Makeup brushes are one of your most important beauty tools, so you want to get the best. But should you be shopping for natural or synthetic makeup brushes? The answer is both, depending on how you plan to use them. The key to getting the most from your makeup brush collection is understanding what each type of brush does best.
Natural brushes are made using animal hair, such as sable, squirrel, or goat, and the hairs are naturally some variation of a soft brown or tan color, though they may be dyed black or bleached white. Natural hair has a coating called a cuticle, which lifts and absorbs skin oils and powdery pigments. Natural hairs also tend to spread out rather than cling together when pressure is applied, which makes them ideal for blending products seamlessly and creating a smooth, even, non-blotchy finish. Natural brushes tend to be fluffy rather than flat and are very soft and comfortable on the skin. They're excellent for powder-based products like eyeshadow, blushers, bronzers, highlighters, and finishing or setting powder.
Natural brushes may be difficult to clean because they absorb products and pigments. And like human hair, the natural hairs in brushes may dry out and break, creating "shedding." They may also be more costly and somewhat more difficult to find, especially in specialty shapes and sizes.
The bottom line: Natural brushes are the best choice for powder-based products, and they're ideal for blending to a smooth, natural finish.
Synthetic brushes have bristles constructed with man-made hairs of nylon, polyester or other synthetic materials. Though synthetic bristles are sometimes dyed (occasionally in vibrant colors, but often in shades of brown and tan to resemble natural bristles), they're naturally white or colorless. Unlike natural hair, synthetic bristles have no cuticle and don't readily absorb oils or powdery pigments. This makes them a great choice for use with cream or liquid products like foundation or concealer. They also tend to be flatter and stiffer than natural brushes and can be cut to sharp angles, which makes them ideal for very precise applications like eyeliner or lipstick. Synthetic hairs tend to cling together rather than spreading out when pressure is applied and they don't move as smoothly over the skin as natural bristles, so they're not the best choice for blending.
Synthetic brushes are easy to clean and store, and shedding is minimal. Synthetic brushes are often very affordable and are widely available everywhere. Some of our favorite synthetic brushes are made by Stilazzi and Sigma.
The bottom line: Synthetic brushes are the best choice for cream and liquid products, and they're great for eyeliner, lipstick, or any application that requires precision.
While some people have strong preferences for one type of brush, many find that they get the best results by shopping for brushes according to their intended use (natural hair brushes for powders, synthetics for liquids, etc.) And always keep in mind that the best makeup brush is the one that does the best job for you.