We chat with Tay Yu Hui, founder of Singapore makeup brand 13rushes, on the cruelty-free beauty industry and how to pick the right makeup brushes for your face
Talking to 13rushes founder Yu Hui, despite just meeting her for the first time, is like chatting with an old friend – she speaks animatedly and with refreshing candour about her business, her family and even her pets (fun fact: she once owned 26 rabbits!). But in spite of her sunny, girl-next-door demeanour, it’s clear she’s got a keen sense of business know-how. The proof? 13rushes is a fast-rising star in the Singapore beauty scene, and is well-regarded amongst makeup artists and fans alike.
Founded in 2013, the cruelty-free makeup brush brand delivers handmade and hand-trimmed soft synthetic brushes. I can personally vouch for their stellar quality, having used them on rotation over the past month. Over an afternoon chat with Yu Hui, we learned the harsh truth about the cruelty-free beauty industry, and the secrets to picking the right makeup brushes for your face.
How did 13rushes start?
After watching a PETA video of how some makeup brands skin animals alive for fur and brush hairs, it made me aware about the reality of the beauty world. So I began looking for cruelty-free brushes in Singapore and realised that homegrown options were really limited.
Why do you think that was?
When I began sourcing for bristles for brushes, I realised why Singaporeans are reluctant to jump into this industry – manufacturing labs abroad demand wholesale orders of at least 1,000 brushes per order.
Why go into brushes and not makeup?
A lot more research goes into makeup formulations, and I didn’t want to be responsible for any potential allergic reactions in users.
Do you use cruelty-free makeup too?
I try as much as possible. But the truth is, sometimes you genuinely don’t know if a brand’s products are cruelty-free despite what the label says. After visiting the manufacturers of major brush brands, I’m doubtful of these claims. Here’s what I can say: For plenty of these brands that are located outside of Asia (many of the factories are situated in China), it’s obvious that the creators don’t visit the factories and are sloppy in sticking to their animal-friendly philosophies.
For instance, I know of a UK-based brand that claims to sell cruelty-free, synthetic brushes. But I’ve seen the products firsthand in the factory, and I know from my brush-making experience that they’re made with goat or horse hair. On the other side of the coin, you can’t entirely blame these business owners; some factories will make farfetched claims – I know of one which markets its horse hair brushes as cruelty-free. The explanation is ludicrous – it claims that these hairs were obtained through vaccuuming the hairs left behind after stroking a horse’s mane.
Here’s the truth: There’s no such thing as animal-friendly makeup brushes made out of real animal hairs. To acquire animal hairs, one has to skin them alive. The fur – obtained from different body parts – comes in different grades according to how soft they are. I’ve been to these factories. They smell like death. My advice? Do your research and make it a point to visit these factories instead of making these false claims without further investigation.
Yikes. So let’s talk about your brushes then. What are they made of?
We’re the proud owners of our own proprietary bristles, made entirely of high-quality synthetic to mimic the movement of animal hairs. All of them are carefully hand-made by 26 craftsmen, who are designated to 13rushes. They’re also hand-trimmed at the ends for incredible softness instead of machine cut.
I personally design the look and feel of the brush, and choose the hairs that go into it. I hand-trim and do the final shaping of too to make sure that the bristles are even. You can call me a perfectionist *laughs*
It’s been a big year for brushes, with unicorn ones, and even wand-inspired ones exploding onto the scene. Will 13rushes ever be geared towards these trends?
Nah, I think it’s better to stick to what we are. Trends are transient. And it’s part of a disposable market. It’s scary, the way people buy and easily dispose of things like with fast fashion. I want my brushes to be trusty tools my customers can use for a long time. Funny story – before these unicorn brushes were released, we knew it was going to be a big thing as they were everywhere in the factories. Some of these unicorn brushes aren’t bad, but a lot of them are missing the right shape, or density – two things I make sure are tip-top with 13rushes’ brushes.
Why should someone buy 13rushes’ brushes?
It’s cheaper and as good as a lot of the bigger brands out there. Besides being cruelty-free, these brushes are optimised for Asian eyes, and boast smaller brush heads. They’re also really soft, and easy to use.
For makeup newbies, what’s your advice to them when it comes to buying brushes?
First things first, understand your routine and the texture of your products. For example, a liquid or cream foundation will require a dense brush, while powder ones need fluffier bristles. Also, while there are no hard and fast rules, it’s important to know that different sized tools caters to different parts of your face. Smaller ones are always better for precision.
What’s in the pipeline for 13rushes?
We plan to expand to 40 brushes by the end of the year, and I’m also revamping them for the professional market of makeup artists. I’m also working on a continuation of Brea’s Adventures (an annual travel-sized brush set pictured above) which comes with an illustrated booklet to educate people on animal cruelty.
Shop 13rushes online now.