Natural vs Synthetic brushes, what are the differences? As a professional makeup artist, I’m always happy to give you my take on which brushes I use and the secret may surprise you!
Today’s video and blog are inspired by this question from Alice H. Alice asks, “Sonia, which brush is better, synthetic or natural? And when would I use either?”
Oh, great question Alice!
I use both! One of the things that I like to tell people is that natural hair brushes and synthetic brushes are made for different things. Now, it's not one size fits all, and there's an exception to every rule in beauty, but I'm going to give you a quick breakdown.
Natural hair makeup brushes are great for your powder products like: your face powders, your bronzers, your eyeshadows, your blushes, etc.
Synthetic makeup brushes tend to be better for wet products: your creams, your liquids, your gel products, lipsticks, etc.
Natural Hair Makeup Brushes
Natural hair brushes are made from animal hair, and the natural little scales along the hair strands hold and trap the powder pigment. This means the brush picks up the product easily and when you apply it to the face, it goes on right where you put it. It doesn't have a lot of drop or spillage (unless you overload the brush).
You do not typically want to put anything wet on, or inside of, a natural hair brush because it's going to go limp and it's not going to perform the way that you want. The exceptions are some goat and sable brushes can be used with thin liquids like Water Elixir.
Natural hair brushes can be made from: pony, goat, sable, squirrel, pahmi, or ox. These brushes are harder to find and are becoming more rare as the animal pelts have become more rare.
Synthetic Makeup Brushes
Synthetic brushes are better for use with liquids, as they are not as porous as natural hair brushes. This means that the product will actually stay on the bristles, the brush will retain its shape, and will apply your liquid or cream product to your face. The liquids won’t get trapped!
Synthetic brushes work great for Skin Prep too. I like to use a brush to layer skin prep on clients, or when I’m extremely dry to put a layer of Water Balm on my face like a mask.
Synthetic brushes are made from plastic. There are different types and qualities of synthetic bristles. Some even have synthetic scales on their strands to try and mimic natural hair. Some of them get very close to feeling and performing like a natural hair brush with powders.
It’s easy to make synthetics very uniform because manufacturers can control the lengths, shapes, and standardization of the bristles.
Pick a Struggle
I don’t know about you but I’m an animal lover! So for those who say, “Well I don't want to use a natural hair brush because that's cruel.” I want to make sure you have all the facts. No animals are killed specifically to make natural hair makeup brushes. Natural hair makeup brushes are a byproduct of the food industry. You might say, “Sonia, I don’t eat any of these animals!” Protein sources throughout the world are different. Like I mentioned before, there are not as many natural hair brushes on the market anymore because of a lack of raw materials.
However, you’re not out of the woods choosing synthetics either. As we know, plastics don't biodegrade and as we’re learning more and more, some of them cannot be - or are not - recycled. So, at the end of the day, a brush made from a byproduct is more sustainable than a brush that won’t biodegrade. There’s no right or wrong answer. Both are challenging choices!
Recycling programs for brushes do exist. The Moda division of Royal & Langnickel currently takes all brands of brushes for recycling You can find out more about that here.
Clean Brushes Prevent Breakouts
The most important thing you can do, no matter if you choose natural or synthetic brushes, is to keep them clean! Here are some reasons why:
- Clean brushes lead to fewer breakouts. No matter if your brush is natural or synthetic, a buildup of product will harbor bacteria and possibly contaminate your products.
- Cleaning your brushes improves their performance. Caked-on product won’t let your brush pick up fresh product, or could mess up your product placement.
- Cleaning your brushes helps them to last longer.
Want to learn more about how to wash your makeup brushes?