own goes to natural, I find them more efficient and they dry much faster. On the other hand synthetic ones are often more durable and also often cheaper to replace.
Some clients may be allergic to dye or to some synthetic fibers so if you really want to cover every situation, consider both type of brushes but that won’t be often the case therefore I am not taking that into consideration at least for now.
Some random advice
Pick any brand you love and can afford, as long as you don’t have to stick to one particular brand, take the best of each. Some of you will not be able to do that because of contract reasons (schools, beauty brands, counters). I could never get married to only one brand so I will comment each brush I chose to try to give you the idea behind it, then if you are interested, you can adapt the same idea within the brand you’ll use.
If you are working with more mature models, the brushes should be a bit different, slightly softer, efficient but gentle with the skin movement, if your clients have sensitive skin and are “afraid” of make-up, if you attack them with pokey brushes there is a chance you won’t be seeing them again, and worst, there is a chance they won’t be seeing any other make-up artist at all in the future because of that experience.
If it’s for special effects or theater you’ll pick stronger brushes that will handle harder textures, you have maybe noticed that the Geisha brushes are often rougher, that’s because the makeup used is thicker and doesn’t need to be blended to an airbrush finish but to a thick and heavy coverage.
If the clients are young, used to make-up and want dramatic impact then you will have much more flexibility on what brushes you can use.
Even if I used many different type of brushes and even if I have one of the biggest brush collections in the whole world, I just recently started working on others. The brushes here are brushes that I use either on young or mature skin, dry, combination or oily skin and they fit natural or slightly dramatic tutorials but I am not planning on doing special effects other than covering scars or correcting the skin.
The belt here is quite small so I keep the brushes for the session on the belt and have a separate roll in a bag with some other brushes in case of a sudden change of plans. In any case, I am not taking more than the ones featured in the pics below.
I go for brushes that have the perfect balance between softness and efficiency, that can work with several finishes and can make my work as easy as possible. It’s better to select brushes not too fragile and not too dense otherwise you may pack too much product and the blending may alter and kill your base application: better build up and blend softly, but surely, as you go.
Size also matters, so the brushes here cover a wide range of purposes but I will explain as I go.
My fav material is either soft goat, squirrel mixed with goat, or thicker squirrel bristles. Rae Morris has a fantastic collection for the make-up artist, so has Wayne Goss, Koyudo (BP or Fu-Pa series), and Chikuhodo (GSN or RS series). I use a lot of Hakuhodo as well, specially the J series but they are not featured here since I use them mostly only on myself.
Base application, foundation, finishing, concealing
For concealing, I use either the RM 20 or when I need point precision, the RM 14. I was very pleasantly surprised by this RM 20 concealer brush, precise yet flat and doesn’t absorb product. I use the Evgeny and the RM 24 to blend larger zones of concealer, to sculpt with cream, to place the foundation, primer or other tasks that involve cream or liquids.
The RM 21 and the Koyudo Fu-Pa 14 are extreme brushes, I mean it. They have it all. If you work with mineral powders, (full face foundation or just a mineral finishing type of coverage), these two brushes are a must-have. The RM 21 is flat but the density is spot on, it adapt to the curves of your face, delivers an even finish whatever mineral powder you use (pressed or loose), the bristles are strong but they are soft, not pokey at all. Serves several purposes because you can also use it for polishing. The more you use it towards the side of the brush (bend it), the softer and more flexible it gets which covers many situations and needs.
I use the Fu-Pa 14 more for setting the foundation with powder but it will also work for mineral foundation perfectly well. Another great option for home or professional use is the Chikuhodo Temari, it’s also a super interesting brush for mineral powders, it’s a bit big but last summer during my holiday in Spain I used that brush for 2 weeks for every thing, mineral foundation, bronzer, setting, polishing and even blush (not that kind of cheek-blush, but more of a side-of-the-face dimensional application), so it’s another gem for professional use.
The RM 23 is the brush I use on very dry and sensitive skin, with liquid and cream foundation. As I said many times, this is holy grail material. Expensive for a synthetic brush but price is aligned with the performance. I have 3, keep one for the kit and rotate my daily routine with two of them.
The Chikuhodo GSN-05 is part of the kit because it works with anything. The Koyudo Fu-Pa13p offers something quite unique, the longer side goes softly along the eye area when the shorter side offers more blending power and it’s probably a size that fits all or most of. I use the GSN-05 with any skin type, the Fu-Pa13p more with oily skin but it really doesn’t matter that much, they are all soft enough to fit most of the situations, never had a problem to use any of them on my dry and sensitive skin.
The Koyudo BP013 is also a must-have in my kit, the bristles are different than all the other brushes, thicker but absolutely soft enough, that works so well with pressed powders, only issue : it’s really big. I wish they would do this in smaller sizes. Wayne Goss 13 has the perfect size and density, but I keep the WG for myself until I get a second one for my kit. The difference with the WG 13 is that the BP013 is a work horse and delivers more polishing power.
The RM Radiance is a staple for finishing, blending the foundation. I need this in my life for ever and I couldn’t stop recommending it for every make-up artist.
Blush and sculpting
This is where I really need versatile and easy brushes and the reason why I use all these:
The Paula Dorf cheek is for blush, bronzer or contour, any type of powder application and with any product. The contour will not be thin with this brush but I am surprised how many people prefer a more larger contour and very very subtle, I deal with clients who are not used to wear strong looks so if I come with the full runway look it’s not that fun for them, it’s more about office appropriate looks that I am concerned and with an average age of 40. For thinner contour I love the Chikuhodo G-2. The G-2 on the Chikuhodo website is now a bit different but I just ordered it so that I can keep one in my kit and one for myself and I will also be able to tell you if they are the same brushes or not. It seems on the pics that the one I own is a bit more angled but we’ll see when it gets here.
The winners for the fool-proof blush application are the Chikuhodo GSN-04 and Wayne Goss 11, soft, medium density, you can still buff and polish the blush application if you need to and you will not be causing an incident with your client. They will work with any type of blush, powdery or harder textures. The GSN-04 is labelled as a highlight brush, yes why not, but you can also use it for bronzer, blush and highlight. Again two multi-purpose brushes.
The Chikuhodo Special G-9 is not anymore on their website exactly as it looks here, but they have the G-16 instead. I think it’s the same brush but just the handle changes. I prefer longer handles versus the shorter ones, specially if it’s to work on others but if you prefer medium length brushes you will prefer the G-16. Yutaro Takemori is responsible for Research and Development and he is the son of Chikuhodo’s President, when I was over discussing brushes over a sushi meal, he told me that these series are the ones that the professionals prefer to use in Japan and he looked so happy and proud!! 😀 He couldn’t stop raving about them! I was so in love with the Z series that I found his raving a bit too much but now I get it. The Special G-9 is only goat hair but I have no issues at all with the softness, not as soft as Wayne’s brown goat brushes but so handy to use, it’s tapered but the point is actually very helpful, as you apply, they will fit and adapt to the sides of the nose, under the eyes, but it has a lot of surface at the top and the product is evenly applied blended across the face. That brush is such a gem that I don’t understand why artists are not totally hook 😛
The RM 02 is for cream highlight (or powder) and for cream blush, it is dense but not too much, gets things done super quick.
The WG 15 is the best little fan (just makes you look like a pro so use it even if you don’t really need it 😀 )
The Koyudo H013 is very special, I don’t know in which category to place it because I use it for finishing, blush, bronzer, contour (again thickish), I need to get a second one but honestly I want to get thousands of this and cover my desk (or bed) with them, just because I am crazy. The Koyudo H012 has a similar function but it’s a bit wider, super lovely brushes and if you love big fans, jeez you need these two. If it’s for yourself, get the H012, if it’s for a kit, get the H013, the H013 is only goat therefore more durable and even if it’s less soft, it’s absolutely adorable. Looks like a toy but it’s serious stuff.
Eyes, lips, brows
I start with the lips, the RM 19 makes my day, I need at least 3 of them because I use it for me very often and I don’t have time to wash my brushes everyday, I spot clean them with the Bobbi Brown Brush Cleaning Spray and sanitize them with alcohol but I know Rae uses this one, so I will try to get my hands on a similar formula and have it prepared for me at the pharmacy. It’s common here in Switzerland, you can ask them to make your own mixes as long as they are legal 😀
For brows, I use the BillyB eleven in order to be able to work with thinner eyebrows. On myself I use the Hokuto Ho-Gentei 4 that I bought on Rakuten, every single day of my life!
The RM 16 is for brows but not only, that brush is terrific, super soft so you can also use it to smudge pencil along the lashline, very versatile and it should be in every professional kit.
The BillyB nine is for mascara, when you want to work on tiny little hairs… then they tell you “did I had lashes THERE ???” yep you did, you just couldn’t see them 😛 you have to grab the mascara with this brush and apply it straight from the brush, takes some time at the beginning but so worth it!
The Koyudo BP036 is kolinsky hair, such a wonder (sorry if I am a bit emotionally strong on all these brushes!!) I use it to apply cream highlighter on the inner tear duct or the brown bone (just a thin line under the brows). Powder highlight application doesn’t last very long, if you pick up some cream pencil or cream shadow it will last longer on these zones that are more demanding in terms of long-wear requirements.
For pencil I truly love the new Wayne Goss 20, I never have to correct the thickness of the application, gets the work done and doesn’t ask questions! Another one that I love is the Chanel 24, I am so pissed (is this word strongly rude in English?? not sure, sorry if I shock you, but even if it’s a strong word, it will never ever reflect how upset I am that the Chanel 24 is discontinued, seriously Chanel… you had something there that finally had gold value -unlike your quads- so why do you discontinue it?? Pic here for reference, if you find a nest of these, please send them to me 🙂 I’ll pay.
The Charlotte Tilbury smudger is a nice brush to have in a kit, I am now waiting to receive the Paula Dorf smokie lid that is finally again available on their website, we’ll see how it compares and I am truly excited to see it in person. When you need more dramatic contour along the lashline that one is very good, also to smudge pencil. It’s soft enough for me although it’s “just” soft enough for my sensitive skin. It will not bother the models at all, totally worth it and it took a nice place in my life. I hope the Paula Dorf will be softer but really not sure about that…
For the mobile lid, I use the RM 12 and WG 18, totally surpassed the Mac 239, more fool-proof, work with all powder shadows and apply super evenly, love them to pieces and will need a few of each.
The WG 19, RM9, and PD sheer crease cover all my needs in terms of crease application, I could take a thousand crease brushes with me because I love them so much but I can get away with these 3 in my kit. Then for blending I use the RM 7.5 or the WG 16 depending on what I need, softer blending: the RM, to tone down or polish: the WG16. The WG 16 is also great for cream products so anywhere I need to apply cream or set it with powder (for example concealer) I just grab that one. It can do so many things.
The best brush ever for nose sculpting it’s the RM 7.5, could not get any better than that, the surface is just the right width, right density, it’s absolutely surreal ! I didn’t really go for nose sculpting before, didn’t had time in the morning for that additional step, now I do and it’s in the little details that you get so much credit for your work. I have several of the 7.5 so that I can make sure I always have one available for myself.
The base shadow application is something I do with the RM 10 and WG 17 depending on the products and the skin, I often apply a cream base shadow so I pick the WG 17 for that but that brush works with anything, can be a bit big for some smaller eyes but so far I had no issues at all.
The Suqqu spoolie is a gift I received from Suqqu, I don’t have many so I use that one for the moment, later on I will buy some from Hakuhodo I think, they just released very nice ones (If you go to the Hakuhodo USA website and click on New products, here, you will find a few interesting ones if you browse!
For eyeliner I use either the RM 14 or the RM 16, depending on the product. The RM 16 is great with powder-to-liquid eyeliners and that’s the one that corresponds more to what I need, there are so many possibilities, then you have to choose the one that matches the type of products you use. For gel liner I love the Hakuhodo K005 but I prefer to use powder liners for the moment, I am really not an expert, applying liner on myself is one thing, applying on others it’s not yet mastered… Eye definition is key for an amazing eye but I can handle it with the ones that I selected for now, eye lining is a very delicate thing and topic that will be very personal to each artist.
There are many other great and easy to use brands but these are my favorites so far, I couldn’t pick them all but if you have a special question, please leave it below and I can share my thoughts on them in the comments. For example, I am also liking Sue Devitt but as I said I cannot walk with 300 brushes in my belt… 😀
Muji makes little bottles like these, I fill one with alcohol and the other with setting water or anything else I need.
Of course there is a sponge or two…
The Paula Dorf is a sweep away pencil, I apply this very lightly on a cotton bud to correct mascara, or liner, or shadow.
I need to get other curlers but curlers are a very important tool and a good curler reduces the risk of accidents. This is the Chanel one but I will hunt for new curlers when I go to Japan.
The make-up remover that I use is the Bobbi Brown Long-wear, I couldn’t find anything else that worked so well, maybe I will someday but so far, this one has been with me for so many years and everytime I try to change brand I am disappointed.
There are many brands that professionals love to use and many brands yet to discover. If I help you discover some that will make me very happy!
I know that a few make-up artists follow me, if you have any comments to add or any recommendation of others brands, please don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts below, I would really truly appreciate that. There are many of you who wrote to me recently and who are really eager to start with higher end brushes for their kit.
If you are not a make-up artist and want to share your fool-proof staples, I would love to know which ones they are.
Good news… tomorrow they will work on my studio, I will have a second window installed and since I knew it only yesterday, today I have to empty the room to avoid accidents and to avoid covering the make-up with dust.. so I’ll have a busy rest of the day! I had other plans (complete the other pending posts!!!) but since I was waiting for a year to finally get them make the renovations in this room, I certainly don’t want to cause any more delay!
For those of you who just recently joined, thank you soooo much! I am so excited! Sincerely thank you and a very warm welcome!! Love you all! I can safely say I have found the most amazing friends thanks to this blog and our passion for brushes!