There are are only three major types of makeup brushes out there: Those with synthetic bristles and those with natural ones, or a blend of the two.
Synthetic-fiber brushes are usually less expensive and machine-made, while natural hair brushes are predominantly handmade and, as a result, pricier. Synthetic, man-made fibers commonly used for makeup brushes include taklon and nylon reflected by a yellow-gold or pure white color. Synthetic fibers are designed with a sleek finish, making them ideal for cream products. Since the product slicks off the brush, it is intensified when applied to the skin, making this brush ideal for foundation, concealer, cream blush, gel eyeliner, eyebrow pomade, and lipstick. Synthetic fibers tend to become more stiff and rigid with repeated use and can withstand more aggressive cleansing methods.
Natural fibers are either categorized as natural hair (soft fibers) or natural bristle (coarse fibers). The quality of the natural hair is driven by several factors: the type of animal, how it is harvested, type of cut, part of cut, age and cycle of the hair growth, animal habitat climate, and overall availability of the species. Harvesting methods include virgin hair, which have never been cut before and are the softest fibers; first-cut, which is top-grade, cruelty-free, and trimmed from the tips of the fur; second-cut; and blunt-cut, which is the lower cut of the fur and coarse.
Natural hairs have a porous texture and soften with each use. The hairs have a center structure, the medulla, and are covered by a protective cuticle, the cortex, which is responsible for capturing the cosmetics on the fibers. The cuticle of real animal hair is covered in dead cells that form scales, which are layered along the hair shaft in specific shingle patterns. Sometimes these scale layers can run 12 layers deep, too, providing lots of nooks and crannies that serve as little scoops to pick up powder makeup particles and ultimately deposit them on skin. As a result, they are ideal for all powder products. They can be used with creams and liquids, but the fibers will naturally absorb some of the product, depositing less coverage on the skin and providing a natural, sheer finish.
There are also hybrid, or dual-fiber, brushes on the market, which are easily identifiable by the black and white color of the bristles. These brushes are a mixture of both synthetic and natural hair fibers and have very unique characteristics. Dual-fiber brushes offer the best of both worlds and a medium coverage application with most products.
Each animal, in fact, has a different shingle pattern that offers unique characteristics in picking up and depositing makeup.
To date, goat remains the most popular makeup brush toe on the market. But pony, squirrel, badger, boar and sable have remained popular in some circles for their unique cuticle qualities. In fact, Kolinky Sable brushes are highly cherished by makeup artists as well as painters, because of their ability to achieve the finest of point shapes.