Thursday, October 9, 2014

Real Techniques Nic's Picks brush set review & comparisons

When I saw that the holiday limited edition Nic's Picks Real Techniques brush set had 5 brushes I didn't own AND they had pretty silver handles, I had to jump on it. I picked mine up from iHerb for $30. I have also seen the set for sale at Kohl's and other retailers.

Nic's Picks set includes 5 synthetic brushes with limited edition silver handles:
  1. Duo fiber face brush (also in the Duo Fiber Collection, LE)
  2. Cheek brush (set exclusive)
  3. Angled shadow brush (set exclusive) 
  4. Base shadow brush (also in the Starter Kit, permanent)
  5. Eyeliner brush (set exclusive) 

The brushes are housed in the standard plastic sleeve and come in a foam insert. Unlike typical Real Techniques sets, Nic's Picks does not contain a brush case / stand.

Duo Fiber Face Brush
From left to right, Hakuhodo powder brush K022, Real Techniques duo fiber face brush, Elf Studio complexion brush.

Compared with the Real Techniques duo fiber face brush, both the Hakuhodo K022 and the Elf Studio complexion brush are more tightly packed. The Hakuhodo is the most soft of the three and the Elf is the least soft. The Hakuhodo and Elf are very versatile and I use them most often for bronzer or powder, and the Real Techniques is so loosely packed that it is ideal for pigmented blush and finishing powders. While the Hakuhodo and Elf are the closest brushes in my collection to the duo fiber face brush, the three aren't very similar.

For pressed face powders, I prefer the Real Techniques powder brush (review here). 

Cheek Brush
From left to right, the Real Techniques expert face brush, Real Techniques cheek brush, and the Ecotools tapered blush brush.

The Real Techniques cheek brush is functionally between the Real Techniques expert face brush and Ecotools tapered blush brush in both size and density. The Ecotools is the largest of the three with the longest bristles and is the most loosely packed, while the expert face brush is the smallest of the three with the shortest bristles and most density. I find the cheek brush to be very versatile in shape and composition.

Angled Shadow Brush
Left to right, the Real Techniques angled shadow brush and the Ecotools angled crease brush from the Six Piece Essential Eye Set.

While the angled shadow brush is exclusive to this collection, it is very similar in shape, softness, and functionality to the Ecotools angled crease brush. The Ecotools version is has a slightly larger footprint and is a little more dense, but you don't need both in your collection.

Base Shadow Brush
Left to right, the Ecotools airbrush concealer brush, Real Techniques base shadow brush,  Hakuhodo J5523 blending brush, and the Sigma E25 blending brush.

The primary difference with the shape of these four brushes is that the Ecotools is the only one with an unpinched ferrule, leading to a round brush footprint. Of the four, the Hakuhodo J5523 is the softest and the Sigma E25 is the least soft, with the Ecotools and Real Techniques of reasonably equivalent medium softness. The Real Techniques base shadow brush is the most loosely packed, followed by the Sigma E25, the Hakuhodo J5523, and then the Ecotools airbrush concealer brush. I find the Sigma E25 and Hakuhodo J5523 to be redundant and best for powder eyeshadow blending, while the Ecotools airbrush concealer is best for specific powder placement and the Real Techniques base shadow brush excels with cream products. In shape, the Sigma, Hakuhodo, and Real Techniques are similar, but the differences in hair dictates different usage.

Eyeliner Brush
From left to right, the Real Techniques eyeliner brush, Sigma E65 small angle, Elf Studio angled brush, and the It Cosmetics for Ulta Live Beautyfully No. 217 angled liner/brow. 

The Real Techniques eyeliner brush offers a wider ferrule but shorter bristles than the Sigma E65 or the Elf Studio angled brush. The It Cosmetics No.217 is similar the Real Techniques eyeliner brush with the duo fiber hair, but the brush cut is wider and the bristles are longer. The It Cosmetics brush is the most fine at the edge, while the other three are all similar and have a standard width at the tip. I love angled brushes and use them frequently, but it isn't necessary to own them all.

First Impressions
I have only had these brushes a few days and washed them once, but so far they feel like the same quality and construction as the permanent Real Techniques line. Just like the others I own, the brushes washed well, dried quickly (mostly thanks to my beloved Benjabelle Daisy brush tree), and were soft to the touch. Real Techniques brushes are synthetic, soft, easy to care for and are a great value for the price.

Edit: After about 9 months of use, these brushes are still doing great! I haven't experienced any shedding or quality issues. 

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