Sunday, 10 November 2013

Real Techniques Brushes - In-Depth Review

I got my first Real Techniques brushes about a year ago. The first ones I got were the Core Collection and the Starter Set, so I'll talk about them first. But I'll start by saying that Samantha Chapman has absolutely hit the nail on the head with these brushes. I would really just like to thank her personally for designing these the way she has.

All the brushes are really densely packed with very soft synthetic bristles, and they're cruelty-free. They apply makeup evenly and you can vary pressure for lighter or heavier application of colour. From the moment I began using the brushes I was really impressed. They are really well made, with extended light weight aluminum ferrules, and a non slip rubber end makes up the rest of handle. I was worried that the brushes would be a bit too light and therefore fiddley, but they're very well weighted even though they are light and the non slip part sits right in the crook between your thumb and forefinger and makes the brush feel really secure in your hand. The first job I used them on was a four-day music video shoot, and they stood up so well to the abuse of being cleaned several times a day! Even my oldest Real techniques brushes have never shed a single hair, and I wash them all the time (becauseI'm  freaky about having absolutely clean brushes, even my personal ones). They are also really easy to spot clean.

I think one of the things I love most about all these brushes is that they are so versatile and can be used in such a variety of ways and with all kinds of products. They're durable too. These first two sets were almost literally the only ones I used for about six months straight and they're still in near perfect condition. The brushes are colour coded: gold for base and powder brushes, pink for face and setting brushes, and purple for eye and detail brushes. But honestly, any brush can be used on any part of the face with either liquid, cream or powder products. I use these brushes both on myself as well as clients. 

All the sets come with the specially designed carrying case, called a 2-in-1 Panoramic Case and Stand, which has elastic brush holders on both side. The case itself is quite sturdy and keeps the brushes safe. It can also bend in half width-wise, and has a little pulley system that makes it into a brush stand, perfect for traveling and doing makeup in right spaces. Because I've now bought quite a few sets I've given away the extra cases to friends and kept two for myself. The only downside of the case is that it's the perfect length for the Real Techniques brushes but some other brands of brushes are a little too long. It's not really a big deal as long as you don't mind the handles of the brushes sticking out a bit when the case is closed for traveling. I've given mine quite a beating for a year and they're still in great condition. They're also really easy to clean. I just wipe mine down with a makeup remover wipe or a cotton pad soaked in makeup remover.

*DISCLAIMER: all images borrowed from the Real Techniques website -*

The Core Collection (above) comes with four brushes: (from left to right) Contour Brush, Pointed Foundation Brush, Detailer Brush, and Buffing Brush. 

The Contour Brush is an excellent brush for contouring, of course, but I also use it sometimes for setting the under eye area and also for precisely applying blush and highlight. Because these brushes are all synthetic they work great with either powder or cream/liquid products, as I've said, and this brush applies cream bronzers and blushes beautifully. It's very dense but the tip is soft and tapered a bit so it blends out edges really nicely when you use light pressure and circular motions. It's also great for quickly sweeping a neutral shadow across the whole eyelid up to the brow if you're doing a simple, natural look. 

The Pointed Foundation brush I find a bit small for applying foundation all over the face, but it's great for concealer, especially if you use a lighter concealer for highlighting across the cheeks and forehead. Because it's pointed it can get right into tight spaces like the inner corner of the eye and around the nose, and it just makes concealer application quite fast. I also use it for placing cream contour. I don't blend with this brush though, because it's too flat for blending. 

The Detailer Brush is shaped like a regular lip brush, and can of course be used for lipstick. It's nicely tapered to a point, so it's also great for cleaning up the outer lip line (after applying liner) with concealer, for concealing small areas and also for applying cream shadow to the mobile lid or inner corner.

The Buffing Brush, in my opinion, is the shining star of this set. Use it for moisturizer, primer, liquid or cream or powder foundation, liquid or cream or powder highlight and contour, and even for buffing in setting powder after it's been applied with a puff or a fluffier brush. I also use it in pressing motions to really sink the product into the skin. It can also be used with a stippling motion. It's an excellent brush that I cannot imagine not having in my kit or personal collection. It's soft but still firm, applies pretty much everything evenly and blends the edges beautifully. It can be a bit difficult to clean, because it's so dense that if you're using a shampoo or other liquid soap the foam can go up into the brush and then you're washing out bubbles forever. I combat this by applying the soap to the ends and working it while the brush is still dry to minimize foam, and then when it hits water cease working the soap altogether and just rinse well. The slight inconvenience of getting it rinsed well is so worth it for me because this brush is one of my favourites both of the Real Techniques line and in general. 

The Starter Set has five brushes in it: Deluxe Crease Brush, Base Shadow Brush, Accent Brush, Pixel Point Eyeliner Brush, and Brow Brush. 

The Deluxe Crease Brush is another favourite of mine. It's basically a mini round kabuki brush, dense yet soft, about the size of the tip of an average ring finger. Use it for blending concealer or cream base over the eyelids, or for packing eyeshadow on the lid or in the crease. I have used it for blending powder shadow in the crease but it works best for me with cream products. Same note applies for cleaning this brush as for the Buffing brush. 

The Base Shadow brush is a fluffier brush, but it's tapered and set in a flattened ferrule so it can also be used for placing colour. It's a little less dense than the others, so it's perfect for blending shadows on the lid or in the crease, and also for a softer application on the lower lid with the pointed tip. It can also be used for blending or smoothing very creamy bases on the lid, but not really for buffing them in. I just reach for this brush all the time because it's also very easy to spot clean and dries quite quickly. 

The Accent brush is a great, fairly stiff, tiny, flattened brush with a rounded edge. I've used it to apply a thick liner, again either cream or powder, and then buff it out for a smoky line on both the upper and lower lids. It's also great for placing shadow in the outer 'V', as well as highlight in the inner corner, pretty much any precise work. I've also used it for softly filling in brows for that devil-may-care thick brow look that's very popular these days, and I use it to apply gel liner to both my waterline and tight line. 

The pixel point liner brush isn't good for uber thin eye liner but it does apply a beautifully clean, thick line without too much need for filling in. It's also great for pin point concealing, lining the lower lashline, and for smoothing out lip liner. 

The brow brush is a bit big for fine brow work, but if you have or want thicker brows it's great, especially when used to set any pencil or gel/wax brow product with powder. I also use it if I want a precise nose contour or to help me define the crease for cut crease looks, and for applying shadow to the lower lash line. It can also be used to clean up the lip line. 

After having these brushes for about six months I got another of each set. And then recently I bought yet another of each and also some other single brushes: a Powder Brush, a Setting Brush, a Blush Brush, an Expert Face Brush and a Fine Liner Brush. 


The picture of the Powder brush is deceptive. This brush is HUGE and a bit more flared out than it looks. It is dense and thick but so very soft. It's an amazing powder brush, and because it's dense it stands up to pressing powder into the face so as not to disturb any cream products in the face, as well as to buffing the powder in. It's so big and soft that it can also be used for just smoothing everything together and blending everything in at the very end. 


The Setting Brush is a larger version of the Base Shadow Brush, also tapered a bit, but a rounder. It's more loosely packed than the Contour and Powder brush, and is perfect for setting the under eye and t-zone area with a fine layer of powder. It can be used for all the applications as the Contour brush, but because it's looser it applies product much more lightly which is great if you  have a tendency to overdo it or if you want to build up product in light layers. This is another brush that I must always have on hand. After getting one and using it just once I immediately bought another one. 


The blush brush is also a bit bigger than you'd expect from the photo. It's tapered and again, a bit more loose than the Contour or Powder brushes. But when I say they're loose, I don't mean that they're flimsy at all. All the Real Techniques brushes stand up to what I call the "press-test", where you put them on their heads against your finger or the palm of your hand and try to press the bristles down toward the ferrule. They don't collapse even when you apply a fair amount of pressure. The blush brush is great for applying blush and achieving that diffused glow to the cheek. If you use the tip to place the blush gently and then press to splat the brush out more and work the product, it helps blend flawlessly. It can also be used for setting powder, powder contour and highlight. The only thing I'll say about this brush, and the Setting brush, is that I wouldn't use them with cream products just because they are more loosely packed so they don't stand up really well to creams. That, however is a personal thing because of course, once again, they're synthetic, so by all means it you want to use them for creams you absolutely can


The Expert Face Brush is a rounded buffing brush with short, tightly packed bristles. It's probably the most tightly packed of all the ones I have. It's smaller than the Buffing brush, and it has an oval shaped ferrule. Like the Buffing brush, it's excellent for applying cream and liquid moisturizers, primers, bronzers, contour and foundations. It works the product into the skin beautifully. I wouldn't, however, use it for powders because of its shape, but once again that's a personal preference. But it's definitely a great base brush. 


And finally, the Fine Liner brush is a must have simply because it is so fine and yet dense. It keeps its shape really well and allows you to apply the most crisp fine or thick line, and can also make the perfect winged liner. It also allows you to get right into your corners to elongate the eyes or point the inner corners of the eye. 

If you've read this far thank you for enduring my exhaustive rave about the Real Techniques Brushes that I've used and have in my collection! These brushes would be worth every penny if they were expensive, but the beautiful thing is that they are super affordable. Having bought so many brushes from different places at different times I can honestly say that the quality is great and very consistent. I recommend these brushes for anyone, whether you're just starting out or you're a pro. If you are a pro you'll still need all your other brushes, but these are a fantastic addition to your collection, and for those non-pros these brushes just might be all you need! The fact that there isn't a huge selection of different shapes put me off at first, but each brush is such a brilliant multitasker that there really isn't much need for that many more shapes. I would like to see a brush loosely packed like the Setting and Blush brushes but halfway between their sizes. I'd also like a fluffy blending brush. I know there's one in the duo-fibre collection but those are the only brushes I request for the original permanent line! 

Kudos to Sam Chapman again. These truly are incredible brushes!

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