Makeup Brushes: Natural VS Synthetic

by Todra Payne September 02, 2016 0 Comments

Makeup Brushes:  Natural VS Synthetic

Anyone who follows my personal page on Facebook knows I’m obsessed with squirrels. Instead of being embarrassed about this, I’m baffled as to why everyone else isn’t obsessed with squirrels. They’re cute, fuzzy and soft. And they’re pretty darn aerodynamic. I’m so crazed over the cute critters that a friend sent me a (stuffed) squirrel in the mail for my birthday a few weeks ago. This is Xavier (named after Charles Xavier from the X-men. Wasn’t that obvious?)

But during my days as a celebrity makeup artist, I had a dirty little secret. I was not very squirrel-friendly. Many of the brushes in my kit were made of squirrel hair. Since it was a “given” in the industry that the best makeup brushes were made of natural hair, I didn’t initially think about the plight of the squirrels, or if there was an alternative to natural makeup brushes.

Just to be inclusive, I should point out that natural makeup brushes don’t just use squirrel hair. You can buy makeup brushes made from boar, goat, sable, horse, mink and badger. They each have a specific function based on how they work with cosmetics. For blending eye shadow,squirrel brushes are very soft and won’t leave weird streaks. When a stiffer brush is needed, say for applying bronzer, goat hair is usually the hair of choice. But where is the hair being obtained and what happens to the animals? Some beauty brands are silent on the matter, while others claim the hair comes from animals who are treated well. “They aren’t killed. We collect hair that falls out or we brush them to obtain the hair.” Okay, let’s just pretend you and I think this is a possibility for even a moment (we don’t, right?), just how many squirrels (or goats or badgers) would they have to “brush” to get enough hair for just one $145 brush set? And how long does the critter have to run around bald until they are simply shaved or brushed again? And even if this was true (which I’m pretty sure it’s not), what quality of life can one have if their only function in life is to be brushed?

The more plausible answer to, “Where does the hair come from?” is, trapping. Whether it’s initially for the brushes, or for full-length mink coats (which requires 60 minks), the animals are still caught and killed in very painful ways. Today, many brands have stopped offering squirrel brushes because they are only killed for their fur. They are not a commercial meat source. But other animals are still being killed in unimaginable numbers to supply the beauty industry. So as not to be graphic or seriously depressing, I’ll simply offer solutions to the natural makeup brush dilemma: Cruelty-free brushes.

Back in the day, cruelty-free brushes were stiff, plastic-feeling atrocities that couldn’t blend peanut butter with precision, let alone makeup. But synthetic brushes have come a remarkable distance since the early 2000’s when I first made the attempt at using them on a celebrity client who almost fired me.

Today’s synthetic brushes made from Taklon and other manmade fibers give natural brushes a run for their money. Technology is a wonderful thing. Besides the obvious ethical advantage of synthetic brushes, there are other positive points to not killing Rocky just for a blush brush. For one, synthetic brushes are more hygienic. Natural brushes have been prized for their ability to pick up powdered products. The reason natural makeup brushes are so good at this is because natural hair has cuticles covered in dead cells that create scales. The scales help pick up powder and deposit it beautifully on clean, dry skin. However, these same scales hold all sorts of bacteria and nastiness that could lead to breakouts and other problems if your brushes aren’t diligently cleaned. Synthetic brushes don’t have these cuticles and therefore are easier to clean.

Another point for synthetic brushes? Even the best quality ones, are a fraction of the cost of natural brushes. That’s a big plus when you need an entire set. And my last plug for synthetic brushes is the allergy factor. Many women have found they’re allergic to animal hair brushes, which is a bummer after you’ve just paid $55 for a powder brush.

Want great quality vegan brushes? Try our cruelty-free collection for a fraction of the cost of animal hair brushes. You’ll love them!

Todra Payne
Todra Payne