I am a huge makeup brush collector. I have everything from Zoeva, Hakuhodo, Chikuho, Tom Ford Chanel, Dior to Real Techniques, BH Cosmetics and ELF. I don't distinguish by brand but by functionality.
So since there has been a whole slew of new drugstore brushes released over the past few months, I thought I would check them out, and I've now had to opportunity to properly review them for you. I also thought that a comparison would be useful. I was sent some for review while others I bought at a 40% off sale.
The three brands I'm reviewing are Manicare, Lottie London and Lab2Beauty. As this is Australia, "drugstore" does not mean cheap/affordable as it does overseas. As a comparison, a Revlon Lipstick here costs 1/3 the price in the USA (not taking to account taxes or exchange rates). I won't be listing all of the prices, but they all are in the range of A$15 - A$30 (at full price). You can buy all of these at Target. Manicare is available at more places like Priceline, Myer etc.
I've also picked out a few of my favorites from each line. I like trying different brushes and I also like have a complete set so I'm weird like that?!
First up, the ManicareXKellieLizKelsh Brushes. There are 8 in the set, but I gave away the Stippling Brush as I have way too many stippling brushes.
So from Left to Right: F14 Contouring Brush; E13 Smudger; E14 Lash/Brow; E12 Lash/Eye Definer; E11 Contouring Shadow; F12 Powder and F10 Foundation.
What I liked
Overall, I liked the look of the brushes. They looked professional and had a good weight to them which made them seem more expensive and luxurious. I liked the black and silver design.
I love the smudger brush. It was just the right size and density to smudge eyeliner for a smokey look. I also used it to tidy up areas like on the sides of the eyes where your cat "wings" up. Also, as I have hooded eyes, it was perfect for applying pigments and highlights in the middle of the eye and just above so you could see the highlight.
E12 Lash/Eye Definer
This brush works perfectly for both your brows and as an eyeliner brush. It was not too stiff that it would hurt your eyes. I found both brow and liner products applied smoothly with this. I also used it in the waterline and it was comfortable.
I usually use buffer brushes or a beautyblender for my foundation, as I hate the streakiness you sometimes get from a flat foundation brush. Boy oh Boy was I surprised and pleased with the results of this brush. Its dense, soft, flexible but not too flexible, just right and it was fairly thick so it was easy to brush out any visible brush strokes. This worked well with my more liquidy type foundations like YSL's Fushion Ink.
What I didn't like
F14 Contouring Brush & F12 Powder
I'm sorry! I may have just received bad ones. The hairs on these brushes were cut unevenly, they had a tendency to splay out and they felt very rough on the skin.
As for the E14 Lash/Brow & E11 Contouring Shadow brushes, I was indifferent. I just don't go for the hair brush style brow comb, I prefer the spiral types. The lash separator only works if you have super thick lashes. The contouring brush performed as it should and did the job but there was nothing special about.
E13 Smudger and F10 Foundation
Lottie London is a range of super colourful brushes. The colours are meant to help you easily pick up the brush you want. They had a whole lot more, a beauty blender and a brush soap and some eye accessories. Price range of brushes was about $12 - $25 From the top left: Lottie London Tan Time Brush (pinky orange); Powder Power Brush (baby blue); All Eyes on You Eyeshadow Brush (orange); Blend In Brush (pale yellow); Kabuki Babe Brush (purple). On the right hand side, left to right: Flawless Face Brush (greenish blue); Shade and Shadow Brush (pink); Perfectly Precise Brush (fuchsia) and Contour Queen Brush (hot orange). What I liked Overall, I liked the fun colours! They do look a bit kiddy but who cares right? Everytime I look at them, they really cheer me up. Blend In Brush (pale yellow) This is the perfect crease blending brush. Super soft yet firm enough to buff out harsh lines. I'm going to get another one! Kabuki Babe Brush (purple) OMG. This has replaced my Hakuhodo kabuki brush (that was US$200+) as my current fave. Its so soft, dense and very very gentle on the skin. The hairs on this brush are super fine. Contour Queen Brush (hot orange) I have a few brushes in this shape, from Zoeva, MAC, PONi Cosmetics etc, but I have been gravitating to this one. First, its not too stiff, so when you apply your highlight/contour you don't get that harsh straight line. Second, it is slightly thicker than most contour brushes, so you can flip it and use it as a blush brush. That being said, the only down side to being thicker is that it's hard to use when contouring your nose. What I didn't like Tan Time Brush (pinky orange) This was so so. Like the rest of the Lottie London brushes, it is a very soft brush. However, it's not as dense, so when it's not packed tightly, the hairs will splay increasing the surface area. This then causes the brush to pick up more product then needed. I felt that the large size of it didn't suit my smallish face and bronzer went everywhere. The hairs on this brush (the one I have) were also not cut evenly (this makes a very miniscule difference). Flawless Face Brush (greenish blue) I actually really like the feel of this brush. It's so soft and so luxurious feeling. I liked the feel of it on my skin. It felt like satin. BUT, sadly, it's not as dense as you would like for a foundation brush and it's quite big. The Manicare brush is about 2/3 the size. This brush picked up A LOT of product and I felt that it did waste a lot of foundation. This was more so for liquid foundations. I think it will work better for power foundations when used like a flocked sponge.
Blend In Brush (on the left)
Kabuki Babe Brush.- see how dense it is!
This has become my go-to kabuki brush for applying primer powder and setting powder.
Lab2Beauty is another affordable range of pro brushes coming from the UK. I did not buy the entire collection and they also have their own beauty sponge.
From Left to Right: I'm Turning Pro Eyeshadow Brush; I'm Turning Pro Foundation Brush; Make Me Blush Brush; I'm Turning Pro Buffing Brush; Got Nothing to Hide Concealer Brush; and I'm Turning Pro Contour Brush.
Overall, I liked the look of the brushes. They are not as heavy as Manicare's which some may prefer. They have a sort of rubber like texture to their handles which can make it difficult to clean (think Nars' black packaging - that slightly sticky/tacky (not tacky as in tacky fashion but sticky), but also easier to hold onto.
They are made of synthetic hairs which is good and there is a very smooth feel to the brush hairs. I find it easier to clean brushes with synthetic hairs.
What I liked
I'm Turning Pro Foundation Brush
This is a very unusual foundation brush. It's quite flat and thin. The Manicare and Lottie London ones' are giants compared to this one. I found it easy to apply my foundation with this particularly around the nose area as I have a pointy nose with lots of angles. It did not soak up much foundation which was good. I usually place spots of foundation around my face and then spread it out.
There some streaks but just going over it again with the brush made them go away.
Make Me Blush Brush
O.K. to be honest, what attracted me to this brand was this brush. I love brushes with that around and pointy end. This is quite a luxurious feeling brush and the hairs are fine and densely packed.
It applied blush well, and I also used it for bronzer and highlighters. It worked well for both power and cream products.
What I didn't like
Got Nothing to Hide Concealer Brush
This is my personal preference but this concealer brush was a bit too small. It worked fine for the inner corners of the eye but I usually apply my concealer in a big V shape under each eye and then blend it through. There's nothing wrong with the brush, just too small. I've used it to apply cream eyeshadows on my eyes instead.
I'm Turning Pro Eyeshadow Brush
Again, this is my personal preference. For a flat eyeshadow brush, this was a bit too thick and big. It was hard to control the placement of eyeshadow on my eyes when I was doing more intricate looks.
It worked much better as a crease/blending brush by turning it on it's side as it is fairly thick.
Each set of brushes had their pluses and minuses. I simply can't rank them by set. The beauty of it is, if you're not anal about using a set of brushes from one brand (if you are, I highly recommend Zoeva), then you can pick and choose.
Manicare ranked first for how luxurious the brushes felt, the weight and metallic detail added that something extra.
Lottie London's brushes performed well overall and are fun to look at, but for the more sophisticated and older crowd, they may or may not like the funky colours. I really loved the Kabuki brush and I am considering buying another as a backup.
Lab2Pro brushes are silky smooth and also performed just as well (except the ones I didn't like). They don't look cheap nor do they look expensive. This is a good mid-range brand to purchase. The blush brush is a standard. The buffing brush was a bit 'meh' and I would prefer to use my Real Techniques Expert Face Brush.
Final Thoughts: If you love makeup, you will probably love brushes. Each brand has
their standouts and are roughly priced at the same price point.
Give these a try and let me know what you think!