Thursday, March 20th, 2014

NARS Artistry Brushes
NARS Artistry Brushes

Launching April 1st, NARS Artistry Brushes will feature 16 different shapes. (You can see the full list of what’s to come with pricing and information here.) The brushes range from $28 to $52. Each has a long, matte black handle with a matte black metal ferrule. The bottom of the handle is round and flat with a shiny red tip. It’ll take me at least a couple of weeks to work through these and use them enough to give you some thoughts–I really like to use and test brushes for several weeks (sometimes months) to see what I reach for, what works for this application or that one, and to see how they hold up to multiple washings. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Sephora + Pantone Universe Color Gaze Brush Set
Sephora + Pantone Universe Color Gaze Brush Set

Sephora + Pantone Universe Color Gaze Brush Set ($68.00) is a limited edition, six-piece brush set with a “Radiant Orchid”-hued carrying case. It comes with two face brushes, three eye brushes, and one lip brush. The set has some limitations and, as tends to be the case with brush sets, you’ll want to see it in person to judge the sizes to see if they’re right for your features.  The handles of all six brushes were well-balanced and weighted; they didn’t feel too light or too heavy, and they fit well in my hands.  This is only a brief review (almost more of an overview), as I haven’t tested them for long and don’t intend to use them long-term to test wear and tear and the like.

The Stippling Brush was noticeably scratchy when I used it in a stippling motion; sweeping it lightly across the planes of the face to apply foundation, it didn’t seem as scratchy, but using the flat edge or stippling motions was unpleasant. The longest bristles were soft, but the shorter ones looked dry and felt that way. The other six brushes were very soft, and I didn’t have any issues with them from a softness/feel standpoint.

The Angled Blush Brush seemed a little larger than the average brush of this shape, but it worked well for blending and placing color, though it doesn’t pick up powder products perfectly (makes everything seem a little under-pigmented). The All-Over Shadow Brush was massive–it looks almost like a small face brush–and even seemed too large for under-eye concealing, blending, or setting (which is something I often use larger eye brushes for). The Shadow Brush was slightly larger than the average eyeshadow brush for patting and packing on eyeshadow, and it worked fairly well but did not deposit as much color in one go as some other brushes I have. I really liked the Crease Brush, as it was incredibly soft, not too dense or too sparse, and wasn’t floppy. If you have smaller eyes, I think that all three of the eye brushes are on the larger side.

Oddly enough, what I liked most about the set was the case. It’s slim, but fairly large (about ten inches tall and five inches wide) and easily accommodates the seven brushes from the kit and then some. It reminded me of a more freeform version of a brush roll or bag. It was actually designed to open and stand up on its own, which is does, and it was a nice feature–handy when traveling. The bag seemed sturdy with a pebbled “Radiant Orchid” exterior, silver zipper, and lined inside with a darker purple.

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Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Chikuhodo Z-Series Brushes -- Z-10, Z-5, Z-4, Z-1, Z-9
Chikuhodo Z-Series Brushes — Z-10, Z-5, Z-4, Z-1, Z-9

Chikuhodo Z-Series Brushes are a luxurious brush indulgence. There are ten brushes in the range, and for the past few weeks, I’ve been testing five of them: the Z-10, Z-5, Z-4, Z-1, and Z-9. (Other brushes include the Z-2, Z-3, Z-6, Z-7, and Z-8.) Chikuhodo is a Japanese brush manufacturer under their own brand as well as working with such brands as Shiseido, SUQQU, and Kanebo through original equipment manucaturing (OEM) (you can see their client list here). If softness is one of the key metrics you use to determine how much you love a brush, Chikuhodo’s Z-Series are the softest brushes I’ve experienced using. They don’t even feel like individual bristles, as they move and feel as one. The Z-Series is made out of gray or blue squirrel hair, and they’re designed to be used with powder products.

All five brushes I tried have held up well to multiple washings; they’ve retained their overall shape (but the face brushes are a little fluffier than they look initially), haven’t shed, and the larger face brushes didn’t take as long to dry as I expected (but overnight is still best). The ferrules on the Z-Series brushes seems very, very well-connected (almost like one-piece), which is different from a lot of the other brushes I have (Hourglass #2 was the only one at a glance that seemed similar). The major difference I found between gray squirrel and goat hair applications were that gray squirrel brushes tended to naturally diffuse and soften edges while applying the initial color/product, whereas goat gave a more precise, harsher edge, but both can blend and diffuse the product (so the end results were the same regardless of the hair type). I always do a blind test with several brushes (in this case, five different brands) with each brush with my husband–he closes his eyes, and we spend far more time than he’d like having him tell me what seems the softest to him, and yes, these brushes tended to come out on top, but the degree of softness is still very comparable to high-end brushes like Hakuhodo and Tom Ford.

Z-10 Eyeshadow Brush ($45.00) is a small, tapered brush that comes to a very fine, pointed tip. Its shape is much like a pencil brush, but it’s a little larger and feels a bit more like a tapered crease brush. The brush head is made using gray squirrel, and it is 10mm in length, 5mm in thickness, and 5mm in width. It had a total length of 5 inches or 12.5 centimeters with an open, round ferrule. The handle is well-balanced but lightweight, and the handle is shorter than the average brush. The one characteristic about that stood out to me about this is is it never felt sharp, whether held vertically or horizontally, at an angle or straight-on. It’s dense but not too firm, so it has some give, which means that despite its very fine tip, it is not as precise as a firmer, denser pencil brush. I really loved it for applying crease color, blending out crease colors, and applying color to the inner tear duct/inner lid with more precision than my typical dome-shaped go-tos.

NARS #12 ($27.00) is a little skinnier, and it is more of a small, tapered crease brush in overall shape, but I felt like it applied and felt similar in terms of density, though it isn’t as soft as the Z-10. MAC’s 226 ($26.00) is larger with a more severe tapered edge and a greater variety in lengths, and it is, unsurprisingly, has a rougher texture (and there is a lot of variance in the shape, density, and texture between versions of the 226).

Z-5 Eyeshadow Brush ($56.00) is a large, dome-shaped brush. The brush is made out of gray squirrel hairs, and the brush head is 16mm in length, 19mm in width, and 6mm in thickness. It had a total length of just over 5 inches or 13 centimeters with a lightly pinched ferrule. I think the larger size will make it great for some, but then a shape others would rarely reach for; I fall into the latter camp. If you were applying a single color all-over the lid, it absolutely works well for that. It picks up color well and applies a lot of color from the get-go, and it’s particularly nice for those sub-par eyeshadows in one’s stash, as you don’t have to pack on the eyeshadow for quite as long. It also seems to diffuse the color along the edges where it’s been placed, as if you blended it, but all you did was pat it on. The bristles aren’t all the same length, as they shorten as you move to the sides of the brush, it also works well to blend out edges and fade colors upwards towards the brow bone. I also liked it for patting on setting powder underneath the eyes (to set concealer).

Inglot #27P ($21.00) is the most similar in shape, size, and density, but it is wider and has more rounded edges. shu uemura #11 ($140.00) is slightly narrower and significantly longer, but it has a somewhat similar density (not quite as dense throughout), and because it is longer, it has more give. OCC #007 Large Shader Brush ($22.00) is smaller, more tapered along the edge, and half as thick. MAC 252 ($32.00) is similar in shape along the edge and at a glance, but it is significantly less thick and dense. Tom Ford #11 ($55.00) is a little more flared at the edge with a more rounded dome shape, and it is also less thick and less dense.

Z-4 Cheek/Highlight Brush ($92.00) medium-sized, blush brush with a domed edge and tapered bristles (so the lengths get shorter as you move outward from the center). It’s not a rounded brush, more flattened, but it is not really thin or flat. The brush is made out of gray squirrel, and the brush head is 35mm in length, 28mm in width, and 15mm in thickness. The brush had a total length of just under 6 inches or 15 centimeters with an open ferrule. It’s excellent for applying soft, even color along the cheeks with minimal blending required. Sometimes, after swatching five or six blushes on my cheeks back-to-back, I pay for it the next day with irritated, reddened skin that can result in drier patches, and this brush is very forgiving on the skin without further irritating it–and it manages to make color apply more evenly than many other brushes I own despite the rougher surface. It feels like silk, and it feels like a single swish across the face; you never feel the individual bristles. It’s dense without being too heavily packed with bristles but doesn’t feel wispy against the skin; just right for versatility, so it can be used with heavily pigmented blushes, sheerer ones, and it can work well with highlighters and bronzers, too.

Hakuhodo G5545 ($48.00) is very comparable in terms of softness and general application, but it is flatter and wider with a more feathery, lighter feel against the skin as it is not as dense. shu uemura #20 ($50.00) is a little more square-ish in shape and flatter, not quite as soft. Sephora #73 Pro Precision Brush ($32.00) is more tapered at the edge, a little squatter, and it is not as soft, though I wouldn’t describe it as rough either. MAC 116 ($35.00) is thicker and more rounded at the edge, and it is a lot less soft.

Z-1 Powder Brush ($226.00) is a large, rounded, slightly tapered brush. It is one of the larger brushes I’ve come across and have in my brush treasure trove. The brush is made out of gray squirrel hair, and the brush head is 45mm in length, 35mm in width, and 35mm in thickness. It had a total length of just over 6 inches or 16 centimeters with an open ferrule. The lightly rounded, large edge makes blending powder products a breeze. I used this a lot like a kabuki brush but with a longer handle; it does a fantastic job of just finishing and setting everything into place. To that end, it also works well with finishing and setting powders, and even powder foundation (which I only tried a few times just to see how it performed). I really liked applying all-over highlighting powders with this (think Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders or Guerlain Meteorites, the latter was particularly lovely with this, as the brush fits well into the container). It’s incredibly soft and feels nice against the skin, but it is very effective.

MAC 138 ($53.00) is slightly skinnier and much more tapered. This was the only comparable brush I could think of, aside from the Z-9 below (which is not really the same shape but more similar than not).

Z-9 Powder Brush ($226.00) is large, rounded, slightly flat brush with medium-full density. The brush is made out of gray squirrel hair, and the brush head is 55mm in length, 40mm in width, and 26mm in thickness. It had a total length of 6.5 inches or 16 centimeters with an open ferrule. When it came to apply setting powder, I preferred this slightly more than the Z-1, because of the flatter shape, which enabled me to press the setting powder against the skin, rather than with more sweeping motion. For setting powders, I prefer pressing and patting, and for finishing powders, I like the more feathery, sweeping motions. The end result is very similar, though, regardless of the brush used. The Z-9 can be used in sweeping, patting, or pressing applications, and it feels like silk against the skin.

Compared to the Z-1, the Z-9 is larger, more dome-shaped, longer, flatter, and has more spring and give (so it is less dense and firm). Otherwise, I didn’t feel like any brushes I have were all that comparable in shape–most were significantly flatter. I feel like I should mention Tom Ford’s Bronzer Brush ($115.00), but the shape is significantly wider and the brush much denser and firmer, so I don’t think they’re comparable.

Chikuhodo brushes can be purchase at Now-e Project.  Brushes ship from Japan, so shipping isn’t cheap ($35), but there is free shipping on $300+ purchase with code VALENTINE2014.  Or you can save 10% with code TEMPTALIA (so orders under $300 would benefit best from this code).  All valid coupons cannot be used with other coupons (one per order), discounts, or special value offers.

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Z-10 Eyeshadow Brush

The one characteristic about that stood out to me about this is is it never felt sharp, whether held verticlaly or horizontally, at an angle or straight-on. It's dense but not too firm, so it has some give, which means that despite its very fine tip, it is not as precise as a firmer, denser pencil brush. I really loved it for applying crease color, blending out crease colors, and applying color to the inner tear duct/inner lid with more precision than my typical dome-shaped go-tos.
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Z-5 Eyeshadow Brush

I think the larger size will make it great for some, but then a shape others would rarely reach for; I fall into the latter camp. If you were applying a single color all-over the lid, it absolutely works well for that. It picks up color well and applies a lot of color from the get-go, and it's particularly nice for those subpar eyeshadows in one's stash, as you don't have to pack on the eyeshadow for quite as long.
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Z-4 Cheek/Highlight Brush

It's excellent for applying soft, even color along the cheeks with minimal blending required. Sometimes, after swatching five or six blushes on my cheeks back-to-back, I pay for it the next day with irritated, reddened skin that can result in drier patches, and this brush is very forgiving on the skin without further irritating it--and it manages to make color apply more evenly than many other brushes I own despite the rougher surface.
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Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Too Faced Teddy Bear Brush Set
Too Faced Teddy Bear Brush Set

Too Faced Teddy Bear Brush Set ($65.00) is a new, five-piece brush set that features synthetic brushes. I think, generally, if you have larger-sized eyes or tend to do looks with one or two colors, these may work. I also think it may have been more practical to include an additional face brush (perhaps a blush brush) rather than just one (and then four eye brushes) or made them all eye brushes (perhaps an angled eyeliner brush). The set had me feeling a bit like Goldilocks; the eye brushes were, generally, too large for my eye shape/size. As a result, it was challenging for me to use them with my eye shape, so this is just an overview, rather than an in-depth review. The brushes are soft, and I haven’t had any issues after washing them a dozen or so times.

Powder Brush is a large, moderately dense, dome-shaped brush designed to apply powder. The brush head is 43mm in length, 50mm wide, and 35mm in thickness with a pinched ferrule. It had a total length of 6.5 inches or 16.5 centimeters. I’ve tried it with finishing and setting powders. With setting powders, I usually use a patting and stippling motion, and then I do more feathery, sweeping strokes towards the end to blend, buff, and even everything out. When I do more of a stippling motion, I find the brush somewhat uncomfortable to use; there’s a slight scratchiness to it, which is usually not something I’ve encountered with synthetics before. If you stick with more sweeping, gliding strokes, it feels nice, blends and applies powder well (not too densely, not too sheerly).

Contour Brush is a rounded, angled brush–an interesting, uncommon-shaped brush to be sure. It’s designed to be used to contour the eye area. It worked better for blending out the crease than laying down precise color into the crease for me. I liked it best for applying color to the inner lid, as the angle seemed to work well in that area. It is 11mm in length, 9mm in width, and 9mm in thickness with a round ferrule. It had a total length of just over 5.5 inches or 14 centimeters.

All-Over Shadow Brush is a medium-large-sized, dome-shaped flat brush. It is 14mm in length, 11mm in width, and 5mm in thickness with a pinched ferrule. It had a total length of just over 5.5 inches or 14 centimeters. This is a larger eyeshadow brush, so it works well to lay down all-over color–like a wash of powder eyeshadow or a cream eyeshadow base. For powder, it tends to have a sheerer application, so if you want more opaque color, you may need to go back and pack it on.

Liner Brush is a medium-sized pencil brush that comes to a finer, thinner pointed edge. It is 11mm in length, 5mm in width, and 5mm in thickness with a round ferrule. It was soft, and I thought it was best for applying thicker eyeliner or lightly smudging product. For me, I find the pointed edge less desirable for smudging or applying eyeshadow to the lower lash line (which is just what I personally use this type of brush for most often). Also, to note, my liner brush came a little wonky, and it took four washes to get the shape to go back to normal.

Blender Brush is a medium-large crease brush that flares outward slightly and comes to a just barely rounded edge. It is 18mm in length, 9mm in width, and 9mm in thickness with a round ferrule. It was rather dense, so it was not as useful for blending color as it was for depositing color. However, the size is on the larger end of the spectrum, so depending on your eye shape, it may apply color significant above/below the crease area. I wish the brush was fluffier and more tapered, so it would fit into the crease just a bit better.

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Teddy Bear Brush Set

I think, generally, if you have larger-sized eyes or tend to do looks with one or two colors, these may work. If you have smaller eyes or tend to look for precision brushes, these may feel too large.
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Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Hakuhodo G5515 Pointed Eyeshadow Brush
Hakuhodo G5515 Pointed Eyeshadow Brush

Hakuhodo G5515 Pointed Eyeshadow Brush ($15.00) is a tiny, pointed pencil brush made out of horse hair. It’s a mere 5.5mm in length, 3mm in width, and 3mm in thickness. The total length of the brush is just over 6.5 inches or 14.5 centimeters with a rounded ferrule. I thought it might work really well for applying eyeshadow to the lower lash line in a thin line, but I find that I feel the pointed edge, which feels somewhat sharp, even when I’m holding (or at least, trying to) the brush horizontally to use the edge. I could use it for more detailed work on the face, and it didn’t feel sharp, but on the lash line and along the eyelid, it just wasn’t that comfortable to use. I don’t think I have any other pointed brushes this tiny!

Hakuhodo G5520 Pointed Eyeshadow Brush ($21.00) is a small, pointed pencil brush made out of blue squirrel and horse hairs. The brush head is 9mm in length, 4mm in width, and 4mm in thickness. It had a total length of 5.75 inches or just over 14.5 centimeters. This brush was more comfortable to use, as it is denser, larger, and the edge is softer. It’s comparable to MAC 219 ($25), which isn’t quite as pointed.

Hakuhodo G5522 Tapered Eyeshadow Brush ($28.00) is a large, tapered crease brush made out of blue squirrel and goat hairs. The brush head is 21mm in length, 9mm in width, and 9mm in thickness. It has a total length of inches a little over 6 inches or just over 15.5 centimeters. This brush was fantastic for diffusing color in the crease, blending, or laying down a transition color. It is a larger brush, so it’s something I tend to use with a softer look, or to really diffuse a deeper shade. It’s soft but springy, dense but not firm. It is more tapered than MAC’s 224 ($32) and Make Up For Ever #17S (discontinued).

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G5515 Pointed Eyeshadow Brush

If you do very fine and detailed work, you may want a brush of this size. I don't think it is a must-have for most people, as it is quite small and not as versatile as a small (but not tiny) brush of a similar style, like the G5520.

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G5520 Pointed Eyeshadow Brush

The G5520 works well to smudge eyeshadow, apply concentrated color inside the crease, and to fade out edges with more precision than a more feathery brush.

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G5522 Tapered Eyeshadow Brush

This is a brush I would get multiples of, personally, as it is incredibly soft and feathery to use on the eye and works incredibly well to apply, diffuse, and blend out color into the crease.

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Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Guerlain Meteorites Powder Brush
Guerlain Meteorites Powder Brush

Guerlain Meteorites Powder Brush ($42.00) is described as having “long, soft bristles designed to take in only the exact quantity of Meteorites Pearls needed for each application and distribute them evenly.” It is a short-handled, large, long powder brush. The brush head is just shy of 2 inches (or 5 centimeters) in length, 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) in width. The brush has a total length of 4.5 inches or just over 11 centimeters with an open ferrule. Despite having a longer length, it doesn’t feel floppy. It is a dense brush–not as dense as a buffer or kabuki brush but denser than a some blush brushes. shu uemura’s 18R is similar but slightly narrower in width.

The brush fits well into the opening of the Meteorites Pearls, and it would easily reach the bottom of the container, should one ever get low on their Meteorites Pearls. I don’t have the previous version of the brush (which may be a surprise to some!), so I can’t remark on whether this is improved or not. According to Guerlain, the new brush is “longer and softer.” I tried using this brush to apply the Meteorites Pearls, but I just don’t like the texture of the bristles–they’re noticeably scratchy unless you use the lightest, most feathery touch, but it’s not nearly as soft as many other powder/blush brushes I own (Bobbi Brown, Hakuhodo, Make Up For Ever, Real Techniques, shu uemura, and so on). It applied the right amount of product, though I did not have any trouble using my preferred brush (Hakuhodo J104) and applying the right quantity either. There were a few bristles that shed the first time I used it (after washing it once), but I didn’t notice any additional shedding after that. I can’t comment on durability/longevity, as I haven’t had this brush for long.

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Meteorites Powder Brush

I tried using this brush to apply the Meteorites Pearls, but I just don't like the texture of the bristles--they're noticeably scratchy unless you use the lightest, most feathery touch, but it's not nearly as soft as many other powder/blush brushes I own (Bobbi Brown, Hakuhodo, Make Up For Ever, Real Techniques, shu uemura, and so on).
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