Even though most women believe they are using a synthetic makeup brush, chances are good you are actually using one made with goat hair.
About 95% of powder brushes on the market today are made with animal bristles, mainly goat or pony hair – even though 67% of consumers believe their brushes are made of synthetic materials, according to a survey conducted on behalf of DuPont.
The survey, conducted in 2010 by DJS Research in the UK, also revealed that 61% of consumers would never consider a brush made with animal hair.
Many women simply don’t recognize the difference between goat hair and synthetic hair, said Jim Perry, President and CEO of TaikiUSA, a leading global manufacturer of cosmetic brushes. And while brushes made with synthetic fibers are usually labeled cruelty-free, brushes made with goat hair simply fail to mention the material altogether. Because of that, it can often be difficult to determine what a brush is made of prior to purchase.
“They just don’t know,” Perry said of consumers. “The majority of brushes are still made of goat.”
At the moment, Perry said, goat hair is still less expensive for manufacturers to acquire than synthetic fibers. But that is changing fast, leading brush manufacturers to move rapidly toward synthetic fibers.
“The majority of brushes are still made of goat.”
Because goat is the most commonly consumed meat in the world, especially in lesser developed countries, goat hair has historically been widely available as a byproduct of that consumption. But, Perry said, the number of goats raised for the food industry has been declining year-over-year as countries become more westernized. “They are moving up the economic scale, so they don’t want to eat it,” Perry explained.
That means goat hair is decreasing in supply, and increasing in price.
“Taiki is concerned that, at some point, the value of the price of the pelt on the goat exceeds the value of the goat meat,” Perry said. That could lead to goats being raised simply to be killed for their pelt. “I don’t know too many brands that want to align themselves with that,” Perry said.
What’s more, manufacturers are confronted with other issues when dealing with goat hair as well, such as the quality of the hair and an unstable supply. Natural hair must be washed and treated in ways that synthetic fibers are not, adding cost during the manufacturing process. The variation in hair also means that it is not easy to automate the manufacture of brushes with natural hair.
By comparison, synthetic fibers are more consistent, there’s a more reliable supply, the price is relatively stable, they are cruelty-free and also more hygienic. And unlike natural hair, which offers an organic breeding ground for bacteria, synthetic hairs do not. “We are very committed to synthetic materials,” Perry said. “Because companies hire us, we use just about everything, but our go-to fiber is Tafre.”
There are several synthetic fibers on the market used for makeup brushes, often some variation of polyester. Among them: PBT (Polybutylene terephthalate), PTT (Polytrimethylene terephthalate), Taklon (tipped polyester), DuPont’s Natrafil and, Taiki’s innovation, Tafre. The underlying material for Tafre is DuPont’s Sorono material, which is 37% renewable and made with corn. It’s also the underlying ingredient in some carpets. Click here to read more about Tafre.