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Typically, women don't give much thought to what their make-up brushes are made of. It's just a brush, right? Well, here are a few things to consider.

Traditionally, make-up artists have used animal hair brushes. These work well enough, but there are downsides. Even when washed regularly, animal hair brushes can hold dirt and absorb moisture or bacteria that hide within the hair's porous cuticles. Animal hair also becomes brittle over time, making brushes spiky and irritating the skin. I have known quite a few women who found they were allergic to animal hair bristles. And finally, the use of hair harvested from a living or killed animal also concerns animal lovers.

Animal hair make-up brushes are commonly made from squirrel, badger, mink, sable, horse, and goat hair - all innocent animals that donate their hair (unwillingly, of course). According to www.caringconsumer.com, mink and sable brushes often use hair that comes from the fur industry, which is known for trapping and killing animals for their fur, often by gassing or electrocution to avoid damaging the hair. Horse hair commonly comes from horses slaughtered for meat; goats are shorn like sheep (and may suffer cuts and other injuries); and squirrels are hunted or trapped. Some manufacturers obtain their hair supplies from countries where animal welfare regulations are poor or non-existent. Many make-up brushes are manufactured in developing countries where there are few or no animal welfare regulations.

Luckily for us, and the little furry donors, advances in synthetics and manufacturing techniques have come to the rescue. Newly available synthetic bristles actually repel dirt and bacteria, and make-up products cannot be absorbed into them, so they are much more hygienic and easier to clean. Synthetic fibres can now be made far finer than even the finest animal hairs. The result is a softer, gentler brush with better product holding and blending properties.

Choosing synthetic brushes is the only sure way of knowing animals were not used or mistreated. Using a vegan make-up brand and researching your product's ingredients is also vital if you choose not to use animals in the name of beauty. The brushes we use can make a tremendous difference to the results of make-up application, so it is natural to use what a professional has recommended.

Choosing vegan products

If you care about animals and want to make sure you are not using them in the name of beauty, you will want to make sure you use Vegan cosmetics. Vegan cosmetics are cruelty-free and are never tested on animals or support the mistreatment of animals. Vegan products will not contain any animal products. Some common animal products that you will find in make-up are:

* Carmine (ground-up cochineal beetles): Can you believe this is the pigment in many bright red and pink lipsticks! Sometimes listed on products as “Natural Red 4,” or “Crimson Lake.”

* Lanolin: A yellow waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals, usually sheep.

* Milk products: From cows, goats and other animals.

* Hyaluronic acid: Found in the connective tissues of humans and animals.

* Elastin: A protein, usually taken from birds and cows.

* Lard: An oily substance obtained by heating the fat from pigs. In cosmetics and personal care products, lard and lard-derived ingredients are often used in the formulation of pencil liners and lipsticks.

* Silk and beeswax (often debated as not being an animal product)

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