A NEW LIPSTICKin an au courant shade could be just the thing for putting your best face forward this fall. But a set of good makeup brushes would be a better investment, one that's sure to pay off for seasons to come.
"The brushes a woman uses to apply her makeup are as important as the makeup itself; a woman without the right brush is like a great painter without the proper tools," says Rex of the Timothy Priano agency in New York. Rex should know; he's powdered some of America's most famous and beautiful faces, including those of Isabella Rosselini and Paulina Porizkova.
Once the owner of more than 50 makeup brushes, Rex has pared his collection to six. His favorites are brushes from art-supply stores because the bristles are softer. "The hairs (on paintbrushes) are always very nice," he says.
"Doing makeup is not just about slapping it on flatly," Rex explains. "You have to deal with roundness and corners."
Savvy cosmetics consumers have learned the value of proper makeup application. "More and more women are using professional brushes to set their makeup, to make it look better and last longer," says Gary Cockrell, cosmetics buyer for the southern region of I. Magnin. "But a good makeup brush is really a luxury." Considering that most powdered makeup comes with an applicator, Cockrell is correct. As the holiday season approaches, however, stores hope that makeup tools will tempt gift-givers shopping for women who have everything.
The Tokyo-based Shu Uemura Beauty Boutique at Century City Shopping Center stocks 84 kinds of makeup brushes for powdering, contouring and lining. All are attractively arranged in small cups, like candies in a dime store. I. Magnin displays scores of brushes at Yves St. Laurent cosmetic counters. Brushes developed by Alan Goolman, who has worked as a makeup artist for Chanel and Christian Dior, also are available.
Most brushes that are sold separately have been designed to be flaunted on vanity tables and in front of the mirror at tony restaurants. But price tags vary. YSL's swirl-handled brushes start at $15 for an eye brush, and a five-piece set costs $95. Shu Uemura's minimalist brushes range from $4.50 for a nylon lip brush with a bamboo reed-wrapped handle to $58 for a sable eye-shadow brush with a wooden handle.
The type of bristles makes a difference in application and at the cash register. "Sable brushes pick up color better than nylon brushes," says Siu Ming Carson, beauty director for Shu Uemura's U.S. operations.The priciest bristles are Collinski sable, followed by red sable, badger and pony; the cheapest are goat hair and man-made nylon.
Handles also affect price but not function. YSL's weighty gold-toned handles are spiraled to catch the light, for example, and I. Magnin sells brushes with antique silver-plate handles.
Six essential brushes are recommended for just about everyone. Carson says a basic set should include a lip brush, an eye-shadow brush, a powder brush, a blush brush, an eyebrow brush and an eyeliner brush. "It's not about collecting brushes; it's about deciding which ones are right for a particular person," she explains.
To make sure brushes perform up to par, Carson suggests storing them upright in a cup or glass to prevent the bristles from tangling, and cleaning them as needed by swishing them in warm water and low-sudsing detergent. Lay them flat to dry. With proper care, she says, brushes should last about five years.