As with many tools, brushes in general receive less attention than the results of their usage. Brushes have been used since prehistoric times to apply pigment to walls, faces, bodies, and more, but very little history remains about the evolution of their materials. They are truly the invisible workmen of art and colour. It has been hypothesised that the very first brushes, used to paint onto cave walls, were sticks with frayed ends, or bundles of leaves, or wood shavings, but this is information pieced together. It is known that Ancient Egyptians used papyrus reeds with crushed ends for their hieroglyphics, but precious little knowledge exists about other cultures.
We do know that gradually over time, animal hair was introduced, mainly for paint and art, gradually making its way into the application of cosmetics. Before then, pigment was applied to the face with all number of implements, such as a hare’s foot for rouge (yes an actual foot of a actual hare), pieces of fabric or kidskin, or a stick for kohl. In 1785, a guild for brush-makers was set up in London, by which time the industry was highly respected, with long years of training, and sought-after artisans. Although the bulk of the brushes made were for artists (as they still are now), animal hair brushes rapidly became the norm for cosmetics, with camel hair, sable, or mink the most popular choices. And further East in Japan, Kabuki brushes, with their dense smooth bristles and short handles, were introduced as the perfect tools for applying the thick makeup of the actors of Kabuki theatre.
In the mid-19th century, the invention of metal ferrules (the bit below the bristles) allowed the creation of many new shapes and types of brushes, which had always been round until then. Similarly, synthetic bristles were introduced in the early 20th century, allowing for longer, hardier, and more hygienic brushes.
We have now reached the age when brushes are considered one of the most important components of making up. (Having said that, some of the brushes I have seen in my friends’ makeup bags make me want to weep. 12 years is too long to still be using a brush, Sara.) To the extent that I am seriously considering spending £65 on a super special foundation brush that promises me the world.
We can also find superb brushes for very little. The brushes from Real Techniques are simply incredible, and are super affordable, at about a third of the price of “luxury” brands.
The rate of invention in brushes and tools is amusing to watch. Every week, there is a new “tapered” shape, or a new sponge that has a special “pore structure” that is launched by someone. In general, I absolutely love these launches. The market is so thick with brushes now that they much be pretty special to attract attention.
Which brings us to these new brushes from MAC Masterclass.
There have been many reviews about these brushes. There is no denying it – they are different. The toothbrush-shape is new, and utterly unlike anything else out there. And thus it has attracted a lot of attention.
I have been dying to get my hands on them for a long time, as a result. I finally found them a couple of weeks ago (launches like this, which are a little under the radar, usually come quite slowly to Hong Kong, most unfairly), and have been trying them ever since.
Now guys, I know that you know that I don’t really put bad reviews up here, as, really, what’s the point? I would rather tell you about cool and good things than rubbish ones. However, I feel that these brushes need special attention.
I really really really wanted them to work. It makes so much sense, doesn’t it? Putting an eyeliner on sideways, instead of vertically. Finally, you can see while you are applying! And after all, they are from MAC, which usually doesn’t place a foot wrong with their brushes. When I first used them, I thought they were ok, but I just needed to practise.
Well, dear reader, I have practised. And practised. And I can now say, hand on heart, that these are rubbish. Patchy, scratchy, and cumbersome, they just don’t work. I have practised on myself, and on other people ad nauseam, and no matter how I use them, I need to blend and re-apply with another brush afterwards.
However, I must applaud MAC for coming up with them. One more step in the evolution of makeup tools. Rather like the amphibious bicycle of 1932 – a good idea, but rather pointless.