When Ms Tay Yu Hui was in China to find makeup brush manufacturers for her brand 13rushes, she saw how animals were skinned for their fur.
“It smelt like death,” the 26-year-old said as she recounted her visits to the factories. “You could see the whole animal there without its head.”
The shocking experience prompted her to ditch natural brushes for synthetic brushes. She also hopes more people will go for cruelty-free options when shopping for makeup brushes.
According to a 2016 survey commissioned by cosmetics tools designer and manufacturer Anisa International, American women are most concerned with performance and durability when choosing their makeup brushes. But a significant number – close to 80 per cent of the 1,125 women polled – also consider “environmentally and ethically responsible manufacturing” an important factor.
More and more makeup professionals are also swearing by synthetic brushes now. Beyond ethical considerations, they also laud the new generation of synthetic fiber for their high quality and versatility.
According to makeup artist Sha Shamsi, while natural brushes work well with powders, synthetic brushes are compatible with a wider range of products such as gels, liquids or creams and are easier to wash.
She said: “Synthetic hairs in the past were smooth polymers that didn’t pick up powders, but the ends are now textured. If you look at (synthetic fiber) through a microscope, (you can see) there are bumps and crimps that let it pick up powders well.
“Now, even synthetics can come close to the quality of natural hair brushes – they’re doing the same job if not better”.
Ms Geraldine Yeo, a freelance makeup artist, agreed and added that “the difference between synthetic brushes and natural brushes are probably only going to be noticeable to professionals.”
While synthetic brushes have won a bigger following, some still prefer brushes made from blue squirrel, kolinsky sable or goat chest hairs for their incomparable softness and ease of use.
Beauty enthusiast Guo Yanhui, 21, said that she will continue using natural brushes as “the luxury and quality of natural hair brushes make them a joy to use”.