“What is the very best makeup brush brand?”
This is a common question out there in the beauty-sphere.
But the answer is a little more complicated or convoluted than most consumers might realize.
That’s because virtually no cosmetic brands manufacture, or make, their own makeup brushes! And virtually no makeup brush manufacturer makes one brand exclusively!
Most makeup brushes are made by brush manufacturers to the specifications of their consumers, who are usually cosmetics companies, such as MAC or MUFU, or other types of brands, such as Victoria Secret to Royal & Langnickel.
Sometimes unique makeup brush brands are also created by the brush manufacturer — sometimes called “the factory” or “OEM” — to sell extra inventory of brushes or make sure they are running the factory at capacity. That allows the factory to use their workers (labor) and machines efficiently.
For example, the esteemed Japanese brush manufacturer Chikuhodo sells its brushes under many brand names, including its own name as well as SUQQU and RMK. Chikuhodo also happens to make brushes for Shiseido.
The biggest players in the world of makeup brush manufacturing include:
- Anisa International, an Atlanta, Ga.-based company that appears to be the only brush maker owned by a woman, Anisa Telwar Kaiker. Her firm celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Tianjin, China, factory in 2013.
- Taiki Group, a Japanese company that also specializes in sponges and other beauty tools. It also has factories all over Asia.
- Hakuhodo, a Japanese brush manufacturer that specializes in luxury brushes. Manufactures its own line of brushes, in addition to making brushes on contract for others. More information here.
- Chikuhodo, another Japanese brush manufacturer that specializes in high-end work. Manufactures its own line of brushes, in addition to making brushes on contract for others. They actually list some of their clients here.
- Raphael, a French brush-maker, with facilities in France and off the coast of Africa. MAKE UP FOR EVER chose Raphael to make its epic 76-model Artisan Brush Collection.
- DaVinci, a German makeup brush manufacturer that boasts an eco-friendly factory that is 100% sweatshop free.
- Toney Makeup Brushes Co., Ltd., which is among more than 200 brush-making factories sprinkled across China and other Asian countries, according to Toney.
You should also know that many of these companies also make artist paint brushes, which is why some makeup artists actually buy their brushes at the art supply store, where similar brush styles are often highly discounted when detached from fancy brand names.
All of these companies (and many more not listed here) are essentially competing for contracts to make brushes for MAC, Bare Escentuals, Clinique, and other cosmetics and beauty brands. In reality, a big company like Estée Lauder may actually choose several of these manufacturers to make their various brushes and brands of brushes.
In fact, a manufacturer such as Raphael might actually be making a whole range of brushes on the same equipment using the same materials for a variety of clients.
Now, a company such as MAC or Bobbi Brown or Tom Ford usually has very detailed specifications about how their brushes must be made, in terms of materials, assembly and finishing. For example, MAC and Bobbi Brown commonly use nickel-plated brass for their ferrules. EcoTools uses recycled aluminum. And when it comes to fibers, EcoTools only uses synthetic Taklon for its brush fiber, which will always have less variation and more quality control than a brand that uses goat or other animal hair, which will always have variability and challenges in quality control. IT Cosmetics, meanwhile, typically has rubberized black handles, aluminum ferrules and synethetic fibers.
All these material and brand choices are part of a brand’s identity and help in some way to determine the quality of the brush that gets shipped to the customer. We’re sure you’ve noticed popular brush styles that seem to have little practical variation from brand to brand, other than, say, the color of the handles and the brand name. That could very well be because the brushes are virtually identical, maybe even made by the same hands and machines — except for the brand name. That’s why we have so-called “dupes” in this great brush land of ours.
So, now ask yourself: What is the best brand of makeup brush?
Pressure to Innovate
In an effort to distinguish themselves and their brushes, given this commodity-like brush environment, brush manufacturers are highly incentivized to innovate, so they can pitch their patented or patent-pending brushes to cosmetics and beauty brands. That’s why you end up with brushes that look like toothbrushes from both MAC, with its Masterclass Brush Collection, and Artis. (Taiki USA was the brainchild behind this new brush approach).
It’s also why you get clever new brush styles, such as the Bare Skin Perfecting Face Brush, with the unique “fluid reservoir,” from Bare Escentuals. (Anisa International is surely behind this one.)
Because of all this competition among manufacturers to get business from cosmetic companies and other brands selling brushes, the quality of brush manufacturing has also increased over the years.
Now you can surely find a crummy brush that has badly dyed hair or smells of noxious glue every now and again. But by and large, the brushes are pretty good out there, largely because the competition is so intense.
How Brushes Are Manufactured
Even More Information
(also known as random related links)
EmmaMarch 20, 2015 at 12:31 pm (8 years ago)
This is a really great guide, thank you so much for making it!
I was so sick of hearing about how great sigma and other sponsors were from beauty bloggers that had free products galore. I’m really interested in trying some of these high quality brush brands!
SunnyAugust 13, 2015 at 8:01 am (8 years ago)
I love your site!! Do you know who manufactures brushes for It Cosmetics?
SarahAWebsterSeptember 18, 2015 at 12:58 pm (8 years ago)
I suspect Anisa International … but I don’t know for sure!