my MUA reviews: miscellaneous tools

  Makeup Brushes -Ecotools – retractable kabuki  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 4/6/2010 3:08:00 AM

Wonderful brush. So good I bought another. And a third. (Not being weird: I wash them frequently, and this way I don’t need to use my other brushes–that I don’t like as much–between washes.)
This is a short stubby fluffy kabuki, super-soft, entirely non-scratchy. In an aluminium base. Retractable. With an aluminium lid. Simple design, lightweight, portable whilst being fully functional. Washes like a dream, no shedding, dries well too (Dr Bronner unscented liquid castille soap + warm water, cool rinse, dry on its side).
Like other EcoTools brushes, it’s cruelty-free, made from synthetic hair and sustainable or recycled materials. Recyclable, same for the packaging. And cheap: not only is this the cheapest kabuki I’ve ever bought, I’ve bought far, far, far more expensive–astronomically expensive–brushes that were in a different league, in that they were nowhere near as good.
Uses: for buffing on finishing powder, on top of sunscreen and sometimes a dab of concealer.
Available online and in various shops; here in Canada, in London Drugs. Costs around CAD10.99.

Makeup Brushes -The Body Shop – Mineral Foundation Brush   rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 1/19/2010 2:53:00 AM

Fabulous short stubby brush, with very fine soft dense non-animal “hair.” Great for a quick dusting of pressed or loose powder, or – as intended – for mineral foundation. Can also be used for blusher. There is also a blusher brush in the same “Nature’s Minerals” series, that’s a bit smaller and slightly cheaper. As others have reported, no shedding. Washes and dries like a dream, too.
Great as it’s multi-purpose; also as it’s so soft and fine on the skin – can actually “buff on” makeup comfortably. This is a big deal on very sensitive skin, the sort that goes red, irritated, and has even been known to tear at the slightest provocation.
I’ve had at least one off and on for a while: it has a habit of getting lost or being borrowed. Yet always repurchased.
Costs CAD 26.00 + tax.

Misc Beauty Tools -Aveda – Large Paddle Brush  rated 3 of 5 gingerrama on 4/19/2009 3:34:00 PM

Bought this recently for two reasons:
(1) my beloved old Mason Pearson brushes finally died, after almost exactly 20 years’ faithful service for the big one and 18 for the handbag smaller version;
(2) they’d used this paddle brush on my hair whenever I was at an Aveda salon. I liked the feel of it and results.
It’s somewhere around 18-20 GBP/EUR/USD, which is more than many brushes, but not much more than other wooden ones that are untreated (the Aveda one is treated, so shouldn’t warp with water hitting it). Quality’s splendid. And it’s much, much cheaper than a replacement Mason Pearson boar bristle.
Decent results. Scalp feels stimulated. Hair is detangled, and stays that way. (Hair here: fine strands, lots of them, slightly wavy, does tangle if left to its own devices.) The brush feels very solid – indeed, it’s not exactly light, and I can see how a previous reviewer was able to use it as a hammer.
Ask me again in 20 years’ time, but for the time being, this is a winner. It’s also pretty, in a minimalist nice lines / beautiful materials way.
Like many other brushes, likely to last longer if washed regularly (every week or so), with lukewarm water and mild shampoo unless there are rubber bits, in which case just with water.
UPDATE: no need to ask be in 20 years’s time on this one. This lasted 4 months before breaking. Replaced with a similar-looking cheaper paddle brush. It also broke. Both money wasted. Returned to the Mason Pearson, this time the “Junior” size mixed boar bristle & nylon. Hair is noticeably softer and smoother, and hair loss less. Brush not broken yet, either… Will update the MP review in another 20 years’ time…

Makeup Brushes – Muji brushes  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 9/7/2008 1:54:00 PM

I can’t believe no-one’s bothered to review Muji’s like of makeup brushes yet. Or maybe it’s too obvious?
Muji, a Japanese-based company, make marvellous and beautiful minimalist products of all sorts: clothes, stuff for the house (from crockery to bedlinen and furniture), bags, above all storage and filing solutions. Oh yes, and very decent basic skincare and cosmetics. Much use of neutral colours, natural fabrics, and – in their various storage ranges – aluminium, light metal mesh, cardboard, opaque plastics and nylons, and perspex. If you like Ikea and Habitat, you’d probably like Muji.
They’ve been around for aaaages, including in Europe (I first met them in the UK in the mid-90s), but so far not seen in the US beyond modern art museum shops, more or less in the “contemporary classic design” section.
Intro over: amongst other things, they make superb make-up brushes. Theirs may have been the first brow/lash-brush/comb combo available in the UK. Beautifully and simply designed, as ever. Clear perspex handles of the perfect length, synthetic (soft, but durable) heads. Good and solid. Wash well. Thoroughly recommended.
Also on the makeup-assoctaed front: Muji have great foldable/standable-upable mirrors, of various sizes, in aluminium or a light white rigid nylon; also lots of small useful objects, especially for travel purposes. And myriad things into which to place, store, stash away, or display any objects of your choice. Including makeup.

Palettes -Aveda – Envirometal Compact  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 8/8/2008 7:29:00 PM

Excellent, sleek, light, durable aluminium compact. Brushed/matte finish, no scratching, decent catch (easy to open, but good at staying closed, and does each of these at the appropriate moment when you want it to…). There’s a magnet on the bottom to hold in any metal-pan-contained make-up, and a nice big mirror.
Three sizes:
(1) The “Total Face” version is rectangular, and takes up to 8 small 1″ squares (ex. eyeshadow), or 2 big 2″ squares (ex. pressed powder), or combinations of them and points between (ex. blusher or eyeshadow doubles, 2 squares long).
(2) The 16-square “Professional” version is twice the size, and square.
(3) The “Essentials” one is a smaller but thicker 4-square version + lipstick. Would take one pressed powder and a lippie, for evening titivation.
The Total comes with a mini-brush and an eyeshadow applicator, which may be jettisoned immediately. Don’t throw out the bit of greaseproof paper though – very useful for putting on top of powdery contents as it prevents them migrating and cross-pollinating.
Nice and slim, but deep enough to carry a small sponge, and a small good brush (ex. from Clinique blusher) just fits, with a bit of wiggling, into a 2-square “slot.” I’d also recommend cutting other favourite sponges down to fit.
All very environmental, being recycled and cutting back on future packaging, and durable. The Total costs EUR 19.00 / GBP 12.00 / probably something like USD 10.00-15.00… a little less for the Essentials, a little more for the Professional.
And of course you can fill it with whatever you like, so long as it’s 2 inches long max., square or rectangular, and inside a metal pan. I’ve seen other similar empty compacts around – ex. MAC – but not as solid or elegant.

Palettes -Aveda – Total Face Environmental Compact  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 8/8/2008 7:18:00 PM

Excellent, sleek, durable aluminium compact. Brushed finish, non-shiny, doesn’t scratch, and has a good catch (easy to open when you want it to, stays closed when you want it to, and not the other way round). There’s a magnet on the bottom to hold in any metal-pan make-up, and a nice big mirror.
There are three sizes currently available; this review is for the “Total Face” rectangular version that takes up to 8 small squares (ex. eyeshadow), or 2 big squares (ex. pressed powder), or combinations of them and points between (ex. blusher or eyeshadow doubles, 2 squares long). There’s also a 16-square version and a less slim 4-square + lipstick (would take one pressed powder and lippie, for evening titivation).
The Total comes with a mini-brush and an eyeshadow applicator, which may be jettisoned immediately. Don’t throw out the bit of greaseproof paper though – very useful for putting on top of powdery contents to prevent them migrating and cross-pollinating.
Nice and slim, but deep enough to carry a small sponge, and a small good brush (ex. from Clinique blusher) just fits, with a bit of wiggling, into a 2-square “slot.” I’d also recommend cutting other favourite sponges down to fit.
All very environmental, and durable. Costs EUR 19.00 / GBP 12.00 / probably something like USD 10.00-15.00…
And of course you can fill it with whatever you like, so long as it’s 2 inches long max., square or rectangular, and inside a metal pan. I’ve seen other similar empty compacts around – ex. MAC – but not as solid or elegant. 

Makeup Brushes -The Body Shop – Retractable Blusher Brush  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 5/16/2008 4:24:00 PM

Absolutely marvellous blusher brush. Soft, springy, no shedding. Artificial hairs (so no animal business).
Fantastic for the short-sighted -the short handle is great for the short-sighted, for applying makeup with glasses off, partly as that way I can see close-up really well – basically as well as a normal-sighted person using a magnifying makeup mirror.
Currently using this with Nars Orgasm, to many appropriate noises.
Costs EUR 17.50 – more than my previous blusher brush (Bourjois, good but not as soft and plush) but a lot less than comparable non-animal-hair (ex. Origins) ones or other brushes on the “open” – i.e. disregarding animal rights – market.

Makeup Brushes -Bourjois – Bronzing Brush   rated 4 of 5 gingerrama on 5/10/2008 9:17:00 AM

Good little brush. Tiny handle – great for the short-sighted, for applying makeup with glasses off, partly as that way I can see close-up really well – basically as well as a normal-sighted person using a magnifying makeup mirror.
Good with blush. It might have been made for the Bourjois hard-baked blushes: picks up colour really well, swirls nicely onto face, pleasantly soft (but firm enough to actually pick up this notoriously difficult blush). Flat base means it stands up well. I’ve had no shedding.
Bought (Ireland, April 2008) for EUR 7.60 – which has to make it one of the cheapest blusher/bronzer brushes around. Also, it’s ever so pretty.

Makeup Brushes – Marks & Spencer Mini Make-Up Brush Set  rated 4 of 5 gingerrama on 4/23/2008 8:41:00 AM

Excellent, elegant, solid, and amazingly cheap set of five mini, short-handled brushes. Been using them for maybe two years? Besides their travel use, as they have short handles these are great if, like me, you’re very short-sighted and apply make-up without glasses or contacts (because that way one can see really well up close – being, doh, the benefit of myopia).
The handles are clear plastic – rather like the Clinique brushes. The heads are attached with a short silvery metal section. The heads are blonde, don’t shed (or not perceptibly), and are non-animal but fairly soft. They are a little less soft to start with, but as with all such brushes, just deep-condition them then rinse and dry, and they’re nice and soft. Durable, and resist weekly washing very well. The brushes come in a resealable silver-backed package that could be used for storing them. The set comprises the following items:
– brow/lash brush/comb: one of the best I’ve ever used, though I use my lovely trust Rubie+Millie foldable metal comb for lash separation between coats of mascara. The handle is about 4″ / 10 cm long – all the other brushes have handles about 3″ / 7.5 cm long.
– blusher/powder brush: head about 2.5 cm across and about 1 cm thick. Useful for pressed powder. Amongst other things. Not as good as my Body Shop retractable blush/bronzer brush (very soft and lovely).
– smaller brush: about 0.5 cm across, nominally for eyeshadow application. I’ve used this for painting corners in ceilings 🙂
– smaller still: about 0.2 cm across, nominally for lips. I use it for concealer.
– and, as ever in such sets, the duff eyeshadow applicator spongy thing whose top falls off: basically useless.
For a set to have 3/5 useful brushes is pretty good. As it costs GBP 1.00 or EUR 1.50 (yes, that’s right), one can afford to buy several sets. This is worth doing for the first two brushes alone. So as to have multiple lash/brow brushes in one’s bags – particularly in case airport security decide one’s metal lash comb is a hazard (this decision is, in my experience, entirely haphazard). And as the powder/blusher brush is a multi-purpose wonder. Great for dusting and some fins brush-work of a non-cosmetic nature – cheaper than actual paintbrushes.
Thoroughly recommended. Plus Marks & Spencer has good ethical credentials, for what that’s worth. They also do two other travel brush sets with short handles, that might be of interest to other short-sighted people out there. There’s a great mini brush set in the Autograph collection, for GBP 20.00 / EUR 30-ish. Black handles, four brushes, no lash/brow one, but 4/4 on usefulness: blush, powder, foundation, blender. There’s also a 7-brush travel set (GBP 15.00 / EUR 22-ish) that’s mainly assorted small-head brushes – not so useful for my minimal purposes, but might be very useful for shading, highlighting, and generally more sophisticated make-up.

Misc Beauty Tools -Tweezerman – Metal Eye Lash Comb  rated 4 of 5 gingerrama on 3/16/2008 6:27:00 PM

The version here is short, in clear plastic, with a comb of fine gilded teeth that tuck into the handle and can be folded out. Calls itself “ILash.” I lusted after it for months (thank you MUA for the lemming of all lemmings), then bought it online.
The T-man is good, but not that good. The handle could be a little thicker, more stable and comfortable. The head is too floppy, and can only be tightened up a little bit with mini-screwdrivers. The whole contraption feels somewhat flimsy – a worry, when doing something dexterous right next to eyes.
Whilst gnawing my knuckles over my craving, I had bought another version of the folding metal-toothed comb (Ruby + Millie – see review). I’ve also used non-folding plastic lash combs for many years, before hearing about the joys of metal.This gives me some standards of comparison. Still completely subjective, obviously.
I reckon that the metal combs are way better than the plastic ones, and foldable ones are fab. But I rate the R+M above the T-man: for performance, usability, and solidity of construction. It’s also easier to clean – the comb is just stainless steel, and the teeth ever so slightly thicker, so more durable without sacrificing much in the finesse of lash-separating action. I’d found the T-man’s teeth start losing their gilt with the very first clean, and bend. Aside from the general floppiness issues.
Any of the metal-toothed combs clean well and thoroughly with basic alcohol. The steel ones can also be cleaned with simple detergent first, along with other brushes, say once a week.
Cost GBP 7.00 + shipping.
Verdict: a general yes for metal-toothed folding lash combs – but not this particular model. I’ve seen other Tweezerman ones in the US that were plain stainless steel, and looked more convincing than this one. And I’d recommend the (more expensive) Ruby + Millie one, if you’re in the UK or Ireland.

Misc Beauty Tools -Ruby & Millie – Folding Brow & Lash Comb  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 11/14/2007 12:26:00 PM

Folding tool comprising a small spiral brush at one end and a fine-toothed metal comb at the other; both ends fold in to the plastic case, where there are neat little hollows specially for them. Forming a neat little package about 8 cm x 1 cm (3″x1/2″). Came from Boots. It was free, due to my accumulation of points 🙂 – would have been GBP/EUR11.00 – and also comes as part of a kit, accompanied by eyelash curlers (GBP/EUR20.00 ish?).
Pros: Gorgeous separation of lashes with the metal comb. I mean, wow. Fantastic. No plastic comb comes close – I’m a skeptic when it comes to hype, but – wow.
The hollow that the comb-end came out of is great for resting your finger against/into, for greater stability. That’s a good bit of design.
Due to the teeth being stainless steel, it’s dead easy to clean and very solid. I later bought the legendary Tweezerman, and prefer R&M.
The spiral brush is fine; takes a while to get used to its opening mechanism, but I love it now.
I was initially sceptical of how solid the whole contraption is. Scepticism gone. It’s solid. Again, this was under comparison to the Tweezerman, once I bought that (online).
No cons!!! One very happy bunny here.

Makeup Brushes -The Body Shop – Brow and Lash Comb  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 11/2/2007 7:33:00 PM

Excellent version of a necessity for those of us who cannot even imagine life without mascara. This was the first brow & lash I ever bought, a very long time ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. I recently purchased one of the “new and improved” ones, and am delighted.
Along the way, I also had one from Muji that was ace (but was broken in a baggage manhandling incident). Two from Boots and Tescos that fell apart rapidly – tiny teeth, head glued on and fell off, thin slippy handle. A lovely one from MAC that tragically drowned in a toilet. And a fab sturdy one from a Marks & Spencer mini travel brush set, currently living in the swimming/weekend travel makeup bag: short, with a transparent plastic handle. The Tweezerman sounds intriguing, albeit potentially lethal.
But the Body Shop lash & brush: non-slip handle (like those nice pens), tapering down to the head; very solid construction; the brush side’s bristles are fine, and the comb end’s teeth and fine enough without sacrificing durability. It feels as good quality as the MAC version, for much less money. Looks rather like it too – minimalist, chic, black, slinky.

Hair Styling Tools -Mason Pearson – Pure Bristle Brush  rated 5 of 5 gingerrama on 10/24/2007 12:09:00 PM

UPDATE: They both died. The large one lasted nearly 20 years (minus 1 month and 10 days), the little one 18. The rubber pad finally died. Went over the course of about a month, then rapidly, and the bristles fell out. Can’t justify the expense of replacing them right now – saw the cost and nearly fainted – but their temporary replacements are doing wery well: an Aveda paddle brush and a similar mini version from the Body Shop. Will update on them later … say, in another 20 years’ time. If they don’t last till then, or aren’t good enough, I’ll repurchase the Mason Pearsons immediately of course.
UPDATE TO UPDATE (2010): paddle brushes just don’t work as well on my hair. Plus the Aveda one broke, fast. Repurchased both Mason Pearsons, this time the mixed boar/nylon. Happiness resumed.
Yes, they’re expensive hairbrushes; but that might just be because they’re good and last forever. It’s an investment. The pure bristle one is supposed to be more suitable for fine to normal hair, and finer long hair. Thicker hair – bristle and nylon mix. Hair that’s really rather thick indeed – nylon. Aside from the practicality of the smaller ones for handbag or travel, one is supposed to go for a longer handle and larger head the longer one’s locks happen to be. For more info on all that, see here.
I have had the “small extra” (medium head, 7 rings of bristles, full-length handle) since 1989. The only wear and tear is some scratching to the back, and the disappearance of the gold from the embossed lettering on the handle. All else works fine. I haven’t used it for a while, as it works better with long hair and my hair is currently short/growing out.
I also have the “pocket” (small head, 5 rings of bristles, shorter handle). Bought in 1991, as a bag-brush. Similar condition to the Handy. It worked fine on longer hair (was down to elbows) though obviously that took a bit longer to brush than with the slightly larger brush. It’s still great on shorter (chin-length) hair.
What’s so good about these brushes? Scalp massage. The even distribution of oils down the hair-shaft. Soft, shiny, smooth hair. These brushes actually help hair condition, unlike many others that hinder it. Hairbrushing incidentally becomes an enjoyable and relaxing activity, what between the tingly scalp and the silken strands.
The brushes come with small square handle-less cleaning brushes, with long nylon bristles. Very useful – mine is cleaned with comb + that small brush at least once a week. I’d also recommend cleaning your brush with water about every couple of weeks, and letting it air-dry. Not shampoo or other detergents. Well, if you do it once or twice the brush probably won’t die. Cleaning is fun as water accumulates under the squeezable cushion + small hole at end of brush = water-pistol joy.
These brushes do come with a couple of warnings attached. As other reviewers have noted, it’s not a good idea to mix the bristle brushes with oily or siliconey products, and maybe be wary of using them around various other styling products. Partly to do with the natural bristles, partly to do with the rubber backing (think condom + baby oil…). So this is a brush for a more natural look and minimalist hair-care regimen. More info on all that – the Mason Pearson main site:

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