Makeup Brush Confidential – Foundation Brushes

Welcome to part 2 of our Makeup Brush series, where I attempt to unravel the mystery and confusion surrounding the use of these wonderful tools. In case you missed it, last week we studied the Anatomy of a Makeup Brush.

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This week I’m going to be talking about Foundation brushes. I’ve chosen a number of very popular styles of foundation brush to break down for you.

​The Classic Paddle Brush

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​Napoleon Perdis NP Set Foundation Brush. RRP $19.99 AUD

When someone mentions a foundation brush, this is probably the sort of brush that you think of. Typically a filbert or paddle shape, they are most commonly used to “paint” on foundation in an up-and-down manner.

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​When using a paddle style foundation brush, always try to finish with a downward stroke. It helps to smooth the hairs on your face for a more flawless finish.

If you are looking to purchase a paddle style foundation brush, I recommend looking for:

  • Synthetic Bristles – to ensure your brush doesn’t absorb more product than it lays down.
  • Dense Bristles – to minimise the possibility of streaky foundation.
  • Firm Bristles – to minimise the possibility of streaky foundation. The bristles should be able to support the weight of the brush when balanced on its tip.
  • Secure Bristles – if possible, run your hand somewhat aggressively back and forth over the bristles before making a purchase. None of the bristles should fall out.

​Pros:

  • Easy to find – most brands carry something similar.

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to achieve a flawless finish due to the possibility of streaking.

​Duo Fibre Foundation Brush

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M.A.C 187 Duo-fibre brush. RRP $85.00 AUD

​This style of brush became very popular a few years ago. This style of brush is typically made up of shorter natural bristles and longer synthetic bristles. It was originally developed to be used as a stippling brush, to mimic the appearance of airbrushed skin. Through the necessity of speedy application, duo-fibre brushes have more commonly become used as a buffing brush.

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​To “stipple” foundation for an airbrushed look, dip just the very tips of the white bristles into your liquid or cream foundation and gently tap onto your skin. This method of foundation application achieves a flawless, full coverage result with no streaking. The contact point where each white bristle meets your face mimics the effect of particles of airbrush foundation hitting your face.
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“Buffing” foundation in describes applying it in a circular motion to mesh the foundation with your skin as much as possible. The best way I have heard this described was by Nicole Thomson, head Makeup Artist for M.A.C Australia. She described it as using the foundation to “stain” your skin. Buffing foundation in often provides the most natural, longest lasting effect. When using a duo-fibre brush to buff your foundation there are 2 things to consider. 1. The longer white bristles may drag through the foundation, leaving streaks, and 2. The shorter black bristles are a natural fibre, so they may absorb too much product.

When shopping for a Duo-Fibre foundation brush, I recommend looking for:

  • Dense natural bristles – when you squeeze the bristles into a tube shape, they should not be smaller in diameter than the ferrule.
  • Dense synthetic bristles – the synthetic bristles should appear to be no less than 2/3 as dense as the natural bristles.
  • Firm yet Soft Synthetic Bristles – The bristles should be able to support the weight of the brush when balanced on its tip, but should not feel prickly or spiky.
  • Secure Bristles – Duo-fibre brushes are notorious for shedding. If possible, run your hand somewhat aggressively back and forth over the bristles before making a purchase. No more than 2 or 3 bristles should come away.

​Pros:

  • Versatile – can achieve a porcelain doll flawless look, or a more natural buffed in look.
  • Easy to find – more and more brands are making this style of brush.

​Cons:

  • Known for shedding.
  • Not the best brush for buffing foundation in.
  • Many cheaper versions of this brush are poor quality, with floppy bristles and excessive shedding.

Buffing Brush

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​Real Techniques by Samantha Chapman Buffing Brush. Sold as part of a set. RRP 20.99GBP

​In recent years Buffing brushes have exploded in popularity, in large part due to Sigma and their incredibly popular Sigmax range. As the name suggests, Buffing brushes are the ideal tool to create ​a very natural, skin-like finish by really melding the foundation with your skin. The action of buffing foundation into your skin can have an exfoliation effect, so if your skin is very dry, you may need to exfoliate and thoroughly moisturise before trying this, as it can highlight and worsen any dry patches.

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​In my opinion, a buffing motion is the best way to use a buffing brush. It provides a very natural, flawless finish.
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You can also use a Buffing brush in a stippling motion, however it can result in too much product being laid down, and a cakey, mask-like finish.

​If you are looking to purchase a Buffing brush, I recommend looking for:

  • Synthetic Bristles – natural fibres absorb too much product, resulting in massive product wastage.
  • Dense Bristles – when you squeeze the bristles into a tube shape, they should not be smaller in diameter than the ferrule.
  • Firm yet soft Bristles – The bristles should be able to support the weight of the brush when balanced on its tip, but should not feel prickly or spiky.
  • Secure Bristles – If possible, run your hand somewhat aggressively back and forth over the bristles before making a purchase. No bristles should come away.

​Pros:

  • Provides an incredibly natural yet perfect look.
  • Very easy technique to master.

Cons:

  • Can be problematic on dry skin.
  • The brush can be very difficult to clean thoroughly.

Small Powder Brush:

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​This is a random, un-numbered Napoleon Perdis brush. It is very similar to the MAC 109.

When it comes to the use of a small powder brush for the application of liquid foundation, I can only talk theoretical use and effect, as it is not a brush I have personally used to apply foundation. I know that the people who enjoy using a small liquid foundation brush use it in a similar manner to a buffing brush, and say it has a naturally flawless finish.

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​When using a small powder brush as a foundation brush, foundation is applied in small circular motions, much like a buffing brush.

​When shopping for a small powder brush, I recommend you look for:

 

  • Dense Bristles – when you squeeze the bristles into a tube shape, they should not be significantly smaller in diameter than the ferrule.
  • Firm yet soft Bristles – The bristles should be able to support the weight of the brush when balanced on its tip, but should not feel prickly or spiky.
  • Secure Bristles – If possible, run your hand somewhat aggressively back and forth over the bristles before making a purchase. No more than 1 or 2 bristles should come away.

Pros:

  • Provides a very similar effect to a buffing brush.

Cons:

  • Due to the natural fibres, there is a high likelihood of product wastage.

​Pod Sponge

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​Beauty Pod Sponge. RRP $12.50 AUD

Although not strictly a brush, I thought the good old pod sponge deserved a mention. Pod sponges are made of a very absorbent non-latex foam, that when submerged in water, swells to 2-3 times its dry size. They are most commonly found in either a teardrop shape, or the shape of the sponge pictured above.

Before going anywhere near your foundation with a pod sponge, you need to wet it. Completely submerge it in water and give it a few good squeezes to ensure it is soaked to the core. Remove it from the water and squeeze out as much water as you can. Wrap the pod sponge in a clean hand-towel and squeeze again to remove any excess water. The pod should feel almost dry to the touch, but very soft and cool.

Put some liquid foundation onto the back of your hand, or onto a palette, and tap the flat end of the sponge into the foundation.

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Bounce, don’t wipe, the sponge all over your face. You will start looking like you have splodges of foundation on your face, but as you work over the surface a few times it will meld into a beautiful, streak-free, flawless finish.

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Turn the sponge around and use the pointed end to get into the crevices of your face, like under your eyes and around your nose.

Pros:

  • Affordable.
  • Offers a perfect finish.
  • Less product wastage than a traditional sponge, as, when used damp, it absorbs less product.

​Cons:

  • Fragile and difficult to wash – it can be difficult to get all the foundation out of this sponge without shredding the delicate foam. Once the foam has pock-marks, it doesn’t offer the same flawless finish.

If you made it all the way to the end, well done! It was an epically long article, but I hope you found it useful and informative.

What do you use to apply your foundation? Do you slap it on with your fingers (god knows, I do sometimes!), do you use one of the brush types I have mentioned above, or do you do something else entirely? Let me know in the comments below.