#MakeupMonday – The Basics – Makeup Brushes

makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes

a selection of brushes from one of my many brush rolls…


Returning to our series The Basics, I decided to write about makeup brushes.

I would say in my private lessons/teaching this is the item I’m asked about third/fourth most often (behind mascara, foundation and concealer). For makeup artists, however, this is the A-#1 priority. Bottom line while, yes, some products are obviously better than others, with the right tools pretty much any makeup can be applied seamlessly and flawlessly. I love my brushes. LOVE my brushes. In fact I wrote an ode to one of them when I lost it. That is how attached artists become to their brushes. Once you get used to using them and see how the right tool can change your makeup life, you too will be come attached. For this installment, I will be discussing purchasing brushes. Then in a future installment, I will talk about using them. Here then are The Basics Makeup Brushes.

What To look For

When considering a new brush I look at

– type of hair/fiber used
– shape
– density
– ferrule and handle

The type of hair and/or fiber used helps to determine how to use the brush, as does the shape and density of the hairs/fibers. The last two things I mentioned – the ferrule and the handle – have to do with the construction of the brush and how long it will last. The ferrule is the metal part between the hairs and the handle. High quality brushes have hairs that go all the way down the ferrule and are both glued and clamped into place, hence much less shedding. I was taught that you should be able to take a brush and pull at the hairs and if none come out you know you have a good brush.

Everyone on the Planet makes a cosmetics brush these days. Some are amazing, some are very good and some are turrble. Here are some Pros and Cons of some popular brands I have tried, both “pro” and retail.

Crown Brush – Crown is a manufacturer of brushes who offers professional makeup brushes online and at the trade shows. PROS: Crown Brushes are very cost-friendly. If you are a ‘baller on a budget’ Crown is a pretty good option. Also because they are very inexpensive price-wise, you can try a lot of different styles of brushes (different kinds of eye brushes, different kinds of foundation brushes, different kinds of powder brushes, etc.) and see what you prefer *before* making a larger financial commitment. CONS: I have had Crown brushes completely fall apart on me and/or shed like crazy. The hairs are short and glued in place so you have to be very careful as to how you wash them. If any water seeps up the ferrule and loosens that glue, it’s a goner. To their credit, when I tweeted that 5 Crown foundation brushes I purchased had all fallen apart in less than a month, someone emailed me and offered to replace them so they do have good customer service and stand by their products.

crown brush dual sided ac011makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: AC011 Deluxe Double Sided Blender – a dual ended synthetic fiber foundation / concealer brush.

Smashbox Cosmetics – A lot of women know Smashbox from QVC but they’ve actually been in the Pro landscape for a number of years. Smashbox is a popular consumer-friendly brand and for good reason: they offer pro-driven, pro quality cosmetics at good prices. I have noticed that they’ve changed a bit and become a bit more consumer oriented since being bought by Estée Lauder, but so far the quality of the cosmetics themselves has not changed. As much as I love the brand, sad to say I do not love their brushes, as I have mentioned before. PROS: the Fan brush is great for cleaning away eyeshadow fallout, and has lasted well for several years. CONS: every other brush in the set I was given fell apart. That was a few years back so I do not know if anything has changed, but quality brushes will last you a lifetime. Let’s hope they have re-designed their brush line.

smashbox cosmetics fan #22 makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: Fan Brush #22

Royal and Langnickel – Like Crown, Royal and Langnickel manufactures brushes (both fine art and cosmetic) and offers professional makeup brushes online, at the trade shows and at various Pro makeup shops if you happen to live near any of those.PROS: The SILK Pro collection line offers very good quality at a very good price. All of my R&L SILK Pro line brushes hold their shape well after multiple uses/cleanings, they all still feel good after multiple uses/cleanings, and I am experiencing very minimal/occasional shedding. They are also one of the few places I can get a tapered, natural-hair lip brush (my preference, gives me much more control over my application than most synthetic lip brushes do). CONS: Not all of Royal and Langnickel’s brushes are on the same level. As I said above I recommend the SILK Pro line of brushes. Last year, R & L introduced the Revolution™ brush line to their collection. Sad to say, but I’m not a fan. The Revolution™ brushes are a synthetic fiber brush line, presumably to capture the growing vegan brush market, but in my opinion, there are much better vegan options available. The couple of Revolution™ brushes I have felt odd to the touch initially, before I even used them, and then really changed texture after I washed them. I would definitely suggest trying a brush or two before committing to an entire set.

royal langnickel powder makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: C100 Natural Hair Powder & C655 Pointed Natural Hair Lip

Stila Cosmetics – Another popular brand that started in the Pro sphere (Stila was founded by artist Jeanine Lobell) and has become popular amongst consumers via QVC, Stila has long been known for making very good brushes. PROS: Good construction and overall quality materials used. Made to last. CONS: I, personally, am not a fan of the retractable brushes. I would stick to the original, long-handled brushes.

stila cosmetics #9 makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: #9 All Over Blend Brush Stila’s legendary crease/lid blending brush.

Esum Brushes – Esum as far as I am aware is a relatively new entrant in the brush world but I have to say I LOVE them. They are the brush line of Muse Beauty Pro which is a beauty store & education resource out of San Francisco (my NYC makeup artist friend Margina Dennis had to point out to me that Esum is Muse spelled backwards. D’Oh!).PROS: Quality construction and materials and the brushes are also – in my opinion – very lux in appearance. They also feel good in-hand. CONS: Decided price increase from the previous brands I have mentioned. Yes my friends, really good brushes are quite pricey.

W35 Large Round-Angle eye contour makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: W35 Large Round-Angle eye contour brush – can be used for crease or all over the lid.

NARS Cosmetics – If you read Makeup to Go with any regularity, you know I could go on about All Things Nars. PROS: Generally speaking, Nars tools are excellent. The three stand-outs are the three Japanese brushes NARS has; the Ita Kabuki, the Yachiyo Kabuki, and the Botan kabuki brushes. These all have very unique shapes designed to various fulfill specific purposes. CONS: The travel brush set retails for $75, the individual brushes range from $21-$75. They are excellent brushes, so if you can afford them, get them. However, they are a financial commitment and some of the designs are not the most consumer-friendly in terms of “How do I use this?”.

nars yachiyo kabuki makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: Yachiyo Kabuki Brush #27 – It will change the way you apply blush (if memory serves, Shu Uemura had a brush like this at one time, and see note below about Hakuhodo).

Shu Uemura – the first time I walked into a Shu store early in my career as a makeup artist, it changed my life. The entire perimeter of the store was filled with rows and rows and rows of the most amazing and gorgeous brushes I’d ever seen. Changed. My. Life. PROS: You will never encounter a brush more exquisite than a Shu Uemura brush, period. CONS: When Shu Uemura USA was bought out by L’Oreal, they closed all the Shu Stores leaving only the website behind to buy product in the US, and they radically changed the product line such that many of Shu’s best are no longer available here. Quel dommage!!

shu uemura natural hair powder makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: 20h Natural Brush – an angled powder brush for highlighting, contouring and shading.

Hakuhodo – I am sure it has not escaped your attention that the last few brushes I have mentioned have all been Japanese brushes/brands. This is because the Japanese are well known for the quality of their brushes and their innovative brush designs. I was hipped up to Hakuhodo a few years back by my friend, NYC makeup artist Kim Weber. Hakuhodo manufactures their brushes and in fact, if rumor is to be believed, back before Estee Lauder when MAC brushes were really really good… well… you get my drift. I own brushes from the S100 and J series so those are all I can speak to. PROS: Along with Shu Uemura, these are some of the most exquisite brushes on the planet. All of the Hakuhodo brushes I have are of excellent design, quality and construction and they are beautiful to look at. The primary difference between the various series Hakuhodo offers seems to be in the handle and in the brush hairs used. CONS: They have several different “series” of brushes so can be a bit confusing/daunting to discern the difference and select from the myriad of brushes they have available. Also, it is undeniable that Hakuhodo is a very expensive brush line overall, even their more “basic” brush series are still pricey. Hakuhodo brushes are all the rage right now in the online makeup world. I do not disagree that they are of amazing quality. I do disagree that everyone needs to invest in getting them. I only use them for certain applications (celeb & editorial), and in controlled environments. I cannot lose or damage a set of brushes that cost me SEVERAL hundred dollars to collect. These brushes are investment pieces. For the consumer, I really do not know why a non-pro would buy brushes this expensive. However, if you are a total makeup maven and buying product is how you treat yourself, go for it and have a good time. 🙂

hakuhodo pointed powder makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Best Pick: S103 Pointed Powder Blush brush, J104 Round Powder brush. NOTE: Hakuhodo also has traditional Japanese brushes which means they have Yashiyo & Ita design brushes like NARS, and Hakuhodo has them in different sizes.

Vegan Options
Vegan brushes are becoming increasingly popular. I do not mind admitting this is an area of internal turmoil for me because I am a vegetarian. So the veg in me would like to switch to an entirely cruelty free brush roll someday. The makeup artist in me, however, needs brushes to perform the way I need them to perform and thus far, natural hair is still the winner, in my opinion. That said, there are more and more good alternatives coming out regularly.

obsessive compulsive cosmetics powder makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics – David Klasfeld, the founder of OCC Makeup is vegan but also a makeup artist so he knows how brushes need to perform, and it shows in his brush line. These are by far the most hair-like vegan brushes I’ve tried so far, and the brushes apply makeup pretty darn close to the way natural hair brushes do across the board. Kudos to OCC Makeup for this great brush line. PROS: Very close to the performance of natural hair brushes, I particularly like the lip brush. CONS: n/a – I think it’s the best of it’s kind.

bdellium tools pink bambu series makeup to go blog tania d russell the basics makeup brushes
Bdellium Tools – I haven’t gotten to play with this line as much as I’d like yet, but so far everything I’ve tried has been quite good and they have a moderate price-point (about the same as Royal & Langnickel) so they are affordable. They make both traditional and Vegan brushes, and I have – and like – some of both. PROS: Speaking specifically of the Vegan brushes- the Bambu series as they are called – they do not feel quite as hair like as the OCC brushes, however they do pick up and distribute product well. The handles are also made of sustainable Bamboo, which feels good in-hand and which is great for the environment. And as with all of the Bdellium Tools I’ve tried thus far they are well constructed. CONS: And this is a big one for me: Why are all the fibers colored???? There are 3 different Bambu series; Green, Yellow and Pink. Why is this necessary? I don’t mind if the handles are colored but having the fibers in different colors is an extreme turn off to me.

Old Reliables I Did Not Previously Mention
As I said at the start, this lists a selection of what’s hot on the e-streets and my own personal choices. That said there a couple of brush brands, in particular, that have served legions of women for many years, and those are Bobbi Brown Cosmetics brushes, and Trish McEvoy brushes. Both lines have been around since forever, and were amongst the first to bring professional quality brushes to the masses. I do not have either brand in my kit, but I know artists who do and have done so for years. Both brands are a bit pricey, Trish McEvoy particularly so, but they are the kind of brushes you buy ONCE and then you’re set for makeup life. I recommend both to my private clients frequently. They are both great for the client who wants to buy one, complete, easy-to-use set of brushes and never think have to about brushes again.

As I said, in a future installment I plan to discuss how I use brushes and decide which brushes are the best for which jobs. In the meantime if you want to learn more, Beautylish had a great feature on brushes not too long ago, written by The Powder Group Director of Artistry and Education, James Vincent. Click Here to check that article out

Yep, it’s Tuesday. Something has been going on with my web host’s servers so we have been having some tech problems here in MTG-land. Better late than never… hope you enjoyed. 🙂

#MakeupMonday – The Basics: Face Powders

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powders T. LeClerc Face Poudre in Banane

T. LeClerc Poudre Libre en Banane


I have a confession: I LOVE face powder. Love Love Lovey Love Love. It softens colors, smooths the complexion, helps blending, erases mistakes, sets the makeup, on and on. It’s a wonder product! Yet I find most women simply wonder “What am I supposed to do with this?” Let me assure you: Once you get the right formulation and learn to use it the right way, you too will be a convert. As I have stated before I am planning a series of video tutorials and probably one of my first ones will be using powder correctly but in the meantime in The Basics we will cover some of the best powders out there and what makes a powder one of the best. NOTE: I am really only talking about loose powders in this article. Yes, I know many of you are more used to pressed powders. Pressed powders are great for touching up, but they are not the wonder product that is loose powder. If you are really fixated on pressed powder, most of these brands make pressed powder versions of these loose powder products. I invite you, however, to allow loose powder to sweep you off of your feet…

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powders Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Sheer Loose Powder
1) Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Loose Powder – (personal or pro use)
This is my hands-down favorite for the “everyday woman”, and I have also used it in my kit. Bobbi Brown’s Sheer Finish Loose Powder is yet another of my beloved “pro product in department store disguise” products. It is very finely milled which is one of the main things to look for in a loose powder (thick powders are how you get that cakey look), it contains no sheen or mica so it gives a soft matte finish, and it comes in colors usually only available in professional powders. Pale Yellow (fairer skins) and Golden Yellow (darker skins) are used by Pro artists to give an “airbrushed” finish to makeup.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powdersShu Uemura Matte Powder
2) Shu Uemura Face Powder Matte – (personal or pro use)
As difficult as it can be to get Shu in the States these days, this powder is worth the effort. Just get the “Colorless” powder and you are all set. This powder is matte just as the name implies (they used to also have a version called “Sheen”) and can be applied to be Very Matte depending on the finish you want. Shu Uemura’s Face Powder gives a very long lasting smooth, matte appearance.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powders Smashbox Cosmetics Halo Hydrating Powder
3) Smashbox Cosmetics Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder – (personal or pro use)
Powder can be a tricky proposition on older and/or dry skin types. What makes powder smooth out some complexions can also settle into fine lines and wrinkles and make the skin look even more dry. Smashbox’s Halo Hydrating series of products were made to address this very issue. Smashbox says that this powder will reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in ten minutes. While I cannot bare witness to that claim, I can say that when I have used this powder on older clients and/or clients with dry skin I get none of the cake-y, creep-y effect that powder can so often do on those skin types, and the skin is left with a hydrated “youthful glow”. One word of caution for using this powder for photography: it does have some sheen to it.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powders Alison Raffaele Transparant Setting Powder
4) Alison Raffaele Transparant Finish Setting Powder – (personal – have not tried for pro use)
If you would prefer to stick to more naturally derived products, the best powder I’ve encountered in this category is Alison Raffaele’s Setting Powder. The Alison Raffaele line focuses on complexion products (vs. color products) and is a naturally derived, professional quality line. What I like about this product is that it is finely milled and it is truly colorless which means any shade of skin tone can use this. I have actually used this on myself and not only did I not turn ashey, but my breakout prone skin did not have a negative reaction to it. The setting powder also comes in a “Transparant to Go” dispensing brush, perfect for travel or to carry in your purse. As far as using it in a professional kit goes, it is probably fine but it does contain micas so you would need to test it for back-flash.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powders Sonia Kashuk Barely There Finish Loose Powder
5) Sonia Kashuk Barely There Loose Powder – (personal use)
I know, I know; most of the powders I have recommended have been on the pricey side. Reason being like most makeup artists I feel that your complexion products are where you should spend your makeup dollars and then if you have to you can go more mid to lower priced on other cosmetics. Drugstore powders usually come in cake-y formulations with limited color palettes and often have added ingredients to give “sheen” which is undesirable for most women. Sonia Kashuk saves the day once again with a quality loose powder at an affordable price. The color palette is limited, but there is a colorless option that should work with nearly every skin tone. The powder is sheer, fine and soft matte and gives a nice polished finish to the skin.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powders Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder
6) Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder – (pro but people insist on using it for personal use anyway)
Let me make one thing clear: This is a very good product. However, this product is a victim of frequent incorrect usage. This product has been blamed for multiple high profile “makeup malfunctions”. Whether or not it is true that those women were wearing this powder, what IS true is that if used incorrectly this powder will go very wrong on you very quickly. I recommend using this powder as a SETTING powder only, not a touch-up powder. This powder contains silica and the texture of the powder is quite dry. It needs the moisture of the makeup to hold onto. For the initial setting of makeup it is beautiful and leaves a flawless finish in most settings (it does not play nice with flash photography). Often times women find they do not need to touch-up after having used this powder. If you do, however, use a more traditional powder.

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco the basics face powders Ben Nye Powder
7) Ben Nye Professional Powders – (pro use but see notes below)
Ben Nye is a staple brand of professional artists worldwide. These are the powders I keep in my everyday Commercial makeup kit. They are versatile, long-lasting, and they come in a full range of colors – both to match skin tones and to counter-act skin tones. The Ben Nye powders come in two formulations – the Visage Poudre Luxury Powder which is finely milled and sheer and more resembles the powders above and the Classic Translucent face powders which are much more opaque. This, my friends, is the big difference; The traditional theatrical makeup powders are NOT sheer. This makes them more versatile for professional applications but you just would not want to wear them in real life. The Visage Poudre Luxury Powders, however, are quite wearable for everyday and in fact I make a custom blend for a few private clients using these powders. In the Visage Poudre Luxury Powder the colors to look for are Banana Yellow and Cameo (a soft pink color). In the Classic Translucent powders, the colors to look for are Neutral (colorless), Topaz (darker yellow), and Fair (soft pink). EXCEPTION TO THE RULE – I know I just said that you would not want to wear the Classic Translucent Powders on a daily basis because of their higher pigmentation but there is one notable exception: There are also four fabulous colors for darker skin tones which are great for professional use OR can be used as a powder foundation for the everyday woman.

8 ) T. LeClerc Poudre Libre – (personal or pro use)
The powder pictured at the top of this article, T. LeClerc is the one that started it all. Founded in 1881, T. LeClerc is a very old cosmetics line and one of the first to offer face powders and THE first to offer the now famous Banana Yellow powder. This powder is super sheer and super finely milled and leaves the skin with a most glorious finish. The one downside for me is that – as with many French cosmetics and skincare products – it is heavily scented. This concerns me as I never know when a client is going to possibly going to have an ingredient reaction, therefore while I own a jar of T. LeClerc I have never actually used it. If scent does not bother you, however, many a woman and many a makeup artist swear by this powder.

#MakeupMonday – The Basics: Foundations

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco basics foundation Bare Escentuals Matte Mineral Foundation Powder

Bare Escentuals Matte Mineral Foundation Powder in Deepest Deep - the shade I use on myself


Ah foundation… to Foundation or not Foundation. That is the question. Well the correct answer, in my ever so humble opinion, is a resounding: It Depends. It depends on a variety of factors, actually. Is this for everyday or for photography? If it is for photography what type of photography and what type of finish do you want? If it is for everyday what type of skin do you have and what kind of coverage do you need? Then there is the issue of matching the color properly. No two women are exactly the same coloring yet manufacturers can only produce so many colors in a line, and for years women of color were left out completely (fortunately those days are long over and most lines include shades for all women). No wonder so many women have a hard time picking the right foundation! Well, I am here to share what I know in the hope that it will help you make a better choice on your next foundation purchase. The right makeup will make the world think you have fabulously perfect skin, even if you – like myself – do not. Also, I am focusing on true foundations, not tinted moisturizers. Personally, I think a Foundation is a better purchase because when you want fuller coverage you have it, but if you want more of a tinted moisturizer all you have to do is mix any of the below (except for the Powder foundation) with the moisturizer of your choice and voila! You now have a perfect color match Tinted Moisturizer. View Post

#MakeupMonday – San Francisco Bay Area Beauty

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I was recently in the Bay for over a week for work and business (and some leisure 😉 ). While I was up there I had more time off than usual, so I decided to do something I’d thought about for a while; find the “happening” San Francisco Bay Area beauty spots.

Well. I tell ya. I was initially a little disappointed, particularly with San Francisco. Being the hip, “West Coast New York” that it is, I was expected to find my hip, funky little ‘off the beaten path’ stores. Instead, I was surprised to find mostly the same large beauty chains that one can find in most cities. I’m sure the hip little stores do exist and I’ll try finding them again on future trips. What I did find in visiting the big stores, however, was that these stores often carry brands and products that other stores in the chain might not. Here then is what I found on my first SF Bay beauty excursion; View Post

Shu Uemura to Cease US Operations

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco shu uemura loreal nobara creme foundation

my well used, well loved original Nobara creams…


In major “get it while you can” news, L’Oreal is apparently pulling the plug on the Shu Uemura line in the United States. When they changed the formulation of the Nobara creme foundation – which was one of the best foundations ever produced – and then when Mr. Uemura passed away, you just knew something was happening and it wouldn’t be long before the bottom fell out.

L’Oreal holds all of the international rights for the Shu brand outside of Japan. Presumably this means that the line will still be available abroad, and of course it will still be available in Japan. But us makeup mavens in the US will have to suffer as L’Oreal decides to focus on more pedestrian brands and the generally more profitable fragrances market.

I can’t tell you how much this pains me. While this is a major brand in the Asian market, for whatever reason Shu Uemura remained more of a pro and cult status brand here in the US. It is unfortunate that with the conglomeration of more and more brands under big corporate umbrellas, niche/specialty lines are squeezed out in favor of those that will appeal to the most broad consumer base. Would there was a way for big business to recognize the value of both.

Shu Uemura – whether recognized in the States or not – is one of the best cosmetics lines ever. As long as the product quality remains the same, one way or another I will find these products and keep them in my kit.