What Are Bristles Made Of?

The bristles of a makeup brush can be made from animal hair or synthetic hair (or a mix of the two).

Animal Hair

  • What is animal hair? Animal hair (sometimes referred to as “natural”) comes from animals, including goats, badgers, squirrels, weasels and horses. It can be a combination of different types of animal hair for the desired softness and cost.
  • Why is animal hair used? The hair has a cuticle, a layered outer coating on the hair shaft, which picks up and distributes powder products well. The cuticle also means that animal hair may not be suitable for cream or liquid products, as it may pick up too much product and can lead to clogging.
  • Each type of hair comes with its own unique strengths and advantages for makeup brushes and its application. For example: Powder, Highlight, Blend, Blush, Precision work etc. A degree of firmness, softness, flexibility and versatility of the bristles will provide great ease and effectiveness in makeup application.

Synthetic Hair

  • What is synthetic hair? Synthetic bristles are made from 100% manufactured fibres, like nylon and polyester.
  • Why is synthetic hair used? Synthetic bristles do not have a cuticle, so are very smooth and trap less product in the bristles than animal hair brushes – this makes them great for creams or liquids.
  • How is the hair made? It is manufactured in factories. The hair can be dyed, often to mimic animal hair, like cream or brown.

Types of synthetic fibres used in makeup brushes:

  • Taklon is a soft, smooth polyester derivative. It is an incredibly versatile material and can be used in all types and sizes of makeup brushes.
  • Nylon has smooth fibers and is used in makeup brushes that need a degree of firmness to the bristles, like concealer, brow and mascara brushes.

 Summary of the Differences


Synthetic Hair

Animal / Natural Hair

Hygiene and Cleaning

Smooth fibers used lack a cuticle, making it easier to clean thoroughly.

Has an irregular surface (due to cuticles) which picks up and distributes powder products well.  It requires regular and thorough cleaning.

Best Uses


Cream and liquid.

Powder makeup products.

Feel on Skin

Bristles tend to be hard and elastic.

Bristles can vary from very soft and fluffy to firmer, depending on type of hair used.


Stands up to solvents and doesn’t dry out. Dries quicker than animal hair after washing.

Over time with washing and drying out and can lose its shape. Hair can shed.

Bristles Made From

Man-made materials like nylon, polyester.

Animal/ Natural hair from squirrels, goats, horses, badgers and weasels.