There are two types of makeup brushes in this world.
Regular, unassuming ones. And space age, techy, I saw a beauty vlogger using them but I have no bloody idea what that weird shaped brush is for ones.
The Illuminate Me 10-Piece Oval Brush Set falls into the latter category.
This particular set comes with 10 very interestingly shaped brushes, from big ones right down to teeny tiny ones to reach into your face's wrinkly dips.
For $29, you'll get:
- Large face brush
- Medium face brush
- Small face brush
- Blush brush
- Large concealer brush
- Large eye shadow brush
- Small eye shadow brush
- Liner brush
- Concealer brush
- Lip brush
But does a regular, everyday person really need all these freaky brushes to do their makeup?
To find out if these scary makeup brushes that look like rose gold teaspoons are necessary, I asked makeup artist, Natalie Wright to put them through their paces on a real human face. My face.
Here's what we thought.
Why are oval makeup brushes good for applying your makeup with?
When asked why my makeup doesn't look like it does on YouTube tutorials, Wright explained the difference between professional makeup and that of, say, civilians is the tools we're using.
"With these kinds of brushes, they're meant to give you a really airbrushed finish. They're so dense, even when you feel them, they have a lot of hairs, so the brushes don't soak up a lot of product while giving you a really smooth finish," she said.
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"Mainly, they make your makeup look like it's been buffed into your skin, almost like your second skin, which is why I think these brushes are so popular. They're easy to use, even though you would look at them and go 'ugh, they look a bit odd', the shape and how thick they are make them really easy to use.
"They'll also make your makeup last longer because your hands have natural oils on them. If you want extra, longer lasting coverage, it's best to use a brush."
Do I really need all 10 brushes?
Short answer, no.
But Wright reckons you certainly need a few of them.
"You're going to need the foundation brush for that buffed, seamless foundation finish and coverage, the concealer brush to highlight under your eyes, and a good eye shadow blending brush," she advised.
Next came the part where Wright did my makeup using all the products I would normally wear with the Illuminate Me 10-Piece Oval Brush Set. But only on one side of my face. On the other, I used my fingers as I do everyday to see how much of a difference these brushes really make.
The foundation brush.
To apply my liquid foundation, Wright used the number two foundation brush (second from the left).
"The product sits really well on the top of the brush - it's not getting soaked up like it would if you used a sponge," she noted. She also said going back in over the top of your first layer with extra product to build coverage won't undo your hard work.
"The fact these brushes are so dense means going over your makeup application again and again won't remove the product, rather it'll just keep buffing it in."
The result was a slightly higher coverage than I'm used to, but very seamless, airbrushed finish.
When I later went and used my fingers to apply my foundation as I normally would, I definitely noticed a difference in the finish.
I also found the side done with my fingers showed small lines or strokes, rather than the buffed effect achieved with the brush.
The concealer brush.
"Wow I love this brush. OK this is actually pretty amazing for concealer I reckon."
Those were the words Wright legitimately said while applying concealer under my tired eyes using the number five large concealer brush (fifth from the left).
"Once you conceal right, your base will look finished. This brush really helps blend in the edges so your foundation and concealer look like skin, rather than two separate shades."
She also used the brush to distribute the product over my eyelids, which she said "often throw off some redness".
Here's the result.
I've always used my ring finger to lightly tap my concealer into my skin, which Wright said is fine to do because the warmth of your finger can melt the product into the skin. However, she did warn the natural oils on your hands can keep the product from staying in place longer.
Again, I found the main difference between the concealer applied with my finger, and the brush to be the quality of the finish.
The contour, highlight and blush brushes.
While applying the cream contour and highlight using the number three small face brush (third from the left), she was still very much obsessed with the concealer brush.
"I feel like the concealer brush would be better at really buffing your contour and highlight into the exact places you want it - the hollows of your cheekbones and your brow bones - because the head of the brush is more precise," she mused.
She was, however surprised by the way the dense blush brush handled applying powder bronzer to the apples of my cheeks.
"I wondered how this was going to handle powder, but it's not dumping the product on the first spot the brush touches your face like I thought it might."
The result was the kind of contour finish I've been trying to emulate since I first learnt it was a thing one can do to their face.
I've been using my fingers to smudge cream contour and highlighting products into my skin for ages. The idea of using a brush scared me because I thought it would soak up all the product, and make it look like I'd rubbed ground up nutmeg under my cheekbones.
But when I compared my contouring verses Wright's with the brush, I could see the way I've been doing it looks kind of muddy in comparison. This could also be because Wright is a makeup artist. And I am not.
Eye shadow brushes.
Wright used three different types of eye shadow brushes from the kit to achieve a blended, defined 'day' eye. First, she covered my entire eyelid with a wash of a shimmery neutral colour using the number six large eye shadow brush (sixth from the left).
"You can apply eye shadow using this brush, but the tapered edge makes it a little more difficult. Honestly I'd use a regular fluffy eye shadow brush to apply your base eye shadow colour with," she said.
But, she loved using the number 10 lip brush (first from the right) instead as an eye shadow brush to blend the contrasting shadow into my crease. She also loved how the dense hairs prevented the usual under eye fall out you'd expect while applying a darker eye shadow.
We then figured out the number seven small eye shadow brush (seventh from the left) can be used to add a touch of colour to your bottom lash line. The small precise tip makes this possible without dropping colour further down onto your concealer.
And finally, Wright used the number eight liner brush (third from the right) to create a smokey black line on my top lash line with black eye shadow rather than eyeliner.
"This brush is great for creating a line that's not as harsh as an eyeliner, or for setting your liner by going over the top with a shadow," she explained.
Here's the result.
It was legitimately impossible to recreate Wright's work with my fingers. While yes, I managed to distribute some of my base shadow over my eyelid without it looking too messy, the contrast colour looked a bloody mess in my crease.
I didn't even bother trying to do the liner.
See below the final side-by-side result (first picture was me, second was Wright).
So, do these oval makeup brushes live up to the hype?
"For $28, I would buy this set just for the concealer brush if I had to," Wright said definitively.
And she's got a point. For the price, you get 10 brushes in this set at $2.90 each, making the cost per wear on these literally a speck of dust.
As for if you need to use the entire set everyday, our makeup artist thinks no, probably not. However, you just can't get that airbrushed, professional finish without them.
"There are times when you can use your fingers or hands, but if you want to blend everything into a truly seamless finish, sometimes you really do just need to use brushes like these."