Investing in a good make-up brush allows you to bring the professionalism of a make-up artist into your home, making your skin that much more luminescent, or helping you to achieve a Hollywood glamour from your eyeshadow.
If you are looking for a high quality brush, you will need to decide between one which is “natural” – made of animal hair, commonly weasel, squirrel, mink, badger, pony or goat – or a vegan make-up brush, made of a synthetic material.
Vegan makeup brushes are commonly made either from taklon, a synthetic fibre which is derived from polyester, or nylon, which creates a slightly firmer texture. They are guaranteed to be cruelty-free and are also hypoallergenic – natural brushes are more likely to cause a reaction.
Cruelty-free make-up artist Justine Jenkins says vegan brushes have come a long way in the last four years. “Aside from the ethical advantages, they are easier to clean and do not harbour bacteria like natural brushes,” she tells us.
“Good vegan brushes pick up, apply and blend products beautifully and if you look after them properly, they won’t lose any fibres.” We tested the best vegan make-up brushes in front of a magnifying mirror, to see whether the brushes really could make us look flawless.
Black makeup The Body Shop buffing brush: £14, The Body Shop
This brush is quick and fuss-free to use – even if you are more used to putting on foundation with your fingers. It is soft, but quite firm and compact, so that the charcoal-coated brush buffs the foundation on your face, levelling it out and ensuring an even coverage. This meant that we found it unexpectedly invigorating to dot and swirl the foundation – it was almost like having a mini massage. The brush gave full coverage while using only a small blob of foundation. It created a very natural, fresh-face effect, with no streaks or harsh lines in the magnifying mirror. This felt like a luxurious, professional product – and it is very good value for money.
Black makeup Barry M concealer brush: £2, Barry M
This concealer brush is very cheap and, most importantly, very good. The product has a deceptively indulgent feel to it – and the brush is very soft. We liked the design – the brush has a white body and black tip, in a nod to faux fur. It is very good for covering up small imperfections – it fits neatly under the eyes, and when we swept it over our dark circles, it provided a good cover. It is also good to dab over blemishes and red spots, working with cream and powder brushes. Teamed with a good foundation brush, it will maintain a barely-there make-up look.
Black makeup Illamasqua lip brush with cover: £16, Illamasqua
A lip brush might sound like a bit of an unnecessary faff, especially when it’s so easy to swipe on some lipstick – but we were really impressed by the difference this one made. It transformed an everyday lipstick into something which looked very polished and professional, outlining and emphasising the shape of our lip – almost like a lip pencil. It worked best for us with a moisturising lipstick, as it is easier to spread on the lip. The brush is small, so you have to dip it on the lipstick quite a few times to get full coverage. This means that it takes a few minutes to apply the lipstick, rather than the few seconds it would take without a brush, but the results are striking. This is on the expensive side, but it has a lid, which is ideal for carrying around.
Black makeup Lily Lolo small fan brush: £8, Lily Lolo
This is a cleverly-shaped brush, which allowed us to sweep small amounts of highlighting powder at the top of our cheekbones, down the ridge of our nose, and on the cupid’s bow of our lips, creating a nice glow. It can also be used to put a delicate amount of blush on your cheekbones. It is designed for mineral powder and did not work with a cream highlighter. This brush is a fun optional extra for a brush set.
Black makeup EcoTools ultimate shade duo: £5.04, EcoTools
This comes as a handy set of two, to shade and blend eyeshadows. Both brushes are very soft and can transfer a good amount of shadow onto the eyelid. We used the full shadow brush to apply a light blue base colour, before using the precision blending brush to apply emerald accents around the lash line. The blending brush is a little on the thick side, which means that it creates quite a heavy line. It works well with more subtle colours, such as shades of brown which can graduate into one another.
Black makeup Hourglass no.2 foundation blush brush: £53, Space NK
This is a sumptuous and admittedly rather expensive brush. It felt almost ritualistic to sweep the cool and silky brush over our skin. The dome-shaped brush is made from Taklon bristles but is as soft as any ermine mink. It is very versatile and works with liquid, cream and powder. We first tested it out on foundation and it created a dewy and flawless effect, blending in and smoothing over lines. We then added a delicate wash of blush over the foundation, which looked very much like a natural – albeit quite pricey – flush. It can also be used as a highlighter.
Black makeup Glossier wowder brush: £16, Glossier
This is an ultra-soft brush – making dusting your face with setting powder a pleasurable experience. The brush is big and fluffy enough to create a good coverage, but also is tapered so that you can reach the difficult spots – under your eyes, for example. Like the rest of Glossier’s offering, this is a very pretty product, with its soft pink and purple ombre and shiny silver handle – perhaps justifying a slightly higher price point. It also comes with a hygienic travel pouch.
Black makeup PHB vegan kabuki brush: £7.95, PHB
This is a well-shaped eyeshadow brush. We swept a generous amount of eyeshadow over our eyelid, creating a soft, even sweep of colour which can then be built up gradually. We then outlined our lash line with the vertical side of the brush, which gave good definition. The brush is also just the right shape for sweeping highlighter underneath brows. From a distance, as well as close up, our eyes looked bigger and brighter. It’s worth saying that this ethical company gives 20 per cent of its profit to charity.
Black makeup Chantecaille cheek brush: £53, Net-a-Porter
This is another high-end luxe product, which creates a “no make-up” look, as if you have spontaneously developed a healthy glow in exactly the right place. It has a tapered brush which diffuses just the right amount of blush on your cheek bones, settling seamlessly into the skin. We couldn’t spot any pigmentation in the magnifying mirror. The brush can be used with both powders and liquids. If it is looked after well and cleaned once a week, it should last a long time, which might justify its expense.
Black makeup The verdict: Vegan make-up brushes
The Bodyshop’s buffing brush is our best buy because it gives a glowing finish to the skin and it feels very plush, while being reasonably priced. The Hourglass no. 2 brush is a real treat to use and has a dual-function, but it is pricey. The Barry M concealer brush is very high quality – and perfect for a budget buy.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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