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Natural vs Synthetic Brushes

Author: MMM Team

30 Apr 2020

Skin Care, Tips & Tutorials

Are you looking to buy new makeup brushes, but are struggling to decide between synthetic or natural hair brushes? We’ve put together some information so you can decide which type of brush will suit your needs practically and ethically. 

It might come as a bit of a surprise, but synthetic and natural hair brushes are very good at very different things. When using powder foundation, blush, highlight and eyeshadow, a natural hair brush is far superior to traditional synthetic fibre makeup brushes. Natural hairs have raised cuticles down their length which help to pick up pigment which maximises the payoff on your own skin, and also minimises fallout. As natural hair brushes move completely freely, they are great for blending your eyeshadow to face-tuned level perfection.

Many makeup brushes

As far as liquid products like foundations, cream blushes, highlighters and liquid eyeliners go, synthetic fibre brushes take the crown. Because traditional synthetic brush fibres like nylon are completely smooth, liquids don’t get trapped into them in the same way that they do on a fibre with cuticles. They are also less absorbent, which not only minimises the wastage of your product but also makes them easier to clean. Synthetic fibres tend to be attracted to each other, so hold their shape well and are perfect for precision (hello perfect winged liner!).

While natural hair brushes age like a fine wine, and will continue serving you faithfully for many years, they are slightly more prone to shedding than synthetic fibres so that is another thing to be aware of when considering whether you want a synthetic or natural brush.

Now that we know which kinds of brushes are good for what, let’s think about pricing. Is there a price difference between synthetic and natural fibre makeup brushes? The simple answer is yes. Simple fibre synthetic brushes are definitely the most affordable brushes due to their ability to be mass produced and the fact that there is not as much price fluctuation during production. Essentially all budget priced makeup brushes will be synthetic, however it is still possible to find budget friendly natural hair brushes – we love Hakuhodo as they have luxurious natural hair brushes that start from $15USD. 

Woman Holding Makeup

Another great thing about Hakuhodo brushes is that all their materials are sourced through cruelty-free suppliers. However, by definition, a makeup brush made from animal hair could never be considered vegan so if you are after a completely vegan makeup collection synthetic fibres are your only option.

While we consider the care of our planet’s animals, we should also consider our planet as a whole. Unfortunately, there is no best solution for the environment as far as makeup brushes go – especially since the life cycle of synthetic brushes can be quite damaging to the environment.

Synthetic brushes are often made of nylon, an extremely durable and long-lasting fibre. While this makes it a great material in some ways, it also means that it is not biodegradable and sits in landfill for at least thirty years. When creating nylon, a large amount of water is required to cool the fibres and it also creates nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas that is much more potent than carbon dioxide. Alongside nylon, polyester is another common brush product that is not considered biodegradable.

Scientists and engineers are continually working on improving the environmental impact of brushes, creating new fibres that are more biodegradable than traditional synthetic fibres. Japanese brand Taiki uses the Sorona fibre which is 37% plant-based and uses 40% less energy to produce than nylon. Compare to nylon, it emits 56% less greenhouse gases.

Many makeup brushes at all different sizes

Many of Rae Morris’ unique magnetic brushes are now vegan.

There are vegan brush brands that can mimic the behaviour of natural hair to a high and luxurious degree – for example, Rae Morris’s brushes are made up of micro-crystal fibres which combines the durability of synthetic brushes with the softness and colour pay off that you find in natural hair brushes.

In the end we can’t tell you exactly which brush to buy, but we hope we have given you the tools you need to make an informed decision. Will you be using the brush for liquid or powder? What is your budget? Which brushes fit best into your ethical framework? These are important questions that once you answer will lead you to the perfect brush.

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