Oct 292014

NARS Holiday Brush Set01 copyNars has outdone itself this year for its Holiday gifting offerings. This is a look at the Nars Kabuki Brush Set ($125), a beautifully packaged, modern, and wonderfully made set that would be an amazing gift to give or receive. This is currently available at NARS online, and will come available at other Nars locations on November 1st.

NARS Holiday Brush Set03The three included artisan brushes appear to be magically suspended in a modern clear crystal lace pattern is adapted from architectural designer Chris Kabatsi’s digitally-rendered Nebula print. This cube is reusable for storing other items throughout the rest of the year.

NARS Holiday Brush Set06 copyInside are three brushes that have amazing performance, elegant design, and are a pleasure to use. These are:

  • MIE KABUKI BRUSH Ideal for soft, all-over face application of loose and pressed powders. Luxuriously layered with a double-dome design that deposits product evenly.
  • MIZUBAKE KABUKI BRUSH Contour and sculpt blush and bronzer with this distinct design for controlled application and precise definition.
  • KABUKI EYE BRUSH Blend and diffuse eyeshadows for a soft-focus, seamless effect with this limited edition domed eyeshadow brush.

NARS Holiday Brush Set10 copy


With the brush protectors taken off:

NARS Holiday Brush Set18 copy


I love the eye brush–it’s perfect for a lovely wash of color.

NARS Holiday Brush Set20 copyAnother picture of the Kabuki Eye brush:

NARS Holiday Brush Set17 copy

NARS Holiday Brush Set16 copy

Here is the amazing Mie Kabuki brush, which is a wonderful brush for all-over powders or the soft application of bronzer. Also the Mizubaki brush, which has a smaller head for contouring or precise highlight placement.


NARS Holiday Brush Set19 copyOverall, this is an amazing, well-priced and high quality brush set that is beautifully packaged and ready for gifting (or using for own makeup application).  Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!!! It’s already up for sale on Nars online, and will be available at other locations soon.

NARS Holiday Brush Set12 copy

This set was sent to Cafe Makeup without charge for consideration for review. This post contains affiliate links (for more information, see About Cafe Makeup).

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May 182014

NARS Artistry Brushes Stylized Group Shot

Nars Artistry Brushes are a new series of lovely tools that I will be examine over the next few posts. Given the breadth of this collection, I’m going to proceed by first showing pictures of all of them in detail. I will be offering some thoughts about the brushes in some later posts.) These are available at Nordstrom.com, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nars Cosmetics online.

Here is the entire set (click to enlarge):

Nars Artistry Brushes All LabeledThis post will cover the Nars Artistry Eye Brushesnumbers 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48.  First up, I’d like to note that these brushes are beautifully designed. They have a matte black wood handle embossed with a subtle black-on-black Nars logo, and are finished with a red lacquer accent.

Nars logo brush

The design is well balanced. The brushes are balanced and substantial, without being heavy. The eye brushes all use a numbering system in the forties. The NARS #40 Eyeshadow Brush ($32) is the classic eyeshadow brush that we all use so much for all-over lid application, blending, and 1,000 other things. I have several, yet always seem to need another.

Nars Eye Shadow 40

Turned sideways:

Nars Eyeshadow Blending 42a

One more of the Nars #40 Eyeshadow Brush:

Nars Eyeshadow Brush 40b

Next is the NARS #41 Diffusing Brush ($32), which is lovely for blending, layering and light veils of color:


Nars Diffusing Brush 41b

Turned to the side:

Nars Diffusing brush 41c

And one more of the #41 Diffusing Brush:

Nars 41a

The NARS #42 Eyeshadow Blending Brush ($32) is the type of brush that I adore. According to NARS, this is “ideal for applying high-shimmer shadows and blending effortlessly for a soft-focus effect. The softer, longer hair design is perfect for a final sweep across the eye, blending and diffusing shades seamlessly.” I find that this shape is ideal for soft and natural application of almost any eyeshadow.

Nars 42b


Nars 42c

The NARS #43 Wide Contour Brush ($32) is an unusual shape, yet I find myself reaching for this type often. The wide shape allows me to dab on a bright spot of shimmer in the center of the lid, or to do a pigmented, all-over sweep. The edge allows me to do precise placement when needed. This can also be useful for lightly patting powder on the under eye concealer area.

Nars 43a

The flat top is an oval, and the bristles are dense and stiffer than many other eye brushes:

Nars 43b


One more:

Nars 43c

The NARS #44 Precision Contour Brush ($28) has a firm design for concentrated color. This is nice for dense crease colors, because the shape allows for deposit and blending. This is also nice for precise application of a highlighter color in the inner corner.

Nars 44a


Nars 44b

The NARS #45 Smudge Brush ($28) is the perfect shape for smudging liner either above or below the lid. The brush has a set of relatively stiff bristles and small size that allows for excellent control.

Nars Smudge Brush 45a

The NARS #46 Push Eyeliner Brush (#28) is perfect for applying gel liners, or making your mascara or eyeshadow into a liner. I use this type of brush so frequently –this is what is needed to really make the most of gel liners.

Nars Push Eyeliner brush 46a

I do not usually love white brushes, but in this case I get the point. When using this brush, you will know for certain whether there has been any remaining pigment from your prior use. This avoids the frustration of an unintended color mix that can occur close to the eye (which requires a re-do of almost everything else).

Nars Push Eyeliner Brush 46b

The bristles are acrylic, which is perfect for using creme eyeliners (or damp powders). The precise edge is ideal for eyeliner use. The brush can be applied using a series of lines, blended together, or slightly jiggled around for a softer line.

Nars Push Eyeliner 46c

NARS #47 Angled Eyeliner Brush ($28) is designed for liquids and creams along the lash line, including with NARS Eye Paints and the like.

Nars eyeliner brush 47c

NARS Brow Defining Brush ($26) is used for filling and defining brows:

Nars 48a Brow Defining Brush

I’ll be offering more thoughts about these in upcoming posts. These are available at Nordstrom.com, Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nars Cosmetics online.

These brushes were sent to Cafe Makeup without charge for consideration for review. This post contains affiliate links (for more information, see About Cafe Makeup)

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Dec 152013

Marc Jacobs Bronzer Brush01

Although my reactions to the new Marc Jacobs makeup line have not been uniform, I felt that it was important to look at several items in the line to get a sense of the quality level. It is not everyday that an important fashion designer launches a beauty line, especially one so comprehensive in scope. I did not love the mascara, the foundation, and I haven’t felt compelled to try the blushes. But one of the items that has won my heart is the Marc Jacobs The Bronze Bronzer Brush No. 12 ($78), a consistent, well-made tool that has increased the usability and beauty of the other products in my collection.

Marc Jacobs Bronzer Brush02

I knew this brush was special the first time that I saw it, and Seth Barton-Roberts’ video review also piqued my interest. Running nearly 8 inches in length, this oversized powder brush is well balanced and substantial, without being heavy.

Marc Jacobs Bronzer Brush03

The head is densely packed and soft, like a combination kabuki/duo-fibre. It gives superb control for all types of powders, including blushes, powders, bronzers. It applies baked products, including MAC’s Mineralized Skin Finishes, like a boss.

Marc Jacobs Bronzer Brush10

The bristles have plenty of oomph, so that you don’t have to spend too much time building up product. Designed for bronzers, I found a few sweeps adequate. It gives a similar application effect to the large (and now unobtainable) Chanel must-have powder brush that I bought in Paris years ago.

Marc Jacobs Bronzer Brush12

Because of the oversized head, I tend to reserve this for products that are used over larger areas of the face. Just to experiment, I also tried this with my hyper-pigmented blushes (such as the MAC pro blushes, and some NARS). I found that I still had to be careful about how much pigment I put on this brush. Some of the pigmentation of those blushes are pretty nuclear, so I wasn’t surprised to find that I still had to sweep the brush over a mirror or tissue to knock product off before applying. However, I did find that the Marc Jacobs The Bronze brush  did allow me to apply the blushes with very soft, soft, soft blended edges.

Marc Jacobs Bronzer Brush04

I reaching for the Marc Jacobs The Bronze brush almost every day since I bought it. I wash it the same way as my other brushes, and dry time is overnight if I remember to shake out excess water (but a day and a half if I forget).  I haven’t experienced any staining with any of my products (including the super-pigmented blushes). Everything seems to wash out easily. According to Sephora’s website, the brush is made from synthetic, antibacterial hair. The feel is pure luxury and the function is perfection.

Jacobs brush with annotations

Bottom line–this is one of my favorite buys from the past several months. It is available exclusively from Sephora.

This post contains affiliate links (for more information, see About Cafe Makeup).

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Oct 222012

Tom Ford’s Bronzer Brush ($115) is a luxurious investment. Rather than attempting to create a brush that might mimic others, this brush is lovingly made to deliver incredible results, albeit with the price tag to match. The bristle end is soft as kitten fur, lush and thick.

 The handle is balanced without being too heavy.

Of course, the brush is designed to work with the large, luxurious pan of the Tom Ford Bronzer. Below is Gold Dust, which is a beautifully shimmered glowing-with-gold powder perfect for light, warm skin tones. It has a very large, flat pan.

In fact, the bristle head of the Tom Ford Bronzer brush is far larger than the pan of a Chanel Joues Contraste blush. Of course, most bronzers are on the larger side. Some of the Guerlain special edition pans are almost the size of European dinner plate. However, if your favorite bronzer has a small pan, the Tom Ford Bronzer Brush might actually be too large for it.

Together, the combination of the Tom Ford Bronzer Brush and Gold Dust is a wonderful experience that delivers beautiful, transformative results.

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see About Cafe Makeup.


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Jun 182012

The Chanel Blending Foundation Brush #7 ($54) is a brush that I’ve put off reviewing for a bit. For one thing, brush reviews aren’t as exciting to me as color makeup reviews. Trust me, a pretty eyeshadow palette or a gorgeous new pink lipstick review pretty much writes itself.

But the reality is, for me, good brushes matter.  Perhaps a pro can get by with her well-trained fingers or the ragged end of a tissue. Good for them, honestly. Personally, I notice an enormous difference when I use a good brush. So I invest in brushes and if it’s engraved with “Chanel” and has a lovely, balanced weight and lush yet feathery brush head, those are reasons enough for me.

The Chanel Blending Foundation brush has a dense base with a medium stiffness, and long white ends that feel very feathery and soft. As many of you know, this type of brush can be used to lightly apply cream or powder products–the very light end bristles apply the product very lightly like light little feathers touching the skin. If you are applying a very pigmented blush and want a light touch, a duo-fibre brush is your best friend. As the name implies, this Chanel Blending Foundation brush can also be used to lightly stipple on cream or liquid foundation for an almost-airbrushed finish.

The bristles on Chanel’s Blending Foundation Brush are lush and lovely. Out of the box, the brush has an elongated hexagonal shape that evokes the iconic Chanel No. 5 bottle stop (which, in turn, is the same shape as Paris’ Place Vendome, which is bordered by the Hotel Ritz where Gabrielle Chanel lived during some parts of her life.


Alas, the brush shape went back to round after a single washing. Here’s a comparison to a MAC 187 brush ($42) that is several years old. An unfair comparison, given the differences in age, but I thought you might find the size comparison useful.

The brush heads of the MAC 187 on the left, the Chanel No. 7 on the right. The Chanel is more compact and feels a bit more dense and plushy:

The two straight on:

For performance, I’ll give a slight edge to the Chanel. The bristles seem to do a lovely job without ever giving a single patch or problem. It’s a touch smaller, so it gives me a bit more control. However, if you are pretty happy with your MAC 187 (as many are!), I don’t think it’s worth the investment to switch unless your MAC is nearing its useful life.

Overall, I love the new Chanel Foundation Blending brush. I do use lots of brushes, so  I don’t regret having another good duo fibre in my brush cup. Definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a good brush for foundations and pigmented powders.




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May 192011

Over the past few months, Burberry Beauty began selling a few items from its brush line (previewed here).  In addition to a limited release of gift with purchase items that Nordstrom featured during the Holiday season, the store is now selling Eye Brushes Nos. 9, 10 and 11 (pictured here among the other eye brushes).

Last week, I picked up both Burberry Beauty Brushes No. 10 and 11 to expand my brush range.  The quality of these brushes is extremely high.  Even the softly-colored Burberry eyeshadows cling to them beautifully, laying down a serious layer of pigment.  The handles are sleek, classic and beautifully machined.  The “heft” factor is appropriate–these are light but solid.  Let’s take a closer look at these two…

Burberry Beauty Brush No. 10 ($32) is a variation on a pencil brush, intended for smudging and making softly defined lines.  It comes packed in a plastic sleeve inside a velveteen cover marked with the trademarked Burberry plaid with a black-on-black texture.

I found that the head of Burberry’s Eye Brush No. 10 was denser and larger than the MAC 219 pencil brush ($24.50).  Here’s a side-by-side of the new, unused Burberry next to my well-worn MAC 219:

I’ve played with Burberry’s Eye Brush No. 10 and find that it gives a beautifully pigmented, rich lay-down of color.  With a pigmented soft shadow (NARS Mekong, for example), I got a beautifully rich line of color where the soft gold sparkles showed up nicely.  I’m so pleased with this brush, I know that I’ll get constant use from it.  The handle of No. 10:

Burberry Beauty Eye Brush No. 11 ($38) has an uncommon, but extremely useful shape.  The top is a slanted, flat circle that lays down a rich sweep of color over the entire lid.  It can also be used for precise placement of powders under the eye over concealer.

The bristles are very dense, and works beautifully like a magnet, depositing color very evenly across with lid with a single sweep.

These are great quality brushes, and a pleasure to use.


Bottom line:  Highly recommended.

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Mar 152010

MAC Liberty of London Dirty Plum Blush ($18.50) is a dark mauve with nuclear pigmentation.  Dirty Plum was formerly listed as a MAC Pro blush, which are extremely pigmented and require extreme care during application to avoid an overwhelming amount of color. Dirty Plum is no longer listed on MAC’s Pro site as a current product.  However, MAC just re-released it for Riveting and in the special packaging with Liberty of London.

Dirty Plum is currently listed as “matte” on MAC’s website for both Riveting and Liberty of London.  Because I have mauve undertones, I was entirely unable to resist buying this blush when Liberty of London was released.  The combination of the pretty white pattern packaging and the British connection made this purchase inevitable.

Here’s Dirty Plum blush in the pan–that’s a strong color!

I suspect that many who try this blush at a counter will believe that it is far too strong to wear.  Here is a heavy swatch (left) and lighter swatch (right).  As you can see, even the “lighter” swatch is a deep, pigmented color that could easily overwhelm.  Despite the “matte” designation on MAC’s website, I do perceive a tiny bit of shimmer (click to enlarge the picture) although this does not really show much on a standard application:

Here’s the trick to making this blush work– use a skunk brush.  Plus, you only need a tiny bit on a skunk brush to give the same pigmentation as a standard blush.  In fact, the amount of blush used on this Lancome brush in this picture is likely enough to last me for two days of application:

Brush very lightly on the cheeks, then place this brush aside until the next time.  There’s still plenty left!  That’s how pigmented this blush is.  On the other hand, the lasting power throughout the day is great.  If you enlarge the above picture, you’ll see the little glimmer bits that the brush picked up.  Those can easily be removed by a gentle shake of the brush.

Bottom line:  If mauve/purple blushes work for you, you’ll love this blush applied lightly.  Plus, for $18.50, you’ll have a blush that you can bequeath to future generations. You might try Summer Rose Beauty Powder as a highlighter, to add some shimmer and depth to your look.

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