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Cruelty-Free Makeup Brushes

The following article was written by Liza Chung.

With so many options available to us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know which makeup brushes are worth spending money on. For makeup artists, high-quality brushes are an essential part of a successful business and a worthy investment. However, you don’t need to be a makeup artist to have the right tools to help you create a flawless look.

Natural vs. Synthetic

Makeup brushes fall into two categories: ones made with animal hair and ones made with synthetic bristles. Today’s synthetics are actually better than animal-hair brushes, for many reasons. While the feel of a high-quality synthetic brush may be similar to an animal-hair one, there are actually many differences between the two.

Here are just some of the benefits of using a synthetic brush over one made with animal hair:

  • Synthetic brushes are easier to clean.
  • Synthetic brushes repel bacteria and dirt better than animal hair does.
  • Many people have allergies to animal hair.
  • Synthetic brushes shed less, if at all.
  • Synthetic brushes work with both cream and powder makeup products.
  • Buying a synthetic brush is the only way that you can know for sure that no animal was harmed in the creation of the brush.

Animal hair, like human hair, is porous, which means it absorbs things like bacteria. Although you may wash your brushes regularly, some dirt or bacteria may remain in the bristles of an animal-hair brush. Synthetic bristles actually repel dirt and bacteria, making them much easier to clean because they get less dirty to begin with. As a general rule, makeup artists do not use animal-hair brushes for cream products for this reason. If you apply a cream-based product with an animal hair brush, the brush will likely absorb the product, staining and ruining the brush. When you purchase a synthetic brush, you are actually getting two brushes in one! For example, someone who uses animal hair brushes would need two separate brushes—one for powder eye shadow and one for cream eye shadow. If you own a synthetic eye-shadow brush, you can use that same brush for both cream and powder products. In fact, today’s high-quality synthetics will pick up just about any makeup medium with ease, including powder-based products!

Anyone who has ever used an animal-hair brush knows that they are prone to shedding. Luckily, the majority of synthetics do not shed at all. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about picking hairs off your face or ruining the makeup job that you just worked so hard to finish.

Another common question that I get about animal-hair brushes is “Do they really have to kill the animal to make the brush?” That is a fair question. Many animal-hair brushes are made of animals such as squirrels, raccoons, or badgers. I don’t know about you, but I can’t picture Fred the squirrel sitting still in a chair for a haircut. Even if he would, is it really our right to keep him caged for his whole life when a better alternative exists?

The sad reality is that the animal-hair makeup brush industry supports the fur trade. Yet many women I know who would never wear a fur coat don’t think twice about applying their makeup with a squirrel-hair brush. It is this very idea that made me realize that I had to speak up for these animals. There are better options available, and you can make a difference. I don’t know about you, but the idea of rubbing a dead raccoon on my face doesn’t sound all that appealing, let alone beautiful. It is truly inspiring to see how many women have taken a stand against animal testing. I challenge you to take that notion one step further and think about the brushes that you are applying your cruelty-free makeup with. Together, we can be the change that we want to see in the world and help reduce cruelty to animals. Together, we can help make the beauty industry truly beautiful, both inside and out.

Looking for cruelty-free makeup brushes? Plenty of companies offer high-quality synthetic brushes that are also affordable. Here are few to get you started:

  • Urban Decay
  • Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
  • The Body Shop
  • Kelly Quan
  • 100% Pure

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  • sonyamakeupz says:

    thanks jennie

  • Valentina Bidot says:

    I love EcoTools!

    http://www.ecotools.com/

  • hfurlow8712 says:

    ELF brushes are synthetic and the set of 12 brushes is $12… OR you can get the 11 piece set of the elf studio line brushes for $30. I have both sets and they are wonderful. ELF also has sales every week at eyeslipsface.com

  • Debby Sunshine says:

    Christopher Drummond has some great vegan makeup brushes too!

  • Jennie says:

    JennyNZ, you can always buy cruelty free brushes online. I have a few brushes by EcoTools and they’re really good quality and quite cheap too. I get them from here: http://www.iherb.com/ecotools?p=1&rcode=zac423

  • chander kumar soni says:

    good stuff.

  • Mary says:

    Arbonne make-up brushes are really wonderful. 100% vegan!! They are super soft and everyone just loves them when I bring them over for make-up parties :) I use them every day and the full set of 10 brushes is only $35!! LOVE!

    http://www.maryalina.myarbonne.com

  • Yasmin says:

    Hey everyone! I’m here to remind you all that Sigma Beauty also have vegan brushes!!! They developed their own line of synthetic fibres… check it out: go to their website and click in VEGAN !

  • Jessica says:

    body shop is owned by estee lauder therefore not vegan.

  • amy says:

    Good question on price
    Actually ELF has a full collection of brushes in their Studio line that are vegan and extremely affordable some of their brushes only cost $1. Real techniques is also affordable and synthetic

  • JennyNZ says:

    This is something that I have wondered about for sometime. What about Revlon, Elizabeth Arden, Avon – do any of them produce quality cruelty-free brushes? The synthetic blush brush I have from Avon sheds everytime I use it! Of the companies listed above,only Body Shop is available in NZ, so any alternatives would be good after reading Marda DeWet’s comments.

  • kitty says:

    hi Courtney- try Eco tools. they are a great line of synthetic brushes and offer a huge variety. they are inexpensive! i see them at Target. they are online, too. good luck and be happily ethically consistent without going broke!

  • Marda DeWet says:

    I would have second thoughts bout purchasing any products from The Body Sho. They are owned by L’Oreal and although they claim not to test their products on animals all the other companies owned by this cosmetic giant do. And all profits from sales go to the parent company. Nope,I’d rather look somewhere else.

  • Courtney says:

    OK, here’s the thing PETA. I can’t afford to spend $28 on a blush brush. Where are the cheap alternatives? This is why everyone thinks it costs out the butt to be vegan.

  • kitty says:

    Finally! I have been trying to bring attention to this! My first realization with this was when i began using Bare Minerals. Loved the makeup and loved that they were cruelty free. Or so they said. I questioned the content of their brushes. Bare Escentuals assured me their brushes were made of pony hair without harm to the ponies. I imagined something like a My Pony farm somewhere and asked them if they in fact knew where the pony hair came from. of course they didn’t! i also learned that their eye makeup brushes were made from squirrel and sable fur! I demanded to speak to Leslie Blodgett the owner of Bare Escentuals. she said all animals get “haircuts” I asked Leslie if she has ever seen where these “haircuts” are done and if she and her ccompany make certain that their sources are cruelty free. of course she said no but said she knew for certain the animals get only “haircuts” without harm, yet has no evidence. not all consumers are as ignorant as she and the rest of the industry would like us to be. hopefully more people will realize this and this industry will end!

  • chander kumar soni says:

    nice cruelty free cosmetics.

  • isa says:

    I’d also like to add that the Real Techniques brushes are excellent and totally cruelty free :)

  • darkforest says:

    I have hundreds of brushes, and the few that I did have that were real hair I have replaced easily, there are sooo many brands out there that have some form of synthetic bristles, so there is really no excuse. Some of the best brushes I have are everyday minerals and bdellium which offers a full range of vegan brushes :)

  • tasha says:

    please look into http://www.pirouettemakeupbrushes.com if you haven’t already. Nika is a beaiuty guru on youtube and she has her own line of cruelty free makeup brushes.

  • Emily says:

    I always buy makeup not tested on animals, I always check! I also only used synthetic brushes… at first it was because they were less expensive but now it’s to be cruelty free!

  • MalkatHaMuzika says:

    I ADORE the company E.L.F. (Eyes, Lips, Face), whose products I’ve purchased at Target and K-Mart. Not only are the items I’ve purchased very affordable ($1 for a nourishing-oil cuticle pen, $5 for a set of 5 glitter-eyeliner pencils, for example), but they work so well too.

  • Jem says:

    Illamasqua also produce high quality synthetic brushes, would recommend :)

  • Rita says:

    I use The Body Shop make up brushes. They work perfectly and do not shed at all. Plus they were so inexpensive!
    I am really happy with my cruelty-free brushes!

  • Tabitha says:

    I wouldn’t put The Body Shop on my list, because as far as I know, they are unfortunately owned by L’Oréal – a company known for animal testing that I won’t be supporting in any way. I am thrilled, though, that Urban Decay decided against selling their products in China, and therefore, against animal testing.

  • Sheena says:

    I can’t believe you forgot to include Too Faced. They make amazing cruelty-free brushes. They even have a name for it, they call it teddy bear hair. I believe they were one of the first “prestige” brands to introduce cruelty free brushes. They even marketed the brushes as cruelty free and vegan friendly, and other companies soon followed. A lot of women found out about the cruelty in makeup brushes when they looked at the too faced brushes. I’m not affiliated with them, I was just surprised that they weren’t on the list. My favorites are actually the ecotools–they sell them everywhere including drug stores, and they’re cheap enough to be replaced every so often if you’re a germophobe like me.

  • Carla N. says:

    As an animal-loving/respecting makeup enthusiast, I’ve been buying synthetic brushes only for quite a while, and I couldn’t agree more with the points made in this excellent article. My quality synthetic brushes (from Urban Decay, Paula Dorf, even MAC (before E.L. abandoned their animal-testing ban) perform flawlessly.
    It’s worth noting that e.l.f. (eyeslipsface.com) also offers a selection of very inexpensive good quality synthetic brushes. Sigma (sigmamakeup.com) is also a good place to look, though they do sell some animal-hair brushes, in addition to the synthetic ones.

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