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).
MAC x Antonio Lopez Mirror
MAC x Antonio Lopez Mirror ($25.00) is a limited edition square-shaped mirror with black, velveteen-like backing and along the sides and edges, and then a slightly raised, hard plastic illustrated drawing. The mirror is 3 inches by 3 inches. It’s held closed by a moderately strong magnet. The mirror underneath the lid is a regular mirror, and the mirror on the bottom is magnifying. If you’re a big fan of Antonio Lopez or enjoy the illustration, you may like the mirror.
From a functionality standpoint, I think the velveteen is a lint-magnet, so I can’t see tossing this into a bottomless bag as a great idea. If it had its own pocket, it should hold up all right. I’m just worried that it’s not a great mirror as far as practicality goes. One to sit on your vanity? Sure. Toted around with you? I’m not convinced it would withstand that kind of abuse.
MAC x Antonio Lopez Tote
MAC x Antonio Lopez Tote ($55.00) is a limited edition, mega-sized tote bag exclusive to maccosmetics.com. The collection has a release date of September 12th, but as far as online goes–you never know; it could be up to a week earlier. The tote is made similarly to the makeup bag, only it is much larger and in a tote shape. The front of the tote has a satin-like material with the illustration, while the back of the tote is a black velveteen-like material. Inside, it is lined with thin black material (not vinyl). It’s 15 inches wide, 16.5 inches tall, and it doesn’t have much of a bottom, so there’s no official thickness. It does tend to shape itself based on what you put in it, but I would have preferred to see an actual bottom of a few inches so that bag would maintain its tote-like form. Unless you’re just putting in a binder or laptop, it will bulge.
MAC x Antonio Lopez Makeup Bag
MAC x Antonio Lopez Makeup Bag ($40.00) is a limited edition makeup bag that will be available exclusively to MAC stores beginning on September 12th. It’s 8.5 inches wide, 5.5 inches tall, and 1.5 inches thick. The front half has a satin-like material, while the back half has a velveteen feel. Inside, it’s a thinner black material (I’m not sure what it is, but it didn’t seem water-repellant at the very least–definitely not something like vinyl). It has a zipper opening, and one thing I noticed was that the zipper doesn’t actually extend for the entire width of the bag; it’s slightly shorter. I don’t know if I would use this for makeup, due to the types of materials used here, so I might keep tools or small accessories for traveling in this, rather than anything that might stain or spill.
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?
Make Up For Ever #128 Precision Powder Brush
Make Up For Ever #128 Precision Powder Brush ($52.00) is described as a “long and flat brush with a tapered tip” to be used with loose and pressed powder for application “the face, neck, and upper shoulders.” It’s a large, substantial brush, and it’s easily one of the larger powder brushes I have. It flares out slightly from the base and then tapers significantly to a rounded edge with the bristles layered and lengthening as you move to the center of the brush. It measures 50mm at its widest part, 56mm tall, 25mm thick with a total length (including handle and ferrule) of just under 8 inches/20 centimeters. The handle itself is quite thick but tapers down towards the end and finishes with a sharp, angled tip. All Make Up For Ever’s Artisan brushes are made out of synthetic fibers and officially release in September.
The new Artisan Brush range is touted as being “hand-crafted by a total of 30 people from start to finish” and have beech wood handles. The slanted tip of the handle is done specifically to “allow for easier product retrieval and can be used to assist in faux lash application.” The first thing I noticed about this brush was how top-heavy it was–the brush head is much, much heavier than the handle, which is incredibly lightweight. You’ll notice that the brush head is actually two-tone–the bottom third is a dark brown, while the upper two-thirds are nearly black. The top two-thirds actually flop a bit; like if you held the brush in your hands and waved it up and down, you would see just that portion moving up and down while the bottom third stays in place.
This brush is incredibly soft, and it’s one of the softest brushes I’ve come across–tying with Hakuhodo and Tom Ford brushes. At times, this almost feels softer, but I think it’s the result of the layering and airiness of the upper two-thirds of the brush that give it a feathery, soft feel. My husband has been a test subject for numerous “which is softer” tests in the past few months as I’ve been doing an extensive testing of brushes across brands, and Hakuhodo and Tom Ford brushes (which are rumored to be made by Hakuhodo) were all readily distinguished as the softest. He described the difference as the Hakuhodo felt silkier, almost cool and wet, but he felt like softness was the same. I had a similar experience to his, and I felt like the bristles melted together to provide a smooth, seamless applicator across the skin. I could jab, splay, and twirl the brush and never felt a jagged or rough edge.
I liked it for applying loose setting powder, and because the top of the brush “flops,” it actually works to press the loose powder against the skin with a lighter pressure than with a sponge or powder pouf but does a better job of getting an even, full layer of powder against the skin to really set makeup. I can’t make any claims as to the durability of the brush, so as I find brushes that I can work into my regular routine, I’ll be adding them and continuing to trial them to see how they hold up to more prolonged use. I’ve washed this brush five times, and I haven’t had any issues with shedding, dye bleeding, or any resulting smells post-wash. It takes awhile to dry, but if I use it in the morning, wash it, then it is ready for me to use about eight to twelve hours later. I wish the handle had more weight to it, though, because while the dark, red-toned wood handle looks nice, it lacks substance.