A makeup artist without a good brush is like a chef without a sharp knife.
Did you know it takes 22 hours to make a single SEPHORA COLLECTION makeup brush? Twenty-two hours! To get the inside scoop on why the heck a high-quality brush takes so long, we asked the woman in charge: Tiila Abbitt, SEPHORA COLLECTION Product Development Director for Accessories. She broke down the makeup brush—piece by piece. KATE HELFRICH, SENIOR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR OF SEPHORA COLLECTION
THE BRUSH HEAD Brush heads come with one of two kinds of bristles: natural or synthetic. Natural bristles are made up of goat and sable hair, while synthetic bristles are manufactured in a lab.
A complete makeup tool kit has both natural and synthetic brushes. This is because the bristles serve different purposes. Synthetic bristles are slippery, so you’d use them with liquid-based products you want deposited directly on your face, like foundation. On the contrary, natural bristles absorb liquid products, so you’d use them for powdered products instead. Natural brushes are great for applying things like powdered eye shadow, because they pick up a lot of dry pigment.
THE FERRULE The ferrule is the metal piece on your brush that holds the bristles together. It’s typically made of aluminum, but more expensive brushes can be made with brass.
Ferrules are cut in the workshop, as the bristle hairs are prepared on site. While the ferrules get measured and sliced, each hair is hand-selected for quality, sorted, dyed, shampooed, rinsed, dried on individual racks in a temperature-controlled environment, and then brushed individually by hand (it’s at this point when any stray bad hairs that made it through the initial hand-selection process are removed). A brush artist then hand-shapes each bundle of hairs to their desired brush head shape.
Once the bundles have been shaped, they are weighed for consistency and then inserted into a ferrule, which by this point has been embossed with finishing details and hand-polished to a high shine. The pieces are pressed through a crimping machine and glued together with epoxy resin (which is why you absolutely don’t clean brushes with alcohol—it completely dissolves the resin).
At this point, you’re probably beginning to see why each brush takes so long to make!
THE HANDLE Handles can be made from many different types of wood, metal, plastic, or alternative materials such as corn resin or bamboo, depending on the type of look you want to create. They can be dyed, printed, hand-hammered, wrapped in fabric, dipped in lacquer…you can get really creative in this part of the production! The decoration is a very important process because it allows brands to really make the brush their own. The least expensive and most efficient technique in production is the pad print. But it is also possible to do an embossing or debossing, hot stamp print (which provides a metallic and debossed finish), laser (on aluminum materials), or heat transfer (used for allover designs as it can be used on both the handle and the ferrule).
Once the handles are made, the brush head goes through three more rounds of hair brushing: Through a machine, then by hand, and finally by sticky paper to pull off any last stray hairs. After that, the artist gives the brush its final shaping, hair trimming, and inspection for quality and precision.
After that assembly, the brush is polished and cleaned, and then goes through one more quality control inspection.
And then…it gets shipped! And it only took 22 hours.