I have wanted to do a review on these brushes for a long time, but I always felt like I didn’t have enough to say about them. Then I decided to review them anyway, however concise so more people will know about these underrated brushes.
Long story short: I feel like they give me the results of my natural hair brushes, but their synthetic fibers make caring for them a breeze. They are high quality with a price to match, but they are not prone to breaking, shedding, or becoming misshapen.
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Unlike natural hair brushes, you can wash them as often as you want without causing damage. I have found that they come clean easily (slight staining on the white-tipped style) and bounce back to their original shapes after washing. Smashbox** runs sales often, so if you are interested in any of these, I’d suggest signing up for their loyalty program. I believe joining the loyalty program gives you a 15% off code, but if you are patient, the brand definitely runs better sales than that. Macy’s also sells these brushes** and they are often included in 50% off promotions as well as their regular 15% off sales.
Again, although they are pricey for synthetic bristles, I have found them to be workhorse products. I’ve been using the blurring foundation, precise cheek, and buildable cheek brushes for about two and a half years without any issues. As I share the brushes, I will let you know if I have an affordable favorite that I use as an alternative.
Although designed for different functions, I grouped these because they have the same general cut. You can see that the sheer powder brush (left) is larger to cover more surface area. It is also slightly wispier than the buildable cheek brush (right), although neither is dense.
If you have dry to normal skin and only need a light dusting of powder, this could be a good option. I wouldn’t recommend the Sheer Powder Brush** if you have oily skin that needs to be heavily set. If you like a finishing powder as the last step in your makeup application, you could also try it for that. However, there are better powder brushes, even for those with dry skin or those looking for a light application.
Favorite affordable powder brush: ecotools full powder brush, $8.99 **
The Buildable Cheek Brush** has become one of my favorite brushes for matte bronzers (especially those that are difficult to blend), and it also works well for blush. The name says it all; this brush helps control the amount of product applied so you can slowly build to your desired intensity.
Favorite affordable bronzer brush: ecotools define brush, $10.99 (from define and highlight duo)
I have to stop buying angled blush brushes. I never like them, but since I fell in love with the Smashbox brushes, I convinced myself I would like their version. I don’t. I just do not prefer this shape, but the brush does blend beautifully. If you typically like an angled blush brush**, you may still want to check it out because the quality is consistent.
The Precise Blush Brush** can work with any blush but works particularly well for densely packed and hard-pressed blushes. If you tend to be heavy-handed, the buildable cheek brush may be a better option. It is dense with a little bit of fluff to it to help with blending. I like it but prefer other styles these days. UPDATE November 4, 2021: I’m not sure what it is about this brush, but using it makes blushes look more matte/dry in the finish. I mentioned this in my Pat McGrath Divine Blush review as well but have noticed lately that it doesn’t only happen with that formula, so I wanted to let people know.
Favorite affordable blush brush (different shape than the Smashbox): Sigma F10, $25 (I consider this to be affordable because Sigma runs frequent sales and my top favorite blush brush is $42)
The Blurring Foundation Brush** is one of my favorite foundation brushes. It blends foundation quickly and works with cream, stick, and liquid foundations. I have compared the blurring foundation brush to the elf ultimate blending brush in the past if you are looking for an alternative (review here). If you like full coverage, this may not be the best brush for you. It is full but not as dense as something like the Sigma F80 or Real Techniques Expert Face Brush for point of reference. You can build up to full coverage with this brush, but you’ll need to layer on more product and that can start to look heavy. If you enjoy a light or medium coverage application, I think this will work well for you. If you like a light or medium coverage but you like a stiff brush (rather than one that has more bristle movement and splays outward), then this is likely a pass for you.
The Cream Cheek Brush** works well with the MAC Glow Play blushes (review here), but unfortunately, I don’t own any cream blushes, so I can’t tell you whether this works with traditional cream blushes.
Smashbox Smoky Shadow ($22)**, Shadow Blending ($24)**, Contour Shadow ($26, discontinued?), and Full Coverage Shadow ($24)**
The Smoky Shadow Brush** honestly doesn’t get much use. You won’t find me doing a smoky eye too often, so when I do use it, I use it for precise placement of color in the outer-v. I like my Chanel #19 (discontinued) better, but I like having a synthetic option.
The Shadow Blending Brush** is another favorite. It gives a soft blend without spreading the color out too much. I feel like it picks up and blends product similar to my natural hair brushes.
Favorite affordable blending brush: Sonia Kashuk essential blending crease, $6
The Contour Shadow Brush is shaped like a MAC 217 but is much flatter. The flat shape makes it easy to wedge into the crease and get good definition if you have hooded or even slightly hooded eyes. It can be multipurpose. It can lay down eyeshadow on the eyelid and blend if you are trying to use fewer brushes. UPDATE January 26, 2022: This brush is no longer available on the Smashbox website, so I’m assuming it has been discontinued.
The Full Coverage Shadow Brush** is my last favorite of the bunch, this is the best packing brush I’ve used. I like this for applying eyeshadow to the lid better than the MAC 239 (discontinued natural hair version) and the Sigma E55.
Favorite affordable flat eyeshadow brush: Sonia Kashuk essential small eyeshadow brush, $6
Have you tried the Smashbox brushes? Are you a fan of them like me, or do you think I should check out a different brand? Let’s talk about it below in the comments.
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