Makeup Brush - Basic Terms And Worth
Makeup brushes are the most important beauty tool, for makeup, that you could ever own. With proper care, high quality makeup brushes can even last a lifetime. You will find the information here useful, either on its own or as a glossary to provide, as an additional information to our 'How to choose your makeup brush' page. This is because it also serves to provide as a basic foundation in the understanding of how the different materials used in makeup brush construction can affect
its quality. Although some of the terms may apply to all kinds of brushes, the information below applies more to makeup brushes or cosmetic brushes than artist brushes.
To Take Advantage of a'squirrelMakeup Brush Set Offers, please click here for more details!
We have find it hard to provide information on the different hair types used in makeup brush construction without also telling you how they affect the 'value' or 'price' as the hair types or qualities used largely affect the overall value of makeup brushes hence also their prices. Therefore, it can also be used as a general 'price guide' for how the different hair types are usually 'valued' in the makeup or cosmetic brush making industry. However, since we all know, 'price'
and 'value' are largely swayed by brand marketing (like most other products) as well as 'pretty packaging', the price of makeup brushes DOES NOT necessarily reflect their 'value'. As such, the two may not always be equal and can vary considerably depending on, how well or how much was spent on marketing campaigns by the different brandnames or designer brands you choose. This is especially the case in the cosmetic world therefore, the info below should only be used as a general guide! So, we have tried to discuss 'value' and 'price' more from a 'manufacturing' (high quality makeup brushes are hand made) cost perspective. To see 'Price
comparisons of different cosmetic-brush brands, please click here. If you haven't read the 'how to choose quality make-up brush' page, you may like to do so at the end.
The construction of makeup brush is divided into 3 parts: the hair, the ferrule (metal part) and the handle. Below, we provide additional information on these three parts as well as some brief descriptions of the more common or basic makeup brush terms used when referring to cosmetic brushes. We decide to provide the information below as well as others on our website as we find that there is a lack of information available to consumers who want to learn more about how to choose or buy quality makeup brushes makeup brushes and NOT artist brushes!! (which is more
widely available of the two). Therefore, the descriptions of the makeup brush 'anatomy' below specifically apply to terms used in makeup brushes instead of artists brushes.
Since there are many hair types used in making cosmetic brushes, we have provided information on the hair types that we feel are more commonly used in the manufacture of makeup brushes today. Information on ferrule and handle of makeup brushes is also provided.
Natural hair soft makeup brushes are usually made from Squirrel hair, Pony hair, Goat hair or blends such as Squirrel Mix and Squirrel Blends and are used mostly in the manufacture of larger makeup brushes or cosmetic brushes such as powder brush, blush brush, contour blending brush and some larger eye-shadow brushes. Other soft makeup brushes can also be made from the different types of sables or pahmi hair and are more commonly used for smaller cosmetic brushes such
as sable lip brush, medium and smaller sabel eyeshadow brushes and eyeliner brushes. Natural bristles are also used for slant eyebrow brushes or groomers, etc. For simplicity, the information on the different hair types are provided in that order followed by Synthetic hair types such as Taklon and Nylon. Some information on Ferrule and Handle are also provided. More info below, you may want to start with
'Makeup Brush Hair Types' here.
When it comes to makeup brushes, hair type is the biggest and most important component. In general, Makeup Brush Hair Types can be divided into three categories: Natural Hair (Soft), Natural Bristle (Coarse) and Synthetic (Man-made).
Only natural hair has a center structure known as the medulla. Medulla is covered by a thick sheath called cortex and is layered by cuticle which is like a shell of scales. The scales and hollows in the cuticle structure are responsible for holding and trapping whatever powders or cosmetics they picked up. So, when you press the brush, the 'trappings' will release the powder, blush or whatever makeup they have picked up. That is why natural hair is the best and most preferred makeup brush hair type as it is able to deliver and 'apply' makeup more
effectively. However, the quality of natural hair makeup brushes varies in quality depending on factors such as hair type, type of cuts or harvesting methods used (virgin, first-cut, second-cut or blunt-cut), climates, etc., which can affect the availability and price.
The below is in order of hair types most commonly used for bigger makeup brushes such as powder brush, blush brush, etc followed by those commonly used for smaller makeup brushes such as eyeshadow brush, lip brush, etc and finally synthetics such as taklon and nylon.
Although badgers are native to many parts of the world, China is the main source of badger hair for brush making. High Quality Badger hair (referred to as Badger 'Tapers') is similar to squirrel, kolinsky sable, weasel or red sable, in that Water Badger Hair 'tapers', hence it also has a 'conical' shape. This means that high quality badger hair makeup brushes would also have thick bellies and thin pointy tips. Badger 'Tapers' is 'elastic'. The less 'tapered' the hair is the less
'elastic' it will be. Badger 'Tapers' are found in high-quality badger hair makeup brushes. The high-quality badger hair has the typical 'sketchy' appearance (light-dark-light) with softer and have very thin tips.
Badger hair that are gray in color are less tapered hence are NOT as 'conical' in shape and less 'elastic' and not as soft as the high quality badger 'tapers'. Badger 'grays' are LIGHTER (nearly grey) in color and are less expensive hence are commonly found on SHAVING brushes and BUFFING brushes at Barbershops (but some are also used in makeup brushes too lately!). Is that why most buffer brush (for e.g. MAC #180, hair not specified) or kabuki brush bear close resemblance to a shaving brush or barber's
Unlike sables which are often used in smaller makeup brushes, high quality badger hair is ideal to be used to make bigger makeup brushes such as fan-type brush, bronzer brush and badger 'tapers' make the BEST Buffer or Kabuki brush types because they are 'elastic' and have very soft tips and will NEVER EVER feel prickly on your face yet still very 'bouncy' and are much denser than other hair! However, since high quality badger hair (badger 'tapers') are very expensive, often blunt goat hair or mix (some may even be bleached goat hair, badger-look-a-like?)
or badger 'greys' is used instead to make buffer or kabuki type brushes.
Makeup brushes made from squirrel hair is the softest of the natural hair. This is because squirel hair is not springy, naturally very fine and relatively thin when compared to sable (see
sable below). Although soft squirrel hair is relatively thin, it still has a thick 'belly' hence has a conical shape, as the tip come to an exceptionally fine point. This unique characteristic of squirrel hair is the very reason why 100% all pure squirrel makeup brushes are extremely
soft and most sought after makeup brushes, especially by many professional makeup artists. Canadian squirrel is a slightly thicker, less resilient, considerably shorter hair with more belly; it is usually a variegated yellow and black (two-tone stripes!). Only squirrels with long hair are valuable and suitable for making squirrel makeup brush. So, we're not talking about the short-haired squirrel you find running around in your backyard! Prized squirrel hair that is used in your squirrel powder or blush brush is usually from 'cosmetic-grade' long-hair squirrels. You will find that top grade or higher quality makeup brushes are usually made from squirrel hair and must be hand
made to preserve their precious tips. You can buy a'squirrel wide range of Squirrel makeup brushes, including 100% pure squirrel at very affordable prices here and To Take Advantage of a'squirrel
Makeup Brushes Offers, please click here for more details! It is important to note that not all 'Squirrel Makeup Brushes' are 100% pure squirrel cosmetic brushes. Some may be labeled as 'Squirrel'
even though they are in fact, Squirrel Mix or Squirrel Blends (see below). So, it is wise to ask before you invest or buy your next 'Squirrel Powder Brush'. All a'squirrel
makeup brushes are hand made provided along with the details and specifications such as hair types, hair length, ferrule sizes, etc, for example here.
Squirrel mix cosmetic brushes or squirrel blends makeup brushes are made from squirrel hair that have been mixed with other hair, thereby providing a less expensive alternative to pure squirrel makeup brushes. Cosmetic brushes made from squirrel mix or squirrel blends, can contain a variety of 'mixes' or 'blends' of different types of hair and in different proportions. One of which, of course, has to
be squirrel hair or at least they should anyway! It is best if you know exactly what they are made from and the proportion
of mix or blends in your makeup brush. a'squirrel has 80% squirrel hair and 20% goat hair squirrel mix that you can buy here. OR To Take Advantage of a'squirrel Makeup Brushes
Offers, please click here for more details! Most common hair types used in the squirrel mix makeup brushes are goat hair and/or pony hair. FYI, camel hair is a trade term used in the brush making industry, to refer to brushes made from the mix of squirrel hair, goat hair and/or pony hair but you won't find a single strand of camel hair in it at all!
Pony hair cosmetic brushes are made from pony hair that is usually cylindrical in shape unlike the conical shape of the hair of squirrel makeup (see
Squirrel hair above). This means that pony hair has little or no 'belly' and has less 'pointy' tips compared to squirrel hair or kolinsky sable. Pony hair makeup brush is less expensive than squirrels but more expensive than goat hair to make. Like most other hair types, the bulk of the hair comes from China although most pony hair is dressed in Japan or Europe. Pony hair is often
mixed with squirrel to reduce cost of manufacturing pure squirrel makeup brushes, and is used in squirrel mix makeup brushes. They make decent quality makeup brushes but are also seen sold and marketed as 'higher' end makeup brushes.
or 'Capra' is, another decent quality hair type and is the most commonly used hair type in making cosmetic brushes as they are the least costly to make as the hair is widely available. Like all other hair types used for makeup brushes, they come in a wide range of quality within its type. The softest goat hair is, of course, the first-cut with the tips still intact.
They are also sometimes called 'Squirrel Substitute' or 'Squirrel Subs' for
short. Goat hair makeup brushes from lower-cut (blunt-cut) are used in the manufacture of mass produced (not hand made), lower quality
cosmetic. The top quality goat hair type makeup brush range, is hand-made like any other high quality cosmetic brush to preserve their precious tips. Only handmade high quality goat hair makeup brushes can be considered as a more affordable alternative to Squirrel makeup brushes. Again, this all depends on how it is being marketed by some of the different brands of cosmetic companies. As a result, by the time the marketing team or whichever army of 'spin doctors' they used finished, goat hair (aka capra
hair, squirrel substitute) makeup brushes can be priced even higher than squirrel make-up brushes!! (See Compare
brands here). Goat hair can also be used in squirrel mix makeup brushes to reduce the costs in making pure squirrel makeup brush (not necessarily the price!). Hand made, high quality goat hair makeup brushes are also available here along with a'squirrel usual detailed specifications info and
'magnifier' for our makeup brushes at this page.
Kolinsky is an animal found in cold regions of Russia and China. It is a species of mink and a member of the weasel family. Makeup brushes made from this are the finest, softest and the most expensive. Each Kolinsky hair has a naturally long fine point tip and a thick 'belly'. As such, kolinsky hair is known for its natural 'conical' shape. No other sable can match the length of the Kolinsky sable with some as long as 2.25 inches. Kolinskies have a 'springy'
resilience, hence would 'snap back', when bent, into its original shape much more compared to other types of sables. Although kolinsky sable has spring to it, Kolinsky hair is yet amazingly soft! The color of Kolinsky sable is golden brown.
The weasel is type genus of the Mustelidae family, and is native to North America, Europe and Asia, but only weasel tail hair from Asia is suitable for makeup brush and other types of brush. This is because only weazel hair from Asia is long and fine enough for this purpose. Weasel hair is commonly used as alternative to kolinsky hair (see
Kolinsky Sable above). The hair is usually more reddish compared to the golden brown color of kolinsky sable. Also, weasel hair is not as long as Kolinsky but it is still closest.
Makeup brushes made from red sabel, as in its name, have reddish tint. Red sable is one of the widest groups of natural soft hair and can include hair types such as weasel and other less valuable parts of kolinsky. Red sable is slightly less soft than the prized kolinsky sable and has less 'snap back'. This might be because the hair used under this category has thinner belly and less pointy tips when compared to the exquisite
Kolinsky sable (refer to kolinsky sable here). However, they are
still quite valuable.
Sable (Sable is Available here)
Sables, which are not kolinsky or red sable, are simply called 'Sable'. Sable is the largest category and makeup brushes made of sabel can be made from hairs that are seconds from the production of other sable, including
kolinsky hair, weasel,
red sable or may even contain other hair such as ox hair (tips are blunt compared to
red sable), pahmi hair or short blunt-cuts of many other hair types, as fillers. Because of this, sable makeup
brushes vary greatly. In short, sable makeup brushes, such as sable lip brush and sabel eye-shadow brush, should have the same characteristics as kolinsky hair and red sable, but just to a lesser degree. Sable cosmetic brushes should also have 'pointy' tips. To find out how to do a test for sable makeup brush, please see our how to test for quality of makeup brushes here. To buy or browser a'squirrel fine soft sable makeup brush, click here.
Pahmi hair, some spelled as pami or pammi, makeup brushes are made from a weasel-like animal but smaller and thinner. The hair is slightly stiffer and the tip is short. Pammi hair or Pahmi hair, however you want to spell it, is often used as filler hence is mixed with other hair types such as weasel (see
weasel above) or pony (see pony above) hair. Pahmi hair is relatively inexpensive and when dyed can resemble
sable or red sable.
Some high end cosmetic brands do carry pahmi in their cosmetic brush range.
Bristle is naturally coarse hence more commonly used for eyebrow groomers usually with the bristles on one side and comb on the other. Bristle with its naturally stiff texture has a similar feel to synthetic hair such as nylon. However, natural bristles have two characteristics ('flag' and interlocked) that are not present in synthetics. The first characteristic of natural bristles is that they have 'flag' tips which just look like 'split-ends'! Second characteristic typical of natural bristle is its interlocked construction. Natural bristles
with little flags indicate that they have been cut hence not hand shaped.
As with sable (see sable above), the longest natural bristle hair is the most expensive and the finest have long soft flags found in Southern China. Others can from India, Korea and Europe.
Synthetic bristles are also available but the abovementioned flag and interlocked characteristics are hard to copy. Moreover, they lose their shape over time and can look like a cross between a bad hair perm and a 'Vanilla Ice' bad cropped hair which no mouse or gel in the world can fix! :)
Two most common synthetics used in makeup brushes today are Nylon and Taklon. Unlike natural hair, nylon and taklon do not have the scales or cuticle (see natural hair
above) hence are not so 'absorbent' and will not 'trap' makeup media the way natural hair will. As such, taklon makeup brushes, which are usually orange or white in color, are commonly used as concealer brush or liquid or cream foundation brush. Taklon is used as a more affordable substitute for Sable but lacks
durability as it tends to 'fan out' and become stiffer with each use. Nylon, on the other hand, is commonly used for eyebrow groomer or eyebrow brush as it is harder than Taklon. Nylon is a common cheaper substitute for natural bristles (see
bristle) which are naturally stiff. But, some big cosmetic companies are using nylon for concealer brushes, eyeliner brushes, etc, and not as a substitute for natural bristles but for Sable instead.
Unlike natural hair makeup brushes, which get softer and softer with each use, synthetic cosmetic brushes tend to get stiffer with use. With modern advanced technology, the manufacture of synthetic makeup brushes has become more and more sophisticated and may one day give their natural counterparts a run for the money! But for now, natural hair makeup brushes are still the choice of professional makeup artists and other makeup brush connoisseurs or makeup divas at large!
The ferrule and handle give a makeup brush the good support it needs.
The ferrule of a makeup brush is the metal tube designed to hold the glued hair as well as providing a 'gateway' or connection for the handle and the hair. The most common for metal tubes or ferrules for makeup brushes are made of brass, copper or aluminum. Brass is the strongest of the three. Although ferrules are described as aluminium ferrule, this is rarely the case for makeup brushes as pure aluminum metal is impossibly soft to use hence 'Aluminum ferrule' can refer to aluminum alloy, which is aluminum mix with other metal, hence can be just as strong. Whatever
the metal used to make the ferrules, they should be double crimped and seamless to avoid the risk of annoying wobbly handles sometime down the track. Also, most quality makeup brushes have ferrules that are usually nickel-plated for appearance and corrosion resistance. Some also have gold, black or other colored coating. a'squirrel makeup brush ferrules are described under the specification info, as Aluminium (Anodized Black Aluminum) but they are actually aluminum alloy and are strong and durable. Ferrule
opening sizes or diameters usually can give indication as to how big or how much hair is used in a makeup brush. See our ferrule sizes here for more info on ferrule sizes of our makeup brushes.
Today, cosmetic brush handles can range from acrylics to fancy metals. Most makeup artists prefer wood handles for both durability and control. The makeup brush handle may come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. a'squirrel makeup brush handles are made of hard wood. You can have a 'look-see' here. OR To Take Advantage
Makeup Brushes Offers, please click here for more details.
The above info may also be useful as a 'glossary' for some of the terms used in How to Choose your Makeup Brush page, here. To learn about whether your makeup brushes could be giving you pimples or breakouts, see Makeup Brush Care as well as information on Makeup Brush Cleaner click here.
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