First lesson, don’t believe everything a makeup sales assistant tell you, some are either misinformed or are just trying to sell you the product. Last Christmas when the travel brush sets hit the stands, I was told by a MAC SA that the quality was exactly the same as the full sized brushes. There were no reviews online, so I believed her and grabbed all three sets. Why not? Myer had a 20% special running and I was about to head over to China & Hong Kong for a few weeks, this would be perfect!
The quality is not the same, not close. I decided since the travel brushes for MAC are hitting the stores again this year in the Christmas collection, I will do my best to get a side by side comparison and review out and hopefully save someone from making my mistake.
Watch out soon for my individual review on MAC travel brushes as standalone brushes, and not in comparison to their full sized counterpart.
129 vs 129SE (Powder / Blush Brush)
The difference between the two is pretty obvious, but I don’t consider it an overly bad thing. The 129 is incredibly soft, I love using it to apply my face powder because it just glides on. The 129SE is less dense and the fibres are rougher, but it’s not rough enough for me to feel like it’s scratching up my face. It’s a brush I personally still keep around to use, especially when I’m travelling and need a general blush / powder brush, it’s multi-functional.
The 129SE isn’t as good as the 129, but it’s not bad either. However for the price, I’d probably opt for a cheaper brush that I’m sure could do the same job.
168 vs 168SE (Large Angled Contour Brush)
The 168SE is less dense and the fibres are rougher, and so after excessive use it can feel like it’s almost scratching my skin. The 168 on the other hand is unbelievably soft and lush, I’ve had mine for over a year now, use it constantly and you can see that it still look relatively white and still feels amazing on my skin.
187 vs 187SE (Duo Fibre Brush)
Someone stop the fibres from falling out, every single time I use the 187SE, bits of fibres are always falling out. It is especially annoying when you are applying foundation and a piece of fibres gets stuck to your face 🙁 As opposed to the full sized which rarely ever shed fibres. Both are easy to use, but I still find that the 187 has better density and softer bristles.
190 vs 190SE (Foundation Brush)
Aside from the standard fact that the fibres are generally rougher and often lacking in density, 190SE is relatively similar to 190. I actually use this brush when I need to apply foundation for other people because it still gets the job done. It just doesn’t feel as great on the skin, and due to its rough nature will often leaves streak marks on my face, which I then use a sponge to smooth out. I don’t need a sponge if I’m using the 190.
194 vs 194SE (Concealer Brush)
These brushes look almost identical and really they perform in very similar ways, except I find 194SE to have stiffer bristles and hence are not great for applying concealer since it will with leaving streak marks. Actually, I tend to use the 194SE for applying lip colour, the 194 I find to generally be a good concealer brush, though I personally don’t use it as much anymore since I find the brush itself a bit small for my under eye area.
209 vs 209SE (Eyeliner Brush)
This time the 209 brush is stiffer than the 209SE version, but this actually works to it’s advantage as I use this brush primarily for applying gel liners to my upper lash line which is find very difficult to do with a flimsy brush. I want a stiffer brush to really pack on the colour, and this is what annoys me about 209SE, it’s sooo flimsy that I find it incredibly difficult to apply a precise line on myself.
For some reason I find it easier to use other people when I’m putting on their eyeliner, but it sucks when trying to apply my own.
219 vs 219SE (Pencil Brush)
One of the few brushes I actually find very similar. I primarily use the 219 for smudging out eyeliners or applying colour to the lower lash line and the 219SE does just as good a job. They share similar density and shape, and I find that both are quite easy to use.
224 vs 224SE (Tapered Blending Brush)
The density and shapes of the brushes are clearly different, as are the fibres. I find the full sized version perfect for blending above the crease, it’s very soft and does a wonderful job. The travel sized does do a decent job at blending, but the fibres are much too harsh. After a while I find it actually causing my skin to feel a little raw / sore. Despite dousing this with conditioners, it is still pretty rough in comparison to the 224.
266 vs 266SE (Small Angled Brush)
The 266SE is the most pointless brush you could ever purchase, I really hope that I just happened to get the reject one from the bunch. And yet the 266 is one of my most loved and used brushes of all time, I can’t live without it, great for eyeliner, brows and drawing shapes. The 266 and 266SE are miles apart in quality.
First the 266SE is has very rough fibres in comparison (reminds me of a broom), next it is about double the thickness. So combined very thick rough makeup brush, and you basically have a rather useless brush. Can’t apply liner or anything, because it’s too bulky and thick or perform any serviceable function. I think the only reason I’m still holding on to this brush is so I can show it as a warning to others, as well as a good ranting topic for examples of crap brushes.
- Travel size brushes are not the same in quality as the Full Sized Brushes.
- Fibre used for travel size brushes are generally rougher, and not as soft as Full Sized.
- I recommend investing in the Full Sized Brushes, or if the price point is too high seek a cheaper brand, because safe for a few brushes mentioned above, generally I don’t believe the MAC travel sized brushes are worth the money. A set is $115AU, for 5 average to below average brushes and a brush bag. Not worth it!