Brush Belt Basics: Cleansing & Keeping your Brushes (+My Favorite Brushes)

My brush belt is a bit unwieldy–it’s ridiculous really.  But I can’t help myself.  As an artist I’ve always found that the mode of application and tool is just as important as the product itself!  A good brush should last years, if cared for properly.  Even working as an artist (i.e., my brushes are used and abused!) I have brushes that have been in my kit for 10 years; the key to keeping a brush this long is all about maintenance.

CLEANING YOUR BRUSHES: SCHEDULE AND PRODUCTS

I clean my brushes after every single use.  I’ll spare you the horror stories, but clean brushes are a must for your skin and your health.  Everyday cleaning can be accomplished with a good brush cleanser spray, which can be purchased just about anywhere.  Personally, I love the IT Cosmetics Brush Love–a divine scent, and a thorough cleanse.  This cleanser is suitable for natural or synthetic brushes.

IT Cosmetics Brush Love

Other favorites are Dante and Bobbi Brown.

Once a week (I know, it seems excessive for personal brushes, but in the VERY LEAST once a month) I clean my brushes with soap and water.  There are several good brush cleansers on the market; these tend to be gentle and are formulated specifically for cleaning brushes.  But if you don’t want to shell out $10+ for a brush cleaner, I have found that Dawn Dish Soap works just as well.

ANATOMY OF A MAKEUP BRUSH

Below you see an image of a makeup brush.  Before I detail the technique for cleaning your brushes, it will help to discuss the various parts of a a brush.

Makeup Brush

Obviously, the top of the brush consists of the bristles, which can be synthetic, natural, or a combination of the two.  Synthetic bristles are used for cream and liquid applications.  Natural bristles, which are porous just like our hair, should be used for powder formulations (using natural bristle brushes with liquids and creams is not advised as natural hair will absorb the product and start to smell).  Combination brushes can be used for either, but typically the manufacturer indicates the purpose of the brush.

The silver metal piece below the bristles is called the ferrule.  The ferrule is where the brush is connected, with glue.

Finally, the handle is typically made of wood or some other material.  If wood, it will most likely be painted and/or coated.

CLEANING YOUR BRUSHES: TECHNIQUE

So, why the anatomy lesson?  Because the construction of the brush dictates how it should be cleaned.  When cleaning a brush with soap and water, you always want to keep the bristles pointed downward.  Place a bit of cleanser in the palm of your hand, and work the brush in circular motions through the cleanser.  Then rinse, still being careful to keep the bristle head of the brush pointed downward–if you tilt the brush upward soap and water will leak into the ferrule causing the glue to loosen and the brush to eventually begin shedding (and finally, fall apart).  I repeat this process with soap and water until the water runs clean and all the soap is rinsed from the brush.  Then allow the brushes to dry on a towel with the handle slightly elevated, again to keep water from leaking into the ferrule.

MY FAVORITE BRUSHES

If you read the intro, detailing the cumbersome nature of my brush belt, you know this list might be quite long.  In general, when purchasing brushes, I like to research their construction.  For example, Chanel uses only solid wood handles, metal ferrules, and hand placed bristles, which means each individual bristle is placed to create the shape of the brush instead of placing and then cutting.  This is a particularly rigorous process, that most companies do not engage in, but leave it to Chanel.

You can find good brushes at a range of prices.  I have a mix of high and low end.  Sometimes I even pick up a brush or two at the craft store for special effects work.  Below is a list of my must-have brushes…

  1. IT Brushes for Ulta Live Beauty Fully All Over Powder Brush #211: This brush is just so delicious!  It’s large, soft brush head is perfect for all-over powder application.  The full, domed head is ideal for powders and will leave a light dusting suitable for setting makeup.  The brush features a weighted and tapered handle for easier application.  The bristles are synthetic, as are those on all the IT brushes.  The brush can be used on face and body, and it also feels divine on the skin!IT Brushes for Ulta All Over Powder Brush #211
  2. IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7: This brush is just too good.  It’s very similar to a Bobbi Brown dual-ended brush that is now unavailable (argh!).  The tightly packed bristles (on both ends) are perfect for foundation and concealer applications.  The brush is meant to give a beautiful airbrush finish to the skin.  The bristles are synthetic, and like all IT brushes it is suitable for even the most sensitive skin.  Be careful when cleansing this one–although I love dual-ended brushes, they need to be cleaned one end at a time to avoid water leaking into the ferrule.IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush #7
  3. Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush: This brush will always be a favorite.  It buffs liquids and powders into the skin with tightly-packed, synthetic bristles.  Bobbi says the brush is perfect for an “HD” finish, and she’s not lying.  The sturdy construction means this brush will be with you for the long haul.         Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush
  4. Real Techniques Bold Metals 301 Flat Contour Brush: From the genius Chapman sisters of PixiWoo fame, this brush is perfect for chiseling those cheekbones!  Even though I’m not a fan of a hard-edged contour, this brush can create it.  The synthetic bristles are tightly packed to pick up and lay down a lot of product, so be cautious and build.  This brush is also on the cheaper end, but don’t think that means it’s poor quality!Real Techniques Bold Metals 301 Flat Contour Brush
  5. Dior Concealer Brush N13: The pointed head of this brush is perfect for placing concealer around the nose or the eyes.  I also use it to apply my eye primer, and occasionally cream shadows.  Like Chanel, Dior hand crafts each of their brushes–almost 30 people are involved in the creation of a single tool.  The price point isn’t as astronomically high as one would expect from Dior, either.Dior Concealer Brush N13
  6. Etude House My Beauty Tool Secret Brush 121 Skin: This Korean brand brush is one of my favorite finds.  It gives the most flawless finish, and is under $20 (prices vary depending on where you can find and purchase it).  Like the famed Artis Brushes, the handle on this brush is made for self-application, but the price tag is much more palatable.  It comes with brush and sponge heads, but I only use the brush.Etude House My Beauty Tool Secret Brush 121 Skin
  7. Laura Mercier Angled Eye Color: This eye brush does it all.  Large, fluffy, and angled you can use it for all-over eyeshadow application, or to work color into the corner and crease.  This brush also blends color beautifully.Laura Mercier Angled Eye
  8. Chanel Large Tapered Blending Brush N19: This is one of my all-time-favorite eye brushes.  It is rounded and blends perfectly into the crease of the eye.  It deposits a good amount of color and blurs lines.  I also like the ELF Contour Brush in the socket of the eyes.Chanel Large Tapered Blending Brush N19
  9. Dior Eyeliner Brush N24: This brush can be used to create countless liner looks–you can stamp liner into the waterline, created a winged line, or easily tap liner into the lash line.  I haven’t found a better all-around liner brush.Dior Eyeliner Brush N24

Product Review: Chanel Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum

Repurchase? Yes.

Given the amount of product making its way to my bathroom counter (and cabinets, and shelves, and floors…you get it, there’s a lot of product), it’s rare that I actually use up a product.  That means that when I do empty a bottle, it’s a GOOD product.  So on Monday’s I will highlight the products I keep coming back to again and again.

Those of you that know me, have probably heard me refer to my skin type as “Sahara desert dry,” and I’m only partially joking.  Constant hydration from the inside and outside is crucially important to us all, but even more so when you have reptilian skin like mine.  So, besides drinking copious amounts of water (my bladder hates me), I am constantly seeking out products to stave off dehydration.

In my quest for skin-quenching goodness, I always seem to return to Chanel’s Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum.  A revamp of the original, cult-classic Hydrabeauty Serum, the Micro-Serum represents a new advancement of that technology.  Utilizing a patented technology called microfluidics, the serum encapsulated Camellia Oil Extract in micro-droplets.  This means that the active ingredients are preserved in their purest form until they hit your skin!  How cool is that?

Chanel Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum
Chanel Hydrabeauty Micro-Serum

INGREDIENTS

So what’s in this miracle serum?  Here is a listing of the key ingredients:

  • Camellia Micro-Droplets: As I mentioned before this is the real breakthrough in the product.  Camellia is actually known as the “Winter Rose” in some parts of the world because it is able to thrive in especially harsh conditions.  This means that the camellia harnessed by Chanel will help your skin to stay hydrated even in severe climates.  We’ll discuss these again below, when we talk OFA.
  • Camellia Alba PFA: We’re back to the wonderful camellia again.  PFA stands for polyfractioned actives–a technology Chanel uses in many of its products.  Basically it means there is a seriously high concentration of active ingredients in the product.  Camellia Alba PFA stimulates the skin’s ability to renew itself and adds a giant dose of hydration!
  • Camellia Alba OFA: Similar to the PFA concept, the OFA here stands for oleofractioned active.  Basically the same technique, but with oil.  The Camellia Alba OFA in this formulation is the main differentiator between the Micro and original serums.
  • Blue Ginger PFA: As if the above ingredients weren’t enough, Chanel also added in a powerful, natural antioxidant, in Blue Ginger PFA.  You already know all about the PFA technology, but the Blue Ginger acts as a shield to neutralize free-radicals and pollutants that our skin is exposed to throughout the day.  Antioxidants also increase the efficacy of your sunscreen (which I know you’re wearing daily!)

APPLICATION

It’s a serum, and a very lightweight one at that–the Micro-Serum has an almost water-like texture.  No matter what else I am using at the moment, this is the first serum I apply.  Chanel actually teaches its Beauté Analystes to press into the skin and then use the “raindrop technique” to stimulate radiance.  This technique involves tapping the face with the tips of your fingers to stimulate microcirculation (blood flow to the face).  Then top with a moisturizer and you’re out the door!

WHY I CAN’T GIVE IT UP

The radiance-inducing properties of this serum are just to die for!  Not to mention the hefty dose of hydration.  To top it all off, the serum has a delightful scent that won’t overpower any fragrance you might be wearing.  All in all, it’s a 10 out of 10!