Back when I first got into makeup, ELF was one of the first brands I purchased from. I made a few large but shockingly inexpensive orders during the spring and summer of 2013. Since then I have purged all but a very few of the products. The things I have reached for most often over the past three years are a handful of brushes. A few weeks ago, my mom and I decided to make our first ELF order in years. I picked up their brush cleanser and some more of their dirt cheap brushes.
I decided that rather than just review the new brushes I’d give an overview of my ELF brush collection as a whole. I certainly have not tried even close to the whole brush range, but hopefully this slightly more comprehensive post will be helpful to someone out there!
This is a fairly flat, tapered blush brush. It’s smaller, flatter, and more tapered than the bdellium tools 964 and the Real Techniques Duo-Fiber Face Brush. I don’t find that it picks up product super well, and I tend to prefer a larger and more rounded brush for blush application anyway. But I love this brush for blending out heavy-handed blush application. Everyone knows that eyeshadow blending brushes are must-haves, but a blush blending brush has saved the day for me many times. This particular brush is certainly not an essential, but I have found a use for it!
This is a new purchase for me. It’s a pretty standard tapered highlight brush with synthetic bristles. It’s fairly similar in shape to the bdellium tools 944, but a bit wider and fluffier. I really like how it applies highlighter: it lays down a good amount of product but not too much, and it blends it out as it goes.
This is a very fluffy blending brush that tapers considerably at the ferule. It is a lot fluffier and less flat than both the Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush and MAC 217 (and bdellium tools 766, which is so similar to the 217 that I didn’t bother to include it in the picture). A lot of people have hyped this brush up as one of the best crease brushes out there. Personally I think it’s okay for applying a crease colour if you’re going for a diffused look, as it’s quite fluffy. I find that it’s a bit too floppy for my tastes, though: I prefer a slightly stiffer and flatter brush because I find it’s easier to get the pressure necessary to blend effectively. I do like this for when I just want to fluff a neutral colour into my crease, put a coat of mascara on, and call it a day. I would not use it for more detailed crease work. I was excited for this one to arrive, but it was a bit of a letdown. I will certainly manage to use it, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything to write home about.
I’m not sure why this isn’t called the Eye Contour Brush since clearly it’s a short stubby pencil brush. It’s wider and less tapered than the Lise Watier Eye Contour Brush and Quo Crease Blending Brush. I really like this one for packing eyeshadow more densely into the crease. It has a slightly larger surface area than I was expecting so it’s not for extremely precise crease work, but I find it fits into my socket very well and applies colour evenly. It has no fluff to it so some blending work with a separate brush is required, but that’s cool. I don’t generally expect my brushes to blend unless they’re blending brushes, you know?
Small Smudge Brush
This is one of my OG ELF brushes and I love it. It’s very small and flat, more so than the Real Techniques Detailer Brush and Accent Brush. (Both of those are fairly flat, but they’re nothing compared to the Small Smudge Brush!) I envy those girls on YouTube who can bring eyeshadow very far under their lashlines, but I’m not one of them. I have dark circles and too much eyeshadow under my eyes just brings them out. I do generally like a medium colour along the outer half of the bottom lashline for definition, and this is without fail the brush I use for that. It’s tiny and the perfect size for those of us who just want a little bit of shadow close to the lashline. It gets right in underneath the bottom lashes and doesn’t drag the colour down too far. I’d be lost without it!
Eyeshadow “C” Brush
This is a large, rounded all over eyeshadow brush. It’s flatter than the Real Techniques Domed Shadow Brush and larger and slightly more rounded than the Real Techniques Smudge Brush. I don’t have a lot of eyelid space so this one covers a lot of area on me. Unfortunately, I don’t find it delivers great pigmentation, so I don’t reach for it very often. I find it most useful when I’m applying a light colour all over my eyelid and a medium colour in the crease for a very quick and easy eye look.
Again, this is a fairly standard concealer brush: flat and a bit tapered. The Real Techniques Shading Brush is less flat; the Real Techniques Detailer Brush is smaller and relative to its size longer and thinner. I was very underwhelmed when I used this for concealer (I prefer something a bit fluffier), but when I discovered how well it packs on eyeshadow I was sold. I actually ordered two more this time around, because I use this brush all the time and the less often I have to clean it the better. It’s my go-to when I have an eyeshadow with lacklustre pigmentation. I’m sure most brushes with this shape would do a fine job packing on eyeshadow, but this one is three bucks, SO.
Angled Eyeliner Brush
I’ve had this forever and I never really use it. I find the bristles a bit too floppy to apply gel eyeliner very well. It probably won’t survive my next purge. I rarely wear gel eyeliner, anyway, and when I do this is not my go-to brush.
Brow and Lash Brush
This is a spoolie which I bought because it was $1 and I’ve been using a cleaned off mascara wand for the last three years instead of an actual spoolie. To be honest, the mascara wand was fine. But I wanted to feel a little more legit, and $1 seemed like a fair price. I like this, but I don’t feel that I would be overly critical of many spoolies regardless.
Retractable Lip Brush
This is a lip brush. It’s slightly thinner than the Real Techniques Retractable Lip Brush, but, you know, they’re pretty much the same thing. It does the job just fine. I like that it’s retractable because it’s good for travel – I don’t want a used lip brush getting gunky and gross.
I think ELF brushes can be a bit hit or miss: I don’t always find that they deliver the best pigmentation, but some of them are surprisingly good. There are quite a few that are staples in my brush collection and that I use every day. Like anything ELF, I think it’s best to do a bit of research before committing to any brushes – but there are some really great ones out there for 3 bucks a pop!
(Also, as an end note, I hope you will forgive me for my dirty brushes. I did not have the time to wash them before I took these pictures.)
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