Badger and sable makeup brushes are two common varieties of natural makeup brushes. Both bristle types are characterized by their coarseness and the way the bristles are thick in the middle and thin on top. Both bristles -- in their purest forms -- can be found on high-quality brushes, but they are used for different purposes.
Makeup Brush Basics
Cosmetic brushes are used to apply a variety of makeup products to the face. There are many different types of brushes; usually, each brush is designed with a type of makeup in mind. Brushes include eyeliner brushes, blush brushes, foundation brushes and eyeshadow brushes. Some brushes are best when manufactured with a specific type of material. Some makeup brushes -- usually the cheaper ones -- are made with manmade fibers. Natural alternatives include brushes made from the hair of badgers, weasels, ponies, goats and squirrels.
Brushes made from badger fur tend to be bushy, stiff and coarse. Badger fur is a common brush material, as badgers exist all over the world. Most badger-fur brushes come from China. Badger fur is often used in eyebrow brushes. The fur's texture allows you to make sharp lines as well as filling in over-plucked brows. A good badger bristle will have a light-brown color, while a cheap badger bristle will have a dull gray color. Dull gray bristles tend to be used for shaving brushes.
Sable brushes come from red-haired animals of the weasel family. Pure sable-bristle brushes -- which should have a pointy tip -- are quite expensive; they have a good deal of strength and are great for eyeshadow and blush contouring. They are the softest natural makeup brush bristles on the market. Red-sable brushes are the most valuable of the group. However, sometimes, lower-quality "sable" brushes are mixed with ox hair, affecting the quality of the brush.
Many makeup experts say that a sable brush is the highest-quality brush you can buy, aside from a top-of-the-line Kolinsky brush, which is made from a specific type of weasel and cannot be rightly classified as a sable brush. Pure sable brushes are said to be the most durable and softest brushes out there. However, it really depends on what kind of makeup you plan on using with your brush. Badger bristles are best for larger, kabuki-style brushes used for applying foundation. Sable bristles, on the other hand, work well for smaller brushes like brushes meant for contouring eyeshadow, applying eyeliner or applying lipliner.