Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Sigma F80 (ss197) synthetic flatop kabuki & buffer brush comparisons

Having the right tools can enhance the joy of makeup applications emotionally and and improve your skills technically. The good ones can tame even some of the most difficult-to-work-with products and make them look good (or at least decent) on your skin.

Makeup brushes are one of the most essential makeup tools, particularly foundation brushes as they are used to create a flawless canvas base for your face and and sets up the application of colours over it. Get your base application wrong and you may well end up with blotchy cheek colours and uneven bronzer applications which accentuates imperfections rather than blending them out.

Always on the hunt for a good tool, I recently purchased the Sigma flat top synthetic kabuki: F80 (aka ss197, it's previous name) face brush to compare with my other buffer brushes.
hairs slightly dis-coloured as I have been using it

Star Qualities
  • feels uber soft on skin - the best feature of synthetic brushes. It also means this brush will not soak up liquids so you use less product during application.
  • circular head of dense short hair gives a full yet slightly stiff brush which gives the great buffing qualities on liquids and powders. 
  • does a stellar job in applying and buffing liquids for a flawless natural finish.
  • foundation looks bonded to skin in the most seamless way. It does an ok job with powder application as it is too dense to apply sheerly but is great for finishing jobs to buff and polish out the powdery cakey look.
  • Makes hard-to-blend products spread with ease.
  • weight of long wooden lacquered handle feels comfortable on hand and gives good control with buffing products onto skin.
  • Does not shed.

  • Takes a long time to dry after washing due to density of hair. You might need to buy 2 if you plan to use it everyday and want to wash it regularly.
  • flat head surface can deposit powders too heavily and so can create a cakey look without a lot of product buffing. To avoid this, swirl the product into the head of the brush and tap of excess so that no visible powder particles shows up on brush.
  • tends to lose its circular shape easily and needs regular re-shaping - does not affect brush application though.

Comparisons with other buffing brushes

with EDM flatop kabuki: the Everyday Minerals (EDM) brush is very similar in shape and head size, and although EDM is a dense synthetic brush, the Sigma one is denser. The bristles are longer on the EDM so it is slightly more floppy and more suited for powdered products (my HG for loose mineral foundations). EDM's handle is also shorter, which lends it more for use like a traditional kabuki brush.

with Bare Escentuals heavenly face brush: this is the most similar to the Sigma F80 brush, in terms of shape, hair length and density. B.E is however, slightly bigger in size (the heavenly blush brush is more comparable in size) and made of natural hairs so it's not as soft as synthetic hairs (it's not scratchy either). It works well with both powder and liquid applications and for blending/buffing especially if you have over-applied your coloured products. This is a far superior brush to the Sigma brush for its versatility and would be my desert island brush.

with the MAC 130 duo fibre buffer brush: this is a much smaller brush and is made with goat hair and longer synthetic hairs. This brush does an excellent job with both powder and liquids and gives a seamless blended look. This brush would also allow you to build your coverage up slowly without it looking too cakey. Due to its small brush size, it does take longer and more effort to use for the whole face and is probably better suited for use around contours of  the nose, mouth and around eyes.
top view for different brush head sizes. Sigma is 3cm across

with the MAC 109 brush: this is again a small contour brush with a slightly dome head. Made of soft dyed black goat hair, it is great for contouring and highlighting given its size. Unless you want to spend extra time picking out hairs off your face, it is best left for use with powdered or creme products as it becomes a crazy shedding animal when used with liquids.

with MAC 182 buffer brush: this is a larger dome shaped brush so already would give a different application effect than a flat top brush. Like the 109, it is made of dyed natural goat hair so is better at grabbing powder products than synthetic brushes for buildable applications. It does a good job with loose and pressed powders but tends to shed when used with liquid products. I reserve this for powder uses only as it gives a very diffused finish that is easy to build up to the coverage I want. A better comparison would be with the MAC 180 white goat hair flat top buffer brush but I don't own that so cannot do a direct comparison.

top view showing fibre texture and size
All brushes stood up well against shedding. Other than the stray hairs from manufacture, I've not experience any hair loss on the Sigma or the EDM (and I've owned that for over 2 years now). B.E did shed a hair or two occasionally but nothing that other natural hair brushes don't do and is not a issue. MAC brushes I have found to be a hit or miss with shedding - the same type brush can shed for one and hardly at all for another (MAC really need to get their quality control under order) - fortunately, my MAC 182 and 130 do not shed (sadly the same can't be said for the 109).

Final Thoughts
The Sigma brush is a great addition to my already vast makeup brush collection and it gets a lot of love from me. It's fast becoming my favourite and only go-to liquid/cream foundation brush for application and polishing work. It puts the MAC 109 brush to shame for liquids. For powders, I would use other brushes just because I have other better tools at my disposal but if I were not to have other options, I wouldn't complain too much about having to use it for powders.

Rating: 9/10.  I this brush for liquid/cream foundations.
RRP US$16 at Sigma Makeup Online


  1. I love this review and I couldn't agree more. I love my SS197 as well. Your blog is great girlie and I can't wait to read more! :) Pretty Little Cajun Queen

  2. I need to give mine another go, I haven't been using it much and it is a great brush, fantastic review :D

  3. Thank you for this amazing review! I'm going to get the f80 and perhaps the BE now :)

  4. Few days ago suddenly i feeling a problem about make brushe .I am always looking for a solution finally i find it this article

    sigma f80


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