Battle of the Drugstore Buffing Brushes

Left to right: Ecotools buffing brush, Sonia Kashuk, Real Techniques, Sigma F80, Ecotools bronzing brush.
Left to right: Ecotools buffing brush, Sonia Kashuk, Real Techniques, Sigma F80, Ecotools bronzing brush.

‘Battle’ may not be the right word, as they all reside peacefully in my huge brush cup holder (unless they swordfight when I’m not lookin’). They are all what I use to buff, so I will term them all as ‘buffing’ brushes, though each may have a different name from their brand.

Each have their specific uses, recounted below left to right according the the picture above. Sorry the picture is not better; but you much prefer the narrative anyway, right?

1. Ecotools buffing brush. I love Ecotools. This brush is also a credit to the brand. Soft, no shedding ever, dense enough but not too dense that it’s hard. Great for everything from powder foundation, mineral foundation, liquid foundation, cream blush, loose powder, etc. I like this most for mineral foundation, though. And to buff in cream blushes (not to apply them, though, too much will be picked up).

2. Sonia Kashuk flat top brush. I admit, I got this mainly for the shape. And indeed, it is nice and snug in my hand. The bristles are soft, and no shedding ever. This is the most dense compared to the other four. It is also another multitasking gem but funnily, it excels on compact foundation! It just seems to push the powder right through your pores, even dry powder.

3. Real Techniques buffing brush. It has the second longest and fluffiest bristles amongst the five (second to the Ecotools bronzer brush on the extreme right). I initially did not like this brush too much since it was too fluffy, not dense enough. But after getting a hang of it, it’s actually a nice multitasking item. You do need more wrist movement to buff and spread, but the lightness is nice. You won’t have any of those ‘skin rubbed raw’ moments. I like this for mineral foundation when I have the time to buff and spread. And it’s also great for thick liquid foundations where you have no choice to buff buff buff, anyway.

4. Sigma F80 flat top buffing brush. Despite the many glowing online reviews, I only acquired this brush recently. I’m not easily lured by hype, but once this brush was really cheap on Luxola, so I got it. It’s pretty dense and hard, but not as dense and hard as the Sonia Kashuk one. In most cases it is too wide for the small containers of mineral powders, so I don’t like it as much. I also do not like it for cream foundation as it picks up waaaay to much product. I’m actually in a quandary over whether I need to keep this or not. If only I don’t have the other four, this might have a bigger role. But amongst this set of five multi-tasking apparatus, I found I don’t use this brush for weeks at a time. I’ll have to experiment some more before deciding.

5. Ecotools bronzer brush. The mother of efficiency. I need 30 seconds, nay, 15!, for foundation application with this brush. And the result is good! I have two of this: one to apply foundation during the 5 minute morning rush I’m usually finding myself in, and the other to buff the edges of blush. it is not really destined for wedding makeup production and other refined ways of making up your face, but if you are a buff-and-go gal, it’s gonna be so loved. Also, I have just recently gotten a Guerlain meteorites compact — after years of disillusioning myself that having the pearls is enough. And guess what, I use the compact with this brush. It is just about the size of the pan, so I place this brush straight up on the pan, give it a little wiggle left, a little wiggle right, then pat the powder to the face…. and done!

If you were to get only one of the 5 for buffing purposes, I would recommend this one. You may find it too large, initially, but after a while you get the hang of using just the sides, when needed (like, to apply cream blush?). And cupping the bristles if you desire a denser tool. And? To apply bronzer! What marvel, eh?

I can not see myself shelling more than $30 for a brush. Drugstore brushes already do it for me. More expensive brushes may lead to better results, but at the moment, I would rather spend the extra on the actual makeup rather than the tool. That can yet change, as I’m currently eyeing the yummy looking Hourglass brushes.

Ye Olde Dog and Her New Tricks


Tools with which I un-layer (L-R): Guerlain Parure Extreme Foundation liuid, Guerlain Parure Gold Foundation compact, Illamasqua Blush Up Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
Tools with which I un-layer (L-R): Guerlain Parure Extreme Foundation liuid, Guerlain Parure Gold Foundation compact, Illamasqua Blush Up Brush, Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

This old dog is no stranger to new tricks, and here is a couple she’s learning to do recently.

Doing away with makeup layers

As Cara said, it’s curious the way we put on makeup: layer on top of layer, on top of another layer. Primer, then foundation, contour/highlight powder, color (blush/eyeshadow), etc. So any patch of your facial skin could well have 6 or more layers of products on (including moisturizer, sunblock, finishing powder, etc).

What is the alternative? I’ve seen Lisa Eldrige do it, and Cara has developed a system for it. It is the precise application of makeup only where it is needed. For example, if that is an area where you contour, go ahead and put the contour color directly (whether it is a foundation in a darker shade, or a contour powder, or others). Where you need to highlight? But directly the highlight color (instead of foundation, then highlight color). This is not really an easy approach when you’re used to the conventional layering of products, and to be effective you really need to know where to put what, when.

I’ve been trying this method for a few weeks now, and the result is…. ok. It takes me more than twice the time needed for the conventional method, but I do see that I need less product.I n the picture below, I used this method by placing a primer around the nose and cheek area (Sue Devitt Microquatic Blue Anti-Aging SPF30 Protection Primer applied with fingers); then a sweep of a darker shade foundation to contour the cheeks, jawline, side of nose and temples (Guerlain Parure Extreme Foundation liquid shade 24 Dore Moyen applied with Illamasqua’s funky Blush Up Brush and blended with Real Techniques Expert Face Brush). I then followed with a foundation shade similar to my skin to areas not covered by the darker shade (Guerlain Parure Gold Foundation compact in 02 Beige Clair applied with the Sonia Kashuk Buffng Brush which I forgot to take a picture off). I then buffed the seams with the Real Techniques Expert Face blush. Voila!

With practice, I can see myself perfecting this technique and hopefully cutting down the application time.


Two foundation shades to contour (Guerlain Parure Extreme Foundation liquid 24 Dore Moyen) and highlight (Guerlain Parure Gold Foundation compact 02 Beige Clair)
Two foundation shades to contour (left, Guerlain Parure Extreme Foundation liquid 24 Dore Moyen) and highlight (right, Guerlain Parure Gold Foundation compact 02 Beige Clair)

Doing away with shampoo

A couple of years ago I had my hair straightened using the smoothing method. The effect  surprisingly lasted until now at the bottom end of my now very long (down to the waist) hair. Add to this, I swim regularly, so the hair is often exposed to chlorine. It’s no wonder my hair is coarse and dry at the moment. No significant split ends are in sight, though, so I’m inclined to keeping its length  for now. But what to do about the dry bits?

I have read for years about people forgoing shampooing. Clearly SLS in my favorite shampoo is drying, so I tried to do without at one time, using only a conditioner to clean my scalp (with vigorous rubbing). The result? The scalp actually feels clean, and the hair is not as dry. So I experimented with forgoing shampoo for at least 3 washing cycles, and it was surprisingly easy to do — I did not unbearably miss my shampoo. My hair is less dry, and I have a little bit more workout in the shower, doing the vigorous rubbing. The scalp gets slightly oilier faster compared to using shampoos, but that was the main difference, which I can live with. So I have since done away with shampoo except on days when I go swimming.

I’ve used various stuffs in lieu of shampoo: hair masks/creams, conditioners, facial cleansing oils. The verdict: they are all as good at cleansing the scalps. The key is actually your mechanical rubbing to loosen dirt and oils. However, runny conditioners that slightly lather are better at cleansing the hair itself. Creams (e.g. hair masks) are better if you dislike having something runny going down your back while cleaning your head. After I clean my hair, I usually make a bun of it, place it atop my head, and continue lathering and cleansing my body. Once that’s done, I flip my hair down and rinse the hair away from my already clean body.

So, what radical beauty change have you made recently?

My favorite for a non-shampoo cleansing: Carol's Daughter Monoi Repairing Hair Mask
My favorite for a non-shampoo cleansing: Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Hair Mask (Source)