Cheap drugstore hairbrushes made of plastic bristles can pull and break hair. Nothing beats a high-quality boar bristle brush, which you'll have for a lifetime. Because boar bristles have become so popular, they're popping up at some of the better drugstores these days. But they will cost you more than the plastic brushes. The $125 you'll spend on a Mason Pearson brush is one investment you won't regret (just don't tell your husband).
Makeup brushes are a good example of when synthetic can actually be simpler on your life. Synthetic brushes are easier to clean and easier to use with wet makeup than their much more expensive natural bristle cousins (which can come in pony, squirrel, goat or badger hair).
That said, cheap makeup brushes won't last nearly as long as well-made brushes. For this reason alone, I suggest investing in affordable brushes from Sephora, M.A.C. or Sonia Kashuk (available at all Target stores). These brushes aren't "cheap" but they won't break your bank, like my bevy of Trish McEvoy brushes broke mine years ago when I invested in them. Just as you a gourmand needs only three types of kitchen knives to cook like a chef, you need only 3-4 makeup brushes to get flawless makeup like a model.
Extra tip: Always throw out the tiny brushes that come with department store makeup. You'll get a much smoother, flawless finish with a professional makeup brush.
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