Hakuhodo 210 Blush Brush Round
Hakuhodo 210 Blush Brush Round ($36.00) is a medium-sized brush with a slightly flared brush head that rounds only slightly across the top. The brush head is 28mm in length, 25mm in width, and 25mm in thickness. It has a round ferrule with no pinching at the top, and a total brush length of 6.5 inches or just over 16.5 centimeters. The weight is well-balanced between the handle and the brush head, with slightly more weight towards the top than the bottom but the handle isn’t too light.
This type of brush head shape works in a variety of ways. It can apply blush, bronzer, highlight, and contour products, and blend any of those products as well. It can even apply foundation, which is actually the way I’d probably most likely use this brush personally. It works well with both powder and cream textures, and it is easy to wash out product (but is does bleed dye for several washes, see below) and doesn’t take forever to dry. It grabs and deposits color very well and has more coverage than not, so you’ll need less product or to use a lighter hand than potentially what you do with other brushes (it just depends what you were using before).
It is also available in the J-series ($44, white goat hair). If you are really concerned about softness, then opt for the J210 instead. I compared the brush against all the other J-series brushes I had, but paid particular attention to the J511 and J5521, as both are similar in size and length, and both are softer. I would not use the words “not soft” let alone scratchy to describe the 210, but if you sweep both across the skin, there is a noticeable difference. If you plan to use this brush with the top pressed against the skin (almost like a buffer brush), you will feel the difference in softness more than if you used the brush horizontally. For example, if I make stippling motions with it with moderate pressure, I can feel some of the fibers, but if I sweep blush on, then I don’t. With the 214, I didn’t feel this except when literally jamming it against my skin with a lot of pressure (can’t say I’ve ever used even half as much in reality), but a genuinely honest-to-softness kind of brush never feels rough, no matter the pressure or direction.
This brush is very comparable to the MAC 109 ($32), and mine is several years old now, so it also appeared more flared out (which may just be the result of years of washing and use), but it does have a flatter top than the 210. The 210 is slightly softer, but it wasn’t significantly softer. Make Up For Ever #152 ($37) is also similar, softer actually, as well as slightly more rounded, and the biggest difference is that has more give and is less firm at the top–which I think works particularly in its favor if you’re applying in small circular motions, but the bristles tend to stick together with liquid so it can leave streaks behind. OCC #011 ($24) is similar in size, but it flares out more and has a more tapered/rounded top, so it is less flat. Real Techniques Buffing Brush ($17.99, part of a set) is larger and wider than any of the others mentioned here, but if you are applying product all-over or on larger areas, not just blush and the like, then it functions similarly.
214 Highlight Brush Round ($27.00) is a small, lightly rounded rectangle-ish brush. It looks a bit like a rectangle but with rounded edges and a softly rounded top edge. The brush head is 17mm in length, 15mm in width, and 15mm in thickness. It has a round, open ferrule (no pinching), and the total brush length is 5.75 inches or 15 centimeters. The handle is well balanced and not too heavy on either end. It’s also available in the J-series ($35, white goat hair), as well as a white goat hair and synthetic blend ($27).
The small brush head enables maximum precision when applying any product. It was designed for apply highlighters (or, apparently, your eyeshadow base), and that was the primary way I tried use it. I didn’t love it. I actually felt like it was too firm and dense to really apply a highlighter for an ethereal, natural-looking glow. It tended to pack on too much product with results always veering towards emphasizing pores, even if that product didn’t normally do so. It’s moderately soft, but it’s not the kind of brush that will make you swoon. I think one of the elements that tends to impress people about Hakuhodo is how much softer the brushes can feel compared to many other high-end brands. Softness isn’t, of course, always a good thing (to a degree) and may not be appropriate in all brush types–here a softer brush with even thinner bristles would deposit less product, and for a highlighter, I think that’s a good thing. Unlike the 210, though, it had the same softness when I swirled, buffed, stippled, or swept–only when I was practically jamming the brush against my face did I feel any of the individual bristles (and I don’t think anyone’s using that much pressure during their application!). Because of the small, rounded brush head, it could be used to place a more defined contour (but I would blend out the contour with another tool), possibly around the nose but it felt too large for my nose for that purpose.
I didn’t have any brush that was comparable to this in my stash. I tried looking across a few of the more popular brush ranges, but it did not prove too fruitful. I think Sephora’s PRO Airbrush Concealer Brush ($24) might be similar in size but seems like it flares out more (looks more like a mini 210). Illamasqua Highlighter Brush ($37.50) seems much longer/taller, but without having it to compare, it’s hard to say by how much.
Some Thoughts on 200-Series vs. J-Series
Both of these brushes are from the 200-series. A lot of the brushes I bought from Hakuhodo were either from the J or G-series with primarily white goat hair, but I know that the dyed goat hair brushes are all slightly less expensive (about 30% less), so I thought I would choose a few in that series to get a better idea of the brand’s ranges. I also know that some are concerned about keeping white brushes white and may opt for dyed hair instead. Both brushes are also available in the J-series with white goat hair (and again, those are more expensive).
When I washed these, the water was noticeably tinged gray for the first dozen washes or so. Eventually, the dye seemed to hold and stopped bleeding, which seems to be considered normal, as one of the distinguishing features of the J-series is, “The natural hair used in this range has not been dyed so keeps its original color” (from Hakuhodo’s website), which seems to imply that dyed goat hair will, in fact, lose color over time. I had noticeable shedding with the 210 over the first week and a half of use, but it has since gone down to about one hair every few uses. On the upside, though, they deposit more color more readily, particularly for products that are not intensely pigmented but are buildable. Oddly enough, the lettering on the handle of the 200-series brushes, though, holds up and doesn’t scratch away like the J-series brushes’ letterings do. There are no numbers on them, though.
I was not really impressed by either brush. The difference in softness between the MAC 109 and the 210 was negligible, and I didn’t have issues with the dye bleeding with MAC’s brush. I also didn’t have any shedding issues with the one I initially purchased, but the second one I purchased sometime later did have some shedding in the first dozen or so uses but no longer sheds (except for a stray hair periodically). I might purchase the J210 and J214 (possibly the J214R–I like the idea of a blend of natural and synthetic for this brush) in the future, but I don’t usually reach for the brush head shape/style of the 210 all that often any more so I’m not sure yet. I worry the J210 will be too soft for the type of multi-use that I normally see out of the shape, while I think the softness of the J214/J214R would be right up my alley in terms of application style and preferences for highlighters.