Favorite Cruelty Free Brushes

Using the right tools for applying your makeup is essential to getting the best results.  Over time, you learn what works best for you.  Some people prefer a blending sponge, some people prefer brushes, and some use a combo of both.  I prefer to use brushes.  Every so often, I reach for my blending sponge, but 99.9% of the time, I prefer brushes.

The beauty industry is ripe with all kinds of brushes.  If you enter “Makeup Brushes” into an Amazon search, you will get thousands of results.  With this many choices, it could seem impossible.  Over the last few years, I’ve tried a variety of brands and brushes.  For YEARS, I used the same 4 (yes, 4) MAC makeup brushes.  I remember when I bought them, and it was the first time I had also bought higher end cosmetics.  I was obsessed with their black eyeshadow, Carbon, as they seemed to be the only ones at the time to have a true black eyeshadow.  Mind you, this was back when they were still cruelty free.  In fact, I still have 3 of the 4 brushes that I bought that day.  Do I use them? Nope.  They just sit in a drawer.  Because they are natural fibers, I don’t reach for them.  Since going cruelty free, it grosses me out to use brushes made with animal hair.

Fast forward to about 2 years ago when I started getting serious about my makeup.  I slowly started acquired brushes that were made with synthetic fibers.  Enter my new found love of beauty Youtubers and I soon had a collection of WAY TOO MANY brushes.  Over the last couple of weeks, I did what you are supposed to do to your closet every so often.  I took them all out of their home and put them in a drawer.  As I used them, I put them back in the cup.  I vowed to myself after 2 weeks, that I would get rid of the ones I don’t use.  Let’s just say, it was a lot.  I am keeping about half of what I have currently.  Its hard to believe that I have that much excess.  How did I get to that point?  The answer is simple…trial and error.  I would take a chance on a brush, and it would either work or not.  The result is about a dozen brushes that I cannot live without.

As a side note of this little experiment/project, I learned an important makeup lesson.  Even though a brush is labeled as doing one thing, it could very well suit me doing something else.  One of my favorite Youtubers, Laura Lee, uses this delightfully looking fluffy brush when she puts eyeshadow in her crease.  But that brush is way too big for my little monolids.  As much as its an essential to her, I have zero use for that brush.  As I started to think outside of the box, I found exactly what I liked, regardless of its intended purpose.

Here is a round up of my essential brushes. And yes, a lot of them are Morphe Brushes.  I was definitely introduced to this company through watching Youtube, but I use them every day because I love them.



Morphe Brushes – Y6 (Pro Flat Buffer) – $10 

*This was a generally recent find for me.  Beauty guru Laura Lee uses this brush on her channel to apply foundation.  I would see tweets about how this brush was so amazing.  I didn’t think it could be THAT amazing.  So, as I was getting frustrated with a blending sponge, I decided to try it out.  I was not disappointed.  I can’t imagine applying foundation with anything else now.  I also use this brush to blend in concealer.

Setting Powder

Morphe Brushes – Y2 (Tapered Powder) – $10

*This is a very standard addition to the list.  Everyone needs a big powder brush.  This one is perfect.  I was formally using a regular, full powder brush.  However, the Vegan Morphe set came with a tapered powder brush.  I love it. Its also dense enough to use with pressed powder as well.

Face-Contour & Highlight

Contour (Detail)

Morphe Brushes – Y10 (Detail Contour) – $8

*Again, this is another recent find for me.  This brush offers a subtle and precise way for me to put contour in my cheek bone area and around my jawline.  If I use too big a brush in these areas, it becomes too much and my face looks dirty.


Morphe Brushes – Y5 (Tapered Blush) – $10

*When I first started buying Morphe Brushes, I bought an inexpensive set to start with.  I figured if I was happy, that I would invest further.  I bought the 10 piece Vegan Set.  First of all, it is extremely cute, since it has blue handles and pink bristles.  Second of all, it was $20.  In that set, there was a Tapered Blush brush.  I use this brush for 1 thing; to apply bronzer to my forehead.  I used to use it for my cheekbones, but its just too big.  I linked the set at the end, or click the link above for the version of it in the Gold Series.  Eventually, I want all my face brushes to be from the Gold Series.


Sonia Kashuk – Small Powder/Blusher Brush – $9

*I love this brush.  It is the perfect shape and density for blush.  I originally bought this brush as part of a 4 piece set that was on super clearance at Target.  To this day, its the only brush that I really use out of the set.

Powder Highlighter

Morphe Brushes – MB43 – $6

*The Basic Series at Morphe is extremely affordable.  They are exactly what they suggest.  They are basic.  Nothing special about them.  With that being said, for my eyeshadow brushes, this series is my go to.  The MB43 has the perfect shape for getting powder highlight exactly where it should go.

Cream Highlighter 

e.l.f Cosmetics – Flawless Concealer Brush – $3

*I originally bought this brush to do what it says, to apply concealer.  It worked terribly for concealer, but I found out by accident that it is perfect for cream highlighters.  I see cream highlight normally applied with a blending sponge, but this method never works for me.  But this brush really does the job so well.



Morphe Brushes – MB11 (Angle Liner) – $2.50

*Every girl needs gel liner in their arsenal.  More importantly, they need a good liner brush to apply that fabulous gel liner.  I think I went through 3 different liner brushes before I stuck with this one.  I spend too much on one from Sephora and it was painful to use.  This was also part of that first set I bought.



Morphe Brushes – MB20 (Oval Fluff) – $4

*I love using flatter brushes to apply my lid color.  The precision of a flatter brush prevents shadow getting too high and from me looking like a clown.  The one pictured is part of the Vegan Set, but there is a great one similar in the Basic Series as well, the MB20.


Morphe Brushes – MB13 (Deluxe Blending Fluff) – $5

*If I had to pick my favorite brush, it would definitely be a tie between this brush the MB13 and the next one on this list, the MB46.  I usually use this to put a lighter, base color all over my lids.  Its like Baby Bear’s porridge; just right.  It is big enough to use over the whole lid, and dense enough to not get shadow everywhere.  It is also what I use to do the final bit of blending.

Base Color/Blending

Morphe Brushes – MB46 (Defined Blender) – $4

*What can be said about this brush.  First of all, it is the perfect crease brush.  Again, with my eye shape, it can go very wrong, very fast.  But the density and precision of this allows me to create a normal crease.  I recently bought a back up of this one as well.  If you have monolids, I would say this is a must have.

Precise Primer Application

Morphe Brushes – MB10 (Concealer) – $3

*Listen, I hate using my fingers to apply makeup.  I only use my fingers to apply glittery stuff and used to use it to apply Colourpop’s Super Shock Shadows.  Used to is the operative word.  But I hate when my fingers are all dirty with colors.  This little brush is so tiny, that I’m shocked they don’t call it something else.  I suppose it could be used for very precise application of concealer, but I don’t use it for that.  I use it to apply glitter primer on top of shadow.  Yes, this is the only use I have for it.  It offers a certain precision to adding glitter primer that your fingers don’t offer.  Plus, its one less time your finger is in your eye area.


Colourpop – Medium Shader Brush – $6

*When Colourpop first introduced brushes, they were giving them away with certain orders.  This was how I got this one.  And I was so pleasantly surprised.  Its perfect for packing on their Super Shock Shadows and diffusing the edges a bit.

Colourpop Medium Shader

Morphe Brushes 10 Pc Vegan Set 

10 Pc Vegan Set


Cruelty Free Faves

For me, makeup has become something that gives me so much enjoyment.  While sick, it was the only thing that made me feel human.  And still, even when I’m just having a bad day, makeup makes me feel better.  What also makes me feel better is when I find a cruelty free item I love.  Here is a list of my favorite cruelty free makeup items.


Wet n Wild PhotoFocus Foundation – $5.99

*My go to drugstore foundation.  I have extremely oily skin, and it is difficult to find a foundation that doesn’t turn my face into an oil slick in 5 minutes.  It goes on smooth and provides full coverage.  The only drawback is the smell.  It has a very paint-ish smell, but it does go away pretty quick.

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation/Instant Retouch Primer – $34 & $32

*I have to mention these 2 together, as you need to use the primer that goes with it.  You can’t just use any primer.  Its a slight drawback, but its worth it for this foundation.  I love this foundation, especially for my oily skin.  If you have dry skin, this might be too much and will likely make your skin super dry.

NYX HD Photogenic Concealer Wand – $5

*After NARS lost their cruelty free status, I needed a cruelty free alternative to their concealer.  Enter super affordable NYX Cosmetics.  I read in a couple articles that this was a good drugstore dupe for the NARS one, so I decided to try it out.  Drugstore + Cruelty Free is a win-win.  And I love it.  Its not heavy and comes in a ton of colors.

Morphe Continuous Setting Mist – $15

*I never thought I would like something better than the Make It Last by Milani, but this one is great.  The aerosol eliminates the awful wetness that sometimes comes with setting sprays.  Its a little pricy for a setting spray, but it does last quite a bit.

Face-The Fun Stuff

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter – Mean Money/Hu$tla Baby – $34

*Did anyone doubt that Rihanna would come out with beautiful highlighters?  I love the duos, as they give you a matte and a shimmer.  Mean Money/Hu$tla Baby is my favorite every day one, but Trophy Wife is beyond.

Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder – Precious Petals – $4.99

*This is a good drugstore dupe for the Fenty Beauty Killawatt highlighters without trying to be.  This one came out first, so it could also be said that the Fenty Beauty highlighter is a good mid-range dupe for this one.  Enough of my musings on the philosophical stiuations about highlighters.  The formula for this one is great, and they even recently came out with more colors, as well as a palette of 4 colors.  Precious Petals seems to be the most universal, unless you are super pale.

Makeup Geek Blush Pan – Heartthrob – $10

*This one is making a repeat appearance on this blog.  Previously, Colourpops Quarters was my favorite.  But as I was putting my travel palette together, I found this one.  Now, yes, the $10 price may be a lot for a blush, but is actually on par with Milani or Flower.  And it comes in a pan, which just sings to me.  I have this in a mini palette with the Kat Von D Contour pan.  Perfection.  And this color, also perfection.  Not too pink, not too brown, just right.


Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette – $48

*One of the most useful eyeshadow palettes in my collection.  With my monolid eye shape, there isn’t much contouring to be done, as too much makes me look like a clown.  I usually just follow the dark to light (bottom to top) method of applying eyeshadow.  This palette has everything set up so I don’t have to think, and truthfully, I’ve used them all in combination.  If you only have 1 higher end eyeshadow palettes, this one is the one to have.

Colourpop Pressed Powder Shadow Palette – My Little Pony – $16

*As far as color is concerned, you can never have too much.  I appreciate brands who do something different and interesting.  Pür put out a My Little Pony collaboration as well for the movie.  However, Colourpop took it back to vintage My Little Pony.  And this was a must have for me.  With that being said, I have a couple other Colourpop pressed powder palettes and I love them.  They have a decent formula that is super affordable.

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner – Trooper – $20

*Again, I bring up my eye shape.  Monolids.  There are certain things that are hard to find that work.  Eyeliner is one of those things.  There is always the dreaded transfer situation.  My little sister usually forgoes eyeliner altogether, but I need it.  This eyeliner is everything.  Previously, I was afraid of liquid eyeliner.  I never had good luck, but then pens started to become a thing.  And this one, is my perfect eyeliner.  I’m a fan of eyeliner pens with brush applicators.  Felt tip is my worst enemy.  Plus, this gives a good line, and lasts all day.

Kokie Velvet Smooth Eyeliner – $7

*While not perfect, this is my favorite pencil eyeliner.  It tends to not transfer and usually lasts all day.  The one about this one that makes me happy is that it smudges beautifully, and gives you time to do so.  While I love the Marc Jacobs Highliner, it gives zero play time.

Wet n Wild Max Fanatic Mascara – $4.99

*Again, I’m all about the Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir mascara, but the Wet n Wild mascaras are extremely good.  I’ve never had issues with transfer or anything.  Of course, it takes time to dry, but its not unreasonable.  This particular one I love because of the wand.  Its curved, and lets me get the whole lash.


Smashbox Always On Matte Liquid Lipstick – Bawse – $24

*Smashbox kills it with their liquid lipstick formulas.  When they went cruelty free recently, the liquid lipsticks were what I was most excited about.  This color in particular is a collaboration with Lilly Singh, and I hope they keep it.  I don’t really need a lip liner with this but I actually started using Colourpop’s Bossy with it.

Kat Von D Everlasting Lipstick – Nahz Fur Atoo – $20

*The perfect deep red that is super classic.  Most definitely, this color is a tie with Santa Sangre, but this one is more versatile.  I read a lot of reviews saying that this is super drying, but I have only had an issue with 1 color.  I usually use a lip balm under before I apply.

Colourpop Ultra Satin Lip Liquid Lipstick – Jiffy – $6

*This color is part of the collab they did with Amanda Steele, and may not be available.  Echo Park is one of my favorite nudes, but this one edges it out by a smidge.  Their Ultra Satin Lip formula is one of my favorites.  Its comfortable and lasts.

Jeffree Star Cosmetics Velour Liquid Lipstick – Mannequin – $18

*I love this liquid lipstick formula.  It goes on without too much effort and comes in great colors.   In the past, I’ve always grabbed nudes that had a touch of pink or mauve, but this is a straight up nude.  Its beautiful, and is perfect when I want to bring attention to my eye makeup.

Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipstick – Sexer – $20

*Studded Kiss is by far my favorite stick lipstick formulas.  Underage Red was the first lipstick I bought at Sephora.  But I am particularly fond of the pinks she has to offer.  Sexer is a gorgeous hot pink.  The formula for the stick formula is changing and the Studded Kiss Lipsticks are currently on sale for $12 at Sephora.

Kat Von D Everlasting Lip Liner – $18

*I have several colors of this lip liner, and its great.  I love how it feels and it most definitely lasts.  And since its not a pencil, it doesn’t need to be sharpened.


Lesson Learned: Take Care of Your Skin!

Let’s talk about skincare!  Specifically, let’s talk about skincare for oily skin.

I must admit, taking care of my skin has always ended up a low priority.  It doesn’t start that way.  It just ends up that way.  Its either due to cost or due to availability.  Let’s face it.  In the world of cruelty free skincare for oily skin, it can be a little challenging.  Great products made specifically for oily skin and/or acne usually come from companies that test on animals.  Two major players in this game are Clean & Clear and Neutrogena.  I grew up on Clean & Clear.  It was affordable for a teenager/young adult, and it was coming of age just as I was.

Fast forward a decade (maybe 2), and I find myself an adult buying moisturizer and cleanser from Trader Joe’s.  Why?  Its simple.  I’ve given up.  And let’s face it, I’m cheap when it comes to certain stuff.  But what I failed to realize is that I was not taking good enough care of my skin.  Its like I refuse to get more grown up with my skin care, but my skin was definitely changing with my age.

Enter a particularly humid summer and me, a girl who loves to wear full coverage foundation.  My skin looked terrible.  I needed to make a change.  In a nutshell, I went to Sephora, saying that my foundation was giving me issues.  I said I had oily skin and that I use Trader Joe’s cleanser and moisturizer.  They gave me a look that said it all.  I’m doing the exact opposite of the right thing.  HA!  After some discussion, I landed on the OleHenriksen Balance line.  The main components of this line is the Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser, Balancing Force Oil Control Toner and the Counter Balance Oil Control Hydrator.  After a week of using all 3, I’ve noticed such a difference that I almost feel silly for all the wasted time on cookie cutter skin care.  In conjunction with the OleHenriksen products, I’ve started to do weekly detoxifying masks.  My favorite is the Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask.  It smells nice, and it isn’t painful.

All in all, this week has taught me a valuable lesson.  When it comes to taking care of your skin, you have to get what is right for you.  Plus, when your skin looks good, you feel good.  I’m extremely excited to see the results after doing this routine for a few weeks.  I can already tell its working, and its an extremely satisfying feeling.

By the way…nothing against the skin care available at Trader Joe’s.  Its cruelty free and super affordable.  If you have normal skin, it will likely be closer to the right fit!  =)

Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mask

OleHenriksen Balance It All Essentials Set

DIY Travel Palette

Travelling.  Its either something you do often, or not enough.  As a self-proclaimed home body, I do not travel often.  And if I do, its usually somewhere close like Las Vegas or San Francisco.  Basically, somewhere that I can drive to within a few hours.  I’m not great at being away from home, and my cat, McClane.  I worry about whether everything is ok back home, and it can totally derail my vacation.  And surprisingly, this fact does not bother me.  I take comfort in the fact that I like to have a home base.

However, this year, something bigger is on the horizon.  I’m taking an actual vacation, for more than 4 days.  I also have to fly there.  I have not gone someplace other then the state of Nevada or California in at least 5 years.  This September, though, I shall be going to New York City.  I have only been once in my entire life, and it was to be a balloon handler in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I was in the city for less than 24 hours, and it was so long ago that I barely remember much of that day.  But alas, I will be there for 5 days and 2 half days.  Since I don’t want to be hassled too much, I will only be taking 1 carry on and a backpack.  Herein lies the challenge.  What am I supposed to do about makeup?!

Normally, while travelling, I’m driving, so there are no restrictions on what I can take.  I can take as much makeup as I want.  But, with this trip, due to TSA regulations and  space limitations, I needed to seriously consolidate the makeup I am bringing.  All toiletries need to fit in my makeup bag and of course, the 1 quart bag for the liquids.  I thought about it.  Well, I could try and buy the trial sizes of everything I have, but at $15-$20 per item, that could be pricier than I would like.

Then, my sister gave me an idea.  She was going to Italy and she bought the Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palette.  It comes with eye shadows, blush, highlighter and contour.  I realized quickly that the problem with these kinds of palettes (although beautiful) is that the colors are predetermined.  And in my case, its either the eye shadows are not my colors (too light) or the contour/highlight shades are not my colors (too dark).  And so, the quest began; the quest to build the ultimate travel face palette.  And let’s just say that what I came up with is the perfect travel set for ME.  Now, if you were to buy all of this new, it would come up to around $60.  I already had a couple of the items, so it did not break the bank.

Here is what did:

Step 1:  Get some sort of empty magnetic palette.  I used the Morphe one, as it was the best priced one I could find.  I used the 6 in x 4 in size, as I needed space for 6 eye shadows, Blush, Highlighter and Contour/Bronzer.

Step 2:  Get a plan of what colors you want to put in your palette.  For me, I wear black eye shadow often, so I knew that I would want a basic color scheme of White/Gray/Black, along with a few colors to mix it up.  For blush, you want one that matches all potential makeup looks.  The same goes for your highlighter.  Contour is the easiest as your shade is your shade.

Step 3:  Locate all of the chosen colors in pan only.  Ah, pan only.  This is actually a concept that is falling by the wayside.  Some companies sell the component that allows you to pop the pan out, but its easier, in my opinion, to find them in pan only to begin with.  For eye shadow, Morphe, Makeup Geek, Colourpop & Anastasia Beverly Hills are my go-tos for this.  For Blush and Highlight, I chose Makeup Geek’s Heart Throb and Shimma Shimma (an eye shadow shade that works fantastic as a highlighter).  And for contour, I used the Kat Von D in shade Sombre.  Kat Von D Beauty came out with the refillable version in the incomparable Shade + Light Contour Palette.

Step 4:  Fill your empty palette, throw it in your bag and enjoy your vacation!

Now, of course, with an empty magnetic palette, the possibilities are endless.  Especially since you can always buy magnetic strips at the craft store to make anything stick in the palette.  With makeup, it is especially important to remember that if something doesn’t work for you, there will surely be a way to find an alternative.  It may take more effort than just buying something already made, but at least you get EXACTLY what you want.  I included a picture of what my palette looks like below, along with the links to the products.  =)



Eye Shadows:  Top – Porcelain/Pink Silk, Middle – Velveteen/Magic, Bottom – Coal/Emerald


Kat Von D Shad + Light Contour Palette – $49

Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Refill – Shade Sombre – $16

Makeup Geek Blush Pan – Heart Throb – $10

Makeup Geek Eye Shadow – Shimma Shimma – $6

Anastasia Beverly Hills Eyeshadow Singles – Emerald – $12

Morphe Eyeshadow Singles – Magic, Pink Silk, Coal, Velveteen, Porcelain – $2.29 each





Pink Silk

Morphe Empthy Magnetic Palette (6″ by 4″) – $6.99


Cruelty Free: LUSH Cosmetics

In this crazy world of convenience, we often time get caught up on what is in front of us.  We are less likely to seek out what is better and more likely to seek out what is the most convenient.  I, myself, have been a victim of the cult of convenience.  Ok, I’ll stop using that word!  This is especially true for our cosmetics and toiletries.  I know that I got in a rut of buying a popular drugstore brand because I could get it anywhere.  If I forgot it at home while traveling, no worries, because I can get it anywhere.  However, what I managed to push out of my mind is that those products were tested on animals.  And before I knew it; my cabinets and makeup bag were filled with products that were tested on living, breathing beings.  Not my cup of tea, and it shouldn’t be yours either.

As I was having this epiphany, in walks the savior, LUSH Cosmetics.  Their products are 100% Cruelty Free and Vegetarian.  They are also keen on naked and recycled packaging.  They are also ethical buyers and their products are handmade.  Why is this company so important?  They are important because they believe in what every company should believe in.  For most of your cosmetic needs, they have you covered.  They have everything for hair care, skin care, bath bombs, bubble bars, deodorant, the list goes on.  I have to say that I am a proud Lushie, and it just makes me feel good.

Here is a list of some of my favorite items you could add to your first LUSH Haul.

1.  Jumping Juniper Shampoo Bar – $10.95 – This lasts forever.  Especially if you don’t have super long hair.

2.  Veganese Conditioner – $19.95 for the 8.4oz container – One of their lighter conditioners.

3.  Charity Pot – $6.95 for the small size.  This is my favorite lotion of theirs.  Plus part of the proceeds goes to charity.

4.  Fresh face mask – $6.95 – The best for my sensitive and acne prone skin is Cosmetic Warrior.  Don’t let the garlic scare you.

5.  Bath Bombs – $5-$12

*Avobath – Has a bit of a citrusy smell

*Big Blue – Just think ocean

*Dragon’s Egg – Citrus smelling goodness with some sparkle

*Tisty Tosty – Floral.  One of my favorites.

*Honey Bee – Toffee smelling goodness.  Combine with Sunnyside.

6.  Bubble Bars (most are good for 2 or more uses) – $6-$12

*Sunnyside – Citrusy. Sparkly. Combine with Big Blue and it creates a “Mermaid Bath”

*Amandopando – Floral and gorgeous.  Combine with Avobath (fresh) or Tisty Tosty (luxurious).

*Brightside – Another citrusy one.  I usually combine this one with Dragon’s Egg for a morning bath.

This is definitely a company one can get behind.  Even if you don’t incorporate LUSH products into your every day, at least think of them when you have to give someone a special gift that you can feel good about.  I’ve included their website below.