Bargain Buys / Beauty Tools / My Favorite Things / Product Reviews

Best Bargain Brushes/Applicators vs. Brushes

This post is for RamenGirl and Annie.  RamenGirl wanted some brush recommendations, and Annie was wondering (a long time ago, I’m sorry!) whether she should use the applicators that come with palettes, or invest in some brushes.

I divide my brushes into 3 categories.

Mug 1 contains eye brushes, mug 2 contains face brushes, and mug 3 contains brushes which need to be cleaned (as you can tell, this category contains the highest number of brushes).

First, I’ll take you through my must-have brushes of the bunch, and then give my opinion on the whole brushes vs. applicators debate.  Get excited!

sorry for the deplorable state of my brushes.  It sometimes takes me weeks to sit down and clean them.

the breakdown from left to right:

1. e.l.f. powder brush

-$3 from their studio line

-super dense and doesn’t scratch skin, can be used with liquid foundation, setting powder, bronzer/blush

-full review here

2. e.l.f. blending brush

-$1 from their regular line

-might not be as soft as the MAC blending brush, but it gets the job done and you can’t beat the price

-great for working in the crease/softening up colors.  If you use more than one color of eyeshadow, I’d recommend that you invest in a blending brush

3. Sonia Kashuk Bent Liner Brush

-$6 from Target, this is probably the most expensive brush I own, but…

-it’s worth every cent!

-angle allows you to draw a smooth line without even trying

-easy to create thick or thin lines by varying the pressure

-apparently it’s also easy to do winged liner with this, but I am severely lacking in that department

4. e.l.f. eyeshadow brush

-$1 from their regular line

-unfortunately, quality control isn’t the best (see picture).  sometimes, you get thick+fluffy, sometimes you get short+thin BUT…

-it’s a $1 eyeshadow brush that does its job so am I going to complain?


And there you have it.  A lot of my brushes are from e.l.f. simply because their prices are so reasonable.  If I got a MAC brush that didn’t work out for me (I’m not saying that would ever happen, since their brushes are all very high-quality) and lost the receipt, I’d be pretty much ker-plunked.  With these however, I don’t have that much to lose, so I can try out a lot of different brush shapes/buy backups for the ones I love.  You can find e.l.f. at some Target stores, but it’s probably easier to track them down online.  There are always a lot of e.l.f. coupons circling ’round the web, so try to find one that lets you get free shipping (hmm I just spelled that sheeping, what does that say about me?)

Ok, on to the brushes vs. applicators brouhaha (yes, that is a real word).

It’s important to remember that despite their questionable appearance, sponge applicators can be quite useful.

The shape of applicators actually makes them very handy multitaskers.  They excel at transferring concentrated color onto the lid and blending color out into the crease.  You can use the tip to line your eyes, and their small size makes them excellent for travel.

Despite all this, I still think it’s better to have brushes most of the time.  The biggest problem I have with applicators is the super short handle.  That takes away a lot of your control (especially if you have undeveloped motor skills…LIKE YOURS TRULY!)  If you’re just starting to get into makeup, I’d recommend brushes.  I had a tendency to overapply eyeshadow in my makeup days-of-yore, and having a fluffy brush made it easier to deposit soft color.

Unfortunately, makeup brushes are also not the most practical option for stuffing in your purse when you’re on the run.  If I need to do makeup in the car, I always bring my applicators.  If I have the time to sit down at my vanity though, it feels nice to hold a proper brush in my hand.  Do you need to buy brushes?  I think it’s a good idea to have one or two staple brushes, especially since there are plenty of bargain-priced options out there.  Make sure you don’t throw away your applicators, though.  They can always come in handy!

~Makeup Morsels


12 thoughts on “Best Bargain Brushes/Applicators vs. Brushes

  1. I have undeveloped motor skills too…LOL! I use both brushes and applicators too.

    Nope, not getting anything this time. Like I said in my post, I’m kinda put off by the long list of exclusions. That list keeps getting longer each year. Not cool. Although if I needed any cosmetics not found at Sephora, I’d still take advantage of that 10% off.

  2. Oh, I do the exact same thing with the three mugs! That way I know I won’t get yesterday’s navy blue when I’m going for a soft beige =)

    Your elf brushes sound quite good 🙂

  3. I love the ELF powder brush and eyeshadow brush, they are soft and get the job done well. I use them daily and I’m thinking of getting back ups. The blending brush sounds great too.

  4. 哇~!!!我覺得自己好像VIP喔:D


    謝謝妳犧牲了寫作業的時間寫了這一篇blog XD這真的是很實用的一篇!!!

    • haha it’s become such a habit that I forget most people probably don’t do that.
      I put plastic bags over the cups because I don’t want to have to wash those too every time some eyeshadow or foundation falls inside.
      Also, I travel a lot, so I can just turn the brushes upside down, rubber band the bag, and toss them inside my suitcase.

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