Monday, February 26, 2018

February Favorites 2018

February Favorites 2018

*All products in this post were purchased by me or a gift from someone I know.  I do not get paid to write reviews. This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own. 

I can't believe February is almost over!  Today I am sharing with you my favorites of the month. This post includes items that were new to me, not necessarily the beauty market. To make my "favorites" list, products have to be ones that I actually use and love.  This is not a first impressions, so all items in this post have been used multiple times to earn their spot in this post. 

Here is a list of the makeup that helped make this February just a bit more fun!

#1 Makeup Geek Eyeshadow 

I purchased two of the empty 9 well palettes that come with the Makeup Geek logo on the cover, and a mirror on the inside.  I tried a bunch of new colors and stocked up on some favorites like Peach Smoothie, Preppy, and Mirage.  The empty palettes are $12 each, and the eyeshadow pans are $6 each.  I can't get over the quality of these eyeshadows.  They rival any high-end brand, and at $6 each, not to mention the large color selection, well...what is not to love?!

Some of the new colors I bought include: Bake Sale, Casino, Concrete Jungle, Desert Sands, Dirty Martini, Faux Fur, High Tea, Hipster, Morocco, Pretentious, Rapunzel, Sand Dollar, Sin City, and Sora

Here are two eye looks I created using these shadows:

The makeup look on the left used some of the warmer tones by Makeup Geek. I layered some warm neutrals on the lid, and then smoked everything out along the lower lash line using the Makeup Geek Defined Crease Brush ($8.50).

The second look is one that I created for Valentine's Day.  Cupcake is the star of the show for this look. This eyeshadow is a matte medium pink that is so pigmented. I found this color to really shine on its own and required little more than some liner, and a few swipes of mascara for a completed eye look.

Speaking of mascara....I think we are ready to have a look at February Favorite #2!

#2 Wet n Wild Lash Renegade Mascara

This is another super affordable pick. At only $5.99, this has become my go-to bottom lash mascara. The brush has a ball at the end that really helps grab those bottom lashes.  It applies smoothly, and doesn't flake or smudge.  The formula lasts all day, and doesn't budge until I remove it at night. I bought this on a whim, and am so happy I found a new bottom lash mascara!

The disposable mascara wands that I keep in my professional kit have a very similar wand. I find this style is the easiest for reaching the inner corners of the eye and really coating every single lash with product.  I have not seen many cruelty-free drugstore mascaras with this type of brush in the past. I hope Wet n Wild continues to make this, as I know it is becoming a fast favorite of many people!

#3 Marc Jacobs Eye-Conic Multi-Finish Eye Palette in Scandalust

This item is not on the super affordable list, but damn it sure is beautiful!  Quite frankly for the name, quality and sleek design, I think this palette is well worth the $49.  When it comes to eyeshadow, I am very picky about quality. I prefer a smooth, velvety long-wear formula that is easy to blend and has true-to-pan color.  Urban Decay has always been my favorite eyeshadow brand, until now. Marc Jacobs really hit it out of the park with this palette. The shadows feel like silk as they glide onto the eye.  The seven colors in this palette work well together and it is easy to create everything from a work-ready wearable look to a high-end sophisticated evening glam look. I am dying to try some of the other colors available as Edgitorial has been on my list for a while now. The pigment in these is truly like none other.  If you love rust/warm-toned palettes, I highly recommend this one. These look especially beautiful with my blue eyes, and I appreciate the variety of textures and finishes in this sleek and portable palette. 

#4 Besame Cosmetics Long Hair Finishing Powder Brush

Another high-end favorite, this makeup brush is not completely new to my stash.  However, I did....rediscover it. As I was organizing my makeup brushes, I came across this one that I purchased a while ago, but for some reason did not use much.  After washing it and putting it on my newly designed makeup station, I found myself reaching for it quite a bit over the past month. This $50 brush is as practical as it is pretty.  It was inspired by the makeup brushes of the 1930s, and the bristles are so extremely soft.  I really can't explain the bristles in any words that would do this brush any type of real justice.  The bristles are made of cruelty-free ultra-fine synthetic hair and due to the number of bristles and their length, it almost feels like you are petting a super soft animal.  I generally apply powder with a powder puff, and have been using this brush to lightly dust the excess off my face.  The softness of the bristles against my skin feels so luxurious that it turns my morning makeup routine into a true moment of mindfulness. I even kept the beautiful box that it came in and use it to store the brush in my drawer when not in use. 

#5 MAC Cosmetics 217s and 239s Makeup Brushes

While we are talking about favorite makeup brushes, I must bring up the two newest brushes to my collection. If you read my previous post, you will know that I recently added the well-known MAC 217s & 239s brushes to my stash.  As many of you know, MAC is sadly not a cruelty-free brand.  However, they recently redesigned most of their brushes so that they are now made with synthetic hair instead of animal hair.  I am sure many in the cruelty-free community will not purchase these as MAC has left many makeup lovers feeling betrayed when they dropped their cruelty-free status.  That being said, I am a long-time vegetarian, and this reminds me of the debate that occurred when Burger King decided to sell veggie burgers. Does buying a veggie burger at Burger King mean that we support Burger King? This is an individual choice that only you can make. My position was that I want to encourage more places to offer vegetarian options.  I also want to reward companies for making positive choices.  This is how I feel about the MAC brushes. I will not start buying MAC makeup, as I know these products may be tested on animals. I will use MAC brushes that are made of synthetic hair to support what I believe is a move in the right direction.  The best way to let companies know how we feel about their decisions is to vote with our wallet.  I never owned an animal hair brush from MAC, nor will I.  These synthetic brushes are wonderfully made and have changed my eyeshadow game.  I have countless blending brushes, even some shaped similar to the 217, but none have blended my eyeshadow as flawlessly as the MAC 217s.  The bristles feel silky smooth, and the brush head is the perfect density and shape. The 239s is a flat shader brush that is the perfect size for packing shadow onto the lid. I find many flat shader brushes are a bit too large when working on someone with smaller eyes. 

#6 Bamboo Drawer Organizers

The final item on my list is not a makeup item, but I had to include it anyway.  I was lucky enough to find these bamboo drawer organizers for just under $6 each at my local Cost Plus World Market
These are intended to hold silverware, but I recently got a new makeup table with the Ikea Alex drawers to hold my brushes.  These fit perfectly inside and hold a large number of brushes.  For now, I have most of them sorted by brand, with a few sorted by brush type.  The separators are removable, so that I could create a larger section for brands that I have a lot of. I was looking for bamboo organizers, and stumbled across these one night.  They were labeled $25 each, so initially I only bought one to see if I liked it. When I got to the register, the cashier informed me that they were on sale and I just had to scoop up the rest. I am so glad that I did, because they truly fit the Alex drawers perfectly.  Having my brushes organized like this enables me to easily find any brush that I am looking for quickly. I still keep some brushes on my table for display, or so that I can grab them quickly if I know I will be using them that day.  Knowing that the rest of my brush collection is safely tucked away in my drawers means I don't have to worry about them rolling onto the floor, or getting misplaced. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a super organized person.  Yet when it comes to makeup and my brushes, nothing makes me sleep better at night than knowing everything is in its proper place!

What are your February Favorites?  Anything that you have rediscovered in your stash?  Please share in the comments below! 

Are you following me?  I can be found on Pinterest under Makeup Matters, and tweet regularly on Twitter @MakeupMatters1

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Best Synthetic Brushes - Part 2 (2018 Edition)

Best Synthetic Brushes - Part 2 (2018 Edition)

*Some of the brushes in this post were sent to me for consideration. I do not get paid to write reviews.

Look at these beautiful crease brushes! I am so happy and feel incredibly lucky to have such wonderful synthetic crease brushes in my collection. In 2012, when I first started this blog, I was on a quest for a synthetic version of the popular MAC Cosmetics 217.  The 217 was an eyeshadow blending brush made out of animal hair.  MAC Cosmetics is not a cruelty free makeup brand. However, anyone who has watched a professional makeup artist work, has probably seen the 217 brush. This brush was never known to be the softest, but it was a workhorse of a brush.  My quest continued, and I bought nearly every synthetic brush that had a similar size and shape to the 217 that I could find. My go-to brush for blending has been the Bdellium Tools 776.  They used to only sell this brush in animal hair, until I reached out to them and asked them why they didn't make a synthetic version when they sold so many other wonderful synthetic brushes. They listened to their customer and quickly started producing and selling a synthetic version of the 776, which I own multiples of. I still love and use this brush.  However in December, MAC Cosmetics changed their famous 217 brush, along with many others to synthetic hair. Someone close to me purchased a couple, along with the 239s for me as a gift.  The bristles are silky soft, and this brush has absolutely changed my eyeshadow game. I do not personally shop at MAC because they are not a cruelty free brand.  However, I am very happy to have these synthetic eyeshadow brushes in my collection now.  If we want to see other brands switch from animal hair brushes to synthetic, I believe that we must vote with our wallets.  I did reach out to MAC to thank them for switching from animal hair bristles to synthetic, and I will likely buy more of these in the future. I want to encourage brands to continue to make the right choice. 

I find it somewhat ironic that those who used to buy the 217 are used to the version with animal hair, and are now on a quest to find animal hair brushes from other brands to replace the MAC versions they were used to. I can honestly say I know how they feel, because it used to be very hard for me to find synthetic versions of the animal hair brushes I wanted. I personally never used the animal hair versions of any of MAC's brushes so my only basis for comparison is the other synthetic brands in my collection.  

In 2012, I put together a blog post containing five makeup brushes that I think everyone should own.  Today, I have updated this list for you. 

As with my original post in 2012, I am not saying that you need to buy these exact brushes.  However, these types of brushes (style) are absolutely essential for me. In addition to loving the above brush types, these five are the current brushes that I use nearly every single day. From left to right they are; a brush to apply eyeshadow to the lid, a blending brush, a pencil brush, a smaller face brush for applying blush and/or highlighter, a larger powder brush for the face.  I recommend these brushes to anyone looking for quality makeup brushes for personal or professional use.

The next five brush styles I recommend are below:

Above (left to right): Real Techniques #303 Contour Brush, Crown Brushes small detail brush*, Kabuki brushes from Real Techniques and Everyday Minerals, Kelley Quan Synthetic Black Mink Oval Flat, Furless Must Have Stippling Brush

The Crown Brush detail brush above is from a set of brushes I purchased a while ago. I actually hated the set, but love this one brush from it. I am unsure if it is sold separately, but this style is easy to find. The Real Techniques Detailer Brush from their Core Collection is another great option (not pictured). 

There are many other brush types, styles and brands that I recommend.  Below are a number of my personal favorites.


Above: Larger blending brush for blending eyeshadow and/or applying highlighter - Zoeva 227/Soft Definer vegan, and Furless Bronze Blending Brush

Originally the Furless Blending Brush came as a free gift with purchase. It was not available on their site for purchase. I loved it so much, that I reached out to the company and asked them to please offer it individually for sale. They now carry it on there site for everyone to buy and enjoy!

Above: Everyone needs a good flat eyeshadow brush to apply shadow to the lid. Wet n Wild, Everyday Minerals, Cozzette D225, Urban Decay Pro Medium Eyeshadow Brush

Above: These are some of my absolute favorite face brushes - Kelley Quan Synthetic Blue Squirrel Tapered Brush - Large #22 (ideal for buffing the skin after applying powder, I own multiples of this brush), Crown Brushes brush I use for concealing, Sigma Tapered Face F25, Furless Black Beauty Powder Brush, Cozzette S130

Do I still use some of the favorites from my 2012 post?  YES! I actually still use most of them.  As I've added to my collection, I've gotten new favorites, but I take good care of my brushes and use a lot of different brands. I go through many brushes each week, and keep multiples on hand of favorites, but reach for any number of brushes in my collection depending on the look I'm creating, and the best brush for a particular job. 

I have added a large number of Sigma makeup brushes to my collection over the years, and many of the brushes I own from this brand have become favorites.  You may also notice that some of the brushes I have are from brands that do not sell cruelty-free makeup.  However, all of the brushes pictured in this post are made with 100% synthetic bristles.  

I hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite makeup brushes.  Please let me know what your favorites are in the comments below!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Best Synthetic Makeup Brushes - 2018 Edition

Some of the brushes mentioned in this post may have been sent to me for review.  I do not get paid to write reviews, all thoughts are my own.

Best Synthetic Makeup Brushes - 2018 Edition

As some of you may have noticed, it has been quite some time since I have blogged! My life has taken me in some new directions, but my love of makeup, and all things related has never changed.  When I first started this blog in 2012, my goal was to have a place where people could come to learn about makeup.  More specifically, I wanted those looking for a cruelty-free option, especially in terms of makeup brushes, to benefit from the knowledge I've gained on my own personal beauty journey. Years back when I began searching for high quality makeup brushes, my choices were dismal. I kept buying and trying every new synthetic-bristled brush that I could get my hands on in search of the perfect ones.

Today, my dream of having a large selection of quality, cruelty-free makeup brushes available at all price points has come true. The world of makeup brushes has dramatically changed for the better, and we have more choice now than ever before! While synthetic hair makeup brushes have been available for a long time, the quality and selection was severely lacking. I want to share with you which brushes I love, and which ones I didn't to help you save money, and find the brushes that will work best for your lifestyle and your budget.

Like my very first post on this blog, I have gathered some brushes from my personal collection to share with you.  While my collection has grown immensely since then, I still continue to buy and own brushes across a variety of brands and price points. Below is a breakdown of these brushes and a look at some of my overall personal favorites.

Brush Categories by Purpose

Professional/Luxury Brushes: 
Hourglass, Furless, Sigma, Cozzette, Christopher Drummond, Kelley Quan, Urban Decay, Antonym, Royal and Langnickel S.I.L.K. Green Line (pictured below)

While there are many other brushes that fall into this category, above is a small sample of some of my personal favorites in this category. I define this category as brushes that are truly top quality and see these brands as some of the best that money can buy.  Any of these could be used for personal use or a professional makeup artist's kit.

Makeup Lover/Brush Collector:
Furless, Tokidoki 24K Brush (discontinued), Real Techniques (Bold Metals Collection), Sephora, Alima Pure (pictured below)

In my very first blog post, I used three categories: Professional/Luxury, Mid-Priced, and Personal Use. In this post, I have changed that up a bit.  Many brands now have multiple lines within them encompassing a variety of price points. For this reason, I broke up the categories to be defined by purpose rather than price. The same brand is pictured across more than one category depending on the specific brush pictured.

Budget Friendly (Personal Use):
Walgreens Brand, Real Techniques, Eco Tools, Elf, Coastal Scents (pictured below)

This is the price point that I am most excited to write about. Historically, choices were very limited and buying quality brushes without breaking the bank was a difficult task.  While the brands in this post are the very same that I wrote about years ago, I am happy to report that the selection and quality has vastly improved!  I think Real Techniques has really changed the makeup brush game. They offer several brush lines at a variety of price points. While I can only find most of their higher end brushes online, their more affordable Original Collection brushes can be purchased at my local Walgreens or Walmart. Eco Tools has also stepped up their game, offering a larger variety of brush styles, longer handles, and fuller brush heads. I must note, that the Elf brushes that I own continue to be some of the least expensive in my collection. However, they are also the only brushes I have that break regularly. Due to their highly affordable nature, I would recommend them only if someone is truly a beginner to makeup, and not looking to invest in brushes. The Coastal Scents synthetic brushes are not as soft as Real Techniques or Eco Tools, but they have lasted a long time for me without ever breaking.

So which brand of brush should you buy?  That really depends on what you want it for. Are you looking for quality makeup brushes that will last, feel soft against the skin, and apply makeup beautifully? Or are you looking for a gift for a teenager who is just experimenting with makeup and may only use a brush occasionally?  What is your budget?  Are you a makeup artist or looking to get into a career in cosmetology? With so many brushes on the market it is important to assess your needs before shopping so that you don't get pulled into cute marketing displays or impulse buys. It is also important to remember that if you take proper care of your brushes, clean them regularly and treat them gently, they can last you for years to come.

What About the Price?

Below are few brush types across a few different price points:

Eyeshadow Blending Brushes (left to right): Coastal Scents, Real Techniques Bdellium Tools, Furless, Sigma

You will note these eyeshadow brushes all have a similar shaped head. I call these my synthetic versions of the MAC 217.  Of all the brushes in my collection this is the shape I own the most of.  I tend to use multiple blending brushes when completing an eye look, and the hunt for the perfect one led me to buy and try as many brands as I could get my hands on. All of the brushes above will get the job done. The main difference can be seen in handle length, softness of bristles and fullness of brush head.

Above, I lined up the brushes from shortest brush handle to longest.  I personally find a shorter brush more comfortable when I am applying my own eye makeup and need to sit close to a mirror. However, if I am applying makeup to someone else, I prefer a longer handle.  The longest brush pictured above is from Furless. This brush is a staple in my professional kit because I love the long handle, and these bristles are so incredibly soft! I love that I never have to worry about it feeling scratchy on someone's eye.

I also did a side-by-side comparison of the Coastal Scents Classic Blender Brush Synthetic which sells for $2.95 and the Sigma E25 Blending Brush which sells for $16.00.  While these brushes look very similar side-by-side, the bristles feel very different on the skin. When ordering brushes online, it can be very hard to know what you are getting, and at first glance it can be hard to see a difference. I've owned both of these brushes for years, and the difference in quality is quite noticeable. The Sigma brush handle and construction feel much sturdier and appear to be made out of higher quality materials.

Fan Brushes (left to right): Elf Fan Brush, Royal and Langnickel Revolution BX-150, Real Techniques #304 Fan

As I was reviewing the prices that I paid for the above brushes I was actually taken by surprise. I knew that the Elf Fan brush was the least expensive of the three, ($4.00) but I honestly thought the Real Techniques #304 Fan brush would be less expensive than the Royal and Langnickel one.  The Real Techniques Fan brush sells for $12.99 on their website. While it is certainly a lovely brush I prefer the Royal and Langnickel brush which is available on their site for $7.99.  This Real Techniques fan brush is part of a new line from the brand, so perhaps the price will drop in the future. The Royal and Langnickel brush is one that I keep in my professional kit I have had it for years.  The construction is sturdy, and bristles are fuller than the other two fan brushes pictured.

Above you can see the Elf Fan brush along side the Real Techniques (least expensive compared to highest price of the three pictured above).  The Elf brush head, while having a wider fan, has the thinnest density of all three brushes.  As you can see some of the bristles have strayed out on the left side of the brush.  The Real Techniques brush is still in perfect condition, but this one is rather new to my collection.

Powder Brushes (left to right): Kelley Quan Synthetic Blue Squirrel Tapered Brush-Large ($65), Royal and Langnickel S.I.L.K. Synthetic Powder ($24.99), Real Techniques #300 Powder Brush ($12.99), Bdellium Tools Yellow Bamboo #980 Large Powder Brush ($17), Elf Complexion Brush ($4) 

The above brushes are in order by price, with the exception of the Real Techniques and Bdellium Tools brushes. I purchased the yellow brush as part of a complete set many years ago. I do not see it sold individually on their site, but their #980 Green Bambu brush is sold for $17 on their site.

As you can see all of the above brushes have a nice full head, with a variety of cuts, shapes and handle lengths. The most luxurious powder brush I own  is still the Kelley Quan Synthetic Blue Squirrel Tapered Brush-Large.  I have purchased multiples of this brush as well as other brushes from this brand because for me, they are the best quality makeup brushes with synthetic bristles on the market.  It is noteworthy that Real Techniques recently launched their PowderBleu Collection (not pictured) which like my Kelley Quan brush above is made of a synthetic filament meant to mimic blue squirrel hair.  The Real Techniques B01 Soft Powder Brush is available on their site for $21.  I do have a few brushes from this line, and while the hair is undeniably soft and luxurious, in comparison to my Kelley Quan brushes, their handles are not as high quality, and seem less durable. Since they are newer to my collection, only time will tell how well they will hold up over time.

If the Kelley Quan brush is out of your price range, I would recommend the Real Techniques PowderBleu brush over the Royal and Langnickel S.I.L.K. Synthetic Powder, as sadly the ferrule on my brush has come loose over time. I can tolerate this on an Elf brush at a $4 price point, but have a hard time recommending a brush that costs nearly $25 and has the same problem.  The Real Techniques #300 brush pictured above is new to my collection, so I do not have a feel yet for how it will hold up.  However I have a lot of brushes from this brand and in general all of them have stood up to many washes and heavy use.

I hope that you enjoyed this updated review of synthetic-bristled makeup brushes.  In my upcoming post, I will revisit the best brushes by brush type and provide you with a closer look at some more favorites from my collection.