Review: Real Techniques Nic’s Picks brush set

Posted on October 23, 2014 under Reviews

Every beauty lover on a budget knows and loves Real Techniques brushes. They’re high-quality, cruelty-free synthetic brushes and they’re incredibly affordable considering how damn good they are. Like any good drugstore beauty fan, I’ve collected most of them over the past few years – so, of course, when I heard that Nic’s Picks was being launched with three new brushes, I reached out and prayed that a set would fall into my outstretched arms.

That is not exactly what happened. What actually happened is that I marched into Superdrug, saw that they were £30 (about $54 CAD), and turned right back around. Why is everything so expensive here? I cried silently.

When they were on offer for only £20 ($36 CAD), of course I snapped them up immediately. That’s only £5 ($9 CAD) per brush! And, given that I never managed to grab the LE Duo-Fiber set, the only brush I already owned was the Base Shadow Brush – which I use all the time and don’t mind having a backup of. (It’s my blending brush, and it’s always good to have a clean one of those on hand.)

The Real Techniques Nic’s Picks set comes with 5 brushes, 3 of which are exclusive to the set:

Duo-Fiber Powder Brush


Because this brush has bristles of varying lengths and is not very dense, it’s great for depositing colours that are quite pigmented. I tested it with bronzer (I’m fair and don’t like to overdo it!) and two blushes that I find veer into clown territory quite quickly. It was really great at diffusing all of these powders so that I ended up with just the right amount of pigment on my face. It’s also good for cream pigments, and it can be used to apply a light dusting of setting powder, though if you want a bit more coverage from your powder I’d go with a brush with denser bristles.

Best for: Diffusing pigments that are too strong when applied with a denser brush.

Cheek Brush (Set Exclusive)


I’ve been using the Multitask brush for my blush, but this Cheek Brush is smaller and therefore more precise. I think there’s room for me to use both a larger and smaller blush brush, so I’m glad I have this one. I can also see it being great for applying highlighter over larger areas or even contouring. It’s quite dense, which means it packs on colour quite well, so I probably wouldn’t use this brush with some of my more pigmented blushes. The slightly rounded shape means that this brush can blend colours as it goes. All in all, I’d say this is a really great blush brush that I will certainly be getting a lot of use out of.

Best for: Applying and blending cheek pigments over a medium-sized area – particularly blush and highlighter.

Angled Eyeshadow Brush (Set Exclusive)


The more eyeshadow brushes I collect, the less often I have to wash them. Thus, I am pleased to have this brush on principle alone. In practice, I find this is a true powerhouse. It’s great for sweeping colour all over the lid, but the angle that it’s cut at means you can also put colour into the crease. Finally, it’s fluffy enough that it can also be used to blend out crease colour. For anything very dramatic or precise I think you’d be better off using a smaller crease brush and a separate blending brush, but for a standard neutral eye look with a light colour across the lid and a matte brown in the crease, this one brush can be used for the entire look with great results. (Don’t worry, I tested this theory and it totally works!)

Best for: Everything. This one is a true multitasker!

Base Shadow Brush


Once again, I feel that this brush is a multitasker. I have one that I picked up in the Starter Set, and I love it for blending. However, it’s also great for putting colour all over the lid, and it works well as a concealer brush too. This is the only brush in the Nic’s Picks set that I already owned, but I know I will get a lot of use out of it. It’s a very solid and versatile eyeshadow brush – when would I not need more of those?

Best for: Personally, this is my favourite brush for blending, but it’s great as an all-over shadow brush too.

Eyeliner Brush (Set Exclusive)


I don’t use gel eyeliner that often, and when I do I apply it with a very fine pointed brush, or, more recently, the Real Techniques Silicone Liner Brush. However, I took this brush on a test drive and I was so impressed! It makes it really easy to push liner super close to the lashline, and perfect flicks have never been simpler. When I want winged eyeliner I tend to draw the wings with gel and then line my lashline with liquid, and I can definitely see this brush being my go-to wing brush. This was the brush I was most indifferent towards when I bought this set, but it has totally proven itself. For those of you who don’t use gel eyeliner, or who already have a gel liner brush you like, this one is exactly the right size and shape for brow wax (like Anastasia Dipbrow) or powder.

Best for: Making perfect winged eyeliner.

So, is it worth picking up Nic’s Picks?

In the end, the set is great quality, but whether or not it’s worth buying depends on how much utility you’ll really get out of the set.

Although it’s easy to get sucked in by a pretty design and a brand you love, it should go without saying that if there are 2 or more brushes in this set that you just won’t use, it’s probably not worth the price. On the other hand, if you think you’ll get use out of 4 or 5 of the brushes, it’d be foolish not to. Even at the original £30 price point, the set is amazing value for the number of brushes you get and the quality of those brushes. Plus, every single one of these brushes can be used for at least two things, so you really can’t go wrong with versatility!

If you’re a budget brush lover, I’d think long and hard about whether you want to ignore this set – because once it’s off the shelves, regret won’t do you any good. (I wouldn’t worry too much, though; I saw the Duo-Fiber set on shelves up until the beginning of this month!)

The Real Techniques Nic’s Picks brush set can be purchased in-store from regular Real Techniques retailers, or online from for $29.99 USD or equivalent in international currency.

(Note: if you’re based on the UK and can’t find them on offer, I’d recommend ordering them from the Real Techniques website – they’re only £18.66 + about £1.50 shipping as opposed to the £30 Boots and Superdrug are charging!)

Why start this blog?

Posted on October 20, 2014 under Thoughts

There are a lot of beauty blogs on the internet.

Creating a new one is sort of like shouting into the void. I suppose blogging in general is; it’s assuming that anybody wants to hear your voice, that you have anything to add to the mix.

I want this to be the beauty blog I always wanted to read. One day I realized that I could sit around waiting for someone to create the exact blog I’ve always wanted, or I could do it myself.* Considering that the first scenario seemed extraordinarily, overwhelmingly unlikely, well – here we are. Sometimes you really do have to be the change.

I am interested in cosmetics. I didn’t say “I like cosmetics”, because I think it goes beyond that. I’m interested in the cosmetics industry, in the function of cosmetics in the lives of individuals and in society at large. I’m interested in the marketing and consumption of cosmetics. And, on a more basic level, I just like buying lipstick and smearing things on my face. Sometimes it’s as simple as that!

I know the bad sides of the cosmetics industry. Most of us do, by now. It’s racist, it’s misogynistic, people get rich making women feel bad about ourselves. Hell, I’m even wary of beauty blogging and vlogging. What started out as a hobby has turned into a marketing tool for cosmetics companies. These things are real, and they are insidious.

But, of course, most things aren’t black and white. I worked in cosmetics, and it was the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve seen what makeup can do. I’ve seen the artistry, the creativity, the immense technical skill people possess. I’ve made people’s day simply by helping them pick out their perfect red. And, personally, I’ve gained a new set of skills, a hobby, and another tool I can use to express myself.

Perhaps some people use makeup to cover up their “flaws”, to hide, or to appeal to men. But there are so many of us out there who love the colours, the textures, the formulas. We love collecting knowledge, we love trying new things, we love putting red and green and gold on our faces. And I can’t speak for every other person who wears makeup, but I know that when I put dark purple lipstick on, I’m not hiding and I’m definitely not trying to appeal to any man. (I wouldn’t blame someone for doing that anyway, when it’s pushed on us that that is our value.)

I want this blog to be critical when that is required, but more than anything I want it to be bursting with my genuine love for cosmetics. I don’t want it to be another cog in the marketing machine; I want it to be engaging and genuine. I want my voice to be unmistakable. I want the feminism that permeates every aspect of my life to be present here.

Like I said, I want this to be the blog I was waiting for. I hope it’s one that you like too.

*This blog would not exist without the work of Aisling Brock, my very talented and exceedingly generous friend who designed, hand-drew, and coded it. Isn’t it lovely?