Splurge or Save: MAC vs Real Techniques

Hello, gorgeous!

Ok, story time…

In college, I never wore liquid foundation, probably because I was a Costuming major and was terrified of getting makeup on garments. It was bad enough getting it on the neckline of my T-shirts when I got dressed in the morning, which probably happened for a few reasons:

  1. I probably wasn’t using quality product. I honestly can’t remember what I was using at the time, but it was probably some drugstore brand that I did zero research on. I’m not saying that drugstore foundation is all crap–I just think it’s important to do your homework.
  2. I didn’t use primer (honestly, I don’t think I’d even heard of it until after college)
  3. I’m pretty sure I applied it with my fingers or a makeup wedge and probably used too much product
  4. I didn’t set it

130 Short Duo Fibre Brush

from MAC Cosmetics

Photo of MAC Cosmetics 130 Short Duo Fibre Brush

$42 from MAC Cosmetics

A friend of mine who was an aspiring makeup artist introduced me to stippling and the dual fiber brushes that are ideal for it in order to achieve an airbrushed effect. (I wish she’d told me about primer and setting spray/powder to address issues 2 and 4.) Being on a college student budget made issue 1 a challenge, but hey, you have to start somewhere, so let’s tackle issue #3! She swore by this dual fiber brush from MAC, but it certainly wasn’t cheap. (Fun fact: at that time I would normally buy paintbrushes from the campus art store and use them for makeup instead.) After saving up some Christmas money, I bought the brush. The wooden handle is a comfortable length, and it’s a mix of natural and synthetic fibers. Needless to say I felt fancy (ha), and it gave me some pretty good results, at least by my inexperienced standards. Eventually I gravitated towards mineral makeup, though, and somehow managed to forget about this (expensive) brush.

I rediscovered it when I had a coupon for a free liquid foundation from Ulta in the fall of 2017. I was disappointed to find that this brush wasn’t as good as I remembered, especially when I thought about how much I paid for it. The black bristles would break and shed all over my face, not to mention that stippling felt like tiny needles and was literally painful. I would go back over in a swirling motion to blend out the brush marks, but then I’d end up with streaks that I’d have to smooth over with a makeup sponge. Talk about time-consuming. I’m good about cleaning my brushes, so I don’t think that contributed to the issues with the bristles. Maybe it’s because the brush went unused for a few years? Leave a comment if you have any ideas. Needless to say, my experience has led me to believe that this brush wasn’t worth the splurge.

Stippling Brush

from Real Techniques

Photo of Real Techniques stippling brush
$10; realtechniques.com

Once I got fed up with the MAC brush, I just started using a sponge to apply foundation instead, but I didn’t like how difficult it was to keep the sponge clean. Over the holidays, I was buying some items from Ulta online and added this brush as an impulse purchase. I’ve been in love ever since!

I don’t have any strong feelings about natural bristles vs synthetic, but in case you’re wondering, this brush has synthetic bristles, and they’re incredibly soft. I can stipple away and not feel like I’m repeatedly stabbing my face. It blends my foundation flawlessly, and I don’t need to go back over it with a sponge. The brush feels like it’s well-constructed, and it’s very easy to clean (I use a cleaning spray after each use and I deep clean once every 2 weeks.) The handle is a comfortable length; it feels like it’s made out of aluminum, which would explain why it’s so light. It can stand on its end if you want it to (as shown in the photo), but I keep my brushes in an organizer. In my opinion, $10 is an absolute steal! I absolutely recommend this brush.


This experience has been a reminder for me that just because something is more expensive doesn’t automatically mean it’s better than a more budget-friendly alternative. Beauty doesn’t have to break the bank. What are some low-cost products that have pleasantly surprised you? Share in a comment below!

Enjoy your weekend!

–Sarah xoxo