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The Ultimate Cruelty Free Makeup Brush Guide

Learn how to use each makeup brush and why you should use synthetic, cruelty-free makeup brushes instead of ‘natural’ makeup brushes.

Posted on July 21, 2017
Written by: 100% PURE®

Editor's Note: We've updated this helpful makeup brush guide to show the perfect cruelty-free makeup brushes for your natural makeup routine.

brush chart

The Ultimate Cruelty Free Makeup Brush Guide

Whether you’re just getting started in the world of natural makeup and aren’t sure what makeup brush to use for each application, or are a seasoned makeup pro who knows brushes like the back of your hand, there are always a few new tips and tricks to learn. We’ve compiled this helpful and comprehensive makeup brush guide to answer all the makeup brush questions you’ve ever had! Are you unsure how to correctly use a kabuki brush in your daily makeup routine? Your kabuki brush mystery will be solved below! Curious to know what brush is perfect for a cream foundation? We’ve answered that common question, too! We’ll also cover why everyone should make the switch to synthetic fibers from natural makeup brushes; many ‘natural’ brushes use bristles made from animal fur. We firmly believe that no animals should be harmed for any reason, let alone in the name of beauty. Follow along as we completely break down and demystify each and every makeup brush, and reveal how to seamlessly incorporate them into your daily routine.

What is a Powder Brush Used For?

Our plush and fluffy oversized Powder Brush covers maximum surface area with controlled, pillowy strokes. The long, soft vegan bristles are perfect for evenly distributing your favorite natural powder for an airbrushed finish. An even powder distribution is key in avoiding the dreaded cakey makeup look.

How to Use a Powder Brush:

Swirl your Powder Brush into your favorite blush, powder foundation, or translucent setting powder, then gently sweep across the face to set. This makeup brush is on the short list of “must-haves” in every makeup brush collection, even if you opt for a lighter makeup application routine. Our Powder Brush will be your #1 starter in your makeup brush roster.

PRO TIP: Use our Powder Brush to apply Gemmed Luminizer: Rose Gold lightly to your collar bones (if exposed). You’ll add a touch of bronze-y shimmer with this easy brush technique.

Customer Review of Cruelty Free Powder Brush F50:

I absolutely love this powder brush. It is super soft and works wonderfully. So far I've had no issues with my powder clumping on the bristles like I've had in the past with other brushes. I would highly recommend!
- Stefanie W., Verified Buyer

What is a Kabuki Brush Used For?

The wide, flat top of our Kabuki Brush effortlessly buffs out liquid and cream foundations for an airbrushed effect. You’ll quickly create an even, flawlessly blended makeup application by using this particular makeup brush. The shape of the ultra-soft vegan bristles make this a very versatile makeup brush for your arsenal.

How to Use a Kabuki Brush:

Our multi-use Kabuki Brush is perfect for blending, buffing, applying cream or liquid foundation, and applying bronzer. Use this synthetic bristle makeup brush in small, circular motions across your face. For cream or liquid formulas, dab in main areas you wish to cover, then begin buffing dabs towards one another to blend.

PRO TIP: If you’ve recently converted to green beauty or are looking to try a new foundation formula this summer, check out our complete breakdown on How to choose the best natural foundation.

Customer Review of Cruelty Free Kabuki Brush F40:

Love this brush! For a flawless look. This brush is the best I have ever used! Plus it's cruelty free. A big plus with me.
- Marlene B., Verified Buyer

What is a Contour Brush Used For?

The rounded angle of our vegan contour brush gives structure and definition to the face. It’s the perfect tool for applying both contour or highlight with soft, controlled precision. If you’re new to the contouring game and need a little direction, check out our How to Contour and Highlight with Makeup to learn more about using this makeup brush to highlight or contour your face.

How to Use a Contour Brush:

Gently sweep our Cruelty-Free Contour Brush into your desired bronzer or powder highlighter. Apply the highlighter to the areas that would naturally catch light: this is generally the tops of your cheekbones, brow bones, bridge of your nose, forehead and chin. To contour your face, apply bronzer to the hollow of your cheeks, temples, hairline, jawline or nose. This multi-use makeup brush can also be used to apply your favorite blush to the apples of your cheeks.

Works great and is really good quality!
- Alison S., Verified Buyer

What Is a Blush Brush Used For?

Our bulb-shaped Blush Brush was designed with tapered bristles at the brush head. This critical design allows for easy blush application as well as soft blending for a flawless finish on your cheeks. The taklon fibers easily pick up powder formulas for buildable coverage with blush, bronzer or luminizers.

How to Use a Blush Brush:

Sweep the Blush Brush across the pan of our Fruit Pigmented Blush, gently tap off excess powder, then sweep over the apples of your cheeks. This makeup brush can also be used to apply your bronzer and powder highlighter. If you’re having trouble picking the right blush shade, check out our recent blog How to Choose the Perfect Natural Blush for Your Skin Tone to point you in the right direction.

PRO TIP: Start by applying your natural blush to the apples of your cheeks with our Cruelty Free Blush Brush F20. Gently brush upward in a curved line until you hit your temple. Using our Cruelty Free Powder Brush F50, blend out the blush so there are no hard lines of color; just a diffused, healthy glow.

Customer Review of Cruelty Free Blush Brush F20:

Amazing brush! The softest bristles I've ever felt! Lightweight and beautiful appearance.
- Marangelie C., Verified Buyer

What Is a Stippling Brush Used For?

Our Small Stippling makeup brush has two layers of synthetic bristles to help with the finishing effect of cream, liquid and powder formulas. It’s excellent for providing control of coverage and the layers of makeup being applied. When pressure is applied to the brush head, the inner layers of bristles help to blend the formula, while the more sparse outer layers gently reach into the inner curves and creases. This design helps to blend any loose or excess formula.

How to Use a Stippling Brush:

Use our Cruelty Free Small Stippling Brush to diffuse natural concealers or foundations under your eyes, around your nose, and all over your face for even coverage. This brush is best for building makeup in small areas when a little bit of extra coverage is needed to hide a blemish or redness.

This brush is super super soft and perfect for those who tend to pick up too much product when bronzing and highlighting. I use this for blending highlighter (powder or liquid), blush and subtle bronzing.
- SA

What Is a Crease Brush Used For?

As the name of this makeup brush implies, this slim little brush is perfect for the application of Fruit Pigmented Eyeshadows in the crease of the eyelid. Our vegan makeup brush was designed to perfectly fit its small, bulb-shaped tip effortlessly into your inner corner, crease, or brow bone areas. The soft, taklon bristles grab powdered formula to distribute and blend onto your lids.

How to Use a Crease Brush:

Our Cruelty Free Crease Brush gives definition to the outer crease and helps to contour your eyes, while offering flawless blending to soften harsh makeup lines. The soft and fluffy eyeshadow brush is ideal for light color payoff and blending. Dip the Crease Brush into your favorite natural eye shadow and in a gentle windshield wiper motion, apply to the crease of your eyes. This makeup brush can also be used to blend harsh edges and lines, or to dust highlight onto your brow bone or inner corner of the eye for a brightening effect.

Customer Review of Cruelty Free Crease Brush E40:

Great crease brush! The brush works wonderfully! I also purchased a few others and I am very satisfied with them.
- Emily G., Verified Buyer

What Is a Shader Brush Used For?

A small and dense makeup brush is crucial for applying eye shadows for intense pigmentation. The flat and tapered top, made of soft vegan bristles, is perfect for precise shadow application. Our Shader Brush is a top pick for applying eyeshadow without any fallout, and can also double as a concealer applicator for delicate areas needing gentle precision.

How to Use a Shader Brush:

Swirl our Shader Brush into your favorite loose or pressed eye shadows. Gently tap off any excess shadow from the brush tip, then pat onto your eyelids for even color distribution. You can use a windshield wiper motion against your lids for layering and blending color. For use with concealers, swipe the brush tip into the cream or powder formula then lightly dab onto the under areas of your eyes or on top of blemish areas.

What Is a Smudger Brush Used For?

For those of you who love a good smokey eye, you’ll definitely want to add this vegan makeup brush to your toolkit. Our Smudger Brush shines because its soft, dense bristles help to perfectly apply and blend eye shadows for a variety of makeup looks. The short, dense bristle head is key for blending and smudging cream or powder eye formulas.

How to Use a Smudger Brush:

It can be used to create the ultimate smokey eye with our pressed shadows, or to smudge out the harsh lines of eye liners. This makeup brush is also perfect for applying a pop of colorful eye shadow to the corners of your eyes, or to add more drama to the outer edges of your crease.

Customer Review of Cruelty Free Smudger Brush E20:

Best brush ever! I have spent a lot of years using brushes from many different companies including drug store brands. NOTHING compares to the quality of this brush. It not only packs on the color well but this brush could withstand that test time. It's by far the sturdiest brush I have ever owned. Love this brush :).
- Melissa, Verified Reviewer

What Is an Eyebrow Brush Used For?

It’s time to tame and shape your brows! This dual-ended makeup brush is perfect for precisely applying brow gel or powder while gently brushing brow hairs into place. If you’re looking to achieve your #browlgoals, we recommend taking a minute to read our Quick and Easy Fixes for the Most Common Eyebrow Problems.

This dual ended brush applies color to the brow perfectly with its precisely angled-tip, and brushes hair into place with its cone shaped spoolie. Made from eco recycled PBT plastic bottles and completely cruelty-free.

How to Use an Eyebrow Brush:

Use the spoolie end to coif and tame unruly eyebrows. The other end of our eyebrow brush is perfect for filling in your eyebrows with powder or gel, which will help define your tail and patch up any sparse areas. This multi-purpose brow brush will help you groom your eyebrows quickly and with ease.

Wonderful tool for a natural look. Love this brush. Feels good in your hand. The ergonomic brush is angled perfectly making brow powder applications easy to manipulate. The shaping brush at other end saves time looking for another tool to finished look.
- Janice H., Verified Buyer

What Is a Lip Brush Used For?

Our vegan Lip Brush is perfect for precise lip product application. If you’re on-the-go, your lip brush will be perfectly protected in its retractable case while floating around your purse or makeup bag. The soft and narrow paintbrush-like tip is ideal for smooth application, and is far more sanitary than using your fingers! Definite plus!

How to Use a Lip Brush:

This makeup brush is great for use with lip butters, lipsticks, and liquid lipsticks for a more professional, controlled application. Take off the lid and place it on the bottom of the lip brush handle to push the lip brush up and out. Use the brush to apply your fave lip product while out and about. When you remove the lid from the bottom, it retracts the brush to keep it safe and dent-free.

Best Paired With:

Awesome!! Convenient and easy to use perfect size 😍 it.
- Kim P., Verified Buyer
100% PURE Eucalyptus Seafoam Facial Cleanser

How to Clean Your Cruelty-Free Makeup Brushes

When was the last time you gave your makeup brushes a good cleaning? Many of us makeup junkies are guilty of neglecting cleaning duty (the least fun part of makeup) when it comes to our brushes. Even though it’s the less glamorous part of makeup, it is still a very important part and is necessary to maintain the cleanliness, quality and lifespan of your brushes. We recommend using your favorite natural facial cleanser to give your makeup brushes a thorough cleaning.

Step One: Pick a Cleanser

Our Eucalyptus Seafoam Facial Cleanser is a rich, foaming blend of seaweed, invigorating mint essential oils, plus softening rosehip oil and green tea to help wash away oils and impurities. There are no harsh detergents, chemicals, or toxins that can damage the makeup bristles, leave behind residue, or lead to skin irritations. Squeeze a dime-sized amount into your palm.

Step Two: Swirl and Twirl

Gently swirl and twirl the head of your makeup brush in the palm of your hand with the small amount of facial cleanser. After about 15-30 seconds, turn the faucet on low, with warm water, and gentle wash out the suds, oil, and makeup residue.

Step Three: Squeeze

Gently squeeze out as much moisture from the brush head as you can before using clean fingertips to mould the brush head to its original shape.

Step Four: Dry

There are two ways to dry your brushes: lay them flat to dry on a towel, or hang them from a brush tree so that the bristles are pointing down. DO NOT leave your brushes to dry with the bristles pointing up, as this can end up damaging your beloved brushes. The moisture can gather into the base of the brush bristles and cause bristle fall out or damage to the wooden handle base.

Step Five: Makeup Time

Once your brushes are dry, fluff them up and get ready to put some natural makeup on! Have you seen our How To: 3 Summer Makeup Looks? It’s the perfect time to try them with your clean (like-new) makeup brushes!

100% PURE Synthetic vs. Real Brush Chart

Synthetic vs. Natural Bristles

Ah, the featherweight of a fluffy brush gliding over your face; is there anything better for a true makeup lover? Sure it’s a wonderful feeling, but are you aware of the possibility that the bristles in your brush might be from the sacrifice of an unwilling, defenseless animal? Makeup brushes are commonly made from squirrel, mink, sable, boar, horse (sometimes called “pony” or “camel”), or even goat hair.

Every year, millions of animals are beaten, drowned, trapped, gassed, electrocuted and even skinned alive to obtain fur or hair (WARNING: very graphic video link). Buying makeup brushes that use natural fur contributes to the support of the horrific fur trade. And the fur trade is NOT a trade we support, nor should any animal lover. The vast majority of animals killed for fur are raised on farms and kept in deplorable conditions (WARNING: graphic link). Animals that should be living in the wild are trapped in tiny cages where disease is easily spread, barely surviving in filthy conditions as they wait to meet an agonizing end.

5 More Reasons to Switch to Synthetic and Cruelty-Free Makeup Brushes

If animal cruelty wasn't enough of a reason to make you rethink what your makeup brushes are made of, here are five more reasons why you should make the switch to synthetic fibers!

Reason One: Bacteria in Fur

Mammal hair or fur bristles are similar to human hair. They are porous and can absorb the bacteria from your skin. No matter how many times makeup brushes made from fur are cleaned, bacteria and makeup can still remain in the hair shafts of the bristles. This can lead to skin sensitivities, breakouts, and other more serious skin conditions.

Reason Two: Recycled Plastic

Did you know that our Cruelty-Free Makeup Brushes are made from recycled plastic water bottles? It’s true! Luckily, there are eco-friendly and cruelty-free alternatives to natural fur makeup brushes. We’ve made our makeup brushes out of taklon instead of fur. It’s great for the earth and for the animals that inhabit it.

Reason Three: Antibacterial

We chose taklon fibers for our bristles because the texture of each strand is smooth and doesn’t contain ridges or cuticle layers (the way mammal hair and fur bristles do.) This makes our makeup brushes non-absorbent, so they won’t hold on to bacteria or any old makeup. Hello antibacterial brushes, goodbye breakouts!

Reason Four: Hypoallergenic

The other wonderful reason why synthetic makeup brushes are better than natural is because taklon is also hypoallergenic. Have you ever used real hair or fur brushes and noticed how your face feels a little itchy after? It could be that you are sensitive or allergic to the hair that was used.

Reason Five: Product Payoff

There is a common misconception that synthetic just don’t stand up to natural fur bristles, and we’re here to prove that couldn't be further from the truth. Taklon bristles are high performance and can pick up as much product as their natural animal hair counterpart. We’d even go as far as to say that synthetic brushes are just plain better because no animals were harmed for their creation.

Are you just making the switch to green makeup or have you been on the green beauty tip since the beginning? We’ve compiled a few helpful guides to get you on your way to being a full-blown green makeup junkie. If you’re trying to get your feet wet with a How To: Sultry Summer Makeup, we’ve got a simple breakdown for you to follow for a summery bronzed look. Stumped on what lipstick shade to pick? We’ve got you covered with our Lipstick Guide. Stay tuned for more helpful makeup guides and beauty looks all summer long.

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