Westman Atelier: A Really Thorough Brush Review
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I bought my first makeup brushes three years ago. I bought four brushes from Walmart from Elf’s beautifully precise line. They seemed like the best brushes on offer at Walmart. I bought four brushes and felt like I was breaking the bank at $50 total. However, I was learning about makeup, and in order to use a lot of pressed powder products you need something other than your fingers.
After that I invested in some brushes from the Sephora Pro collection. I remember really humming and hawing at the $50 price tag for the #99 blush brush. But I needed a blush brush in order to use pressed powder blushes, so I took the plunge during one of their seasonal sales. I’ve purchased six more from that line since. My most used ones are #99, 57, 50.5, and 47.5. You’ll notice the decimal point for the last two, because I got the travel sized for those ones because the head is the same, but the handle is shorter, and they were half the price. Even then, at $25 for each of those brushes, I was like hmmmm…
So the WA price tags are truly astronomical for me. Like, I am deeply, deeply unsettled by the amount I have spent. I spent half a day learning all about brushes - real versus synthetic hairs; machine versus handmade - trying to understand the pricing for premium brushes. What I’ve concluded is that those blue squirrel brushes are literally never going to be for me because they need to be babied a little too much. Look people, at the end of the day, I’m a beauty junkie by way of a near scientific level curiosity. It was an investigation into ingredients that inspired me to rehome my makeup in the first place, and dive into the rabbit hole that is now Glou Beauty. Anyways.
Brushes are like designer handbags. It’s usually a good idea to invest a little bit of money into something that will hold up for a long time. However, spending $5k on a Chanel bag doesn’t mean it functions any better than a $200 Coach bag. In fact, the anxiety of babying a bag that expensive is 0% appealing to me. If I spend money on a nice bag, it’s gonna be a bag I’m going to use everyday for 5+ years and not have to think about it. I want it to be nice enough to last and be stylish, but not so delicate that getting stuck in the rain causes anxiety.
I read Sonia G’s review on the WA brushes. She’s the queen of brushes, for the uninitiated. The woman owns thousands of the best brushes, and even has her own line. Makeup brushes are her life’s purpose and passion. She prefers real hair brushes, so I had to see what the fuss was about. And I did try my best to buy her 4 most used brushes that were featured in this post.
In order to conduct the most thorough investigation into the world of brushes possible, I decided to buy a real hair brush (made in Kumano, Japan), and also bought one off eBay to see if it would be fake (which means I had to buy the authentic brush too - blog post on this to come!).
So why are the brushes so expensive?
It all comes down to the craftsmanship. They’re handmade by the best of the best.
After reading Sonia G’s blog and exploring the pricing of handmade Japanese brushes, seeing how they can cost into the hundreds of dollars, the WA pricing didn’t seem so bad anymore.
I really like the short stubby handles. I have pretty bad astigmatism, which means that without my glasses, the world looks like a Monet painting. I need to stand very close to the mirror to do my makeup, so long brushes can get in the way. One of the most useful gifts I have ever received is my simplehuman makeup mirror. It’s also one of the most “extra” things I own. But, omg the small size and magnification, is a blurry-visioned girl’s best friend. It’s something I didn’t know I needed and now I literally don’t go anywhere without it.
Okay, now onto the brushes!
Foundation Brush 106 CAD/ 80 USD
Tip to tail: 14.5cm or 5.75"
Bristles: 3cm long and 2.5cm wide.
I have never seen the appeal in a foundation paddle brush. Probably because I’m prejudiced against them as being streaky and scratchy (I’ve encountered too many scratchy brushes on my face while getting my makeup done). The shape also doesn’t feel intuitive to me. Something that’s more finger-tip like has always seemed better for spreading, blending, and buffing. 🤷♀️
I have seen every video there is of Gucci Westman using this brush. She uses it to lightly pat product onto the face. Seeing her use it with her foundation, it just made a lot of sense to me. It seems like you use less product because you’re only laying it on where you need coverage and building it up. If I was to use a fluffier foundation brush, it would probably trap too much product. Or I would have to use the foundation bullet directly on my face.
Since the foundation doesn’t have the biggest shade range, I do as Gucci does and kind of Monet’d my way around using different shades around the face. I have never seen a makeup artist use different shades around the face before. Like, obvi they mix shades, but not the way Gucci uses her sticks as a palette on-the-go. So, here I am, one paddle brush and two sticks of foundation later.
I am pleasantly surprised by its precision and versatility. It’s not as quick as a denser buffing brush if you are trying to blend product all around your face. However, it is very useful for applying product precisely where you want it. The shape is great for patting on extra product to build up coverage. This brush makes me want to slow down and really assess where I want foundation.
This brush is also very soft and not at all stiff. I also haven’t found any streaking whatsoever when I’m trying to blend in foundations. I do find that if I am dabbing this brush right onto the bullet of a foundation stick, I am able to use less product overall.
It's a really nice brush, but can I imagine life without it? Yeah.
Powder Brush 114 CAD/ 85 USD
Tip to tail: 15cm long or 6”
Bristles: 4.8cm long and about 3cm wide in it's original plastic sleeve
WA has one powder product - the bronzer, so I’m using this one brush for this one product.
This is unexpectedly my favourite brush of the bunch because it feels SO nice to brush along your skin. It’s whisper soft. The Beauty Butter Bronzer is very soft, and this brush picks up the perfect amount of product. You can just lightly run it over the compact and everything blends in so beautifully. I like that it’s not a giant powder brush because I don’t have a lot of face real estate and big bronzer brushes cover half my face all at once. I love the control that this brush gives you. This is the brush for building sheer layers of pressed powders. It also fits perfectly into the pans of my Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette (I had been previously tempted to get the double-ended brush for that palette).
I’m finding myself wanting to reach for this brush just so I can feel it on my face.
Blender Brush 166 CAD/ 125 USD
Tip to tail: 14 cm or 5.5” long
Bristles: 27mm long and 3cm across diameter
Holy mother of pearl is this guy expensive. It's weighty in-hand feel adds to its air of luxe. I like the density and stiffness (softness?) of the bristles. I feel like I don’t have the vocabulary to do this brush justice, but I like it quite a lot, especially with the Super Loaded Tinted Highlights. It feels like a cheek hug. It pretty much does the work for you. With it's shape, you can't really go wrong - it's easy to glide it along your cheekbones because it hugs that part of your face so well. I’m sure it’s great for blending other things too, I just haven't figured out what... It sheered out my blush too much for my liking, but someone else might like it for that same reason.
Now, my one and only wee little complaint is that it doesn't seem to pick up as much of the Super Loaded product as I would like. I feel like I have to really work the brush into the pan and apply pressure for it to pick up product. But I might be being too precious with this brush and my Super Loaded compact... (it's a lot of money okay??). So while I don't get the immediate color payoff I'm looking for, with a little more forceful swishing around in the pan, I get there eventually.
Baby Blender 84 CAD/ 64 USD
Tip to tail: 12.5cm or 5" long.
Bristles: 18mm long, 15mm in diameter.
Okay, so not sure what I was expecting with this one but it is LOVE. This was the brush I didn't know I needed. Again, I have never seen a face brush quite like this before. It's so cute and SO useful. I ain't even mad about the fact it didn't come in a pretty cardboard tube nor a little travel bag.
I really didn't think there would be a need for this because Gucci made this for the Baby Cheeks and the product has worked fabulously for me straight from the bullet and blended with fingers. But somehow, application is better with this brush. Dipping the brush into the Baby Cheeks and then applying it gives me a stronger color payoff. It also works with the Face Trace contour stick, applying a wash of the Eye Pods, and beautifully for applying the Super Loaded Tinted Highlight in Peau de Rose as a highlighter. This brush would even be great for foundation/concealer. This is the underrated powerhouse brush of the bunch.
This little baby puts OOMPH into your makeup application game. The brush it reminds me most of is the Sephora Pro #57 brush. Our little BB is denser, but the #57 has a similarly sized domey shape that blends concealer beautifully.
Lip Brush 50 CAD/ 38 USD
Tip to tail: 12cm or 4.75"
Bristles: 10-11mm long and 8mm wide
When I ordered my brushes, they all came in beautiful cardboard tubes (the powder, blender, and foundation brushes), except for this one. It comes in a little drawstring bag. I even went looking in the recycling to see if the tube was accidentally thrown out. I was ready to call the store to inquire about the box, when I saw the little barcode sticker on the cloth bag. Yes, I really would have made them ship me the box. I’m not throwing away any of this packaging. The bag just confuses me a little because it doesn’t quite make the brush any more portable, the bristles would still be smushed, no? And because the Lip Suede is so staining, I’m terrified of it staining my clothes/bags. It would have been nice to have a cap, so I can pop the brush and compact into my bag or pocket to use on the go.
From tip to tail, it’s 12cm or 4.75”. The actual bristles are 10-11mm long and about 8mm wide. My only other lip brush’s bristles are 10mm long and 5mm wide (Sephora Pro #85). The brush I I’ve been using for lip products is my Elf precision smudge brush (#202). The bristles are 9mm and since it’s domed, and about 5-6mm wide. When I smush out the tip it’s more like 6-7mm wide. I cannot recommend it enough as a lip brush. Did I mention it’s only $6?
This brush didn't change my life as much as I had hoped. Is it the best lip brush I own? Yes. It's easier to use and shape the cupids bow area than my other brushes. However, I would have been fine with my Sephora lip brush. (The Elf brush holds on to too much product to use with the Lip Suede). Also, I'm someone who likes to keep her brushes looking clean and pristine, the ease with which this brush stains bothers me a little. I also have a small build up of pinkish pigment at the base near the ferrule and I'm wary of giving it frequent, aggressive cleanings. With time I may get over this.
Eye brushes I and II
Don’t have these because they sold out in a hot minute. Not sure if I will get them because I’m just not a big eye shadow person. But it is SO tempting because the others are so nice. Could I get some brushes from Rephr or more Sephora Pro ones? Yeah. But, I'm seriously unskilled at using most eye shadow brushes (so many! so confusing!), and these seem to be fool-proof. The unique shapes might be worth it.
I made a comment about how these brushes seem larger than typical eye shadow brushes to Gucci and she didn't seem to think they were so unusual. After some digging, I've found I'm just a newbie in this arena. You really have to delve into the world of Japanese brushes before you find ones like these. Basically, the Japanese have a brush for everything and anything.
Eye Brush I is perfectly shaped so you can just do a single sweep right across the eyelid. The size and shape do the work for you, kind of like how the blender brush intuitively glides right along your cheekbone. You can use the edge of the brush to do some more precise lining.
Eye Brush II is a blending brush to help diffuse any harsh lines.
These are some mighty fine brushes and I doubt I will ever be wanting for other ones. If I do, someone dump a bucket of cold water on my head please.