It’s the ultimate MAC eye brush showdown: #217 vs #224. Which is better, and are either of them any good? Take a look for yourself and see what you think:

For quite a while now, I’ve wanted to give MAC brushes a try. There has to be a reason they’re the go-to standard, constantly recommended and mentioned everywhere, right? Except… They’re so expensive. I have one, which was bought for me by my mother many years ago, but it’s a foundation brush and so doesn’t get used very much. I wanted to try out the eye brushes, since those are something I use every day, and the difference between a good eye brush and a bad eye brush is the difference between a good eye look and a bad eye look.

I have other brushes, of course– Clinique, Jemima Kidd, Catrice, and my personal favourite, Real Techniques. So how did the MAC ones measure up? Well… It’s a mixed bag. As mentioned in my previous post, the two that I bought were #224 and #217. Those numbers might be close together, but there’s a world of difference in between them.


#224 (right) is basically your average good eye brush. #217 (left) is genuinely the holy grail of eye applicators.

Look, here’s the thing– I didn’t believe it, either, when I read reviews of it before. People basically raved about this brush, and it doesn’t look all that impressive, and I kind of thought, “Yeah, sure”. If you’re reading this and doubting (I don’t blame you), let me just say: try it yourself. Don’t take my word for it. I can’t convince you of how great this damn thing is, because you will have to try it for yourself to believe how it will perform some sort of godly eye magic. It blends colours with two or three light passes, and it does it perfectly. How? I don’t know. Sorry. I’d love to be able to explain how that works (it’s possibly because it has natural bristles?), but I can not.

What I do know is that it’s fabulous. I’m in love with this brush. I’m going to buy more of them. This brush to me, is basically what Ferraris are to the superrich– I probably only really need the one, but I’m still planning on getting a load of them for very slightly different functions, and I’m going to display them outside my house so as to make everyone jealous of my hoard of supercars. Er, superbrushes. Whichever! The point is: you should probably buy one. Soon. Before I cause some kind of worldwide shortage of the damn things.

…And now on to #224. I confess: I was disappointed. Which is kind of unfair, because I’m pretty sure I’m only disappointed because it wasn’t on the same level as #217. It’s a great brush, and does a nice job on blending. But when it comes right down to it? I don’t know how much I’ll use #224. I have a feeling I’m going to reach for #217 every time I need a superblender, so I almost wish I had bought two of those, instead (to start off my neighbour-impressing collection).

So does that mean #217 basically just does the same thing as #224, but better? Well… The more I think about it, I’m actually not sure.

#217 is listed on the MAC site (the US version; the UK version won’t show me anything but a pointless slideshow of faces, annoyingly) as being for “the application and blending of powder products”. #224, by contrast, is for “gently shading and blending the crease line with powder shadow”. Those two things do sound awfully similar to me.

Still, the funny thing is… These two really do have quite a different effect. Let’s take another look at the comparison photo, shall we? Here’s how they apply and blend the same two colours (Half Baked and Snakebite from Naked 2):


As you can see, the #217 delivers more product to the skin, and also delivers a slightly more subtle blend. The #224 gives you a lighter impression of colour on application, and blends out the colours almost into a single shade. Both make a complete mess of my shadow tray, by the way– far worse than anything I’ve seen using my RT brushes. There was also a huge amount of fallout powder around the side of my arm and on the table from doing this, too. I hadn’t really noticed this before doing on my arm, but I imagine it does the same on your face, as well, so my advice is to apply with a less… Enthusiastic brush, and then blend out with one of these.

Let’s break it down even further:


→  natural fibres
→ more precise
→ picks up lots of product
→ messy; fallout when applying
→ subtle but effective blending
→ slightly cheaper (€25)


→  natural fibres
→ covers a broad area
→ picks up minimal product
→ messy; fallout when applying
→ extremely strong blending
→ slightly pricier (€32)

If I have to pick (and possibly you should, because these are heinously expensive), I prefer #217. It blends exactly to the level I like, but no further. It’s also super for applying product– look how much denser and more vibrant the Snakebite looks when applied with #217. That said, I think #224 might be a little more useful when blending colours more different than the two used in the example here, where a subtle blend is just not quite gonna cut it.

I might try that out, in fact, on a day when I feel like washing both brushes thoroughly afterwards, and report back. For now, though, I’ll just say that they’re both pretty great, but if you can only pick the one, #217 is probably the better all-rounder, as it applies and blends really nicely. They’re very definitely not the same, though, so if you can stretch to both, I think your brush collection will be better for it.

Have you tried either of these brushes? Do you have a preference for one or the other? Or do you just refuse to buy into the hype surrounding MAC brushes (and these in particular)? Drop me a line and let me know!


One Trackback

  1. By JANUARY BEAUTY ROUNDUP « a n e z on February 2, 2015 at 19:13

    […] MAC brush #217 Urban Decay Naked 2 Charlotte Tilbury Portobello Girl lip gloss Urban Decay Naked 1 Charlotte Tilbury Uptown Girl palette […]

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