MAC Basic Brush Set: Great Brushes Without Breaking the Bank!

Although I own a lot of makeup brushes, I haven't bought a single brush from MAC. What a shocking confession, right? However, a cousin of mine gifted me a basic brush set from MAC as a parting gift before I moved to Florida for grad school. She's so cool and I miss her so much! My cousin is the one who introduced me to MAC and she probably has all the brushes MAC has ever made. As much as I love her brush collection, I don't have the budget to get all of them as combined, they are more than my monthly rent! But for the records, I have 20+ brushes in my stash right now and all of them are good.

First thing first, please for the love of makeup, please throw away those sponge tip applicators! They are definitely not your friends! They do not blend your eyeshadows and suck a whole bunch of your precious colors inside as well. Ever wonder why MAC doesn't include them? Because that company loves you and wants you to use brushes to get flawless makeup.

Remember: these are not your friends!

During the winter holidays, MAC always introduce 3 sets of brushes: a basic 5-brush set, a face set, and an eye set. These are usually priced at $49.50 USD and come with a cool tote, clutch, or makeup bag. So for around 50 bucks you get to own 4 to 5 MAC brushes and a clutch. That's a sweet deal, don't you think?

The brushes come in these sets are marked as SE as they are special edition brushes. So what are the differences between the SE's and the regular? There are quite a few notable ones:
  • The price: SE's are sold in sets at $49.50 USD each, so you spend $10-12.50 USD per brush. The full-size, regular MAC brushes range from $20-something to $40-50 USD.
  • The length of the handle: SE brushes have much shorter handles which deem as a problem to those who prefer longer handles. To me, I am quite comfortable with them. As I mentioned before, I have mad skillz!
  • The manufacturing process: SE brushes are machine made and cut while regular ones are handmade and cut. Some said the SE's are not as soft and I do agree to a certain degree. I also find some SE brushes are not as full but you get what you pay for so I don't complain.
So should we get them? Definitely, especially when you are on a budget. These brushes are affordable and they are from MAC so they last a very long time if cared properly. Comparatively, I think the SE brushes are about 80% as good as the regular ones, which means they are very good compared to the norms. Also, if you just start with makeup, get one of these yourself and lobby your friends and family members to get the other sets for you as gifts. That way you have almost all of the brushes to create many different looks and achieve different effects.

My MAC basic brush set since 2005
The set came in a makeup bag, probably from a MAC LE for Nordstrom as I got it during the summer

A close-up at the brushes, from left to right:
MAC 129SE, 239 SE, 219 SE, 266 SE, and 316 SE

MAC 129 SE is basically a powder brush that you can use to apply powder foundation, MSF, finishing powder and blushes. In my opinion, this SE brush is not as full as the regular size one and it is not as soft. I find it an OK brush to use but since I have better powder brushes, this guy is pretty much underutilized.

Close-up of the 129SE

MAC 239SE: the basic eyeshadow brush that everybody needs! I am serious, if you haven't bought one, go ahead and get one. This brush packs color like no others and it took me quite a while to get used to it. It is not a blending brush as it's quite stiff and the hair is quite short so take my advice and do not use it to blend.

MAC 239 SE: a must-have

MAC 219 SE: this one is my love! Since I started applying more smokey eyes, this little guy is a charm. It smudges your eyeliner way better than a slanted eye brush and gives you that sultry, sexy smokey look that is oh-so-chic! "Pencil brush, the name is pencil brush!" (à la James Bond)

Want zexy eyes? Get me!
Je m'appel le crayon pinceau!

MAC 266 SE: the small angle brush. This is EnKore's favorite brush, I believe. I kept on hearing him saying "MAC 266" with passion but did not understand what's so fab about this guy. The truth is, it is probably the thinnest synthetic brush I've ever seen! Hence, it is perfect for lining your eyes with powder and fluidlines. It's also good for tightlining and creating that sharp v at the outer corner of your eyes. However, to create a shadow from the eyelid to the outer corner of your eyebrow, this brush is too thin.

The MAC 266 SE

And finally, MAC 316 SE: the lip brush. It's synthetic and it can be used as a lip brush or a concealer brush. Just wash it before you switch its function. There's nothing special about it, just a lip brush.

MAC 316SE: the lip brush

Did you notice anything? MAC has a way to label their brushes: face brushes are 1xx (like the powder brush is 129), eye brushes are 2xx (239, 219, 266), and lip brushes are 3xx (316). So if you go on eBay and someone is trying to sell you a face brush that starts with 2-something or 3-something, you know it is a fake one. I think about 10 years ago, the MAC labelling system was a bit different as they only had a few brushes and used two digits instead of three. But those brushes are most likely not on sale today and those who have them are hard-core MAC addicts.

If you want to get a set but do not want to wait until November/December, you can head straight to Nordstrom right now for their Colour Forms brushes. These LE brushes are made especially for Nordstrom from MAC and only happens once a year. This year the basic brush set looks quite promising.

The basic brush set

It has a foundation brush, a blending brush, and a concealer brush. No pencil brush or eyeshadow brush in the set so it's quite a different set here.

The advanced brush set also looks like fun

So there you have it, my take on MAC basic brush set. I adore mine and take care of them well. They still look and feel the same as they were, now that's how good brushes should be. However, the basic brush set is well, basic. You need some couple more brushes to really spread your creative wings. I promise to make an entry about a starter brush kit of you're interested. Just give me a holla and I'll do it for you.

Take care and remember: you don't get the professional look without using the professional tools.
Your Makeup Blogger