Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lip Brushes

This is the first installment of what is eventually going to be The Non Blonde's Epic Guide To Makeup Brushes. It will have a separate page on the blog and will also include a favorite brushes section. Today we're starting with lip brushes, mostly because a) it's important, and b) I didn't think that reviewing these brushes individually was worth the trouble.

Makeup brushes are often neglected. After all, it's so easy to apply a lipstick directly from the tube. Unless one is dealing with lip color in a pan, pot or a palette, it's possible to ignore this little instrument. Still, anyone who ever tried to apply a full coverage red or purple lipstick has probably discovered that having a lip brush on hand could have saved the day (and face).

A lip brush makes for an even and precise application. This is true for intense colors but also for your favorite natural "my lips but better" lipstick. An even thin layer of lipstick always looks better and more sophisticated than one applied with the bullet. It's the little details and crisp edges that make the look of a full coverage lipstick (sheer and glossy formulas are often meant to look a bit messy and modern, but even they can benefit from better application). Also, by applying lipstick in a couple of thin layers you improve its hold and staying power. Then there's mixing several shades and/or formulas- you absolutely have to use a brush when doing that.

Now, just about every brand under the sun offers lip brushes. However, depending on your particular need (coverage, defining), you can also employ just about any small brush including ones intended for eye liner, concealer, cream shadow and even small angled brushes. Don't be afraid to use natural hair brushes- just clean them well afterwards (I often use She Uemura face cleansing oil for stubborn stains and even a tiny drop of super gentle dish detergent like the ones by Caldrea or Mrs. Meyers).

Since I use several lip brushes every week I also make a good use of the built-in brushes that come with many lip pencils.  I keep using the brushes long after a particular lip liner falls from grace, simply because they work and I need them. They're often wider at the base and more precise at the tip than many a drugstore lip brush. Not that it's a bad idea to have several of those on hand, because once you make a habit of applying your lipstick with a brush you'll see you need more of them than you might have thought. Also, the only big disadvantage of many cheap lip brushes is their sturdiness, but that also happens to overpriced brand names (yes, Armani, I'm looking at you). On the other hand, one of the brushes in the top photo dates back to early 1996. It's French-made and I bought it at a professional studio all those years ago. The brush looks and performs as new.

Lip brushes come in several forms: regular, like the classic Paula Dorf one (silver handle), retractable (my favorite, because they are travel and makeup bag safe and there's no cap to lose), and ones with a cap that either fits into place at the opposite end of the brush, thus giving you more handle length (and stays put), or don't and then these caps tend to be picked by assorted house pets and disappear under hard to move appliances and furniture. It's up to you to choose ones that are comfortable and practical for your needs. Here are some of my favorites:

Paula Dorf- regular and retractable. Other than the handle, Paula Dorf's lip brushes are synthetic, almsot identical and good for reaching corners. They're great when you need crisp lines and definition.

Bobbi Brown- an excellent short head, long handle (the cap clicks into place at the "bottom" of the brush) and wide soft head that feels great and gives beautiful, even coverage.

Laura Mercier- another one with a cooperative cap, helps reach corners, fills my lip scar and covers it and gives crisp definition.

Hakuhodo Kokutan (E0194)- this is a beautiful natural  weasel hair brush with a flat head and a straight edge that gives both good coverage and precise lining.

Most brand names brushes cost around $20-$25. The Kokutan is more expensive because of its ebony handle, but please note that Hakuhodo actually has lip brushes in its other ranges, many for half the price.

All the brushes mentioned in this post were purchased by me, except the Laura Mercier that was a GWP a couple of years ago.

All the photos and contend are by Gaia Fishler, The Non-Blonde. If you see them anywhere else on the web other than this blog ( or or in its legitimate feed, it means my copyrights were violated by someone who really really sucks. Feel free to tell them so.


  1. Looks like the Kokutan will be my first expensive lip brush ;) I can't wait for the full brush guide.. it's going to be truly epic [and very dangerous for my bank account] haha WOO HOO!

  2. Have fun shopping, Rae! I can't wait to see what other brush you'll get.

  3. I have two lip brushes, and I've never used them... but I truly enjoyed your review.

  4. i truly, deeply agree with your thoughts regarding lip brushes, application is so much prettier and precise when using it. i have a lunasol retractable brush and i love it! :)

  5. Can't wait to see your epic brush review!!! Love following your blog and was just reviewing some of the brushes you own this weekend!! Waiting to see what's next in store!!!<3 #EXCITED

  6. My new favorite ELF STUDIO RETRACTABLE LIP BRUSH which everyone should own. It‘s a best cheap lip brush ever with only around 3$. The tapered tip makes it easy to fill in the corners of the lips easily and precisely. You can also line your lips using this one. The bristles are very soft and sturdy. Also, there was no shedding of the bristles after being washed. And it can be used with both wet and dry products. You can search for "", they give some really interesting review.


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