Ethical Beauty: Ethical Brushes, Part Two

In my last makeup brush post, I wrote about cruelty-free brushes that are made in America. Because both Hourglass and OCC’s brushes were on the pricier side, I wanted to cover an ethically made budget brand, EcoTools, as well as some beautifully made yet affordable brushes by Antonym Cosmetics.


EcoTools is a budget brand of environmentally friendly brushes known for their soft bristles. I’d heard great things about EcoTools line of brushes but given their low prices and synthetic bristles, I was a bit skeptical. I was pleasantly surprised to find that EcoTools is a great line that makes some good quality brushes for an affordable price. The only downside to the line is that they don’t sell many individual eye makeup brushes and the quality of those brushes is spotty. (This seems to be a theme in budget brush lines as Real Techniques* has a similar hole in their collection.) Although EcoTools’s brushes are made in China, they have made the following statement on their website about their labor practices:

“We require our suppliers to adhere to fair labor standards including child labor restrictions, fair wages, and compensation for overtime. The production process is monitored as we maintain our own trained quality control and quality assurance staff, conducting ongoing and random inspections to ensure consistent quality and safety. Work environments are held to high standards, as is the quality of the product.”

I haven’t found an organizational body like Peta that third party certifies a company’s labor practices so for now I’m taking EcoTool’s word for it. If I hear anything different about EcoTools business practices, be sure that I will write about it here!

  • Essential Eye Set – This is a five brush set of eye brushes. The brushes have shorter handles which make them suitable for traveling. I tend not to be a fan of brush sets since in my experiences the quality of bundled brushes tends not to be as good as the quality of individually purchased brushes. This set did not impress me at all. I found the size and shapes of the brush heads to be off. The two bigger brushes have brush heads that are too big for a really accurate application and the two smaller brushes have brush heads that are laughably tiny. If you want to get an eye brush set from EcoTools, I recommend the Eye Enhancing Duo Set.
  • Eye Enhancing Duo Set – this set comes with two double headed brushes. Each handle is full-length. I actually was pleasantly surprised with this set. After the Essential Eye Set, I had fairly low expectations. The blending/smudging brush is actually a really decent brush, especially given the budget price tag. The shade/define brush I was less thrilled with mainly because the eyeliner brush had bristles that were too soft and flexible, making it difficult to get a really precise, defined line.
  • Flat Eyeliner Brush – I was *really* glad I bought this brush at a store that accepts returns because this brush was a dud. Unfortunately, EcoTools seemed to prioritize the softness of the brush over its efficacy. It was far too flexible to give a good, defined line. It was also too thick. It’s disappointing because a push liner brush like this one should be a no-brainer for a budget cruelty free company since it must be made from synthetic bristles in order to achieve the stiffness you want in such a brush. You can buy an inexpensive brush from an arts store to do this job for a couple of dollars.
  • Full Eye Shadow Brush – I was pleasantly surprised with this brush. You can use the flat side of the brush to pack on color or the top to lay down a wash of color. The bristles are soft enough that you can use the edge to apply a more defined line in your crease if you wish.
  • Airbrush Concealer Brush – I actually used this brush as a blender rather than as a concealer brush. I found it particularly effective to use with my ColourPop eyeshadows.
  • Stippling Brush – I prefer to apply my foundation with a combination of fingers and BeautyBlender style sponge but I *love* this brush for applying cream formula blushes. It gives a really nice natural finish and blends the blush out beautifully.
  • Fan Brush – This is such a handy brush to have around. I use it to whisk away any eye shadow fall out. It is also great for applying bronzer and highlighter with the lightest of touches.
  • Tapered Blush Brush – I was kind of surprised by how much I loved this blush brush. It’s just got the perfect tapered shape for blending out blush on your skin. It’s really soft and easy to use.
  • Large Powder Brush – This brush is less densely packed than the OCC powder brush I reviewed last time and is great for those times when you only want to apply your powder lightly. There’s not a HUGE difference between this brush and the Mattifying Finish Brush if you only apply a super thin layer of powder. However, if you have oily skin, I’d recommend going with the Mattifying brush.
  • Mattifying Finish Brush – If you have oily skin, sometimes powder application can be tricky – if you put on enough powder to leave your skin looking truly matte, it can end up looking cakey. This brush applies a really light layer of powder so that it takes down shine while still leaving the skin looking like skin.

Antonym Cosmetics

I stumbled on this indie brand thanks to my beauty box subscription to Petit Vour. I tried a couple of their brushes and fell so in love with them that I bought almost the whole line! Antonym‘s brushes have the same high quality construction as Hourglass’s brushes, but without the painful price tag (the blush brush sells for $20 compared to Hourglass’s $58). They are made in Europe. I adore the bamboo handles – they’re the perfect size and shape and are very lightweight. What I really love about this line is the wide selection of brush head styles and shapes. A lot of cruelty free brands don’t offer a lot of options (Hourglass, I’m looking at you).

  • Contour Brush #3 – I use this brush to apply highlighter at the top of my cheekbones and at my temples, but if you like using a contour brush to apply blush, this will do a great job. What I like about it is it has a relative small head so you’re not applying a super thick line of blush.
  • Foundation Brush #4 – I find most paddle style foundation brushes to be similar but since I didn’t have a cruelty-free one in my kit, I picked this up. I find that I use this brush to lay down a basic layer of product and then use my BeautyBlender sponge to blend it out. I find this brush to be great for cleaning up the edges after I’ve done a dramatic eye makeup look.
  • Concealer Brush #5 – This is a paddle style concealer brush with a relatively large head. It’s got longer bristles which means the brush head has a lot more flex to it. I actually use this brush when I want to pack pigment on my eyelid since I usually use fingers to blend out my concealer.
  • Large Eye Shader Brush #6 – I confess, I don’t reach for this brush very often. The large brush head is just a bit too large for my preference. However, if you really want an intense application of eyeshadow and want to cover a greater area (from lash line to brow, for instance), then this is a good brush for that. It’s also a great brush for packing on loose pigments.
  • Medium Eye Shader Brush #7 – This is a good, basic brush for laying down a wash of color on your eyelid. Almost every brush line makes a brush just like it.
  • Medium Angled Eye Shader Brush #8 – This brush is really nice for applying a very precisely line in your crease, or for blending. I also like to sweep it across my lid to apply a wash of color.
  • Large Pencil Brush #9 – This is a great brush for smudging eyeliner or for a precise application of eye shadow to the crease.
  • Blending Brush #10 – This brush really surprised me. Until this point, I would have said that taklon bristle brushes aren’t the best for blending eye shadows. Although this brush doesn’t perform as well as OCC’s blending brush, it’s still fluffy enough that it does a really decent job.
  • Small Eye Shader Brush #12 – So by now, you guys will have figured out that I prefer a smaller brush head so it should come as no surprise to you to find that this is one of my favorite brushes in the collection. In fact, I have two. I use it most to put highlighter in the inner corners of my eyes or on my brow bone but I use it for lots of other things, too. I use it to press a wash of color on my eyelid, to blend concealer on areas that need extra coverage and the edge can be used to smudge out eyeliner, or run eye shadow under my eyes. I’ve even used it to fill in my brows!
  • Small Angled Brow Brush #13 – Lucky 13! As I’ve mentioned before, most brushes like this are very similar but having said this, this is a great quality brush for a really decent price and I use it every day.
  • Eyeliner Brush #14 – I don’t use this kind of brush for eyeliner. I find it’s great for covering small blemishes, though.
  • Lip Brush #15 – I really love this brush because the pointed tip makes for a really precise lipstick application.
  • Mascara/Brow Spoolie #16 – If you’ve already got a spoolie brush, you certainly don’t need this one. But I bought it because I liked the longer handle and the fact that it matches the brow brush (I’m nerdy like that).
  • Covered Lip Brush – the portable version of #15.
  • Medium Pencil Brush #19 – Along with #12, this is the MVP of my collection. I’m considering buying a second one. I use it every day to get a really precise crease application (the most precise of all the brushes I’ve used) and to smudge out eyeliner or run eyeshadow along the lash line.

And that’s it for my brush round up! What are your favorite ethical brushes? Please let me know in the comments!

*Real Techniques is another option for budget-friendly, cruelty free brushes. While they are made in China, like EcoTools they have a Fair Labor statement on their website. I have not assessed their brushes for review, but I’ve heard good things.


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