OK, it’s an eyeshadow brush with black electrical tape from the hardware store wrapped around the ferrule (the metal part).
You may be asking why I did this to a perfectly nice (not to mention expensive) brush.
My dermatologist made me do it.
I’m allergic to nickel, and I use mineral eyeshadow. (Update 2016: I’m still OK with my mineral eyeshadow, but many with nickel allergy may not be able to tolerate ingredients like mica and titanium dioxide. It’s good to patch test first or look for products that have been nickel-tested.) Particles in mineral makeup can abrade the ferrule of the brush, and if the ferrule is plated with nickel, nickel particles can be released. So, sometimes skin irritation might not come from nickel in the product itself, but rather nickel from the brush. The electrical tape protects the ferrule from abrasion.
Speaking of eyes, many eyelash curlers contain nickel. I use plastic travel curlers like this one from Sephora to get around this.
Not all brushes have nickel in their ferrules. When I tested my brushes with one of my nickel tester swabs (a swab that turns pink in the presence of nickel), the drugstore ones were fine (CVS Essence of Beauty and EcoTools), while the more expensive brands (Mac, Louise Young, and Trish McEvoy) all tested positive. The Louise Young ones made the swab turn bright pink — fuchsia, in fact. For some reason, high-end brush makers like to plate ferrules with nickel.
Had I known this earlier, of course, I could have saved some serious cash. (But no.)
Nickel is the most frequent cause of allergic contact dermatitis in industrialized countries. An estimated 5–10 percent of the general population of the industrialized world and 10–20 percent of young women in developed countries) are allergic to it. It was voted Allergen of the Year in 2008 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, yet it’s everywhere: metal buttons on jeans, keys, belt buckles, tools, coins, rivets, costume jewelry, metal knobs on cabinets, door handles, locks, zippers, eyeglass frames, nail clippers, cell phones, computers, white gold: The list is endless. Nickel is also found in food, and some people with severe nickel allergies follow a low-nickel diet. Nickel allergies can develop quickly or from repeated exposures to the metal over years.
Many people are allergic to nickel and don’t know it. If you get rashes or ear infections from cheap necklaces or earrings, you could be allergic to nickel.
And to find a dermatologist who does allergic patch testing, go here and click on “Find a Physician.”