Category Archives: Makeup Brushes & Tools

Favorite ELF Brushes: Pictures and Mini-Reviews

Favorite ELF Brushes

I posted about my favorite eye brushes and favorite face brushes a few weeks ago; you probably noticed that many of them – especially the eye brushes – are on the more expensive side.  So, I thought it would be useful to do a round-up of my favorite ELF brushes since they’re inexpensive and although not all of them made it on to my favorites lists, I still like and use them.

Overall, I’ve found that I prefer the Studio line brushes (which sell for $3 each) to the Essential line brushes (which sell for $1 each).  I’ve tried several brushes from the Essential line, and found the face brushes scratchy; the eye brushes are okay, but not great.  In contrast, the Studio line brushes are very soft and very well made – I haven’t had a problem with any of them shedding, even after several washes.   All of the black-handled brushes in this post are from the Studio line.

ELF complexion (powder) brush

ELF complexion (powder) brush

The ELF studio complexion blush, which I use for powder, did make it on to my favorites list.  It’s very soft and does a good job at applying a thin layer of powder, or dusting off excess powder.

ELF blush brush

ELF blush brush

The ELF studio blush brush is also very soft and is nicely shaped; it hasn’t lost its shape after several washings.  It is fairly small, so best for those who prefer a more precise blush brush.  I generally reserve it for my few shimmery blushes, to avoid getting any shimmer particles on my go-to blush brush between washings.

ELF eyeshadow C brush

ELF eyeshadow C brush

The ELF eyeshadow C brush is the same shape as ELF’s basic $1 eyeshadow brush, but better quality. Again, it’s well made and soft; however, I don’t love the shape.  I prefer a smaller brush to lay down eyeshadow on the lid, and a slightly fluffier brush for blending.  I think that if I had more lid space, this would be a more useful brush for me.  As is, I tend to reach for it when my go-to brushes are dirty, and it does a great job – it just requires more work because of the fit between the shape of the brush and the shape of my eyes.

ELF contour eyeshadow brush

ELF contour eyeshadow brush

I love the ELF contour eyeshadow brush; this really could have been on my favorites list.  I use it for applying cream eyeshadow, and it does a great job. Plus, I prefer to use synthetic brushes for cream products (all ELF brushes are synthetic).   I’ve also used this to apply concealer to my face, and it worked very well for this.  The densely packed bristles are just perfect for applying a thin, even, layer of cream product.

ELF small precision eye brush

ELF small precision eye brush

I use the ELF small precision eye brush to go over my eyeliner with black eyeshadow.  I used to use it more frequently, but lately I’ve been reaching for the brush that came with the L’oreal gel eyeliners instead, which is a little more precise and has a shorter handle. Still, it’s a good brush to have around.

ELF concealer brush

ELF concealer brush

The ELF concealer brush is the one brush in this post from the Essentials line that I love and use all the time. I actually have seven; six to use as lip brushes (so I always have a clean one!), and one that use to clean up my manicures.  It is absolutely perfect for both of those purposes, and it’s so great that it’s only $1!

ELF blending eye brush

ELF blending eye brush / used for detail highlighting

I forgot to include the ELF blending eye brush, from the minerals line, in the photo of all the brushes.  I included this in my roundup of favorite face brushes, because it’s my go-to for precision highlighting. I use a larger brush to highlight my cheekbones, but this is perfect for my browbone, bridge of the nose, and cupid’s bow.  It’s very soft and well made – the quality is similar to the Studio line.

Overall, I would absolutely recommend any of the ELF Studio line brushes, and there are some brushes among the other lines that are good as well. And remember that you don’t need to use a brush for its intended purpose; I use an Illamasqua eye brush as a highlighter brush, the small ELF eye brush above as a detail highlighter brush, the Ecotools Bronzer brush as a powder brush, and more  — make the brushes work for you!

My Favorite Face Makeup Brushes

Favorite Face Brushes

Continuing on with my brushes series, here are my favorite face makeup brushes.  If you missed it, I posted about my favorite eye makeup brushes here.  These are definitely a work in progress; I have a couple brushes that I’d like to upgrade – but here are my favorites at the moment, organized by category.

Foundation: Sigma F80

I’ve written before about the Sigma F80 – it’s by far my favorite foundation brush! It gives a flawless application, and is the only foundation brush I ever use (though I do sometimes use a beautyblender or my fingers).  Highly recommended!

Powder: Ecotools Bronzer brush, ELF Complexion brush

I love the ecotools bronzing brush – it’s $10, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop using it.  I use it to buff in either power foundation (usually Pur Minerals) or setting powder.  If I want a light veil of powder instead, or to brush away excess powder I use the ELF Complexion brush. I’m happy with the ELF brush for now – it’s soft and well made – but I will eventually upgrade to a natural hair brush that is even softer.  Lately – since taking these pictures – I’ve also been using the Hakuhodo J110 for setting powder.  The smaller size is working really well for me.

Blush: Hakuhodo K020, Hakuhodo J110, MAC 188

These are the three brushes that I was using exclusively for blush at the time I took these photos. As I mentioned above, I’m currently using the Hakuhodo J110 for powder, and loving it for that purpose!

Before I got the Hakuhodo K020, I used the MAC 188 for my most pigmented blush. Lately, I’ve been using the K020 for my medium to very pigmented blush, and the 188 has been getting less use; however, it’s still a great brush for pigmented blush, so I wanted to include it in this round-up.

Contour & Blush brushes: Sonia Kashuk Medium Angled Multipurpose brush, MUFE 24S

I use both of these brushes for both blush and contouring.  I use the Sonia Kashuk brush for my less pigmented blushes, and occasionally use it to contour, while I use the MUFE 24S to contour most days, and occasionally use it for my less pigmented brushes.  I love the shape of both of these, but I’m considering upgrading both.  The Sonia Kashuk has been a great brush for a year or so, but it’s starting to shed; the MUFE brush is scratchier and a little less dense than ideal.

Highlighting: ELF Mineral Blending Eye Brush, Illamasqua Blending Brush 2

I use two different eye brushes for highlighting.  The ELF Mineral Blending Eye Brush is soft, well made, and perfect for highlighting down the bridge of my nose and my cupid’s bow.  The Illamasqua Blending Brush 2 is FAR too large for me to use for my eyes, but is fantastic to use to highlight my cheekbones.  Both of these are perfect for their purposes!

And, that is a lot of brushes! Do you use any of my favorites?


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My Favorite Eye Makeup Brushes

I love eye brushes, and I’m always searching for the next, best great eye brush.  Here are my current favorites!

For eyeshadow laydown, I use the MAC 219 and the Hakuhodo K005; the 219 is great for the lid, and the K005 is great for getting in to the inner corners of my eyes.

Hakuhodo K005, Mac 219

My favorite detail brushes are the Shu Uemura 5r and the Hakuhodo  G5529 BkSL; since I don’t have much lid space, both are great for crease work.  I also can use either to highlight the inner corner of the eye.  For a comparison of these two brushes, please see this post.

Shu 5r, Hakuhodo G5529 BkSL

My favorite eyeliner brushes are the Hakuhodo K007 – which has the finest tip I’ve seen – and the Benefit Get Bent eyeliner brush, which I love because it’s, well, bent – which makes it super easy to use.  It’s discontinued, but Sonia Kashuk has a similar bent eyeliner brush.

Benefit Get Bent, Hakuhodo K007

Surprisingly, I really love the little eyeliner brush that comes with the L’Oreal Infallible gel liners.  I don’t use it to apply eyeliner, but it’s the perfect size and shape for apply eyeshadow on top of eyeliner to either set the liner or smudge it out.

L’oreal liner brush

I had to put the last two brushes in a separate photo because the writing went in the other direction, which was driving me crazy!

I received the Smashbox brush in a swap a long time ago. I never use the white flat-tipped side, but the rounded size is absolutely fantastic for a base shade all over the lid/browbone, or to use a highlight shade on the browbone; I use it almost every time I do my makeup. I have no idea where it came from, and it’s not on Smashbox’s website, so I assume it’s discontinued.

Unknown but awesome Smashbox brush

The final brush is Laura Mercier’s finishing eye brush, a duo-fiber brush. It is a really great blending brush – it works beautiful, but never overblends.  It’s also smaller than brushes like MAC’s 217, which works well on my smaller lids.  Sorry that it’s dirty – didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw the close up photo!

Laura Mercier Finishing Eye Brush

Some other brushes I occasionally use – but that didn’t quite make the cut as absolute favorites – are the MAC 217, MAC 219 ELF studio eye contour brush, and ELF studio eyeshadow C brush.  I use the 217 and contour brush for cream eyeshadow, and the C brush as an all purpose brush, especially when my favorite brushes are dirty! I used to use the 219 pencil brush for crease work and as a detail brush, but it’s been replaced by the brushes above.

I do realize these are not cheap brushes – though the Hakuhodo brushes may be less expensive than you expect; the three in this post are $15 – 24.  I personally find that it’s worth it to splurge for the brushes I love, as it makes applying my makeup, which is something I really enjoy, even more fun for me.  But, for those on a budget, I have a some posts coming up with some inexpensive brushes!

 Do you use any of my favorite brushes?  What are go-to brushes?


This post is from Project Swatch. All rights reserved.

A $1.50 Dupe for Urban Decay Grindhouse

Dupes: Essence dual pencil sharpener and Urban Decay grindhouse

Dupes: Essence dual pencil sharpener and Urban Decay grindhouse

A few weeks ago, Nouveau Cheap posted that Essence pencil sharpener was a dupe for the famous Urban Decay Grindhouse.  UD Grindhouse is a great pencil sharpener that can sharpen even the softest pencil, but it sells for $10 – which I consider pretty steep.  I was browsing at Ulta earlier today, and when I saw the Essence sharpeners, I remember Nouveau Cheap’s post and decided to pick one up to compare for myself – since her post didn’t have pictures, and since I can always use an extra good-quality pencil sharpener.

Aside from the branding, they are identical – it’s quite clear that that the same factory makes both.  When you take the lid off of each sharpener, not only do they look the same, but the blades are engraved with both “Made in Germany” and the same symbol – it’s sort of an E with a crown on it.

They’re constructed identically as well; a square box, with a removable top and bottom, and two sizes of sharpener.  The bottom also says Made in Germany and has the same symbol – it’s much easy to see on the UD sharpener, but if you look closely you can see it on the Essence sharpener as well.

Of course, the same factory could make two sharpeners that were of different qualities, so I tested out the Essence sharpener to make sure that it worked well!

First, I tested out the smaller side. I sharpened my Prestige Total Intensity pencil, which is the softest pencil eyeliner I own.  It’s also a hot day here – making it softer and more difficult to sharpen well.  The Essence sharpener did a great job, and I got a nice point.

Then, I sharpened the only jumbo pencil that needed sharpening – NYX Milk.  It’s also not the easiest to sharpen, given the texture of the wood, but again, it sharpened quite smoothly and easily.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the Essence pencil sharpener! There is no need to spend $10 on the Urban Decay Grindhouse sharpener when you can get the same sharpener (and in a variety of colors, too!) for just $1.99.

Brush Comparison: Hakuhodo vs. Shu Uemura 5r

Shu Uemura 5r, Hakuhodo G5529BkSL Eye Shadow Brush Round, MAC 219 Pencil Brush
– penny for size comparison

Since I have a small amount of lid space, I’m always interested in small and precise eyeshadow brushes.  I’ve also been upgrading my makeup brush collection gradually, and adding more natural-hair brushes to go along with my many synthetic brushes.   I bought some Hakuhodo brushes while at IMATs this year, and recently bought the Shu Uemura 5r, which I had long been coveting but was hesitant about the price (ebates – affiliate link – had a 20% sale, 5% back, plus a gift with purchase. It was time!)

One embarrassing thing; I’m actually not 100% sure which Hakuhodo brush I have. I’m fairly sure I have the G5529BkSL Eye Shadow Brush Round, but it is extremely similar to the G5534BkSL Eye Shadow Brush Pointed. Each brush is $21, and each is made of blue squirrel. The are each the same length, but the Round is a little wider than the Pointed. Without both to compare, I just cannot tell!

29 Round; 34 Pointed. Source.

Here are the Hakuhodo and the Shu brushes compared, full length; the Hakuhodo is smaller and slimmer overall.  The Hakuhodo says only the brand, while the Shu also says the brush type, hair type and (on the back), “made in Japan.”   Hakuhodo brushes are also made in Japan.

Close up on the brushes:

The Hakuhodo is more tapered, while the Shu is more rounded.  Both are quite dense, rather than fluffy.   I haven’t used the Shu extensively yet, but the Hakuhodo is great for doing a cut crease, for highlighting the inner corner of the eye, for laydown in the corners of the eyelid, for precision crease blending, and so much more.

I swatched a matte black eyeshadow with the MAC 219 Pencil Brush, the Hakuhodo probably- G5529BkSL Eye Shadow Brush Round, and the Shu 5r (in that order, from left to right).  You can see that the MAC 219 is the most dense and gives the most solid line. The Hakuhodo is the least dense, and  gives the softest line; the Shu 5r is somewhere in the middle.  I don’t think there is a best or worst; all three brushes have their individual merits.

MAC, Hakuhodo, Shu brush comparison

The Shu 5r sells for $60, but Shu regularly has 20% off sales, which brings the price down to $48.  I’m not sure if I consider the brush worth it yet.  In the US, Shu is only available at Shu’s US website.  The two Hakuhodo brushes are $21 each, and I would definitely recommend buying one or both of them.  In the US, they are only available on Hakuhodo’s US website.


This post is from Project Swatch. All rights reserved.

Travel Brushes & Skincare

Travel skincare, makeup remover

Since my travel makeup post was getting a bit long, here is the skincare, makeup remover, and the makeup brushes I’ve brought with me!

In the morning, I usually just splash my face with water.  I have my daily sunscreen with me – Philosophy oil-free hope in jar, SPF 30.  I’ll use that when I’m going to be mostly indoors with bits of being outdoors; I have several higher-SPF sunscreens for my face & body (not pictured) for the pool.

In the evening, I have Shu Uemura cleansing oil to remove my makeup and sunscreen, and Simple eye makeup remover to both remove bits of makeup from under my eyes, or remove mistakes while I’m doing my makeup.  I also have two mini-packs of makeup remover tissues, both to take with me in my bag while I’m out, and in case I have a lazy night and don’t want to do full makeup removal before bed. My nightime moisturizer is the retinoid cream Avene Eluage.  And, I have two tubes of Jack Black lip balm, which I like despite the recent controversy over the ingredients.


The reason some of my brushes look odd in this photo is that they are damp.  From left to right, I have:

– retractable lipbrush & brush for smudging out eyeliner, tucked in together
– very small laydown brush (an art brush)
– MAC 239 (for laydown)
– Sephora eyebrow brush
– MUFE brush, for contouring, highlighting, and blush
– Real techniques buffer brush, for powder
– Sonia Kashuk angled brush, for blush and contour
– ELF powder brush
– MAC 219 pencil brush
– Hakuhodo brush (not sure of number), for detail work
– Smashbox brush, for highlighting browbone
– Laura Mercier Finishing Eye Brush, for blending

Once again – no intent to pack light!

This is a scheduled post as I’m currently in Las Vegas! I am reasonably sure that I’ll have internet to moderate and respond to comments, though I may be slower than usual.


This post is from Project Swatch. All rights reserved.