When I started watching makeup tutorials on YouTube, the most confusing part was the references to so many different makeup brushes, all labeled with letters and numbers with no consistent system of categorisation. Oh, the MAC 217? OF COURSE. While that ‘of course’ was initially sarcastic, I quickly learned that if there was one brush to have, the MAC 217 was it. Fluffy and good for everything from blending powder eyeshadow to undereye concealer. Expensive, but one day I must have been feeling flush and I ordered myself one from Nordstrom for $24 USD and I use it for everything ever since.
The thing with brushes, though, is the fewer you have, the more you have to wash them. Washing brushes is boring. So I decided to buy myself some more blending brushes… but slightly cheaper this time. I had heard the Bdellium Tools 776 was a good dupe for the MAC 217, and much less expensive. Now that I own both, I thought it might be useful to compare them (along with some other, inferior blending brushes).
Now that you’ve clicked through I can give you the big reveal: the MAC 217 and Bdellium Tools 776 are, for all intents and purposes (putting makeup on your face), identical. They’re both made of goat hair, although if you’re vegan Bdellium Tools do make vegan brushes in the same shape (I can’t speak for their efficacy, though). Same size, same shape, same behaviour – that is, no shedding, cleaning up well, good at the jobs they do. The 776 is on the left above, and 217 on the right.
If you’re wondering what the mysterious third brush is on the right in this picture, it’s a brandless ‘217’ from eBay that cost about $3 including shipping. I purchased it for experimental purposes, and because of my aforementioned aversion to washing my brushes regularly. As you can see, it’s bigger and scruffier than the true 217, but it’s mostly the same shape. It does a far inferior job to the others, no two ways about it. It isn’t useless, however, and if $1 is all that’s in your budget, it certainly does a job. I keep it on hand for when I want to throw a neutral taupe through my crease and don’t have any detailed blending to do.
There are some other brushes it might be useful to consider in this post – the Real Techniques offerings in the fluffy blending brush category. There’s the Base Shadow Brush from the Starter Set (the purple one) and the Duo Fibre Eye Brush. They’re not getting much air time here because, well, they’re useful but they’re nothing special. The Base Shadow Brush will do for blending in a pinch, but I’ll always recommend natural hair over synthetic for blending if you can get it. For some reason it’s just a lot easier to work with! The Duo Fibre Eye Brush is kinda… sharp. It’s another of those ‘well I guess it’s better than using my fingers’ brushes.
I’m going to make a couple of conclusions here. The first one is that the MAC 217 is fantastic. It’s a brilliant all-rounder of a brush and I use it every day. If you want to buy it, go right ahead. You won’t regret it. It’s worth the $24 USD. If you don’t have that kind of money to splash on one brush, though, you could get three VERY similar 776 brushes from Bdellium Tools for the same price.
The last conclusion is that you can never have too many fluffy blending brushes, so why not buy one of each and never have to wash a brush again.