Beginner’s Guide to Makeup Brush Materials

For those who just stepped into the world of makeup brushes, It is baffling and may be overwhelming to face all those brands, types and material choices.
First and foremost, makeup brush is made of 3 component; Bristle (hair), Ferrule (often the metal part that put together handle and bristle), and the Handle, which is often made of wood with some protective coating.

Let’s focus on the bristle today, as it plays a vital role in brush’s quality as a tool. Understanding the characteristics of the material and how it behaves as a bristle with makeup product will help you guide through the wide range of choices between brands and series.

This comprehensive guide will help you choose brushes wisely to get most out of your investment!


Synthetic Makeup Brushes

They are typically made of manmade materials such as Nylon or polyester fibers, and completely cruelty-free. It also does not contain any protein element, so it is vegan-friendly. There are many differences between synthetic and natural brushes, It sometimes regarded as inferior to natural hair bristle, but advancement in technology and manufacturing process enabled recreating most of the feature of natural hair through tapering, tipping, flagging, abrading or etching.

  • Typically does not have cuticles
  • Strong against damage from makeup solvents
  • Cleaning is easier compared to natural makeup brush bristle since the filament doesn’t absorb of trap makeup pigment.
  • More smooth, softer touch than natural haired brushes.
  • Comes in various color.
  • Allergy free
  • Great for soft layering of powder, cream, and concealer.
  • Perfect for a liquid type product with solid texture such as liquid foundation, CC Cream, and BB Cream
Chikuhodo RR-LQ3, $32
Chikuhodo RR-LQ3, $32

Great example for the brush with synthetic hair is Chikuhodo’s RR-LQ3. It features the thinnest tapered nylon fiber, they are strong yet very soft on the skin.

There are synthetic brush series from both Chikuhodo and Koyudo, two of the most famous Traditional brush manufacturer from Kumano, Hiroshima region. 

 


Natural Makeup Brushes

The biggest difference from synthetic hair is that it has a natural cuticle that picks up just the right amount of makeup. Because of this, natural bristles are the best for a powder based product. It is an ideal choice for application as well as blending.

There are hundreds of different kind of animal hair used for makeup brushes; Goat, Squirrel, Weasel / Sable, Pony, Horse, Tamage, Water Badger, Deer, and Racoon. They offer the most variable touch to your skin from the very firm hair of Badger, to the soft heavenly touch of Squirrel brushes. 

The most important aspect of the quality of makeup brush is the tip of the hair. Cut-off hair tip can not only give you itchy feeling but can give skin irritation. All of the Japanese hand crafted makeup brushes on A-Janaika Japan Japan has tips still intact and provide the most pleasing touch for your face.

In some brushes, those natural hair are blended to take advantages of the different properties of each hair; keeping the bristle shape in tact, stabilizing the quality, adding more resilience and 

Badger

Koyudo Gray Squirrel 8-Piece Red Brush features Gray squirrel, water badger, and weasel brushes.

Stiff and resilient enough to define and shape, Badger’s hair is typically used for eye brushes. Water badger is more flexible, and excel in defining detailed sharp eye line.

Badger’s hair has long history and tradition in various parts of the world. And common material found in other kinds of brushes.

Hair is thicker toward the tip and thinner at the bottom, giving “bushy” looks.

Good quality badger hair typically has light brown color, but cheap burger bristle often has dull, gray color.

Recommendation:

Sable / Weasel

Sable is the member of weasel family with red hair. They are found in many kinds of brushes as the quality and the characteristic varies greatly. Pure Sable hair has pointy tip are quite expensive compared to badger, but less so to Kolinsky hair brush.

The lower quality sable hair is sometimes mixed with ox hair to make a more economical brush, but it reduces the quality significantly.

Kolinsky

Koyudo Pistachio Eyeliner, Lip & Concealer Kinomi Series

A species of mink and a family of Sable, Kolinsky are commonly found in Siberia and northeast of China. It is good for precise layering and gradation application. Strength, spring, and snap

Pony / Horse

It has good strength and ability to retain its shape. Durable and strong, they are often used with goat or squirrel hair as a blend. Especially, the Horse hair is the most common hair used for makeup brushes. 

Dampen the brush evenly to have a more opaque coverage, with a light wash of color.

Goat / Capra

Provides optimum bristle and a wide range of characteristics from stiff and the soft hair.  The most versatile hair of all, Goat hair can be found in almost every kind of makeup brushes: Powder, Blush, Highlighter and eye shadow.

The property of the hair varies a lot depending on the gender and parts of the body.

– SAIKOHO “細光峰”

Koyudo’s new CW series focuses on Goat hair

Luxuriously soft, It is the highest grade hair of the goat, good for medium to full application. The Sokoho hairs are long, soft and thin, only comparable to squirrel hair. They are rare, hard to find and of high value. The best makeup brushes using SAIKOHO hair can be found here:

– SOKOHO ”粗光峰”

Comes second to Saikoho, It is soft, yet strong and durable enough to be used as the main material for a powder brush, a finishing brush, a blush brush, highlighter brush and an eyeshadow brush. It offers great control over the tip of the brush, and

Squirrel

Koyudo fu-pa14 Gray Squirrel Powder Brush, fu-pa Series Black: $81

They are the softest of them all. It has an excellent texture for powder makeup product. They are mainly from Russia and northern part of the world. Hard to acquire and always short in supply. Not resilient nor strong, so squirrel brushes should not be used with cream or liquid type product as it would significantly damage the hair, except wood/tree squirrel because they have similar hair to that of weasel.

Gray Squirrel – More resilient than Blue or Red Squirrel, this is the most common squirrel hair for the makeup brush. It is sometimes confused with Blue squirrel hair.

Chikuhodo Z series uses the best Blue Squirrel hair
Chikuhodo Z series uses the best Blue Squirrel hair

Blue Squirrel – Has ultra soft, delicate touch and smoothest of all. Can be used for a various purpose and offer good control. According to Hakuhodo website, it has one of the most pleasant textures among natural hairs.

Pine Squirrel – Often found in eye shadow brush, pine squirrel hair offer soft, thin bristle.

Koyudo BP017 Blush Brush with Pine Squirrel Bristle

Wood/Tree Squirrel – it has a similar characteristic as weasel hair. Can be used with cream or liquid type product. They are often found in eye shadow brushes.

Canadian Squirrel – Very rare and highly valued, its hair has an excellent uniformed body and great controllability. Its short hair limits its usage in smaller brushes such as eye shadow or highlighting brush.

Kazan Squirrel – Quite rare like Canadian squirrel but has similar characteristic to Blue squirrel, only softer.

Red Squirrel – one of the rarest of them all – it is very limited in number and always in high value. It is similar to blue squirrel – soft and pleasant but has more delicate, fragile touch.


If properly cared for, it can last for years. Please check our blog tutorials on makeup brush maintenance! 

Brush maintenance 101: How to take care of makeup brush

Have question? Do you have favorite brush material? Leave a comment in the section below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *