Why you need to switch your make-up brushes right now

Make-up brushes
Make-up brushes
By Keeley Bolger
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You might be shocked to read what can go into creating your make-up brushes. But thankfully for you, we've listed the brands you can trust.


You might have already switched to a waterless moisturiser, ethical shampoo bar and mineral cosmetics, but what about your make-up brushes? If they’re made from unrecyclable plastic and contain animal hair, perhaps it’s time to invest in a durable ethically-made version. With growing awareness of eco issues, some brands are working hard to improve their environmental credentials. And it’s high time make-up brushes followed suit.

Avoid brushes that are made with animal hair

After all, many cosmetics brushes are made using animal hair and as Jeremy Adelman, co-founder of the cruelty-free Artis Brush, points out, there is little consistency in the industry in terms of animal welfare. Artis brushes are made with a filament to avoid some of the issues associated with the use of animal hair in brushes, such as skin sensitivity, as well as poor treatment of the animals.

“There is no uniform standard of ethical treatment for the animals used in the food industry, which provides the hairs used in the manufacture of cosmetic brushes,” explains Jeremy. “The worldwide demand for cosmetic brushes has been dramatically increasing and most of the supply comes from Asia and Asia Pacific countries. The farmers who raise and harvest the animals used for cosmetic brushes often don’t care much about the conditions they keep animals in,” he adds.

And Jeremy says that organisations like PETA have helped shed a light on the conditions some of the animals are kept in and have encouraged positive change within the industry.

“There are cases of horrible treatment of animals used for food, fur and cosmetic brush hair,” he says. “Those of us who have worked in the industry for years have mostly ignored the issue and were told by cosmetic brush sellers that the hairs were obtained ethically. But once you think about it, it’s obvious that most hairs used for cosmetic brush purposes could not all be simply snipped off the animal.

“Once you see a brush factory and see the workers with piles of squirrel and other animal tails on the table where they work, you realise those animals are not back at the farm growing new tails or pelts. We want to take animals out of the equation all together. There is no need for an animal to suffer to make a superior quality cosmetic brush.” Jeremy is convinced that where his brushes are concerned, make-up lovers will have a superior and durable product. “Artis brushes are built to last,” he says. “We use the best quality materials available, ensuring that with proper care and use, our customers don’t have to regularly replace them.”

Related | Beauty industry giant vows to have zero net emissions by 2050

Do your research before buying

For ethical specialist Hannah Liddle, who works for beauty website Cosmetify, the answer is to dig a little deeper and do your research before buying. “Any brushes made out of plastic - unless it’s recycled plastic like Urban Decay’s - and animal hair should be avoided,” she says.

“Plastic waste is becoming a widespread epidemic and though make-up brushes aren’t made of single-use plastic, they will eventually get thrown away and end up in landfills. If we want our make-up tools to be as waste-free as possible, we even need to look at the packaging. Obviously when shopping online, it’s not easy to tell how the brushes will be packaged, but when shopping in-store, it’s definitely something to bear in mind. For conscious shoppers, animal-hair brushes are also a big no. Sourcing animal hair for make-up brushes is deeply unethical, whether they’re cruelty-free or not,” she adds. As more and more brands tune in to their eco conscience, so too are the options available to us.

Related | 5 clever ways to reuse your beauty packaging and reduce waste

The brands you can trust

“There are so many brands out there making conscious decisions to create ethical and eco-friendly products, make-up brushes included,” says Hannah. “EcoTools has a Recycled Retractable Kabuki containing make-up brushes with 100% cruelty-free, synthetic, taklon brushes. They use bamboo handles in their EcoTools Full Powder Brush, which also uses recycled aluminium ferrule.

“When it comes to responsible resourcing, Urban Decay knows a thing or two. Their make-up brush bristles are made from recycled plastic bottles and their handles are made from recycled aluminium, making them kind to your skin and the environment. They’re vegan and eco-friendly.

"And some brands are going the extra mile to do more good with every purchase. PHB Ethical Beauty brushes are cruelty-free, vegan and handmade using ethically and sustainably-sourced materials,” says Hannah. “Everything from the bristles to the handle is eco-friendly and with every purchase 20% of profit goes to one of their chosen charities,” she adds.

ZOEVA’s Bamboo Luxury Setis vegan and offers eight eco-friendly designs, each made from carefully selected, renewable materials such as pure synthetic hair and wooden bamboo.”

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Words: Keeley Bolger

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