Small Duo Fiber Brushes - MAC, e.l.f., Real Techniques - Comparison and Thoughts

A while back, I decided I absolutely needed the MAC 188 small duo fiber brush. I'm not sure now what brought it about, but probably something seen on Youtube. It's expensive ($35), as MAC brushes are, though not outlandish compared to some brushes (the most expensive single brush I own though). It has long synthetic bristles that are super soft and shorter black goat hair bristles. It's marketed as useful for application and blending of basically.. anything. I find it too floppy to do much of those, I mainly use it for applying things I want a light hand with - super shimmery highlighters or strongly pigmented blushes. I've had a little success applying Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation with this, I got a sample of it recently because I'd heard the Alabaster shade was very pale. Doesn't quite work for me, but I was able to use the MAC 188 to apply it. It's a very thin and sheer consistency so it didn't need much blending power to make it work.

I think part of the allure of these brushes is their look, there's something seemingly elegant or special about them. Well, to me, at least. So it's no surprise I have more than one in this category of small duo fiber brushes. I bought the Real Techniques kit that came with a large rounded duo fiber Powder Brush, this smaller one labeled as a Contour Brush and a blending Eye Brush - all for $20 but I bought with some sort of discount, likely a 20% off coupon. The white synthetic bristles are a lot less soft/more firm and if you dip straight into a powder product it's pretty likely to stab out a lot of product. These also have fairly long bristles, I don't find it the best for blending anything that is tricky to blend. If you can pick up product with the brush without making a mess, it does work well for applying a rather subtle contour to your cheeks.

If you couldn't tell, I'm actually comparing both of the former brushes to this one - the e.l.f. Small Stipple Brush. It fills a gap in my collection that's been lacking for some time. I have some cream blushes that I rarely use because I don't have a good way of applying them. They're a little thick, sticky or dry and stuff - not easily blended using fingers. Using a synthetic buffing type of brush usually gives either too much product or smears everything when trying to blend. The e.l.f. brush has much shorter synthetic white bristles and overall is a much firmer brush. I had seen Emily from Beauty Broadcast (emilynoel83 on YouTube) use this brush for cream blush for ages, but I could never justify an order online just to get this brush. They do offer good codes regularly but require spending at least $15 to take advantage and I'm trying to avoid buying makeup for the sake of getting a good deal on it so I can get one item I want. So! I noticed they were stocking this brush at my local Target, finally picked it up a few weeks ago. 

I've been so pleased with how it performs with cream blushes. I've been using cream blushes almost every day since I got it! A couple that I'd been avoiding: NYX Cream blush in Boho Chic and NYX Stick Blush in Orchid. The cream blush is just thick and sticky, the stick blush is rather dry and stiff. I can take a few dabs into the cream blush and blend it out easily on to my cheeks. Several firm swirls on to the stick blush pulls enough product to apply to my cheeks and not take off the foundation underneath.

All three brushes have their uses, but I feel like the e.l.f. brush is such a great value at $3, especially if it helps you use products that are otherwise neglected because of difficulty in applying.

An honorable mention that doesn't quite slot into the small duo fiber brushes is the Real Techniques Stippling Brush. I've had some success applying liquid foundation with it when no other buffing brush has worked for me in over a year (foundation settling into pores, etc). It's like a bigger, denser version of the e.l.f. Small Stippling Brush but is still moderately sized and can get around my nose without too much trouble.

Have you tried any of these? How do you use them? Thanks for stopping by!