Friday, September 6th, 2013

Make Up For Ever #110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush
Make Up For Ever #110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush

Make Up For Ever #110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush ($48.00) is a tapered kabuki brush, and the tapered edge definitely separates it from my other kabuki brushes. The brush head measures 40mm in length, 30mm in width, and 30mm in thickness. It has a short handle (as you’d expect for a kabuki) with a total brush length of 3 inches or 7.5 centimeters.

The brush is incredibly dense, soft and silky against the skin, but it’s flexible enough to easily allow the tapered edge to curve around the nose and underneath the eye. Make Up For Ever recommends this for cream and liquid foundations, first and foremost, though it is also recommended for loose and pressed powders. I liked it best with liquid foundation, and it does tend to apply with heavier coverage, so if you tend to prefer a very sheer or light foundation application, it won’t be a go-to for you. I also used it to blend out edges of powder blush/bronzer, and it works, but I’m more inclined to reach for a buffer brush (like the #126 below) for that.

Make Up For Ever has five kabuki brushes in their range; the #102 is a smaller version of the #110, while the #124 has the more traditional dome-shape. There is also the #132, which is a flattened version, and the #414, which is a body brush. If you actually wanted to really buff and blend using the top of the brush, I would steer you away from this, as the tapered tip is tapered and firm enough that it works better for sweeping at an angle, not straight-on like many kabuki brushes are used.

#126 Medium Powder Brush ($55.00) is a large, dense, dome-shaped brush designed to be used for loose and pressed powder application with “moderate-to-high coverage.” It’s incredibly dense, thick, and very lush. The brush fibers are soft, silky, and glide across the skin almost as if they were one. The brush head is 40mm long, 40mm wide, and 40mm thick. The weight is more concentrated towards the brush head, and I would have preferred a better weight distribution to give the handle more heft. The handle is particular thick–about 3/4 of an inch in diameter at its thickest point. The total length of the brush is just over 7 inches or 18 centimeters. The ferrule is particularly long, even for a face brush, and is an open/round ferrule (no pinching).

This brush actually reminded me of a kabuki or buffer brush–in fact, the shape and size of MAC 182 is almost a dead-ringer, except for the handle. If you’ve always loved the shape of a kabuki brush but wanted a longer handle, this brush will definitely give you that. I loved it for blending and buffing out powder blush and bronzer, and it also worked for applying loose powder all-over. It tends to pick up powder a bit more than a fluffier brush, so for setting and finishing powders, I think it ends up yielding a too powdery finish. For powder foundation, though, it works to give light to medium coverage fairly easily.

One downside to both of these was that they take forever to dry (at least a full 24 hours) if you’ve done a full wash of them. On the plus side, I really didn’t feel like I had much in the way of similar brushes in my stash. The tapered shape of the #110 definitely makes it more unique compared to other kabuki brushes, while the fullness and denseness of the #126 make it different from other long-handled powder brushes I have (which tend to be less dense and fluffier), but it is comparable to the more traditional kabuki brush shape and density.

The Glossover

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#110 Medium Foundation Kabuki Brush

The brush is incredibly dense, soft and silky against the skin, but it's flexible enough to easily allow the tapered edge to curve around the nose and underneath the eye. Make Up For Ever recommends this for cream and liquid foundations, first and foremost, though it is also recommended for loose and pressed powders.

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#126 Medium Powder Brush

It's incredibly dense, thick, and very lush. The brush fibers are soft, silky, and glide across the skin almost as if they were one. If you've always loved the shape of a kabuki brush but wanted a longer handle, this brush will definitely give you that.

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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, September 3rd, 2013

Make Up For Ever #222 Sponge Applicator
Make Up For Ever #222 Sponge Applicator

Make Up For Ever #222 Sponge Applicator ($13.00) is a sponge-tipped applicator on a long, wooden (beech) handle. The sponge-tip is 12mm tall, 9mm wide, and 5mm thick. It’s attached to a black knob that has a thin (about 3-4mm wide) plastic piece that has a lot of flexibility, so you can bend the applicator as needed to maneuver around during application. Sponge-tip applicators are good for picking any powder product that is prone to fall out, crumbling, or when you need to really pack on a color; like a white eyeshadow base, sponge-tip applicators can really pack on a product. It is also a useful applicator for smudging eyeliner or eyeshadow underneath or on the lash line.

The sponge really doesn’t feel too different than a mutltitude of sponge-tip applicators that get included in various kits and palettes; yes, the sponge seemed more resilient and durable, as I can try to remove it and it doesn’t instantly rip as cheaper ones do, and it isn’t scratchy. I’ve scratched at it, and it hasn’t shown any signs of wearing, scratching, tearing, or even bits of the sponge flaking off. I’m not sure it would hold up to prolonged or sustained use. Given that Make Up For Ever sells refills (6 for $9) for it, I would expect breakdowns over time. It’s definitely made out of a thicker, more pliable, and sturdier material than the average applicator you’d find in a cheaper palette. If you like handles or have larger hands/longer fingers like me, the long handle could be very helpful. Otherwise, you may find simply buying a 50-pack of disposable sponge applicators for $5-10 is a better option (or merely gathering all the ones you inevitably own–this is what I do; I keep all the random sponge-tip applicators I’ve had in palettes in a plastic cup).

I was most worried about the very itsy bit of glue that connects the actual sponge-tip to the black knob getting broken down over time or while cleaning, you might accidentally tug too much and rip the very bottom of the sponge (where it’s glued) from the knob. For review purposes, I just went ahead and lightly pulled at the bottom, freeing it from the knob, and yes, it will be prone to slipping and pulling off–just patting and lightly blending powder eyeshadow on the lid or smudging eyeliner on the lower lash line didn’t see any slippage, so it will depend on the use.

#272 Eyelash Brush ($12.00) is described as a “spiral brush used to style eyebrows and correct their shape, as well as separate lashes before or after application.” It is a mascara spoolie, so it is good for all things brow and lash. It’s 25mm tall, 7mm wide, and 7mm thick. There is a thin metal wire that extends out of the metal ferrule. Like the #222, you can acquire disposable spoolie wands in bulk and at a low price point (like 50 for $5-10). The difference is that this isn’t designed to be disposable but reusable.

This brush is comparable to MAC #204 ($15.00), which tapers slightly more towards the top so it is narrower overall. This is actually a brush I keep as part of my daily arsenal, as I use it to brush brows and blend out harsh lines when I’ve filled in my brows with powder. I’ve used it for lashes, too, but it’s nowhere near as effective as a metal lash comb for separation. When it comes to lashes, it is best if the mascara is still wet, otherwise it doesn’t do much once mascara has dried on lashes. The same is true for Make Up For Ever’s #272. It works well to comb through brows as well as to diffuse, blend, and even out color from filling in brows. It could also be used to apply mascara, colored mascara, mixing with a product to apply color to the lashes (like a DIY colored mascara), applying brow gel, and so forth.

The #272 can be a total pain to clean, though, which is another reason why I don’t love it with mascara. I highly recommend cleaning it nearly immediately after using with any liquid product like mascara to avoid difficult clean up (everything just hardens and sticks to the interior wire).

Both of these brushes are useful, and I like them, but whether it’s worth investing in one rather than disposable varieties is ultimately something that is going to depend more on how you use it. The #272 is the kind of brush that I do, personally, find necessary, and I can’t vouch for the durability of Make Up For Ever’s (but it’s on my calendar to revisit all my Artisan Brush reviews a year from now to check in), I can vouch for the MAC #204, which seems very similar in length, shape, feel. The biggest difference is that MAC’s ferrule is crimped towards the top, while Make Up For Ever’s #272 is round.

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Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Make Up For Ever #146 Flat Blush Brush
Make Up For Ever #146 Flat Blush Brush

Make Up For Ever #146 Flat Blush Brush ($37.00) is described as a “medium, trapezoid-shaped brush” that is designed to be used with loose and press powders. By its name, one would expect primarily using this with blush, as it is designed for buildable coverage. Make Up For Ever also recommends using it for face painting. The brush head is 26mm tall, 33mm wide (at the top, which is widest point), and 10mm thick with a pinched ferrule. It has a total length of 7.25 inches/18 centimeters.  The brush’s shape is flat, almost a square but slightly flared outwards–like a trapezoid, but it is a squatter one than I envision with just the word “trapezoid.”  It had soft bristles at the tips, and the bristles length-wise were fairly soft but you could “feel” the individual bristles slightly (they didn’t blend together as seamlessly).

I think the shape is somewhat large for a blush applicator, and it’s definitely best for just initially applying color to the cheek and less useful for blending or diffusing blush color. It splays out unevenly, is an odd mix of stiff and springy that never quite blends or applies the way you’d expect. It just seems to make applying blush harder than it is with other blush brushes (with more typical brush heads). I just received another blush brush from the range late last week, so I’m testing that one as well to see if that works better for blush application. I can see the flatter shape working better for face painting, though, and to that end, it was nice for applying liquid primer or moisturizer (I tried with Illamasqua’s Hydra Veil).

There’s something about this brush that felt off, because no matter how many washes (I’ve washed it a dozen times now with four different cleansers), it always feel a somewhat oily or greasy. I can press the brushes together, and it molds that way until I squish the brushes in another way. As of now, this is the only Make Up For Ever brush that I’m having this issue with, so it might be a one-off or more specific to the flatter brush shapes.  I just received a few other face brushes, so I’ll have a better idea of the context of this issue in a couple of weeks.

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Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

MAC x Antonio Lopez 129SE Brush
MAC x Antonio Lopez 129SE Brush

MAC x Antonio Lopez 129SE Powder/Blush Brush ($38.50) is a special edition of the 129 brush, and here, it has a shorter handle. I actually found the shape different, as it is a much longer brush head than the full-sized 129. Where the full-sized 129 has a domed, rounded edge, this special-edition brush doesn’t really flare out that much. (See the 129 here.) Looking back on some of the 129SEs I’ve reviewed, they all seem to be slightly different. This version of the 129SE also comes with a vinyl, zippered pouch that fits just the brush or else one or two lipglosses.

MAC’s 129 brush is not one of its best brushes, as it tends to be scratchy and sometimes prone to shedding (can vary from brush to brush). The 129SE released in this collection is worse, as it was even scratchier, and then the shape was less useful for applying blush. If you’re looking for a blush brush, the 129 would not get my recommendation (I prefer MAC’s 116 over the 129, if you’re looking to stay within MAC’s range).

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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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