In its “Best Beauty Buys” section of its March issue, People StyleWatch featured a pretty set of makeup brushes from Aéropostale at the low, low price of $9 for for four brushes!
What a deal, right?! Um, maybe yes — but, then again, maybe not.
The style of brushes in the set (three eye brushes and one face brush) isn’t necessarily an issue. Nor are the pretty floral handles. But take a look at those hot red brush fibers! Yowza!
There’s been an EXPLOSION of makeup brushes with pretty colored hair fibers, often even dual-colored makeup fibers.
And, indeed, many are pretty, cute and/or trendy.
But there are two main ways that manufacturers can bring you pretty colored makeup brush hair, and one is good (extruding) and the other is not-always-so-good (dying).
To Dye or Extrude – That is the Question
Dyed cosmetic brush hair is usually from a goat, pony or some other animal, and it has been chemically altered to achieve a certain color, like pink, red, orange or even black, to give a consistent appearance, when real animal hair often has a lot of variety.
As most women who dye their hair know, there are lots of different kinds of hair dye and processes that can be used to dye hair. To permanently dye, you often need to lift a darker color out of the hair before depositing color. But you can also do it on the cheap by just throwing color on lighter hair without lifting, which won’t “take” as well.
Dying hair properly takes time and several steps, and it’s important to properly set dye and wash hair well after the dying process, otherwise the color will leach out when wet.
There are also lots of different chemicals that can be used during the dying process, and it’s difficult to know when your brushes come from Asia just what kind of potentially dangerous chemicals are used in that dye …
Now, if animal hair is properly dyed, set and washed, you shouldn’t have any problems. But consider that every step or process in hair dying costs money for some manufacturer out there, so it’s easy to see why steps might get skipped or unfriendly chemicals might be used to make a few cents more per brush.
Many women, at one time or another, have already experienced the problems associated with dyed makeup brush hair. You can read about bleeding Hello Kitty brushes here. Or someone whose MAC 182 turned their foundation black because of bleeding. Or noxious chemical smells along with excessive bleeding here. This poor woman said one of her Sigma brushes is still bleeding after two years, and that was after she washed her brushes for an hour and a half, which sounds like no fun!
Anyway, you get the point: Bleeding brushes is bad. Especially if you have any intention of using your brushes with liquid or cream products that contain water.
Now, some people say washing brushes in vinegar can help reduce or stop bleeding. It works (sometimes) for the same reason that vinegar also reduces fading in clothes, which you can read about here or here. It’s also the same reason you use vinegar when you dye Easter eggs! Basically, vinegar, which largely consists of acetic acid, can act as a mordant (word of the day!) that fixes dyes to cells, tissues, or textiles or other materials.
But there’s no guarantee it will work every time. Because, well, it depends on the fiber and it depends on the dye.
Now, what the heck is extruded brush hair?
Synthetic fibers used in cosmetic brushes, such as Taklon, Natrafil or Tafre, are typically some sort of polyester, polypropylene or nylon, which is extruded or forced from a machine that turns plastic, usually in bead form, into a thread or filament.
Do you ever remember turning Play-Doh into spaghetti by forcing it through a grate? Well, basically, that is extrusion.
If you want to read up more on the science of extruding makeup brush hair in different colors, there’s some interesting reading material here in the Google Patent files.
When you get color makeup brush hairs through this process, the color is actually incorporated completely into the fiber itself. So there’s no funky bleeding or weirdness, not that we’ve ever heard of anyway.
Now, how can you tell the difference between dyed hair and extruded hair?
Well, this is the unfortunate part of this story: It is rarely disclosed by makeup brush sellers. Buying synthetic hair is one easy step to protect yourself when buying cosmetic brushes with colored fibers.
But if you want real goat hair in a pretty shade, you may have some protection by reading reviews or buying from reputable brands, but that’s no guarantee.
At least if you buy from, say, Dior, whose pretty “Paradise Summer Blush Brush” at right is out of stock, you know you can have some recourse. Although it’s not clear what this $55 Dior brush is made of because, remarkably, the marketing materials don’t say. (We really have to whip these companies into shape to get them to disclose this basic kind of information!!)
So buyer beware on all those pretty colored makeup brushes out there.
You can get a good brush or set if you know what you’re looking for — just do your due diligence!