These are a few tips that will help you to determine and to pick a GREAT not a good, but a great one from a bad.
If you test a brush on the inside of your wrist you’ll be able to get a bit of an idea on the quality of the bristles themselves. If the bristles feel scratchy, stiff, itchy or annoying when you brush it along the inside of your wrist ditch it. If it doesn’t feel good on your wrist it’s DEFINITELY not going to feel good on your face, not only this but when you go to apply your makeup it will appear blotchy and uneven.
When you first test a new brush try pulling at the bristles and a few bristles should come out and shed as this is completely normal for new brushes but if you find the brush sheds more bristles then a few and continues to shed you know the brush isn’t well made.
The ferrule of the brush is actually reasonably important (FYI: The ferrule is what connects the bristles to the handle of the brush, this is normally metal or plastic (metal is generally stronger). When you’re testing out a brush try applying large amounts of pressure to the ferrule with your index finger. If the ferrule seems to melt, move, dent, change shape or look any different after you’ve applied the pressure from your finger, give it a miss. Also try and pay attention to see if the brush has little crimps (these are normally two little lines at the bottom of the ferrule that are dented into the metal/plastic and are the same colour), if the brush has these it’s going to be stronger than a brush which does not have these in the ferrule. Often the glue used to keep the ferrule in place and to join the bristles and the handle together is not strong enough, so the indent helps to keep it in place better.
You need to be able to apply pressure to a brush, if you can’t then the brush is simply useless. When you’re applying a particular product you need to be able to apply a good amount of pressure (think eyeliner, brow enhancer, etc.). So try pressing down the brush on the back of your hand or try drawing precision lines on the back of your hand. If the bristles are going in every direction or are moving the brush will just be useless. The bristles can move anywhere from 1mm to 5mm this may not sound like a lot but when you are doing precise work it sure as heck is.
This is a little trick I learnt and one that some of the best MUA’s in the world use. When you want to buy a new makeup brush, try balancing on it on the very tip of its bristles. Hold the brush vertically (with the bristles pointing down) on the back of your hand, then lightly bounce the brush, this will help you to test the strength of the bristles, if the bristles have a slight bend, this is perfectly fine and normally, but if they splay or flatten completely the brush will not be any good and will mess up your whole makeup application. (If a quick few of the bristles shed, this is fine and completely normal, new brushes tend to lose a few bristles at first, but any more than a few then you’re looking at a bad brush).
The brush head (the ferrule as well as the way the bristles have been assembled) should not be loose, spin easily or wobble on the handle; if they do you have struck a bad brush.
Now after this you should be able to pick out a good brush a lot easier, remember expensive doesn’t necessarily mean quality, and inexpensive doesn’t necessarily mean bad quality.
There’s probably still one question on your mind though…
Which should I buy, Natural or synthetic brushes?
For things like foundation, concealer and lipstick/gloss it’s obvious a synthetic brush would be the best option as these work easier with liquid/cream products.
On the other hand products which do not require synthetic bristles do not necessarily need to have a natural animal hair bristle used…
Most people are all caught up in Natural bristle brushes, and it’s often a first choice for many makeup artists as they do give a great application, synthetic bristles are often not looked as highly upon. Natural hair brushes contain a cuticle around them which helps to grab powder products easier while synthetic brushes do not, however nowadays many companies are coming out with synthetic bristled brushes which tend to look, feel and perform just like natural animal hair brushes (except you can use them with liquid and cream brushes to!). Such as one of my favourite brands vonira! (Available from vonirabeauty.com).
My verdict is it really comes down to personal preference. If you find that animal hair brushes work better for you then great, they’ll be your best pick! But if you find that synthetics work better than they are a great option to (not to mention more versatile).
Just remember quality does not always mean the most expensive brushes.