Hakuhodo Brushes: B5521, G511, B512, G5545, B505
G511 Highlighter Brush Angled
Hakuhodo G511 Highlighter Brush Angled ($44.00) is a small, angled face brush that’s lightly fluffy, moderately dense, and thick enough to blend and apply color, and it was designed to be used with highlighters. It is shaped a lot like the traditional contour powder product, but this is smaller than average. It is 29.10mm in length, 21.75mm in width, and 13.90mm in thickness with a total handle length of inches / centimeters. It is made out of blue squirrel and goat hair, and I’m a huge fan of mixing the two types of hair, because you get a lot of the softness of blue squirrel with a little more durability and blendability of goat hair. It is, of course, incredibly soft, silky, and smooth, and I could never feel any individual hairs against my skin.
I’ve always liked the more angled brush head for really good sweeping motions and applications, as it really helps to diffuse the color across the skin. I think that’s why it is great for applying a soft, gradual, and luminous highlight. The softness of the blue squirrel helps apply more pigmented products in a more gradual way, though the smaller size can give one more precision as well. I particularly like using this size when I’m layering highlighter on top of blush or bronzer.
It’s large enough that it can still be used to contour cheeks and the jaw line with ease, but it is too large to contour the nose with any sense of precision. It will enable you to get a more precise contour under the cheek bone, but the smaller size works well for subtle, more diffused blending that doesn’t blur the contour product too much. If you tend to be more heavy handed with products, though, you might prefer something with less density and a slightly larger size. It worked well with all sorts of color products–blush, bronzer, contour, highlighter, setting powder–and is versatile.
B512BkSL Highlight Brush Angled
Hakuhodo B512BkSL Highlight Brush Angled ($65.00) is a medium-to-large sized angled face brush with moderate density, a little fluffiness as the bristles taper toward the edge. The brand says that it is supposed to be used to apply makeup around the eye and to use it with light strokes. It is 35.00mm in length, 35.40mm in width, and 22.30mm in thickness with a total length of inches / centimeters. It is a mix of goat and blue squirrel hair, which gives it the silkiness of blue squirrel with more durability and resilience of goat hair. I noticed that this one had several bristles that splayed from the edges after washing, which is a rarer issue with my Hakuhodo brushes, so you might find a brush shaper necessary with this one.
This brush works well when you want to apply sheerer coverage over a larger area or for blending out products after they’ve been applied. The larger shape is harder to work with when you have a very pigmented highlighter, blush, or bronzer, as it tends to over-apply color. Similarly, it’s too large to contour the hollows of my cheeks and will likely be too large for most (it is noticeably larger than the average-sized contour angled brush), but it will work well for blending and diffusing a contour in sweeping and light buffing motions where product has already been applied. In some ways, you might think of it as an angled buffing brush, as it blends out powders exceptionally well.
B116BkSL Highlight Brush Round & Flat
Hakuhodo B116BkSL Highlight Brush Round & Flat ($59.00) is a small, flat brush with a rounded edge that comes to a very gentle point that is designed for highlighting and achieving sheerer coverage. This brush uses blue squirrel hair, which makes it incredibly soft and airy on the skin. It is 28.50mm in length, 20.48mm in width, and 9.25mm in thickness with a total handle length of inches / centimeters.
The shape works well for patting and lightly sweeping illuminating powders on the high planes of the face, like cheek bones, as well as for applying powder underneath the eye. The softness of the blue squirrel makes it so the bristles do not disturb the under eye area, which gives a better finish and minimizes the chance for the area to look dry, over-powdered, or crepe-y. It can also be used to apply blush at sheer to medium coverage (as desired), blending out edges of various cheek color products, and so forth, but as it is a smaller brush, it may lay down too much color in one spot with more pigmented products or may feel like it takes too long to apply if the area is larger.
S116Bk Highlight Brush Round & Flat
Hakuhodo S116Bk Highlight Brush Round & Flat ($67.00) is a small, flat brush with a rounded edge that comes to a very gentle point and is meant for highlighting. It is exactly the same as the B116BkSL and the J116 ($35.00). I meant to get the S113 but inadvertently managed to get the same brush twice, the only difference between the B116BkSL and the S116Bk is a gold ferrule (24-karat gold plated brass vs. nickel brass/silver). It’s a lovely brush, and lucky enough, it is versatile for me. The J116 uses goat hair instead of blue squirrel, so the J116 is more resilient and durable and has white bristles.
Choosing the Type of Hair for Your Brushes
I often get asked what type of hair is best for what. There are a lot of preferences to take into account, but here is a quick primer on common hair types:
Synthetic is best for cream and liquid products, as it doesn’t absorb them and is very easy to clean without worrying about damaging natural fibers. I often find synthetics can kick up excessive powder in the pan and do not catch the powder as well in the fibers, so the application can be heavy and/or uneven. Most synthetics are pretty soft, but they can have sharp edges if not made well.
Horse and pony are more resilient and durable, so they require less care and can be washed regularly. The softness can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but can be softer than you might expect.
Goat is the most common type of natural hair used, and it is usually white, though it can be dyed and is often dyed black when it is. There are different types of goat hair (based on where the hair was taken from), so softness can range from incredibly silky to mildly scratchy. In general, most of the Japanese brush brands I’ve used have very soft goat hair brushes, but the goat hair I find in more mainstream brands (like MAC) is noticeably less soft/silky. Goat offers good durability, moderate give and flex, and works particularly nicely with powders but can be used with liquids and creams as well. It can be washed more often and requires less babying over time.
Squirrel is very soft and silky, and it is often a little airier on the skin with more give. This type is better for sheerer applications of powder products (and manufacturers warn against using this hair with liquids and creams) or very, very sensitive skin that can’t handle the texture of even the softest goat hair. You are really not supposed to wash it more than a few times a year. (I do not adhere to that, and I accept that my brushes may need to be replaced in 10 years instead of in my next lifetime. I am okay with the cost of that decision, if it proves true!)
If you’re looking to try natural hair brushes, I would start with a quality goat hair brush to see how you like the texture and feel against the skin. Squirrel is undoubtedly soft and silky against the skin, but it is costly, higher maintenance, and is less versatile compared to goat hair. Synthetics are also a good option for more affordable brushes, particularly if you’re just getting to know your application style, size and shape preferences, and so forth.
Hakuhodo is my go-to for natural brushes, as they have a large variety of shapes and styles, but they also make shapes in different materials, so you have more choice in terms of hair type and price point–some of their natural hair eye brushes are much more affordable than you might expect but most medium and large face/cheek brushes will be pricey. If you need the comfort of a good return policy, opt for Wayne Goss or Chikuhodo, which can be purchased via Beautylish.