in terms of how i clean my brushes, i do so with a combination of dishwashing liquid and olive oil as i find that this method gives them the best clean. previously, i was cleaning them with shampoo or just dishwashing liquid on its own, but now i find that using the additional olive oil really helps to remove all of the makeup sitting in the bristles PLUS it really helps to preserve the softness in the bristles.
within my collection, i have a mix of eco tools (ET), real techniques (RT) and sigma brushes. sigma brushes really do live up to their reputation! their brushes are super high quality and really durable, giving you the tools you need to place and blend shadows or apply powders and liquids which allow you to create that super amazing look you're going for.. ET brushes have a super soft feel to them and are another type of quality brushes and are super affordable (i got mine for cheap on iherb). ET brushes are great to start off with if you're just getting into makeup. however, after getting my brushes from sigma and RT, i find that i don't reach for these brushes as much because i have found that my other brushes do a better job. the ET brushes are are a bit too large for the eye area and don't allow as much precision or product to be picked up with compared to RT and sigma and don't do as good of a job at blending. however with RT, the prices are slightly higher but you're paying for brushes with a similar quality to sigma.
do i even really need to blab on about sigma? I mean their reputation and company speaks for itself. there is a reason why their brushes are used by so many and it's because of the super high quality. they are pricey though so I would probably recommend you buy them if you have the means, if not go with real techniques (does the same job).
i'm no beauty expert or guru but.... i do love makeup. i'm not amazing at it but from experience i would say that if you're looking to buy brushes and don't want to pay $15+ for one brush *cough cough sigma*, then I would go for RT and if you're slightly younger or buying for someone younger i would go with ET if you're on a budget and aren't looking to break the bank.
when i began exploring makeup, I bought some of the kits from both ET and RT . the ones that i bought were:
- real techniques: flawless core collection - great for beginners or those who want a range of face brushes at a decent price. my favourite in this kit is the contour brush as its super fluffy, ultra light and can be used for many purposes. i used to use it to blend in my foundation (back in the day) but since then i now use it to contour (sometimes) or just blend in my foundation if i applied a wee too much.
- real techniques: your eyes starter set - gives you the essential tools for creating your ultimate eye look. the brushes are smaller shaped for the eye area, pick up product well, blend out seamlessly and easier to control and hold due to the size of the bristles and the size of the brush handle. the handles are longer therefore you don't need to hold your hand too close to your face and thus make it a whole lot easier to see what you're doing in the mirror.
- eco tools: essential eye set - a good starter set for those who don't want to break the bank, however i do think some for the brushes in the set are a bit too large for the eye area. the brush handles are a bit too short for my liking, but i feel these are still great to begin with for a great price.
since then, i've added a few more brushes to my collection. these are:
- powder brush - biggest, fluffiest brush in my collection. great for use all over the face to set your foundation with a loose or pressed powder.
- stippling brush - in case you didn't know, a stippling brush is designed to give you a smooth airbrushed finish. i only have one and don't recommend this one as the bristle head pretty much unglued itself from the brush barrel. not only that but it shedded like crazy. i love RT but don't love this brush. BUT in saying that, i think it may have unglued itself from the brush barrel due to how i washed it (when i didn't know any better), still.. doesn't explain the shedding though.
- expert face brush - i used to use this brush to apply my foundation, but now since sigma, i don't really reach for it as much as i used to. when i do, its usually to buff out my foundation if it hasn't blended in properly.
- setting brush - love love love! i use this to either set my under eye concealer and then re-use it to apply illuminating powder on my cheek bones. really soft brush and one of my faves.
- miracle complexion sponge - i purchased this after i threw out my beauty blender (BB) and i find it does the exact same job. this sponge is almost as good as the BB and because it allows me to have the same seamless finish i stick with buying this instead of the BB. the BB is $20-$30 whereas this bad boy is $6. less then half the price! just remember to use it damp (wet it, then pump it dry and use a towel to remove the excess water and you're good to go)
- airbrush concealer - i used to use this for my concealer but now i use it as a contour brush... weird i know. i only just started to contour, not really sure if it does anything for me but hey.. we all gotta start somewhere! as i have suppressed my need/desire/want for new brushes i am limited in the brushes i can use to contour with. i have one from RT that i use after i use this one to blend it all in, but i use this one to mainly carve out the line and define where i want to apply the contour colour and then use the RT one to blend it out.
- buffing brush - another one of the brushes i use to just buff my foundation in.
- deluxe fan brush - i use this one to also blend out the contour colours i use. i alternate between the RT one and this one, however i use this one more. it is quite larger and thicker compared to other fan brushes on the market, so i don't really use it for illuminiser powders.
- i have all but 1 brush (the e05) from this set. i didn't even see the set when i purchased the brushes individually which unfortunately cost me more darnit. i bought them all individually as i watched one of jaclyn hills (all time fave beauty guru) brush videos and she mentioned some of her fave brushes and i bought the ones i thought would be essential. turns out that there is a set and i should've got the set.. oh well. anyway i love all the brushes i do have and they work really really well in creating the eye look i'm aiming for. all are of high quality, have long handles, small brush heads which allow for you to detail or create precise sharp/natural/dramatic looks. i would definitely recommend this set if you do have the means to purchase it. if not, definitely go with real techniques.
- f80 flat kabuki - this is the very first sigma brush i've ever owned. sadly, i ruined it and now i have to get a new one but i definitely do recommend it. its perfect for blending out your wet foundation and creates that seamless, smooth look you're after.
- f86 tapered kabuki - i use this brush almost every day to apply my foundation, i say almost as some days i like to use my RT sponge to do so. brilliant foundation brush.
anyway, thats all i really have to say about my the brushes in my collection. do remember that i have been building my collection for years so they didn't just accumulate overnight. hopefully this does help you if you are deciding between brushes. if you have any question, please leave me a comment :)