I bought my Make Up For Ever medium smudger brush #238 last year out of curiosity. None of the eye shadow brushes in my collection looked anything like this flat blunt one, and I was intrigued by the idea of using this shape for smudging color under the lower lashes, where I typically use smaller, narrower brushes, from the old version of NARS #15 to various Hakuhodo favorites, or whatever is lean and within reach. The potential of creating a more graphic yet somewhat diffused line in one fell swoop seemed very attractive, and I was curious to see what other uses can find for this brush.
One of the things I've discovered since I started using this brush is that my lower lashes are so thick that there's very little space for a brush to move under them. It's never been a problem before, because I've always used smaller thinner brushes. Make Up For Ever 238 is massive in comparison, and is definitely thicker. I can do the lash work with it, but I can't say I enjoy it, especially since I've been spoiled by various squirrel hair brushes, and MUFE #238 is much rougher on the under-eye area. In my opinion, this brush is much more suitable when you want to apply a very even coat of eye shadow on a relatively large lid area with minimum strokes. That's where the width and flat shape come in handy, and using feather-light strokes eliminates scratchiness.
Speaking of the brush's fibers, I can tell you that squirrel it ain't, but that's about it. The MUFE site doesn't give any details. My initial thought was that it's too rough to be synthetic, but this blurb on Sephora's site claims otherwise:
"The 100-percent fiber brushes are available in a range of 76 handcrafted styles, each with the perfect balance of straight and wavy fibers that replicate natural hairs."
Also, it seems like MUFE has changed the brush slightly since I purchased mine. The info on the Make Up For Ever website says that the hair of the 238 is straight, while my brush clearly declares itself wavy, and it is, hence the increased volume and thickness (basically, it's like the stuff on my head). I wonder if the same brush with straighter hairs could be more suitable for my lower lashes. In any case, to give you an idea about the size of the 238 I compared it below to a classic Paula Dorf Glimmer Eye brush (the widest in the range) and to a modern favorite, the thick and soft Marc Jacobs concealer brush (I usually use it for cream eye shadow):
|See? That's one big brush.|
Eventually, I decided I wanted a similar yet smaller Make Up For Ever brush to fulfill the smudging promise. I checked one of the local Sephora locations, but they didn't have #256 in stock, so I ordered it online. This brush is actually an eyeliner brush, and has short stiff bristles. I like this type of brushes for tightlining and pushing color into the base of the lashes, and the particular shape of this brush (see how much shorter the bristles are compared to my ancient Sephora brush, and how wider it is next to the classic Smashbox one) makes it pretty efficient for smudging a gel pencil under the lower lashes. It's less effective with powder eye shadow (creams work better), but Make Up For ever offers several small precision brushes (216, 204, 210, 220, 212, 208, 202, 206) that would probably do the work beautifully.
Bottom Line: good brushes, but neither is an essential if you already have good alternatives. My shopping list, however, has grown.
Make Up or Ever Medium Smudger Brush 238 ($31) and Definer Eyeliner Brush 256 ($24) are made in Mauritius (that's interesting!). They're available from Sephora, makeupforever.com, and the brand's free-standing stores.