Brushes are made from many hair materials such as
red sable (from the tails of the Kolinsky or Red Tartar
marten); black sable (wood marten or stone marten);
ox hair (from the ears of oxen); camel hair (from squir-
rels, ponies, or goats—not camels!); fitch hair (Russian
fitch or skunks); badger hair (from Turkish or Russian
badgers); goat hair (back and whisker hair); and many
varieties of artificial hair made from plastic filaments.
The best type for make-up brushes for most uses are
those made from the best of the red sable hairs because
they have better spring and workability (Figure 5.2).
Bristle brushes are different from hair in that hair
has a single, individual natural point, while bristle
has multiple natural tips or flags and also has a taper.
This taper gives natural bristle brushes (such as those
used for eyelash or eyebrow brushes) certain working
qualities over any of the plastic bristle brushes. Bristle
comes from hogs or boars, and the best comes from
the back strip of older animals. Good real bristle brushes
are difficult to find in today’s plastic world.
Proper construction of a make-up brush from red
sable hair for professional use is also important. The
length-of-the-hair out of the ferrule (LOOF) must be
combined by the best ferrule metal, and the hairs must
be secured tightly in the ferrule. Handle length is also
important so that brushes can be easily stored in a
make-up kit. Although steel, copper, and aluminum
are often used for making ferrules, seamless, nickle-
plated brass is best because the hairs can be perma-
nently heat sealed in a material known as Nylox, which
is quite insoluble in solvents such as acetone, alcohol,
and so forth. As such, the hairs stand up to repeated
cleanings in RCMA Studio Brush Cleaner without fall-
The length of the hair out of the ferrule controls
the flexibility, snap, and painting quality of the brush
that has been dipped in a material for use. Those for
oil-wax products should be of shorter hair length, while
those for spreading water-based products should be
somewhat longer. A slight fraction of an inch too much out of the ferrule will make a lip brush too pliant or
an eyecolor brush too stiff for best application.
Brushes designed for the fine arts where artists paint
with heavy oils or with watercolors are not good for
applying the waxy cremes or heavily concentrated wet
or dry colors of make-up materials. A brush that is
about 7 inches overall is best for make-up use and fit
in the kit, and a walnut-finished handle adds to the
professional look of the brush.
Both round and flat brush styles are used, and the
following chart provides the brush sizes employed by
many make-up people. Incidentally, the higher the
number, the larger the brush size in number of hairs
employed in its manufacture.
Artificial plastic bristle brushes (for brows and lashes)
work almost as well as natural bristle brushes, but there
is also a trend toward making application brushes from
less expensive filaments. One is called Golden Fibrilon,
and it has been found to be almost as efficient as the red
sable type. There are also some foamed sponge tip appli-
cators for eye products, but these are for personal use
only and cannot be cleaned or sterilized for make-up
It is also well to avoid the large IV2- to 2-inch wide,
long-handled soft camel hair brushes that are mer-
chandized for dusting on blush or powder products.
First, they are difficult to clean between uses, and
next, a smaller brush for blush and a puff for powder
are far better for control. Many pseudo-make-up per-
sonnel appear to be making fancy incantations and
performing miracles with the flying camel hair dusters,
but the overall effect in the end is minimal—often
matching their talent.