Monday, September 9th, 2013

Hakuhodo J5543 Blush Brush Round & Flat
Hakuhodo J5543 Blush Brush Round & Flat

Hakuhodo J5543 Blush Brush Round & Flat ($60.00) is a medium-sized blush brush with tapered bristles and a rounded edge that is just slightly curved but mostly flat across. It is fairly thick, dense, and delightfully soft and silky on the skin. The brush head is 31mm in length, 33mm in width, and 18mm in thickness (note: Hakuhodo lists it as 11.5mm thick, but after several uses and washes, mine is definitely thicker). It has a pinched ferrule with a total brush length of 6.5 inches or 16.5 centimeters.  The weight is well-balanced with slightly more weight on the brush head end, but the handle is still balanced and nice to hold.

I loved it most with powder blush, powder bronzer, and for extra blending or diffusing of cheek color after products were initially applied. It really glides across the skin with a feather-light touch, and it can apply color with light to medium coverage easily. If you want richer color, I would just load the brush with more product, but it doesn’t take much. The thin, tapered bristles work well for blending and softening the edges of blush and bronzer without much work. I like to lightly pat the brush across the area I want to apply blush, and then I sweep it slowly upward and then lightly use short, quick passes along the edges to soften.

It is quite similar to Tom Ford Cheek Brush ($78) with the biggest difference being that Tom Ford’s is noticeably denser, so it picks up more pigment/product off the bat, while the J5543 will allow for a slightly softer/lighter application. Blush is absolutely buildable with the J5543, so the same results can be achieved, and it ultimately depends on how heavy-handed you are, how pigmented the blush you’re using is, and how much product you get on the brush. The J5543 is equally soft and sometimes almost feels softer because it is less dense. Both are fantastic brushes. MAC 116 ($35) is less dense, not as soft, and is narrower at the base and more flared towards the top.

J116 Highlighter Brush Round & Flat ($34.00) is a small, tapered brush that comes to a small flattened point with rounded, tapered edges and is made out of white goat hair. It’s fairly flat but still dense and lush, where the bristles move more as one and sweep softly across the face. This style is also available in the S-series and B-series, both made out of blue squirrel hair, at $78 and $57 respectively. The brush head is 28mm in length, 23mm in width, and 10mm in thickness with a pinched ferrule and total brush length of 6.5 inches or 16.25 centimeters.  The weight is well-distributed across the brush without making the handle feel too heavy or too light.

It’s a versatile brush shape that lends itself for applying blush, highlighter, or contour. It even works to apply setting powder underneath the eye to lock concealer in place. The tapered, rounded edge and smaller size makes it ideal for smaller areas, which is why it’s most recommended for highlighting. Because of its denseness and shape, it can also fit in the hollows of the cheek. For someone with smaller features, it could work as a smaller blush brush. I did like it best for highlighting, as it does a good job of picking up and laying down highlighting powders without over-applying. The brush easily diffuses and blends out even frostier highlighters to give them a more diffused glow. It also does a nice job applying lightweight cream blushes (like Chanel’s new ones) and diffusing them with even, streak-free color.

Sephora PRO Precision Blush (73) Brush ($32) is larger and thicker with more flex/spring, and it comes to a stronger point at the top, but they are somewhat similar; it is not as soft. MAC 159 ($35) has a flatter, more straight-across edge and is a duo-fiber brush, though it has a similar density. Real Techniques Duo-Fiber Contour Brush ($19.99, part of a 3-piece set) is rounded but not as tapered with more spring, but they are similar in overall size and (to a lesser degree) shape; this brush is particularly scratchy, though, so I would not recommend it in its place.

As a note, the lettering on the J-series brushes rubs/scratches off very easily, and the brush handles do not include numbers, which are the two things I disliked most about these Hakuhodo brushes.

The Glossover

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J5543 Blush Brush Round & Flat

I loved it most with powder blush, powder bronzer, and for extra blending or diffusing of cheek color after products were initially applied. It really glides across the skin with a feather-light touch, and it can apply color with light to medium coverage easily. If you want richer color, I would just load the brush with more product, but it doesn't take much.

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J116 Highlighter Brush Round & Flat

It's a versatile brush shape that lends itself for applying blush, highlighter, or contour. It even works to apply setting powder underneath the eye to lock concealer in place. The tapered, rounded edge and smaller size makes it ideal for smaller areas, which is why it's most recommended for highlighting.

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Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Hakuhodo J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round
Hakuhodo J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round

Hakuhodo J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round ($18.00) is a thin, rounded eye brush with a tapered edge. It is easily most recognized as a brush to apply and/or blend out eyeshadow into the crease. The brush head is 18mm long, 6mm wide, and 6mm thick. The brush has a total length of just under 6 inches / 15 centimeters, and it is made out of white goat hair with a glossy black handle made out of wood. The ferrule is open (no pinching at the top). It is also available in the S-series for $40 (yes, that’s correct, it is made using blue squirrel instead of goat).  The difference between the two is the handle; Hakuhodo has stated that the quality of the brush heads are the same across the series (read more here).

The brush is very well-shaped and works nicely to both deposit rich color into the crease as well as just for blending out the edges in the crease. I can definitely see this being a very practical brush and shape to have in one’s stash, and I imagine many would find use for it. It feels soft and silky against the eye, and even if you’re heavy-handed, it doesn’t feel rough or scratchy. The tip is just rounded enough so it doesn’t feel stiff or sharp but still defined enough to apply product precisely. Because these are natural fibers, this brush is best for powder products and will tend to pick up more pigmented than less. I didn’t have a lot of similar brushes to this (especially ones that were permanent!), because of how it tapers, and it was actually the least expensive ones in my stash. I usually reach for my MAC 226 when I want a brush like this, but I’ll be reaching for this instead.

If you’re a fan of the MAC 222 ($28, discontinued) or 226 ($24.50, limited edition), I think you’ll like it, as it is a combination of both of those for me–it has the more tapered shape and form of the 226 but with the some of the fluffiness of the 222; the 226 is more tapered and shorter, while the 222 is longer, less dense, and less shaped (with more of a rounded, domed edge than a tapered one). Tom Ford Eye Shadow Blend Brush (13) ($55) is very, very similar the J142 in shape and feel–the Tom Ford version is wider overall and as it has a wider opening. Hakuhodo’s brush handles are usually shorter than most other brands’ brushes (MAC, Make Up For Ever, NARS, OCC, Tom Ford). I don’t think the MAC 224 ($32) is comparable, as it is fluffier, larger, and flares outward, rather than tapering inward. OCC’s Tapered Blending Brush (004) ($22) is similar (and synthetic for those who prefer synthetic fibers) that rounds out more at the top in comparison. Sephora’s PRO Crease (10) ($20), NARS Large Dome Brush (13) ($33), Make Up For Ever #242 Large Blender, and Urban Decay Crease Brushes are all very similar to MAC 224: fluffier, larger, and flare outward.

J5529 Eye Shadow Brush Tapered ($16.00) is a tiny, thin brush with a rounded, very lightly tapered, edge. It’s like a shorter, narrower crease brush, but it is rounder and larger than a pencil brush. The brush head is 13mm long, 5mm wide, and 5mm thick with a total handle length of just under 6 inches / 15 centimeters. It has a round, open ferrule (no pinching at the top) and a glossy black, wooden handle. It is also available in the G-series ($21, blue squirrel hair).

The brush head had some splayed bristles upon arrival, and they’re still like that now, even after a few washes. The fibers are soft to the touch and feel nice against the skin when used to blend and apply product to the lid, but I did notice that if you pushed the tip against the lid (like a pushing or tapping motion, rather than a sweeping one), I could feel the fibers more. Not enough to be scratchy but not as “ooh, la la!” soft. This would work well for someone who had smaller eyes and normally finds crease brushes to be too large for them, as well as anyone who wants to do very precise color application. It also works well for softening color along the lower lash line. I don’t think it’s a must-have, relative to the shape of the J142.

The shape of the J5529 is one that I don’t have a slew of similar brushes for. I suspect that Make Up For Ever’s new 214 Small Precision Crease Brush ($25) or 218 Medium Blender Brush ($25) may be similar to this, but I don’t have them to compare. NARS also makes a Small Dome Eye Brush ($27) that appears similar but I don’t have that one.

The one thing I wish these brushes (and all the Hakuhodo brushes that I have) had were the numbers printed on the brush, and I also wish that the lettering held up better. I can, quite literally, scratch off the silver lettering with my fingernail.

The Glossover

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J142 Eye Shadow Brush Round

The brush is very well-shaped and works nicely to both deposit rich color into the crease as well as just for blending out the edges in the crease. I can definitely see this being a very practical brush and shape to have in one's stash, and I imagine many would find use for it. It feels soft and silky against the eye, and even if you're heavy-handed, it doesn't feel rough or scratchy.
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J5529 Eye Shadow Brush Tapered

This would work well for someone who had smaller eyes and normally finds crease brushes to be too large for them, as well as anyone who wants to do very precise color application. It also works well for softening color along the lower lash line. I don't think it's a must-have, relative to the shape of the J142.
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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Hakuhodo J104 Powder Brush Round
Hakuhodo J104 Powder Brush Round

Before we get to the review, let’s talk a bit about Hakuhodo first. Hakuhodo is a prestige makeup brush line that produces brushes under its own name, but it is also an OEM (original equipment manufacturer), which means it will create brushes to another company’s specifications. For instance, it is rumored that Tom Ford’s brushes are manufactured by Hakuhodo. So if you had the cash, you could create your own brush range working with Hakuhodo. And if you don’t, you can buy directly from their own branded products. Hakuhodo’s (U.S.) customer service is really knowlegdable and helpful, so if you have any questions, I highly, highly recommend giving them a quick call to ask (or you can e-mail via their contact form). This morning, I reached out and spoke with Stephanie with a few questions.

What’s the difference between Hakuhodo’s brush series?

I know this was my first question about the brand was what was the difference between all the different series, and she happily informed me that the quality and (in general) the shapes are the same across the series, but the handles differ, which is why the S100 and Kokutan series are more expensive. I picked up the J104, but you can find the same shape in the B series ($66) and S series ($94), with the latter two having black goat hair compared to white goat hair. The S series uses wood handles colored in “rich vermilion” and the brass ferrule is plated with 24-karat gold with a clear coating; the brush handle also comes to a slanted point at the end. The Kokutan series features an ebony wood handle with slightly shorter handles. The J series primarily focuses on using white goat hair, G series on black goat hair, and the two are some of the newer series. Stephanie encouraged me to send her an email if I found a shape in one series that I liked and couldn’t find in another, as most of the shapes crossover through the different series–so I recommend you doing the same.

They’re expensive. Are they worth it?

If you start your search by looking at the S or Kokutan series, then yes, they are particularly expensive, but if you look at the B, J, K, or G series, you’ll find the pricing to be comparable to mid to high-end brush brands like MAC, Dior, Chanel, etc. Face and powder brushes range from $24 to $216 with many brushes between $40 and $80. Cheek brushes range from $22 to $156 with many brushes between $30 and $60. Eyeshadow and eyeliner brushes range from $14 to $81 with many brushes between $15 and $30. For example, the J104 is a very large powder brush made out of white goat hair (a more premium material) for $80, while MAC’s 134 Large Powder Brush is $53 and their 150 Large Powder Brush is $42; Chanel #1 Powder Brush is $65, Bobbi Brown Powder Brush is $60. Now, all of those brushes have black bristles, which would make it more comparable to the B104, which is priced at $66–more comparable in price to the others listed there. Here’s another example, using an eyeshadow brush: the J142 is a tapered crease brush that costs $18 and J5529 is another tapered crease brush that costs $16, while MAC’s 224 Tapered Blending Brush is $32, Edward Bess Luxury Eye Brush is $40, Tom Ford Eyeshadow Blend Brush is $55. So long as you don’t opt for the higher-end handle, the majority of crease brushes from Hakuhodo ranged from $16 to $30. The pricing can be more than high-end brands or less than, and it will depend on the individual brush, hair used (it can be difficult to find out exactly what type of hair a brand uses), and, of course, handle chosen. 

Over the years, what I have found to determine that “is it worth it” question in regards to brushes is how often you USE the brush.  If it’s not the right shape that you want for that type of application, it will just sit there, no matter how soft or lovely it is.  If it is THE powder brush, THE blush brush, then yes, it’s worth it.  (This is really true for any beauty product or anything that is more expensive than the norm.) You have to use it, and you have to be unhappy with what you have if you’re looking to replace, but if you already love what you own, you may not find that the differential is that great. As someone who owns just about every MAC brush released in the past five years and all permanent ones, I can tell you that I don’t use the majority of them. Though I bought all more to review here on the blog, for personal use, my money would have been better spent on doubling or tripling up on brushes I used regularly.  If I was starting over, I would buy across brands with a mixture of natural, synthetic, and blend brushes with the shapes that worked best for my application style and face shape.

What type of hair should be used with what?

The general rule of thumb in makeup brushes is synthetic brushes are best for liquids and creams, while natural brushes are best for powders. Hakuhodo strongly recommends using powders only with brushes made from black goat or squirrel hair. For liquid and cream application, horse, weasel, water badger, synthetic, and white goat hair can be used, but they recommend considering a blend of synthetic and natural for best application. Part of the reason for this distinction is to minimize the degree your brushes need to be washed, as Hakuhodo recommends washing minimally (see their brush care guide). Hakuhodo has a good FAQ regarding the different types of hair here. You know, like if you’ve ever wondered what the difference was between Blue, Tree, and Pine Squirrels, you’ll find it there (a very useful read well worth the time).

If you’d like to further fall down a rabbit hole of makeup brushes, you can do some googling for brands like Chikuhodo and Suqqu (which is manufactureed by Chikuhodo). Those are both harder to obtain in the states (not impossible), so I really appreciate that you can purchase Hakuhodo direct from the company, and even better, they ship from within the U.S. so you’re not getting gouged or having to deal with exchange rates. The only downside is outside of trade shows (like IMATS), it’s tough to try before you buy, and they only accept returns of unused product (they say they may make exceptions, though). Items are shipped via USPS Priority, and I made two separate orders, both of which I received two days from when I order.

Hakuhodo J104 Powder Brush Round ($80.00) is a large brush with a very slightly domed edge with a brush head that is medium in size at the base and then flares out. It’s made out of white goat hair and has a black wood handle with a nickel-plated brass ferrule. The brush head is 50mm in length, 45mm in width (at the top) / 20mm in width (at the base), and 20mm in thickness. It is 7.4 inches/18.5cm in total length. It is also available as S104 ($94) or B104 ($66) with black bristles.

It’s moderately dense but airy enough to work well with powder application without caking powder on but more than just a fine dusting of powder. There’s some springiness to the brush that enables it to be pressed and feathered across the skin with ease. I think this brush is going to be too large for some faces–in some ways, it reminds me of the size of a buffing brush with a long handle (the shape/density/function is not comparable, just the size).

For those most familiar with MAC brushes, this is most comparable to MAC’s 150 brush. The 150 is not as full or as round (it is slightly thinner) and has more domed edges, but their purposes and applications are similar. MAC’s 150 brush only started to feel scratchy to me in the past year or two, but when I initially used it, I wouldn’t have described it as the softest brush I owned, only “not the softest.” The J104 is infinitely softer, there’s no doubt about that, so it feels better against the skin, which would be important for anyone with drier or more sensitive skin. (Softness is not the be-all, end-all of brush quality; it is just one factor to consider.) I like it better than the MAC 150 (and for that matter, the 134 and 136), but I actually prefer Make Up For Ever’s #128 for setting and finishing powders, but both are great brushes and it would come down to personal preference for shape, brush material, etc.

I can’t personally attest to how the brush holds up over years, as I’ve had this particular one for two weeks, but the brand has been around a long time, so the universe at large (from what I’ve been able to research) has not had issues with the brush holding up to prolonged use. I’ve made a note on my calendar to revise this particularly aspect in a year’s time :)

If you’ve tried this brush (or the equivalent S104 or B104), would you consider leaving a review here?

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