If you follow MAC Cosmetics, then you may already know that several years back they made the switch to synthetic makeup brushes. Most people are not happy about that switch and the reviews of the synthetic brushes have been terrible. The only good reviews I’ve seen have come from Makeup artists and people that I assume had never tried MAC’s natural hair versions. I got the synthetic 239 brush for free in an order that I placed and I actually liked it, which led me to try these two brushes as well. I won’t be reviewing the 239S at the moment. It has been so long since I have used it, I don’t feel like I can give a good review of it right now. So I’ll have to circle back to that brush in the future.
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Keep in mind when reading through my thoughts that my natural hair MAC 217 brushes (I have 2) are about 6 years old. So some of the variations could be due to age. Also, I no longer own the natural hair version of the 224 so I’m working from memory on that comparison. I will also be comparing the 224S to my Smashbox Shadow Blending Brush** because it is the closest shape I currently own.
The 217S deposits more color than the natural hair version but still blends smoothly and easily. I have to admit, I like it. In fairness, they should have numbered the brush something totally different. In my opinion, it just isn’t cut similar enough to ever have performed even close to the original 217. The natural hair version is softer (as it should be) but the synthetic version isn’t rough or scratchy.
The 217 Synthetic brush is thicker and denser than the natural hair 217. The ferrule of the original 217 is also more pinched. As you can see in the above picture, the 217S (right) has more density and is more rounded. In the picture below, you can see the slimmer and more pinched ferrule of the original 217 brush (left). Please forgive the dirty brush, life happens. But that does remind me, this brush doesn’t stain, it returns to the original shape and color after washing.
The 217S also performs just a little differently than other targeted crease brushes that I would reach for. For example, the Sonia G Classic Crease Brush ($34) gives more definition right in the crease but softens the edges at the same time. The 217S deposits more color than the Sonia G Classic Crease and then more blending is necessary to soften the edges.
I purchased and decluttered two different 224 brushes in the past because I always found them to be scratchy. On the other hand, I don’t find the new 224S to be scratchy at all. The synthetic 224 keeps a tighter shape during use, so it doesn’t spread color too far like the natural hair did for me. The natural hair 224 really gave a blown-out effect and the stiffness of this version just doesn’t move eyeshadow very much. If you are looking for precise placement in the crease, this could be a good thing, but I can see the stiff movement being a turn-off for some.
I like the Smashbox Shadow Blending Brush** (left in the above picture) better aesthetically and the cut of the brush is smoother resulting in a softer feel on the skin and a smoother blend. Again, I don’t think the MAC brush is scratchy, but it is stiff and not as soft as the Smashbox brush. In fact, even my Sonia Kashuk blending crease brush is softer and that is only $6 at Target. I’ve been a fan of the Smashbox brushes for years now and posted a full review last year. For more information, you can check that review out by clicking here.
As you can see in the picture above, the MAC 224S is more tapered than the Smashbox brush, so it is better for more detailed crease work. It may also be nice if you just happen to have less crease space. It is functional, but for $33.00 I feel like it should be softer and less stiff.
These brushes are decent enough, but to me, they aren’t worth the money. They both wash well and I haven’t experienced any shedding. They are sturdy brushes with nice construction. The problem is that I can say the same thing about cheaper synthetic brushes on the market.
I would pay for another 217S** if I found it for half off at a CCO, and I would maybe consider it if there was a 40% off sale. I think that if you are comparing it to the old 217 and expecting the same results, it will disappoint you. If you are judging it as a new stand-alone brush, then you might actually like it. As for the 224S**, I like my Smashbox Shadow Blending Brush better, and in comparison, it is $24 (vs $32 for the 224S). If you are patient, both Smashbox** and Macy’s** have frequent sales on the Smashbox brushes, making it an even better value.
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