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My makeup look is usually pretty understated. I’m definitely not into the whole ‘making my face looking like someone else’s face’ phase that seems to be covering Instagram and Youtube. I’m much more interested in letting my natural beauty shine, with the odd touch here and there to look my best!
However, even these ‘natural’ makeup looks require the right tools to do the job. Recently my makeup brushes- which I’d had for about three years- reached the end of their lifespan. Bristles were literally falling out on my face as I was working concealer into my skin. Not ideal. When I purchased these previous brushes, I’d ensured they were vegan, but wasn’t far enough along my eco-journey to consider where the materials were sourced or who had made them.
I did quite a bit of research before purchasing my next set of brushes. My eco and ethical standards have changed a lot in the years since I last looked at this market, so I felt like I was starting all over again!
What should I look for in makeup brushes?
So, what did I look for this time when purchasing my new brushes? There were a few factors that were a must for me:
- Ethically made
- Constructed well to last long-term
A number of companies are coming out with bamboo-handled makeup brushes, which are a great alternative to plastic handles! While there is no ‘perfectly sustainable’ material, I would strongly recommend a bamboo-handled brush. They are good for the environment, pretty to look at and beautiful to hold!
Non-vegan bristles are generally synthetic which is actually a great thing! So when I usually advocate the ‘more natural the better for you’ philosophy, why is synthetic fantastic in this case?
- No little innocents were harmed in the production!
- Many synthetic hairs are made with Taklon, which is non-porous so won’t get clogged with your makeup
- Taklon is also anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic.
- Synthetic fibres dry faster than natural hair.
The makeup brushes I chose have synthetic bristles which are soft, durable and cruelty free. Win!
For hygiene reasons, all makeup brushes need to come well packaged- you don’t want your shiny new bristles exposed to germs or nasties in transit. If possible, try to purchase from a company that uses recycled packaging to cut down the environmental footprint of your purchase. I know it’s not ideal, purchasing products that come in plastic, but sometimes, that’s just reality. I figure the best we can do is work with companies who are conscious of their packaging choices, and do their best to minimise their impact.
So which makeup brushes should I buy?
Before you purchase an entire set of brushes, consider which ones you are actually going to use. My previous brushes came as a large set for some amazing deal that was just too good to pass up. And that’s fine, except for the next three years I only used about 6 of the 25 brushes included. The others sat neglected in my draw every day. Wasteful, much?
When purchasing my new brushes, I had a pretty good idea of which brushes I would need. My every day makeup routine for home or even work is pretty minimal. I know that I will definitely be using my RMS 000 ‘Un’ Cover-up as a concealer and light overall foundation. Next, I do a gentle blush with another RMS product- lip2cheek in various shades. Followed by RMS Magic highlighter (is my RMS obsession coming through yet?). My eyemakeup tends to be a bit more spontaneous, but again, I only use a couple of brushes and a spoolie for my brows. Finally, I set everything with the RMS ‘Un’ powder. This routine barely changes from day to day, so I reach for the same brushes again and again.
Once you’ve established your most common routine, you can nut out exactly which brushes you’re going to use. It can be fun to add a few other brushes into your arsenal for the days you decide to play around a bit, but if you have a fairly minimalist routine, you do not need the makeup artist professional kit, girl.
Below, I’ve listed some of the most commonly used makeup brushes. Hopefully this helps you decide which brushes you need in your arsenal.
A basic makeup brush set would consist of:
- A foundation brush (for all-over foundation)
- A concealer brush (to touch up blemishes)
- A powder brush (for a finishing powder to set your look)
- A contour brush (for adding dimension)
- An eyeshadow brush (for a pop of understated or bright colour)
- A spoolie for brows (to neaten before defining)
Top Vegan & Eco Makeup Brush Brands
So, which makeup brushes do I recommend? In the end, I decided to go for EcoTools makeup brushes, which I have had for about a month and am loving. From their first use, I was like, ‘oooohhh yeah!’ (that’s an official assessment, by the way). As much as I adore RMS ‘Un’ Cover-up, it can be a bit temperamental depending on which makeup brush you use. RMS tends to recommend finger application, which I do from time to time, but I honestly receive a better outcome with my new EcoTools brush. This particular foundation/concealer requires a closely-bristled, tight brush to achieve success. I chose the EcoTools WonderCover brush as my foundation brush to use with the ‘Un’ Cover-up and it beautifully blurs the concealer into my skin. I’ve noticed a huge difference in the final result using this brush compared to others that I have tried. My skin looks more ‘airbrushed’ while still natural.
To supplement this one (amazing) brush, I also purchased the Frosted Finish Beauty Kit which has all of your other everyday makeup essentials. It includes one each of the:
- Skin Perfecting Brush (it’s not designed for it, but I actually use it with my creme blush and it works a great!)
- Concealer Brush
- Round Powder Brush (luxurious, soft and perfect for setting powders)
- Full Shadow Brush
- Angled Liner Brush
- Spoolie Brush
- Flocked Lip Brush
- Storage Tray (which honestly I don’t use)
As much as I love them, EcoTools is definitely not the only vegan and eco-friendly makeup brush option- there are plenty of great brands out there, including these two beauties:
Elate Cosmetics Brushes
Elate Cosmetics have a series of brushes and makeup tools, perfect for beginning or adding to your own sustainable collection. The brushes are Taklon, the handles sustainable bamboo (from a green certified manufacturer in China), ferrules are food grade aluminium and glue is an ‘Eco-resin.’
Ere Perez is a fantastic Australian company that focuses on natural beauty products. Founder Ere has added a range of makeup brushes to her line, which feature vegan bristles and either wood or corn resin biodegradable handles.
How should I care for my makeup brushes?
If you’ve poured your hard earned money into a tool that you’ll be using most days, if not every day, you want your investment to last. Plus, with the environment in mind, we want to get as many uses as possible out of every item we bring into our life!
Storing your brushes for success.
While there are plenty of Pinterest-worthy storage solutions out there, everything from DIY converted mason jars to geometric marble containers, I strongly suggest considering practicality over aesthetics. Yes, we all want our vanity table to look pretty. But having battled troublesome skin for years, I’ve learned that nothing is more important than treating your skin with love and respect. This means keeping your brushes free from dust, dirt and bacteria. As such, I would recommend a sealed container so that your brushes aren’t exposed to all manner of germs flying through the air. Whatever system you go for, ensure your brush heads aren’t facing downwards (so the bristles aren’t being bent), air can circulate between the brushes, and they are protected from dirt and dust.
Cleaning your brushes for longevity.
Cleaning your makeup brushes correctly is incredibly important for increasing their lifespan. Perhaps even more importantly, doing so will prevent bacteria from infecting your skin.
Tip: Use a clean mini-spatula to remove your desired foundation or cream blush from jared cosmetics, rather than directly using your brush. Transfer the scoop of makeup to the back of your hand, and then use the brush to apply to your face.
It is important to not put un-sanitized brushes into your makeup pot where they can breed bacteria.
Here are a few tips for washing them safely:
- Wash your brushes weekly to prevent bacteria build up.
- Lather bristles in cleaner of your choice (see below) and rinse under running water until water runs clear. Repeat if necessary.
- Don’t fully submerge your bristles in the water as this can cause them to detach from the handle.
- After washing, shape your bristles back to the intended form.
- Dry your brushes lying down flat. I prefer to balance mine suspended, so that the ends of the bristles hang off the edge of a surface. This ensures they dry faster and are exposed to more air which prevents over-exposure to moisture.
What should I wash my brushes with?
You have a few options when it comes to naturally cleaning your makeup brushes. Whatever cleaner you use, you want to know that it would be safe enough to wash your face with. After all, these bristles have a lot of contact with your skin, so we want them to be as toxin-free as possible!
I personally use soapberries. These organic little balls can be used for a whole range of natural household cleaning tasks, and this extends to your makeup brushes. Soapberries make a great investment for your non-toxic home cleaning cupboard. They can be used for natural dish detergents, laundry detergents, hand wash, surface sprays etc. I love the versatility of these little natural beauties!
To turn your soapberries into a natural makeup brush solution, take 6-8 soapberries, and boil them in a cup of water for around ten minutes, or until the soapberries crack open and suds appear on the top of the water. Strain out your soapberry shells and discard in the compost. Allow your solution to cool completely, and then use as much as required to clean your brushes.
If you decide to go for the EcoTools brushes, the company creates its own brush cleanser which it recommends. It is dermatologist tested, hypoallergenic, and free of parabens, phthalates, and petroleum-based ingredients and gets great reviews online. It does however come in plastic packaging (possibly recycled- not specified), so if you ware wanting to cut back on your plastic usage, consider this.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round up of cruelty-free and sustainable brushes, and how to best care for them to achieve longevity!