brushes compared: Artis Oval 3 vs iBeauty #21

Reviews, Tools

brushes compared: Artis Oval 3 vs iBeauty #21



Woohoo, I’m baaa-aaack! Sorry for the long break – it turns out that moving (even just across town) is a massive stress factory and time drain. But now real estate transactions are closed, stuff is moved and most importantly, my makeup & photo gear are unpacked. So now I give you: a much overdue comparison between an Artis brush (Oval 3) & one of the many cheaper ‘dupes’ (iBeauty #21).

Now, these two brushes are very obviously different shapes, sizes and have different purposes, so it’s not strictly an apples to apples comparison. I wasn’t sure if I’d like this brush style at all, so I didn’t want to risk getting two of something I might end up hating. One example of each is enough to get an idea of the differences though, so I still feel like it was a useful experiment.


Artis Oval 3 vs iBeauty #21

Artis Oval 3 vs iBeauty #21

I didn’t have the benefit of any actual measurements when I was picking out my Artis brush, so for the record here are the details on both.

iBeauty #21:

  • Full length – 148mm
  • Bristle length – 11mm
  • Oval width – 18.5mm
  • Oval length – 30mm

Artis Oval 3:

  • Full length – 145.5mm
  • Bristle length – 10.25mm
  • Oval width – 7mm
  • Oval length – 16mm

So what’s the deal with these anyway?

There are two main draws to Artis brushes and their many knock-offs. First – obviously – is the shape. Most makeup brushes have the bristles parallel to the handle, a result of traditional construction methods using animal hair. Since Artis brushes are made with synthetic hair and have modern manufacturing on their side, the bristles can be situated perpendicular to the handle without needing a ferrule to hold it all together. According to their info page, this makes the brushes easier to use when you’re putting makeup on your own face (as opposed to makeup artists who are using the brush on someone else).

Honestly, I’m not 100% sold on this point. It all makes sense, but I think I’m so used to regular brushes that it still feels a little awkward to use. Especially the Artis Oval 3 because it’s a little too big for my eyes, but that’s my own fault. The iBeauty #21 is a little easier since it’s bigger and used over a larger area.

The other big deal is the bristles themselves. I can’t track down exact info on the iBeauty #21, but Artis uses CosmeFibre, a new-generation synthetic bristle. One of the big differences between natural and synthetic bristles is natural hair has a cuticle. That slightly uneven surface helps it pick up and hold onto powder products better (My Brush Betty has a great writeup on this). I don’t know about everyone else, but I usually chuck the synthetic brushes that come with eyeshadow palettes immediately because they drop the powder everywhere. CosmeFibre gets around that by using incredibly fine individual bristles packed tightly to a) pick up and hold onto more powder product and b) blend more evenly.

Artis Oval 3 vs Esum G09

Artis Oval 3 vs Esum G09 Swatch

I can vouch for that first part, for sure. For powder eyeshadows, the Oval 3 gives me a much denser and opaque coverage than my usual flat lay-down brushes. The effect is almost the same as using the shadow wet. It’s true for cream eyeshadows too. I’ve got a Givenchy Ombre Couture shadow that I haven’t been crazy about because it’s really hard to get even coverage with it. With the Oval 3? Not an issue at all.

Blending with the iBeauty #21 has been hit or miss. I use it for foundation, and sometimes it looks really, really nice. But if I don’t wash it every 2nd or 3rd use the bristles cling together and leave obvious streaks. It can also pull up flakes if I have extra-dry areas, but that’s true of any really dense brush. I haven’t seen the streaky-bristle-clumping issue with the Oval 3 when using cream shadows or blending concealer, but I can’t be sure how much of that is

Is it a dupe?

I know the question on a lot of people’s minds is: are the Artis brushes so much better than knock-offs that you can justify the price difference? And if you’re judging specifically on build quality, I say absolutely yes. There are three big differences I’ve seen between the two, materials-wise:

Bristles – The bristles on the Oval 3 are finer and a little bit softer than the iBeauty #21 brush. I wouldn’t call the #21 rough or scratchy by any means, but it’s not as velvety soft either. Also the #21 shed quite a bit in the first few uses, and the Oval 3 did not.

Handle material – The plastic that the #21 is made out of is just… not good. There’s a ton of flex in it, so much that I feel like I have to keep a finger against the back of the brush while I’m using it to keep the brush head from snapping off. I fully expect it to fail catastrophically at some point, and just hope I don’t put an eye out when it happens. The Oval 3 does flex a little bit if I push against my skin, but it’s a lot more sturdy.

Balance – The Oval 3 wins hands-down again here. The bottom section of the handle is slightly weighted so it doesn’t feel top-heavy at all. The #21 has no such feature, which makes it not as nice to hold or use.

So if you ask me if the iBeauty brush would be a ‘dupe’ for a similar shape/size Artis brush (I think the Oval 6 is closest), I’m gonna have to say no. A different but related question would be – is it worth it to pay a lot more for the real deal? I mean, you can get entire sets of the knock-off brushes from Amazon for under $50, but the full line-up of the Artis ones will set you back $355. Not exactly a trivial amount. And that’s a trickier question. The iBeauty #21 is cheaply-made, but even with its faults it’s not actually bad. I think the make-or-break issue with either one is going to be whether you like that brush style, period. So the cheaper versions might not be a terrible idea as an intro to the brush style.

Personally, I haven’t quite decided if I’m a big fan of the toothbrush-shaped makeup brush. It’s interesting, but for foundation it hasn’t totally taken the place of my other brushes. I am, however, pretty impressed at how much more usable some of my shadows were with the eye brush.

In Short: There’s no doubt that Artis is the better brush, but the iBeauty knock-off is pretty alright. I would probably go for a cheaper set first to make sure I like the style, and then decide from there whether to go for the real deal.

The Artis Oval 3 ($40) is available at HSN, Net-A-Porter and Dillard’s. The iBeauty #21 is listed on the iBeauty website for $25, but I picked mine up at TJ Maxx for around $5.


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