Monday, November 14, 2011

Best Affordable Makeup Brushes

See the updated version here!

Note: I considered breaking this down into a Tip Tuesday and Recommendation Thursday, but ultimately decided it would be more trouble than it was worth to try and separate them in a way that still made them make sense.  As a result, this post is really long (and it took me so many hours to write, I don't even want to think about it), but I've tried to organize it in such a way that you can find specific parts easily and skip what doesn't interest you.  I'll be including reviews for the brushes in my collection under their respective categories, so keep an eye out for those.

My makeup brush collection is frighteningly large.  They all fit in a coffee mug (because I'm too cheap to buy an actual brush holder, duh), but only barely!  I've been amassing my collection over the past few years, and have finally decided to post about them so you can hopefully learn from my experience (and I from yours!).  This brush is dedicated to L, whose prompting inspired me to actually get around to a) washing and b) photographing my brushes, neither of which is very labor-intensive, but I'm just so lazy I'd never gotten around to it.

Okay, crash course on why makeup brushes matter: Using quality tools to apply your makeup will ensure you get the most out of your products, or, put more accurately, using bad brushes will make even the nicest makeup look and behave like crap.  Regardless of whether you use high- or low-end cosmetics, you want to get the most out of your collection, and good brushes are a vital part of that.

So, what makes a brush good?
Excellent question, me.  You want a brush that is appropriately sized and shaped for its purpose (we'll get to that in a bit), that has pleasant-feeling bristles (the degree to which they are soft vs. firm depends on their purpose, but they should never be scratchy), and that doesn't shed.  Most high-end brushes fulfill these requirements, but they carry a price tag to match, so the challenge is finding a good brush that won't break the bank.  Some people are very careful with their makeup brushes, washing after every use but never getting the ferrule (where the brush bristles meet the handle) wet, but I am so not one of those people.  I don't want to have to baby my brushes, and since I realize that means my brushes won't last as long, I don't want to spend a lot on a brush that I know I'll have to replace within a couple years.  If you are more careful than me, and less cheap, there is a huge world of brushes at your disposal (and maybe I'll do a post on that someday, but don't count on it; see Temptalia, The Beauty Look Book, Cafe Makeup, and Front Row Beauty for reviews of more expensive brushes).  For the rest of us, the choices are a little more constrained, but that doesn't mean there's not plenty of variety to choose from.

The best cheap makeup brush lines, in alphabetical order, are: 
E.L.F. Studio (available at some Targets and online).  All E.L.F. Studio brushes are $3 (they have other brush lines, but they're apparently really hit-or-miss in quality, so I would recommend sticking with the Studio line), and you can order them online or possibly find them in Target (my Target doesn't carry them, sadface).  If you use the code SAVE50, you get 50% off your order up to $15, which makes the $6.95 shipping easier to stomach.  I own a few E.L.F. brushes, which are reviewed further on.

Ecotools (at drugstores) is the most accessible out of all the cheap brands, since they're sold in pretty much every drugstore (Target, Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, Fred Meyer, Kmart, Ulta, etc.).  They're pretty cheap, not as cheap as E.L.F. but cheaper than Sonia Kashuk or Sigma, and the quality is amazing.  As their name would suggest, they're an ecologically-minded company, and use bamboo for their handles, synthetic fibers for their brush heads, and recycled aluminum in their ferrules.  They also donate 1% of their profits to charity, which is a nice gesture.

Real Techniques (at Ulta) was a brand I hadn't heard of until a few weeks ago when Joey from Beauty Bacon and Bunnies wrote about their eye brush set.  They're available at Ulta, so when I went up to Portland a couple weekends ago, I checked out their selection and picked up the blush brush (review below).  They have some really nice sets, and they use all synthetic fibers, but they can be hard to find if you don't have an Ulta nearby (and/or don't want to pay for shipping from the website).

Sigma (online) is the most expensive out of all the lines, which is one reason I haven't tried any brushes from them (the other being I don't want to pay for shipping).  The beauty blogosphere is enamored with them, though, and they're supposed to be as good as MAC brushes for much cheaper.   

Sonia Kashuk (at Target) is the next most expensive after Sigma, but you can find her LE brushes on sale sometimes (I got one for 50% off, which was awesome).  They're great quality and not too expensive; there are also some nice sets if you're just getting started.

Studio Tools (the store brand at Target) has some surprisingly nice brushes for really cheap (between E.L.F. and Ecotools in terms of price), some of which are made from natural bristles.

Lastly, some brushes from the Sephora store line are comparably priced to Sigma, so I'll mention them when relevant.

Ye Olde Brush Guide
Face Brushes
Powder brushes come in two major types, fluffy and dense.
elf Powder brush (left) and Complexion brush (right)
I like to use the former for primer and finishing powder, but they're good for anything that you want sheerly and evenly distributed over a large area.
elf Complexion Brush
I use the E.L.F. Complexion Brush ($3), which I've had for many many moons and has yet to shed or scratch.  Other good options are the Ecotools Powder Brush ($7.99) and the Real Techniques Powder Brush ($9.99).  Sonia Kashuk makes a couple of fluffy powder brushes, one with a white handle ($11.99) and one with a black ergonomic handle ($17.99); I haven't tried the latter, though others gave it positive reviews, but I used and didn't like the white version, as it tended to feel rough and scratchy and, for me, applied powder unevenly, but ymmv.

The latter, usually flat-topped, are good for applying mineral makeup, as they allow for more opaque coverage and are better for buffing and blending.  They're also good for applying mica-based finishing powders (like Make Up For Ever HD Powder), which give a white cast if they're not buffed into skin properly (you sometimes see celebrities whose makeup artists were not diligent enough in their buffing with bright white spots on their face––not pretty).
elf Powder Brush
I use the E.L.F. Powder Brush, which is super affordable ($3) and of generally good quality, though they're not terribly consistent in that regard; the first powder brush I got had a loose handle within 3 months, and the next one I got (which I've had for about a year now) shed like crazy until I washed it, but it's been fine ever since.  For $3, it's a steal, even if you happen to get one that falls apart after a few months.  Once the one I have now breaks or disintegrates, I plan on picking up the Ecotools Bronzer Brush ($10), which has gotten obscenely good reviews on MUA and from other bloggers.  If you're willing to spend a bit more, Sonia Kashuk's Flat Top Synthetic brush ($15) or Sigma's Flat Top Kabuki brush ($16) are excellent choices.

Kabuki brushes are kind of between the two previous types, though generally with a larger brush head and shorter bristles; they're both dense and large, so you can cover a lot of space really well, and if you choose an angled variety, they can be good for applying contour products, too.

Make Up For Ever HD Kabuki Brush, image via Sephora
I don't own or use a kabuki myself, but the Ecotools Retractable Kabuki ($8) and Sigma Round Top Kabuki ($16) have both received a lot of praise.

Stippling brushes, also called skunk and duo fibre, are made from two kinds of bristles; the longer white ones are designed to pick up small amounts of product, and the shorter, firmer black ones are good for blending.  
MAC 187 Duo Fibre Brush, image via MAC

I haven't used a stippling brush myself, but they're really a great, versatile brush, though on the more expensive side of things; you can use them to apply liquid foundation, cream products (blushes and highlighters), and really pigmented blushes, since their design means you can really control how much product you put on (very handy for people with pale skin).  Real Techniques Stippling Brush ($10) is the best cheap choice, though Sonia Kashuk's Small Duo Fibre Multipurpose brush ($11) and E.L.F.'s Stipple Brush ($3) have also received decent reviews.
ETA: Fan brushes can accomplish many of the same things as stippling brushes; they're good for very light, sheer applications of powder (finishing or highlighting), blush, or bronzer, and for dusting off fallout from eyeshadow.  
Image from E.L.F.
I wouldn't say this is a really necessary brush, but should you purchase a brush set that has one, those are some uses you could put it to!

Blush brushes are used for (can you guess?) applying blush (good job!).  Besides stippling brushes, which are good for cream blush and really pigmented products, there are a couple of main varieties of blush brush.
elf Blush Brush (left) and Real Techniques Blush Brush (right)

Some blush brushes are big and fluffy, which is nice for just sweeping across your cheekbones; they also tend to pick up less product and so are more forgiving.
Real Techniques Blush Brush
I recently acquired one such brush, the Real Techniques Blush Brush ($9).  It's made from synthetic fibers and is sort of duo fibre (though the domed shape means it doesn't work quite the same way) and is oh so soft and fluffy.  It has a wide base, so it can stand on its own for storage, if that's something that matters to you; I keep all my brushes in a coffee mug, so it doesn't make any difference to me.  The size does mean it's not great for really localized placement of blush, but I love it for my everyday use.  One swipe across Deep Throat swept along my cheeks and I'm good to go!  It's also large enough that you could use it as an all-over powder brush if you so wanted (though make sure it's clean before doing so, because otherwise you risk getting blush all over your face!).  It works well with mineral blushes, too, though you should still definitely tap off excess powder, especially for more pigmented powders.  Another good fluffy blush brush is the Ecotools Blush Brush ($7).

Others are smaller and more precise, which can be nice for really careful application of blush and for controlling how much product you put on (handy for more pigmented blushes).  
elf Blush Brush

I've had the elf Blush Brush for more than a year, and until very recently it was my only blush brush.  
elf Blush Brush from the side; after use, it's even flatter than it looks here
Small and flexible, this is a pretty good blush brush.  The shape's not ideal for blush contouring, but it's not bad, either, and it's served me well for many moons now.

To show the size differences, here are the elf Complexion Brush (top), Real Techniques Blush Brush (middle) and elf Blush Brush (bottom)

Contouring brushes are used for applying blush, bronzer, highlighter, or contouring powder to the face.
MAC 168 Large Angled Contour Brush
They usually have a slanted edge for maneuvering around the face; Sonia Kashuk's Large Angled Contour Brush ($10) and Sigma Angled Top Kabuki ($16) are both good choices.

You can also use small flat top brushes, which is what I do.
Sonia Kashuk Flat Top Multipurpose Brush
I got a Sonia Kashuk brush on sale at Target, which I use with contouring products (Benefit Hoola and Meow Skinny Dipper, to be precise), because it's flat and dense like the E.L.F. powder brush but smaller in diameter, so it works great for precise contouring.
Compared to the elf Powder Brush (which is on the top and right of the above photos)
It's also really soft!  The Flat Blusher Brush is a non-limited edition equivalent ($15), and it's gotten great reviews.

Bronzer brushes are typically very dense, much like kabuki brushes, and are good for applying bronzer all over the face (whereas contouring brushes are better for localized application, say, just under the cheekbones).
Laura Mercier Bronzer Brush, image via Nordstrom
The most beloved Ecotools Bronzer Brush ($10) was also mentioned under dense powder brushes, since many people use it to apply mineral foundation, but it works great in its intended function, too.

Foundation brushes are intended for use with liquid or cream foundations, though they can also be used with cream blushes and other emollient products.
Sephora Classic Foundation Brush #47, image via Sephora
They're usually synthetic and flat and kind of wedged for spreading it around the face and into crevices; they can sometimes leave brush marks behind, so many people like to go over it with a sponge or stippling brush to give an airbrushed finish.  I have never really used a foundation brush myself, because a) I wear mineral makeup, and that takes a different brush, and b) when I wore liquid foundation, I just applied it with my fingers because I hated wasting product that got stuck in the brush.  There are many people who do use them, though, and if you wear liquid foundation, it's definitely worth trying out different methodes of application to see which works best for you.  The Studio Tools Large Foundation Brush ($7) and Sonia Kashuk Pointed Foundation Brush ($13, with a white handle) have both received great reviews.

Concealer brushes can be like miniature foundation brushes, or can be fine and pointed.  The former type, which is what I use, is good for mineral concealer and larger areas, while the latter is best for precision concealing with liquid or cream concealer and getting into the nooks and crannies.
Ecotools Bamboo Deluxe Concealer Brush (left image is view from the side); also, what's up with my hand?
The Ecotools Deluxe Concealer Brush is what I use; you can get a 2-pack on Amazon for less than $8 (which is what I did), or buy one for $4.  They were my first (and so far only) Ecotools purchase, but they will definitely not be my last.  I am in love with these brushes.  The head is quite large, and the bristles are so soft, yet still firm enough to blend product.  I've applied Too Faced Heavenly as an all-over base shade using it, and it's great how quickly and easily it blended it out.  I use it to apply my Meow concealer, and it works great for that, too.  I got a 2-pack, and use one of them to apply egg and other masks, because it's large enough to be able to cover my face pretty quickly, but small enough to navigate around crevices.  All in all, they're fantastic, and I can't wait to try more.  For a smaller, more precise concealer brush, check out E.L.F.'s Concealer Brush.

What to Buy First
If you're just getting started, or are wanting to revamp your brush collection, some brushes will be more useful than others.  Of course, this depends a lot on what kind of makeup you wear, but in general, here's what I would suggest:
If you only get one thing, have it be a dense powder or kabuki brush.  These are vital for applying mineral foundation or pressed powder, but they can also be used for loose powder, blush, and bronzer.
If you wear blush or bronzer on a regular basis, get a contouring brush.
If you wear blush and bronzer on a regular basis, get a blush brush and bronzer or contouring brush.  This helps keep colors from ending up in the wrong place.
If you wear mineral concealer, get a wide concealer brush.  If you wear cream, liquid, or stick concealer, you don't really need a concealer brush, though you should consider getting one if you feel the extra precision and blending would be helpful.
If you use emollient/creamy products, particularly foundation or blush, get a stippling brush.  They're incredibly versatile, and can also be used to apply really pigmented powders (though I wouldn't recommend using the exact same brush for all those purposes, for the same reason you shouldn't use the same brush for blush and bronzer).
If you wear liquid foundation, you can try applying with a foundation brush, though I've personally never found the benefits worth the extra hassle.
If you wear finishing powder or use loose priming powder, get a fluffy powder brush.  I use mine all the time, but I do realize it's not a strictly necessary part of a brush set.
The moral of the story: For maximum versatility, get a dense powder/kabuki brush, contouring brush, and stippling brush.  Keep in mind, though, that I don't have a stippling brush and have gotten on just fine without it, so you have to take your own personal preferences and needs into account.  And, of course, you can opt for a set of brushes, like those immediately below.

Face Starter Sets
Many sets come with a combination of face and eye brushes, but there are a couple of great ones that focus on the face.  The Real Techniques Core Collection ($18) comes with buffing (kabuki/dense powder), contour, foundation, and concealer brushes, along with a handy traveling case/stand.  If the quality is anything like their blush brush, this kit is a steal.  The Ecotools Bamboo 5 Piece Mineral Brush set ($10.50) comes with mineral powder (fluffy powder), concealer, baby kabuki (dense powder) and eye blending brushes in a travel pouch.

Phewf!  Now, on to the eyes.

Eye Brushes
Eye brushes come in a truly staggering array of shapes, sizes, textures, and purposes.  I highly recommend you check out Temptalia's eye brush guides here and here, since she has much more knowledge of the nuances of eye brushes than I do, and her guide has contributed a lot to this one.

Almost all of my experience with eye makeup comes from using pressed powder shadows, not loose/mineral shadows, so this guide will be biased towards brushes and application of the former, but I will make note of what brushes are recommended for loose shadow when applicable.

All-over shadow brushes are used for applying shadow to the whole lid and/or browbone.  They're usually in the middle size-wise and are somewhat fluffed and rounded.  If you have only one eye brush, make it one of these, because they're very versatile.  Some good choices are the Sonia Kashuk Medium Eyeshadow Brush ($5.79), Sonia Kashuk Medium Fluffy Eye Shadow Brush ($11.99), and Studio Tools Medium Shadow Brush ($2.49).

Mark. Eye Shadow Brush
I use the mark. Eye Shadow Brush ($7.00), which I got when I went through an Avon and Mark phase a year or two ago.  It's small enough to fit into my crease, large enough to spread shadow over my lid, fluffy enough to feel soft, firm enough to pick up product.  My one quibble with it is that it can feel scratchy, but everything else about it I like.  I've had it for a couple of years, too, and it's still in great condition.

Crease brushes are uh-ma-zing, seriously.  They have tapered heads for putting color in the crease/contour part of the eye, and can double as blending brushes if you get one of the larger, fluffier crease brushes.  Once I started the blog and doing more complex eye looks, I decided having a dedicated crease brush might not be a bad idea.  I've been amazed at what a difference it actually makes!
Sonia Kashuk Large Crease Brush (left) and Studio Tools Crease Brush (right); you can't tell very well here, since they'd both been washed and were therefore fluffier than usual, but the Sonia Kashuk brush is much denser than the Studio Tools
I've had the Studio Tools Crease Brush ($2.49, I think) for several months now, and while it's a little large for my eye (which makes it not ideal for applying dark, pigmented colors to my crease, because it just puts too much product on for my comfort), it works great for lighter crease colors and blending.  I very recently picked up the Sonia Kashuk Large Crease Brush ($5.79, also: it's smaller than the Studio Tools brush, so I'm not really sure where they got the "large" part of the name from), which is smaller, slightly more tapered, and denser than the Studio Tools, which makes it the perfect size and shape for controlling the placement of pigmented colors in my crease.  It's a favorite of beauty bloggers, too, including several who focus primarily on luxury goods, so I'm not alone in my appreciation of it!  Other good choices for crease work are the E.L.F. Contour Brush ($3.00) and Sigma Small Tapered Blending Brush ($9.00; also works as a blending brush, see below).  Angled contour brushes are also intended for use in the crease/contour, but are slanted at an angle rather than being evenly rounded.
Trish McEvoy Angled Crease Contour, image via Trish McEvoy
I don't have one of these myself, but they're a noteworthy alternative to regular crease brushes, and can also be used for blending; the E.L.F. Angled Contour Brush ($3) is a good low-cost choice, and Sigma Medium Angled Shading Brush ($9.00) is a safe bet, too.

Blending brushes are used for softening the lines between eyeshadow colors, and are usually less dense with longer, soft bristles; they're also good for applying highlighter shades along the browbone.  The Studio Tools Crease Brush ($2.49) mentioned above works wonderfully for that purpose (better than its intended purpose for me!), and the Sonia Kashuk Pointed Blending Brush ($3.99) is also great.

Firm, flat brushes are good for laying down cream eyeshadow or other emollient eye products (primer, concealer), applying powder shadow wet, and patting on mineral eyeshadows.  They're usually pretty large for maximum efficiency.

From the side to show how it's flat
I don't usually wear those types of products (or, rather, I do, but I usually just apply with my fingers), but I do have a brush like this, Loew Cornell Maxine's Mop 3/8" (~$4, available at art supply stores).  I got it on Amazon after I read it was a dupe for the MAC 239, which Christine of Temptalia said was the only eye brush she used for years.  It's the largest of the eye brushes I have, and works well at depositing a light wash of color on my lid (whether below or above the crease).  The size does make it more practical for large swathes of color, and my eyes aren't really big enough to use it for much else than that, though if you apply with the thin edge, you can use it to apply color to your crease and along the lash line (though I find it to be a bit scratchy, and the handle is ridiculously long).  Other good choices for firm, flat brushes include the Sonia Kashuk Large Eye Shadow Brush ($6.69) and Sigma Large Shader ($11.00).

Angled eyeshadow/brow brushes are also firm and flat, but are cut at a slant (hence the "angled" part).
Bobbi Brown Brow Brush, image via Sephora
They can be used to apply powder eyeshadow as eyeliner (giving a thicker, diffused line), and are also great for applying brow powder.  Sonia Kashuk's Brow Brush ($6.59) and Angled Eyeshadow Brush ($4.79) and Sigma Small Angle ($9.00) all fit the bill. ETA: A smudge brush, discussed immediately below, is great for general shading of the brow; it's too imprecise for careful shaping, but if you're just filling in bald spots and evening out your brow, it's a really efficient, easy way of doing so!

Brushes for eyeliner come in several varieties based on what kind of product you're lining with (powder, gel, or pencil) and what thickness of line you're wanting.  For a softer, wider line, smudge brushes are the ticket.  The bristles are very short and dense, and they're typically used for smudging powder eyeshadow along the lashline as liner, and to smudge creamy pencil eyeliner before it dries for a more diffused line.
I use the Sephora Classic Smudge Brush ($13.00 now, was $12 when I bought it, boo, hiss), which is a good option if you're wanting to reach $50 for free shipping, but the Studio Tools Smudge Brush ($2.49), E.L.F. Small Precision Brush ($3.00), and Sonia Kashuk Smudge Brush ($4.79) are cheaper and, therefore, what I would recommend, all other things being equal.
Bent eyeliner brushes are ideal for thin, precise lines with powder or gel eyeliner, since they allow you to get really close to the base of your lashes.
I use a brush from Avon that I got a couple years ago; it was $2 and works great, but doesn't seem to be available anymore, sadness.  Fortunately, there are other options, such as the Sonia Kashuk Bent Eyeliner Brush ($5.79).  For a similar effect, you can use a flat eyeliner brush, which is basically exactly the same thing as the brush above, just without the bend.  Sonia Kashuk's Flat Eyeliner Brush ($5.79) and Sigma's Flat Definer are some such brushes.

If you use gel eyeliner frequently, bent eyeliners are great (that's what I use), but if you want more flexibility in the thickness of your line, pointed eyeliner brushes work much like calligraphy pens, in that you can control (in theory) the thickness of the line.  I don't own any brush like this, because I don't trust my tremor with anything that depends on pressure for an even line (which is also why I will never use liquid eyeliner), but if you're interested, the Sonia Kashuk Pointed Eye Liner Brush ($5.69) and Sigma Eye Liner ($9.00) are good places to look.

What To Buy First
An all-over-type brush is the thing to start with (and, depending on how often you wear eyeshadow and how much complexity you want in your application, the thing to end with!); look for something that's medium in size, and average in every other respect––think Goldilocks: not to fluffy, not too dense, not too flat, not too round, not too long, not too short.
Next, I would say a crease brush is a great brush to have if you like contouring your eyes, because they really are immensely helpful.
If you wear mineral eyeshadow or like applying cream products with a brush, a firm and flat brush will come in handy.
Lastly, some kind of eyeliner brush, depending on what your usual product/look preferences are (see above for a breakdown of each one's purpose and result).

Eye Starter Sets
There's really a lot of eye brush sets out there, and if you don't already have any eye brushes, I would highly recommend starting with one of these, since they'll pretty much cover any eyeshadow application needs that may arise (they're also a good bet for those who want to expand or augment their existing collection!).  The Real Techniques Starter Kit ($17.99) comes with a base shadow brush (all-over), crease brush, accent brush (small smudge), pixel point eyeliner (pointed eyeliner), and brow brush (angled eyeshadow), along with a travel case/stand.  The Ecotools 6 Piece Eye Brush Set ($7.99) comes with a large eye brush (large all-over), angled crease brush, petite eye shading brush (small crease/blending), highlighting brush (blending), and smudge brush, as well as a traveling pouch with mirror.

Complete Starter Sets
If you're wanting to cover all your bases, you can either get one each of face and eye starter sets, or you can pick up a set that includes both.  The Ecotools Alicia Silverstone 5 Piece Brush Set ($15.99) comes with a blush brush, mini foundation brush, mini powder (fluffy) brush, detailed eye shading brush (small all-over), and spoolie brush (for eyebrows and lashes), along with a very cute travel pouch.  The Real Techniques Travel Essentials ($17.99) has a foundation brush, multi-purpose brush (for powder, blush, and bronzer), and a domed shadow brush (full and fluffy and round), which all comes in a travel stand/pouch.  Sonia Kashuk has lots of brush sets, especially for the holidays, and one that is particularly versatile is the Holiday 6 Piece Brush Set ($24.99, in black and silver), which comes with a powder/blush brush, pointed foundation brush, small duo fibre brush, eyeshadow brush (all-over), angled contour crease brush, and pointed eye liner brush, as well as a sparkly travel clutch.  Lastly, if you're willing to splurge, Sigma has a few set options; the one that looks like it would cover pretty much every need you could have is the Complete Kit ($89.00 without brush roll, $109.00 with), which comes with a whopping 12 brushes (click the link for a run-down).

How to Care for Your Brushes
If you want to take really good care of your brushes so that they last forever and ever, you should probably google for help with that, because I can't really help you there.  I'm far too lazy to do any kind of really careful brush maintenance; some people wash their brushes after every use, but I have neither the time nor inclination to do that.  I try to wash all my brushes once a week (usually on Saturday, because then they're all dry and ready for the week).  I follow most of the tips from this guide on How To Clean Stuff (excepting the baby wipes, because, again: lazy).  I fill my sink with a few inches of warm water, adding a healthy dollop of Suave Clarifying Shampoo (less than $2 for a big bottle, way cheaper than dedicated brush cleaner) and a few drops of tea tree oil (3-4 does the trick).  I then swish my brushes around in the foamy water for awhile, massaging the ones that have more product stuck in them as needed (usually my powder brushes need a little more love); then I rinse them out with warm water, squeeze the excess water out of the bristles, halfheartedly reshape them, and lay them flat on a towel to dry.  Most of the brushes are dry by the next morning, though my E.L.F. Powder and Complexion brushes often take more than 24 hours before they're ready to use (not uncommon with synthetic bristles).  It's recommended that you have back-ups of the brushes you use most often so that you don't have to worry about not having them when you want them, but that's a cost I haven't felt like paying.

And that's that!  I hope this guide has proven helpful to you, and that you will now feel better going off into the world of budget brushes!  If you have any favorites, post them in the comments and I'll add them––I love hearing about what other people use and love!
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