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MAC Brush Reviews

Please note that these reviews are my personal thoughts and opinions and nothing more.

I've made a note at the end of each review about the materials used in the brush, from MAC product information. This is for those who are looking to avoid brushes made with animal products. It is worth noting that MAC claims to use only hairs that are trimmed and groomed from live animals, not hairs collected from slaughtered animals.

I've also included some approximate measurements (when available) for each brush to give you an idea of scale. In the brackets with the materials info, I've included the maximum length of the fibers and the approximate width of the widest part of the head of the brush.

I've left off a few Pro brushes that I haven't seen in person. I've also left off some brushes that are no longer available from MAC.


FACE:

102 Brow Comb Brush
This is a very standard brush for grooming the brows (and lashes) -- a toothbrush-shaped brush on one side and a plastic comb on the other. While this is a useful brush, I don't feel that the MAC version is particularly extraordinary or worth the high price tag. If you need a brush like this, you can buy a drugstore version for a couple of bucks that will serve you just as well. [synthetic fibers]


109 Small Contour
This is a very small, soft brush that I find useful for buffing on powder products with some precision. I like this brush for getting Studio Fix or other powders into tight spots, like around the nose. It also lends itself readily to contouring. I don't think that this is a must-have brush, but it can be useful. [goat hair, 29mm long by 23mm wide]


116 Blush Brush
Try to say "blush brush" ten times fast! This is a compact blush brush, soft and full-fibered. I think this brush is plenty nice, but I have found far cheaper blush brushes at the beauty supply store that suit me just as well. [goat hair, 33mm long by 28mm wide]


129 Powder/Blush Brush
This brush is a bit larger and less soft than the 116, and is recommended for powder and/or blush. Personally, I don't think it's big and fluffy enough for powders, or dense and targeted enough for blush (but tastes vary). This is another brush that many other companies make for a lower price. [goat hair, 40mm long by 35mm wide]


136 Large Powder Brush
This is a big, soft powder brush. It's a wonderful fluffy brush, I just want to sit around and pet it! It applies powder very smoothly and it's easy to just get a sheer coating because the hairs are so soft. But the price is extremely high -- at US$62, it is the most expensive consumer brush that MAC sells! As much as I'd like to say that it's a must-have, the price is a huge detractor for me. [goat hair]


150 Powder/Blush Brush
What's the difference between this and the 136? The 150 is a bit larger, less fluffy and soft... and twenty dollars cheaper. I prefer a super-soft powder brush, so this this one is a little stiff for my tastes. It's extremely similar in size, shape, and texture to an $8 powder brush I bought at my local beauty supply. [goat hair, 48mm long by 45mm wide]


162 Small Angled Contour
The first time I saw this brush in person, my immediate thought was, "This brush is much smaller than I'd imagined!" This is a precise contouring brush, capable of heavy application of powder products onto a very specific area. It's a very stiff and dense brush, and I just don't think that many people would have a regular use for it. [goat hair]


168 Large Angled Contour Brush
This is definitely one of my all-time favorite brushes! Forget those fluffy dome-shaped blush brushes... this brush is fabulous for applying color to the cheekbones (and anywhere else)! I use this daily for blush and/or bronzer. The size and angle lend it readily to contouring and more precise application... but it's still soft enough to make application look natural. [goat hair, 30mm long by 28mm wide]


180 Small Buffer Brush
This brush is a flat-topped buffing brush. A buffer is useful for applying or blending powders on the face -- when used with small circular motions, it can make powders look more natural. I like this brush for buffing off excess powder, and for blending shimmery products into any powder already applied. But for applying in a buffing style, I prefer a fluffier dome-shaped kabuki-style brush... which MAC doesn't make (but many other quality brands do). [goat hair, 22mm long by 42mm wide]


187 Stippling Brush
This brush is a miracle with any product that you don't want to over-apply, like bronzers and shimmery powders. When you whisk this across (or into) a powder, the silky white fibers pick up a bit of the product. Then you gently move the tips across the skin (it feels feather-light and a little tickly), and it applies a sheer amount of the product. Some people even like this for applying liquid foundations! This is another brush that's not a must-have, but is definitely useful and fun. [goat hair and synthetic fibers, 40mm long by 35mm wide]


190 Foundation Brush
If you wear foundation, this brush is a staple. You can use this with liquid, creamy, or powder foundations for a smooth and even finish. This can even be used with moisturizer and creamy products like the Cream Colour Bases. Must-have! [synthetic fibers, 30mm long by 22mm wide]


192 Cheek/Face Brush
This is a brush similar in size and shape to the foundation brush (it's more narrow), designed for applying the same sorts of products. I find this brush to feel more plastic-like than the 190, and I think the other one is nicer and more versatile. [synthetic fibers, 29mm long by 16mm wide]


194 Concealer Brush
This brush looks like a tiny foundation brush, and is designed for applying concealer. It's very small, with a pointy tip that works well for targeted application. Cute and useful, though other brushes can serve double-duty as a concealer brush. [synthetic fibers, 16mm long by 7mm wide]




EYE:

202 Replaceable Sponge Tip Applicator
I just can't imagine spending a bunch of money on a sponge tip applicator! This is a somewhat nicer version of the applicators available in many eyeshadows, on a longer handle with a replaceable tip. I'd rather buy the cheap disposable ones at the beauty supply, or use the dozens that have come with products from other brands! [sponge, 13mm long]


204 Lash Brush
This is basically a long-handled mascara wand. Useful for grooming and applying products to brows and lashes. Again, you can buy disposables for a far lower cost (or ask for a couple of freebies at a department store counter). [synthetic wand, 25mm long]


206 Brow Groomer
Another toothbrush-style brow brush -- the main difference between this one and the 102 is that this one is of natural fibers and the other is synthetic. Again, I can't see spending this much on a very run-of-the-mill style of brow brush. [animal fibers]


207 Duster Brush
A flat, soft fan brush. I mostly use a duster for removing excess powder from the face. I have found equally decent ones for $5 at a beauty supply store. [goat hair, 29mm long by 43mm wide]


208 Small Angled Brow
If you do anything with your brows, you need this brush! It's my top favorite brow brush and does a great job filling and defining the brows. This is a small and fairly firm brush, and could also be used for lining. [animal and synthetic fibers, 7mm long by 6mm wide]


209 Eyeliner
If you need a small and pointy eyeliner brush, here's your brush. I generally prefer flat liners (angled or straight), but a traditional pointy brush definitely has its place. [synthetic fibers, 8mm long by 2mm wide]



211 Fine Point Pencil
This is brush that's a cross between the 209 Eyeliner and the 219 Pencil Brush (see below). It's bigger than the 209, but similar in shape and style -- it can be used as a medium-point liner, or to soften and blend eyeliner. I like the stiffness and point on this brush. [synthetic fibers, 13mm long by 4mm wide]


212 Flat Definer
This is a flat liner brush -- very firm with a thin edge. Many people find it easier to make a continuous line next to the lashes with a brush like this instead of a pointy liner. This brush is very much like the 263 or 266 angled lining brushes, but flat instead of angled. I don't think you need both styles, so figure out which seems more comfortable and useful to you. [synthetic fibers, 7mm long by 19mm wide]


213 Fluff Brush
I think I own 7 of these (two full size and several in palettes). This is a traditional fluffy eyeshadow brush. It's great for applying a light-to-moderate amount of eyeshadow (it doesn't work as well for bold looks). I also find that it handles frosty shades well, and can be used to do light blending of colors. It can be used to buff eyeshadows on sheerly. [pony hair, 11mm long by 10mm wide]


217 Blending Brush
This brush is more for shading and blending than application. This brush can soften the lines between colors, or add a little more color to an area (the white goat hairs are stiffer and more densely packed than the ones in the 213, so they pick up and apply more color). Because of the longer shape, you can also use this brush as a crease brush (though others are more suited to the task). [goat hair, 16mm long by 10mm wide]


219 Pencil Brush
This is a super-firm brush for precise shading and definition. You can use it for a very defined crease, to get into corners, or even for smudgy lining (or smudging existing liner). The tip is pointy but still a little rounded. [goat hair, 10mm long by 6mm wide]


222 Tapered Blending
This is my favorite brush for filling and defining the crease of the eye. The white goat hairs are soft but dense and firm, and readily apply product precisely. This brush also does a great job of blending. Must-have! [goat hair, 21mm long by 8mm wide]


224 Tapered Blending Brush
This is the standard super-fluffy blending and crease brush that MAC includes in most of its mini brush sets. It's long and somewhat soft, and lends itself readily to a "windshield wiper" motion that easily shades the crease. You can also use the tips for buffing and blending. Of all of the crease brushes, I love the 222 above all others. The 224 is a little less precise and firm, and can easily spread shimmer and powders around the eye. If you just want one... get the 222. [goat hair, 21mm long by 11mm wide]


225 Tapered Blending Brush
The 225 is basically a larger version of the 224 -- a long, fluffy blending brush. I find this brush too large for any regular uses in the eye area, and almost exclusively use it for applying powder products to hard-to-reach areas of the face (like around the nose). [pony hair, 25mm long by 18mm wide]


228 Mini Shader Brush
This is a tiny little brush! This brush is great for very precise eyeshadow application, but I've found plenty of other uses for it! This brush applies concealer (powder, cream, or liquid) quite well. It also smudges liner nicely. I've even dampened it with a tiny bit of makeup remover and used it to clean up mascara and eyeliner mistakes! [pony hair, 8mm long by 7mm wide]


231 Small Shader
Another tiny shader, but very different from the 228. This one is very stiff and tapered, picks up plenty of product, and applies with precision. It has more in common with the concealer and lip brushes than any other eye brush, and can actually be used for either of those purposes. It's perfect for lining with paints, and for applying Cream Colour Bases precisely to the eye area. Great with wet or dry products, and very nice for lining with the Fluidline gel liners. [synthetic fibers, 6mm long by 6mm wide]


239 Eye Shading Brush
This brush is great for applying and blending bold eyeshadow looks. The dense white goat hairs in this brush pick up plenty of product and apply it thickly and precisely (unlike fluffier brushes). I can get very bright, bold, dense applications with this brush. However, the angled version of this brush, the 272, is almost identical but even more useful because of the angled shape. I love both, but if you have to pick one... get the 272. [goat hair, 10mm long by 10mm wide]


242 Shader Brush
This is my staple brush for applying paints, and that's 99% of what I use it for! But I use it just about daily, because it applies a great even and thin layer of any paint as a base. And it's thin enough at the tip that I can use it to apply paint in tight corners and under the lower lashes. Other uses for this brush include application of pigments and eyeshadows, and shading in small spaces. [pony hair and synthetic fibers, 12mm long by 10mm wide]


249 Large Shader
This is shaped like a larger version of the 242, but it's significantly different. This is an all-synthetic brush with a very different "feel," and it lends itself readily to applying products like Cream Colour Bases to the lids. [synthetic fibers]


252 Larger Shader Brush
This one is just like the 242, only larger. It can be used in the same ways... but because of the larger size, I find it less useful. I think the 242 is more versatile, and you really don't need both. [goat hair, 16mm long by 14mm wide]


263 Small Angle
Here's a great angled lining brush, super-thin and great for precise lining with creme liners, eyeshadows, or pigments. The main difference between this and the 266 brush is in thickness -- the 263 is much skinnier than the 266 (and for this reason, I like it better). As I mentioned with the 212 flat liner, you probably really only need one liner like these. [synthetic fibers, 9mm long by 7mm wide]


266 Small Angle Brush
Another angled liner, a bit thicker than the 263. The same sorts of uses apply to this one -- lining and defining the eyes. You could also use this for the brows, but I prefer the 208 brush for that purpose. [ox hair and synthetic fibers, 8mm long by 6mm wide]


269 Medium Angle
This is a larger version of the 263 brush. I'm perfectly happy with the smaller size, and never saw any reason to purchase this one. [synthetic fibers]


272 Small Angled Shader
This brush is my absolute favorite brush for eyeshadow application. If you haven't noticed, I'm very fond of the brushes made of white goat hair -- I find them very soft but dense, and they pick up and apply plenty of product. This brush is very much like the 239, but I love the angled shape for getting into corners. This brush goes with me everywhere. It applies bold looks readily, and blends and shades nicely. If I had to get rid of every other eye brush in my collection, this is the one I'd keep. [goat hair, 12mm long by 10mm wide]


275 Medium Angled Shading Brush
This brush is an angled version of the 213 -- a fluffy and full brush that lends itself readily to more sheer applications of eyeshadow. It's also great for blending. I really like angled brushes, because they're comfortable to hold and useful for getting into corners. [pony hair, 13mm by 11mm]




LIP:

306 Lip
A flat-tipped lip brush for applying or blending lipsticks and lipglosses. Whether to use a flat or rounded lip brush is up to personal needs and tastes -- a squared-off brush like this one is good for very precise application, while the rounded tip can feel more natural. [synthetic fibers]


311 Lipliner Brush
This is like a tiny lip brush, specifically designed for precise application of lipstick (or eyeliner, or anything else you want a very small flat brush for). I usually line with a pencil and find the regular lip brush precise enough for applying lipstick in corners and along the edges. [synthetic fibers]


316 Lip Brush/Covered Brush
Here's your standard rounded-off flat lip brush. A staple in every beauty case. And it's great that this one is covered -- it doesn't make a mess after use, and you can even load it up with color before you go out somewhere for touch-ups on the go! [synthetic fibers, 7mm long by 5mm wide]


318 Retractable Lip
I had to buy this one -- it's totally a geek chic toy! This is a small purse-sized lip brush with a head much like the 316. But this one is mechanically retractable! You pull the two ends of the body apart and the brush emerges from one end. My one complaint about this brush is that the end where the brush comes out is open, even when the brush is retracted, so dust and dirt can get onto the brush when it's in your bag. However, if you save the plastic package that it comes in (or find a similar one), this can protect that opening much like a covered lip brush. If you have to have one lip brush... this is the one I'd suggest for sheer coolness and versatility. [synthetic fibers, 9mm long by 5mm wide]




IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING...
I own many of these brushes, but I do like brushes made by several other companies. I use a kabuki-style domed buffer brush from Bobbi Brown (called the "Face Brush") to apply my Studio Fix and face powders. I have several eye brushes from a company called Sinful Colors (available from many beauty supply stores or their website) that are significantly different from any MAC brushes and only cost a few bucks each. Sinful Colors also makes my cheap-but-decent powder brush. My favorite fluffy dense blending brush is a cheap brush from the Cover Girl Makeup Masters line. And I love the blush and contouring brushes from Alchemy Cosmetics... they have an angled blush brush (larger and more dense than the MAC 168) and a super-soft squirrel brush (for the apple of the cheek) that are fab. So brushes from other brands supplement my MAC collection.