Thursday 2 February 2012

Tools of the Trade

I love make-up brushes. OK, I actually have a brush obsession.

My eclectic and somewhat extensive collection of make-up brushes is something I have built up over many years and I believe brushes are a very personal thing (call me picky, but I won't let anyone else use mine). A brush that works for one person won't necessarily work as well for another and the tools you use will impact on how your work looks. You can do superb make-ups with pretty rubbish make-up products however, use a poor quality brush and you won't necessarily get good results; fluffy heads, excessive shedding and flimsy handles all being common problems with poor quality brushes.

A large proportion of modern make-up brushes fall into that 'not-organic-but-nearly' category. With a larger and larger number of brands producing 'green' and vegan-friendly ranges, there are some pretty good Eco options that are worth considering when it comes to choosing brushes for your kit.

Traditionally make-up brushes had natural bristles, not an ethical choice with the brush hair being sourced from mink, squirrel, horse, goat and even badger. Although there are some exceptions to the rule, sadly the majority of brush hair is not sourced in a humane way, with many animals suffering and ultimately being killed for their coats. Although the production of make-up brushes is not the sole reason for the fur industry, it does contribute, if even in a small way and can be avoided.

Technologies in make-up brush production are advancing and the introduction of quality synthetic hair has made a huge impact on the modern brush market. Man-made fibres mean that now synthetic brushes are in many ways superior to their natural hair counterparts, principally when it comes to hygiene; cuticles on a natural hair shaft create an irregular surface which can harbour bacteria and and make them harder to clean. Taklon, one of the most commonly used materials in synthetic make-up brushes, is machine manufactured meaning that the polyester based fibres can be produced with a smoother surface than natural hair.

It is not only the brush bristles that have evolved. Handles too are now more and more frequently being made from more ethical and ecological alternatives to traditional plastics. Materials such as sustainable bamboo, responsibly certified wood from renewable sources and post consumer recycled resins are now common place amongst many brands. In addition to this, some companies are also using eco materials, such as recycled aluminium to create the brush ferrules - the strip of metal or plastic that is used to clamp the bristles or hairs to the handle. 

Make-up brushes are things that if you can, are worth spending money on. Good quality make-up brushes needn't cost a fortune however, there are brands out there that produce great but affordable brush ranges. Some of the brushes I will write about are expensive and some cheaper, some are from specialised professional brands, whilst others are available on the high street. All have one thing in common. They are all excellent alternatives to traditional natural hair brushes.

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