Brush It Off

There are some makeup artists who do not use brushes. I’m not one of them. I use a combination of brushes and my hands to apply makeup, depending on the client I am working with, the look I am creating and the products I am using. When it comes to brushes, I do have my teacher’s pets. Read on as I share my faves.

1) Flat Foundation Brush. I use my hands when applying moisturizer, primer and foundation on my own face, but on clients, I use a flat foundation brush. The one I reach for most often is from Crown Brush, but I bought it so many years ago that the exact name has rubbed off of the handle. I can tell you that it is a medium-sized, flat, non-angled brush. I use foundation brushes to paint on products, then I buff/blend them in with either a buffing brush, a sponge, or my hands. This is similar to the one I have:

2) Buffing Brush. I am very serious about using only my best tools on my clients, so sometimes I put the brushes that don’t make the cut into my personal kit, because I know I can adjust to make them work on me. But the Real Techniques Buffing Brush is so good and so versatile that I bought one for my personal kit. I have used it to apply cream blush and foundation, but I most frequently use it for blending. After I apply foundation on a client or my own face, I use this brush to blend it in. It helps give a flawless finish, and who doesn’t want that? I use it to blend the edges of bronzer, contour powder and blush, and to push powder onto the skin to set foundation. I have also used it to buff skincare products in. This brush is, in my opinion, an essential. It is not sold by itself, but the Core Collection four piece kit it comes in (which contains another two of my favorite brushes) is $17.99 at Ulta–totally worth it.

3) Small Concealer Brush. I like this one for concealing blemishes, because it is small and easy to do detail work with. It can also be used as a lip brush. It comes in the Real Techniques Core Collection kit too.

4) Large Concealer Brush. I like the Bare Minerals Large Concealer Brush for applying eye primer, cream shadow and undereye concealer. A larger brush covers a larger area, so think about that when you pick up a brush to apply a product.

5) Contour/Blush Brush. Another Real Techniques fave from the Core Collection. The pointed shape makes it perfect for contouring, but the soft bristles make me want to use it for powder blush too, so I just turn it on its side to do that. So many of my clients have commented on how soft the Real Techniques brushes are, which is important to me. I like soft brushes for the same reason I like products that aren’t sticky or strongly scented–I want my clients to feel relaxed during a makeup application, not like they are being accosted.

6) Fluffy Eye Shadow Blending Brush. The MAC 217 is a makeup artist favorite for a reason–it blends like no other. This is the brush to use to get those blurred lines (I know you want it), and it also works great under the browbone. When I want more of a wash of color, I use the 217 to apply shadow to the eyelids. If you buy no other eyeshadow brush, this is the one to get.

7) Dense Eyeshadow Brush. For packing eyeshadow onto the lid, the MAC 239 Eye Shader Brush is my jam. It’s soft, but the bristles are tightly packed, allowing for an even application.

8) Fluffy Angled Brush. For detailed crease and outer-V work, I like a fluffy angled brush. The e.l.f. Essential Defining Eye Brush is the perfect width and fluffy-ness, and it’s only $1! Makeup artists, stock up.

9) Angled Eyeliner/Eyebrow Brush. I multi-task my angled brush because I have found that in most cases, the angled brush that can be used for eyeliner (to apply or blend it out), can be used on the brows too. One of my favorite angled brushes comes from Michael’s Craft Store. It’s a thin, soft angled paint brush, but I can’t find it on the website. My other favorite angled brush is the MAC 263 Small Angle Brush.

10) Pencil Brushes. I like to use a small pencil brush for smudging eyeliner lines and to apply shadow to the inner tearducts, and a large pencil brush for outer-V work. My two besties in this category are both by the CVS Essence of Beauty line. They call them Crease Brushes and although I often use the larger one for crease work, I don’t think I have ever used the smaller one for that job. You can cop these–so affordable!–in this two pack:

11) Gel Liner Brush. When I want a super thin line of gel liner (often when lining close to the tearducts) I reach for another brush from Michael’s Craft Store. It’s the Spotter Brush by Simply Simmons, a line sold at Michael’s. It works well with gel liner and although I have had it for a while, it has not frayed yet, as fine brushes tend to do. For makeup artists, this a great brush for creative detail work (think designs, freckles, or beauty marks). 

12) Lip Brush. I don’t have a favorite regular lip brush, but I can tell you that I use ones from e.l.f., Essence of Beauty, Sonia Kashuk and Michael’s. I do have a favorite retractable lip brush though. Retractable lip brushes are important to me professionally, because a big part of my job on photoshoots, television and film sets is touching up lipstick. I keep the products I would need for touchups in an individual small, zippered bag, with their own lip brush. And a retractable lip brush, which won’t transfer lipstick onto everything else in the bag, is the smart choice. (I have to give credit to my makeup artist friend, Katie “Puff” Middleton, for this one.) I like the e.l.f. Studio Retractable Brushes for this.

13) Small Fluffy Brush. It’s technically an eyeshadow brush, but I use the MAC 224 Tapered Blending Brush to blend concealer and powder under the eyes and to spot powder (yup, coined that term) other areas of the face. I like a fluffy brush for doing work on the undereye area because that skin is so thin and sensitive. And because the brush is small, it’s easier to control. Some people–rightfully so–will flinch if you come at their undereye area with a big fluffy brush, but the 224 is not scary. This is another one of the brushes I keep in my personal kit.

14. Spooly Brush. Honestly, I’m not picky with these. But a spooly brush (to brush through eyebrows and mascara clumps) is an important part of the essential brushes I use. It is basically a standard mascara wand, so even a clean disposable wand will do the trick.

None of the brushes I love are pokey, rough or in any way uncomfortable. When properly taken care of, they won’t shed or otherwise disintegrate on you. These are my personal favorites, but they are not the only ones that work. I just wanted to give this info because so many clients and beginner makeup artists ask me about brushes. And as I’ve said before, I don’t believe in keeping beauty secrets. If I know about a product or tool that could help someone else, eventually it will end up on this blog. You’re welcome.

If you have any awesome brushes that you think I should try, please leave a comment!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Are Those Things Real?

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, eyelashes are the window treatments. Good lashes make your eye-windows look better–it’s a fact*. I’ve yet to meet a client who doesn’t want long, full lashes. If the majority of people didn’t care about eyelashes, the false lash market would be non-existent.

I’m not bragging here, but I have to be real with you. At least once each week, I get asked if I am wearing false lashes (I very rarely am, and no one has ever asked me when I actually was!). I don’t have eyelash extensions, and I don’t use Latisse or any other lash growth product. Without mascara on, no one would compliment me on my eyelashes–I feel confident about that. But because I do get these compliments, and because I have applied mascara to thousands of eyelashes, I feel qualified to at least share my tips. So here.we.go.

Tip 1: Don’t regularly use waterproof mascara. This stuff is fine for cry-y occasions, but most waterproofs are harsher than regular mascara. When used frequently, waterproof mascaras can cause lash breakage.

Tip 2: Be oh-so-gentle when removing your eye makeup. I cleanse my face with an oil cleanser and lightly massage a small amount of it onto my lashes. I do a lot of rinsing, but I never rub or scrub the eye area. After that, I dry my face and use a cotton pad soaked with Bioderma Sensibio H20 makeup remover to take off the rest of my eye makeup. With my eye closed, I gently hold the cotton pad work too over the lashline for about 20 seconds to let the remover break down the makeup, then I–also very gently–wipe away what is left.

Tip 3: Eat clean. I am not a scientist, and the Internet research I should do would probably be full of contradictions anyway, but I believe that my healthy diet and the supplements I regularly take (including fish oil, which is beneficial to skin and hair), is part of the reason I have decent lashes to start with. Genetics is involved too, so I may have some nice lash DNA, but I think a healthy lifestyle truly does make for better skin, hair and nails.

Tip 4: Dry yo’ lashes. Damp lashes–from washing your face, eye makeup remover, eye drops, etc.–make eyelashes clump together when mascara is applied, and clumped lashes will never look full. Before I apply my first coat of mascara, I always make sure my lashes are dry. To do that, I hold my index finger horizontally in front of my eye, then I blink. If the lashes are very damp, you will feel water, product or eyedrop residue hitting your skin. If they are just a little damp, you will be drying them on your finger-towel as you blink. Either way, do this a couple of times or until your lashes feel dry.

Tip 5: Get your eyeliner involved. The right kind of eyeliner (or even a shadow as a liner) can give the illusion of fuller lashes. I prefer a dark brown at the lashline because sometimes when you use a black liner, the blackness of your mascara can fade into the liner and actually make your lashes stand out less (dark eyeshadows on the lid can do the same thing). You can, however, use a black liner to tightline. (This means applying it to the upper waterline). This makes the upper lashline look fuller.

Tip 6: Use a volumizing mascara as a base. If I had to get a tattoo, it would need to be one of the two things I know I will love forever–Biggie Smalls or Dior Diorshow Mascara. I have tried dozens of mascaras in the last few years alone and nothing has come close to the volumizing effect of Diorshow (the original formula). I know that there are some people who this doesn’t work for, but everyone I have personally used it on has loved it. So here’s the trick to getting volume–hold your lash wand horizontally, wiggle it at the lash roots, then lightly blink into it. I concentrate on two areas for this–the center of the lashline and the outer two thirds. As far as how many coats to apply, that’s really a personal choice. I just stop when my intuition or makeup spirit guide tells me to, and I suggest you do the same. I do this step on my top lashes only.

Tip 7: Comb through those bad boys. I won’t disclose what I use to comb through my own lashes, because it is bad and wrong and I should be ashamed. On clients, I use a spooly (or clean disposable mascara wand) to separate and remove clumps. You may find a plastic or metal lash comb works better for you. Whatever you use, just make sure you use it before your mascara has dried.

Tip 8: Apply a second mascara. The second mascara is like the supporting actress, which is just as important, in its own way. I skip around to some other makeup steps before I do this to make sure the top lash mascara has completely dried. When I’m ready, I apply a super black, inky mascara to intensify and lengthen the lashes. I am currently using Make Up For Ever Smokey Lash Mascara and Clinique High Lengths Mascara. I do the wiggle-at-the-lash roots thing again, as well as the blink-into-it step. But with this blink, I pull the wand upwards as I blink, to get the lengthening effect. The pulling upwards is important because many of us have blond-tipped eyelashes (even brunettes–I’m in this category), so if there is no mascara there, the lashes will look shorter than they actually are.

Tip 9: Give some love to your bottom eyelashes. They are important too! Applying mascara to bottom lashes defines the eyes. The trick is to apply the mascara at the roots of the bottom lashes. Unless you are going for a 1960s or other specific look, full–but not overloaded–mascared lashes tend to look better than long, spidery lashes. Depending on the wand shape and your level of comfort, you can either use the wand horizontally or vertically to reach the lash roots. I usually use whatever my second mascara is, but I have also used Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara before (it is a beauty tubes mascara with the most adorable tiny wand.)

Tip 10: Don’t compare yourself to actresses, models, or Kardashians. They are usually wearing false lashes or have lash extensions (sometimes both), and if you are looking at anyone in a magazine, their photo has been retouched. Their lashes are about as Real as a Housewife, so please keep that in mind.

Hope this post helps you on your journey to fuller, longer looking lashes (if that is your journey). Would love to hear your tips and recommendations.

*I sometimes make up my own facts, based on my professional experience.

Have a beautiful day 🙂


The blurry, unflattering photo is of me–which marks the first time I have ever posted a photo of myself on this blog. But I think it is a good lash shot, so I am doing this for the people.lashes