Synthetic vs Natural Bristles Brushes, Which is Better? 

We often find customers asking: I’m looking for a foundation/powder brush, should I go for synthetic or natural bristles? 

If you, too, have the same doubt, then this is the post for you. 

When to Use Natural Hair Brushes 

Brushes made from natural hairs are best used on powder-based makeup products like powder, highlighter and powder eye shadows. Natural hairs have pores and cuticles ( scale-like structure that forms the outer layer of hair shaft), allowing bristles to pick up more makeup products and distribute them evenly on the skin.

Because pores and cuticles can grip onto products, natural hair brushes are adept at building pigments by smudging, blending and buffing to give the desired looks. For highly pigmented look, natural bristles fair better than synthetic ones. Because natural hairs contain 95% keratin protein, there’s a certain level of elasticity and strength to it, giving the brush bristles a bouncy texture. This allows natural hair brushes to deliver a well-blended looks without hard edges. 

Types of Natural Bristles and Their Uses 

Types of natural hairs used to produce makeup brushes include: squirrel hairs, goat hairs, pony hairs, sable hairs (also known as marten hairs). 

  • Pony Hairs 
  • Synthetic vs Natural Bristles Makeup Brushes

    Pony hairs are one of the most widely used materials to produce makeup brushes. They are affordable and easily obtained. Pony hairs tend to be cylindrical in shape, with little or no fine tips, though the finest grade of hairs are comparable to squirrel hairs. Pony tail hairs are especially popular as they have soft, fine tips which are great for blending eye shadows. Their soft and bouncy texture also make them very gentle on the eyes to avoid stretching the sensitive, thin skin on the eye lids. Effortless to use, pony hair brushes are recommended for beginners looking to do simple makeup on eyes. 

  • Goat Hairs 
  • Synthetic vs Natural Bristles Makeup Brushes

    A mid range materials for makeup brushes. Goat hairs are generally thinner pony hairs, giving it the best value for money as a makeup brush made with high quality fine-tipped goat hairs could give almost the same results as one made from more expensive squirrel hairs. Like other animal hairs, fine quality goat hairs have very fine tips which make bristles feathery soft. This kind of bristles are often mixed with the later to reduce costs without much compromise to the bristles quality. Goat hairs are a popular material used to make powder, blush and highlight brushes. 

  • Squirrel Hairs 
  • Synthetic vs Natural Bristles Makeup Brushes

    The softest of all animal hairs! And one of the most premium animal hairs used to make bristles. The tips are extremely fine and straight, making them unimaginably soft and give a velvety touch on skin. Though its ability to pick up powders is fair, its unrivalled softness makes it a popular choice for eyeshadow brushes - definitely won’t prick at the eye lids. However, squirrel hair brushes require higher maintenance. If kept improperly they can go out of shape - hence not a good choice for travelling. 

  • Sable Hairs 
  • Synthetic vs Natural Bristles Makeup Brushes

    The most expensive and diverse animal hair type. Weasel hairs, red sable, Kolinsky hairs all fall under this category. Generally, sable hairs produce the best soft hair brushes, particularly great for applying eyeshadows. The conical shape and scaled surface of each hair provide the brush with an unrivalled point, responsiveness and pigment carrying capacity. There are different qualities, the finest being taper-dressed Kolinsky. However, if you only starting out, we don’t recommend sable hair brushes because they require delicate strokes and just right amount of force to avoid over-pigmenting. 

    Synthetic Bristles  

    Synthetic vs Natural Bristles Makeup Brushes

    Synthetic bristles are commonly made from polyester and nylon. They are smooth, unscaled and therefore have weaker capacity to carry pigments but also suffer from less clumping - which is why you may find your liquid foundation tend to last longer if applied with synthetic brushes. Synthetic bristles, if well made, can mimic natural bristles in its many beneficial features - softness, texture and touch on the skin. Not only that, because they are “poreless” and unscaled, they are very easy to maintain and clean.

    If you find yourself using liquid-based or cream-based products such as liquid foundation, cream blush, concealer, lip gloss, synthetic brushes are always recommended. Do note however, that SOME synthetic brushes may feel prickly on sensitive skin, though well-made synthetic bristles do not suffer from this downside. 

    The Verdict 

    In conclusion, natural hairs are great for smudging, blending and sweeping movements. They are also great for layering, building powdery pigments to achieve just the right shades and hues. Because of this, they are best used to apply powder-based products such as face powders and eye shadows. Avoid using them with liquid-based products as that can clog the pores and leave product resides within your brush bristles, causing clumps to form over time and reducing the functionality of the brushes. ( For e.g. you may start seeing 

    However, certain natural hairs could cause irritations on sensitive skins. Hence, if you have sensitive skin, do test out new brushes on your wrist before using them on your face. 

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