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Splurge vs Steal: Lip Brushes

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BEAUTY, Featured, Lip Articles | by — January 11, 2014

 Splurge vs Steal - Lip Brushes

When I first started using makeup, I used to associate the term “lip brushes” with those miniature lip brushes that comes with lipstick palettes, and they were pretty useless and felt more like a chore than getting primped. It wasn’t until I saw the expression on Nicole Thompson’s (Senior Artist, MAC Cosmetics Australia) face when I confessed that I’m not a big user of lip brushes that I was intrigued and decided to invest in higher end brushes to see what the fuss was about.

I now own 8 lip brushes, 6 of which are featured in this post (the others are Shiseido, which I love and Bloom Cosmetics, which is so so).  I acquired some to have extra brushes on rotation for swatching, whilst others I reserve for my favourite lipsticks and the best one for tutorials.  Having used each and every one of these for swatching, lipstick application on the go and tutorials (which require picture perfect precision), I am proud to report back to Nicole that I’m a convert.

If you’re undecided as to which lip brush to invest, my advice is that choosing between synthetic vs. natural hair, and the brush shape (eg. fine tipped, flat edge and tapered) has everything to do with your lip shape, lip condition and the texture of lipstick you typically go for.

Synthetic lip brushes suit most lipstick formulas, are easier to clean, are less prone to splaying and deliver a more precise lip line.  Natural bristles however are unparalleled in their ability to blend creamy formulas seamlessly into every little crevice in your lip surface for a flawless finish.  Tapered lip brushes suit all lip sizes particularly those with a soft lip shape, whilst fine tipped lip brushes allow for better control for achieving a more defined lip shape. My latest obsession is the flat edged lip brush for achieving ultimate precision.

If you have yet to own a lip brush, may I suggest you start with either Ecotools or MAC 316 as they’re more affordable and the most versatile for all lipstick formulas and lip conditions.  For more mature lips, I recommend Bobbi Brown and for a little luxury, go for Shu Uemura.

Ecotools Detailed Lip Brush

Compact in size & travel friendly, this synthetic lip brush is exceptional for its price point and the fine tip makes it easy to control and apply precisely.  Better suited to pigmented formulas, as sheer formulas can appear streaky when blended with synthetic bristles.

RRP: $8.99 AUD / $3.99 USD

NP Set Lip Brush

Another affordable lip brush that has tapered synthetic bristles that suits all lipstick formulas.  The wide tapered shape allows you to pat on colour as wella s blend.  This brush served me well for about 2 years, and after relentless swatching and washing, the bristles have finally curved at the tip making it harder to apply a precise line.  Since the average person doesn’t use lip brushes repeatedly as much I do, you’ll get better mileage of this brush than I did.

RRP: $10.99 AUD

Bobbi Brown Retractable Lip Brush

The natural bristles combined with a tapered tip delivers unparalleled flawless finish, blending creamy lipstick formulas into every single crevice of your lip surface.  I highly recommend this to anyone who have lip lines especially mature lips. My only pet peeve about this brush is that the natural bristles are prone to splaying if you accidentally placed the cap in the wrong angle, and it’s hard to get the shape back to as new even with the smallest Brush Guard brush sleeve.

RRP: $40 AUD / $26 USD

MAC 316 Lip Brush

This is my all-rounder lip brush that suits all lipstick formulas, and is also compact for travel.  It has a decent weight helping you to control a precise application.  It’s my most-frequently-reached-for brush when I’m packing a lip brush with me to touch up on the go.  The synthetic fine tipped bristles makes it easy to achieve a precise edge for all lip shapes.

RRP: $40 AUD / $20 USD

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Brush

I have been wanting to purchase a flat edged lip brush for ages but procrastinated despite seeing a similar ones from Hakuhodo (B523BkSL Lip Brush Flat and 270 Lip Brush Flat).  Then when an opportunity came along to purchase a set of Charlotte Tilbury brushes from Net-a-porter, I knew this was my chance to get my hands on it as part of the eye & lip brush set! The bristles are firm and even in length with a flat edge, making it suited to richly pigmented lipstick shades that need to be patted and layered on and defined with a precise edge.  If you prefer a natural bristle with a finer tip that’s still flat edged, try the Hakuhodo 270 Lip Brush Flat.

RRP: £18.00

Shu Uemura Kolinsky Portable Extra Lip Brush

This is the most luxurious lip brush I have, and is also the heaviest lip brush out of the lot.  The Kolinsky bristles are amazingly soft but resilient, making lipstick application a dream.  Whilst I’m pleased that the packaging is travel friendly, I can’t bear the thought of losing such an expensive lip brush so it’s permanently at home docked at my swatching station.  Luckily I didn’t pay full price for this in Australia, there was a sale a while back and I grabbed it for close to the US price.

RRP: $75 AUD / $35 USD

I’d love to know which lip brushes you use!
Which are your favourites?


The Ecotools and NP Set brushes were provided for consideration.  I purchased the Charlotte Tilbury Lip Brush partially from a voucher gifted by Net-a-porter PR.

One Response to “Splurge vs Steal: Lip Brushes”

  1. I still find it a little bit of a chore to pull out the lip brush for every day makeup. I’m currently using the NP Set brush when I’m not too lazy!

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