I bought my first eyeshadow “brush” 15 years ago, it was a sponge type applicator from Body Shop, really huge, it was excellent for applying a base color all over the lid, actually it was the only thing I was doing at the time, one shadow and that was all. After some time, when this “brush” got really old and when I wanted to repurchase it, it wasn’t sold anymore. Since I could not find it anymore, I kept on using the sponge type applicators that were delivered with the palettes.
My first real eyeshadow brush purchase was the Mac 239 and my interest for brushes only started there. Today my Mac 239 meets the Shu Uemura 10 natural, two extremely good eyeshadow brushes that deserve all our attention.
When you look at the Shu Uemura brushes, the first thing that comes to your mind is : “different” and then, “expensive” !!!
We already know that when we talk brush language, different doesn’t necessarily mean efficient (I am thinking of Claudio Riaz brushes suddenly…), as well as expensive doesn’t necessarily mean efficient either (Claudio strikes again here… )
I am very happy to have a few Shu Uemura brushes and I will try to give you my honest opinion on the ones I own.
Here they are :
Brush #12 eyeshadow (kolinsky/sable)
Hair length : 1.8cm
Full length : 18.2cm
Ferrule base : 1.2cm
I start with this one since it’s the first Shu Uemura eyeshadow brush that I bought and although I managed to get it half price, it still was very expensive.
Using this brush feels like having a therapy in the most luxurious SPA, I don’t know if that is due to its insane price or to the luxurious sensation on the lids… 🙂
Either way, I love it and I need it. I can get the same result, or very very close with a different brush but I will not get the same satisfaction.
I have tried to find a dupe (or very similar) to this but there isn’t one. There is something special about it that makes it an “100% achieved” brush, you don’t need to add anything else to this brush for it to be better, well, you could change the handle, make it specially designed for you or change the ergonomics if there is a way to improve that for you, but in terms or how it feels, how it works, it’s perfection and to me it’s also perfectly well balanced.
We all have our own preferences, it might be too big for some of you and if you don’t need such a big brush you may just skip it and forget about it.
If you can work with such a big brush and you are looking for a base brush application or an all-over shadow application, this brush is a very good option. It picks a great amount of product, no fall outs, flawless and even application, it works with any type of product, powder or cream.
In comparison, the Hakuhodo S120 (only available in Japan), is more flexible, thinner, has longer hair, not as densely packed but since it’s full kolinsky it would be insanely expensive to have it more densely packed. The Chikuhodo 12-3 is also full kolinsky, is even longer and wider which makes it slightly too big for me although I can still use it, it’s not as dense as the Shu 12 and is fluffier which makes it a big less easy to control and less good for precise application but has good blending capabilities. The Hakuhodo is also a fantastic brush and delivers a fantastic result, all are very soft but I still prefer the Shu, the densily packed layers of hair give this brush the final achieved perfection.
Although you can totally live without it, this brush falls in the category “most expensive brushes that are worth having”.
Here is a picture comparing it to it’s sister the #10 :
With the #10 and the Mac 239, this pic gives you a better idea of its size if you have either of these brushes :
Shu Uemura #10 eyeshadow (kolinsky/sable)
Hair length : 1.5cm
Full length : 17.8cm
Ferrule base : 1cm
This brush has really good reviews in the blog world, I wonder why I waited so long before getting it.
In terms of quality and efficiency, it’s excellent, you will love it, it really is the little sister of the #12, same quality, same finish although the #12 seems to be slightly more densely packed.
In terms of packing and placing the color on the lid I love it but I prefer the Mac 239 since I can place more quantity, more precisely on my lid, the Mac 239 has also a flatter surface which allows me to apply and blend a bit more quick and easily.
The Shu 10 is very soft yet firm and like the #12, it feels really luxurious on the lids, it’s also quite firm and picks a great quantity of product.
I have to say that even though the Shu 10 and the Mac 239 are both extremely efficient, if I really had to pick one, I would keep my Mac 239.
The Hakuhodo Kokutan WS looks a bit similar but it’s made of weasel hair, the reason why I got this one is because I use many cream eyeshadows (and Mac paintpots) and the Kokutan WS is small enough for me to place the cream shadow precisely close to the lash line and blend upwards. Both the Shu 10 and the Kokutan WS can be used with powder or cream products which is actually why I love them so much, very versatile. The Mac 239 is of course also appropriate with any texture.
I have 3 Mac 239 and this one is slightly more fluffy than my other 2 (but it’s the only one that was clean for the picture…)
Shu Uemura #8HR eyeshadow/contour (sable)
Hair length : 2cm
Full length : 18.3cm
Ferrule base : 0.8cm
This is such a unique brush, you won’t find anything like it.
What you will get : a different brush with very good quality.
What you won’t get : precision on smallest zones (crease for example).
It took me a while before I could use this brush properly, I was trying to achieve some kind of precise eyeshadow crease or outer v application, that’s not really where it excels, it does the job really well but not precisely (it is big and it covers too much surface for that purpose).
Then I tried different ways to use it, I found it excellent for several applications :
1) blending your crease color and bringing it near the browbone area, a sort of crease-to-browbone blending, it will softly move your skin around in the blending process since the bristles are firm but it will not hurt and is actually very pleasant to use. Great quality sable hair, absolutely light years apart from the Claudio Riaz that I tried a few months ago.
2) contouring : oh yes. For small zones (nose) or cheekbones and it will do it in a very subtle and efficient way, no streaky lines but you have to tap the excess off otherwise the application will be too heavy, better to slowly build up otherwise if you have to blend too much you might alter your foundation application.
3) highlighting : definitely. This is where I really love this brush, holding it the pointed size up, I placed the highlight on the cupid’s bow and blended towards the sides, I really (really) loved it, it diffused the highlight so beautifully. Also for the nose bridge and the temples, I think this brush is absolutely perfect for that.
If you are aiming for a controlled crease eyeshadow application with an angled brush, then I’d rather recommend you the Hakuhodo S122, the other brushes here in the picture are more for size reference.
In terms of flexibility, density and size, the Tom Ford 13 is what I believe being the closest. The Tom Ford is slightly softer and will deliver a more precise crease application. I would not pick the Shu 8HR for a defined and precise crease application since it will bring the application too high up into the browbone (unless this is what you want to do, in that case it will be fine).
Shu Uemura #10F eyeshadow (kolinsky)
Hair length : 1.2cm
Full length : 17cm
Ferrule base : 1cm
This brush is the reason why this review was delayed. I am still looking for “the” reason to justify this brush but haven’t found it yet.
I have two brushes with this same shape, the Hakuhodo JP12 and this Shu 10F. Since the day I bought the JP12 I did not use it much, well, actually never to say the truth, so why on earth did I buy the Shu 10F ???
Probably because it’s kolinsky and I thought that it would make a difference. It doesn’t for me, this brush is not really a brush that I need but if you are looking for a flat tip brush, now you know that Shu have one.
On the Shu website, the description of the 10F says it’s meant for contouring, accentuating lines and smudging. The thinnest line you can draw with this brush is approx 3 to 4mm wide. So far there are only 2 ways I can use this brush, 1) for highlighting below the arch of the brow 2) for filling in my big brows with a powder eyeshadow
The Shu 10F is soft enough so that when you apply your shadow flat, it doesn’t hurt at all.
Shu Uemura #5R eyeshadow (kolinsky)
Hair length : 1.3cm
Full length : 16.6cm
Ferrule base : 0.4cm
First of all, this 5R is full kolinsky, it’s soft, although it’s dense and firm you can try to poke your skin brutally, you just won’t manage to hurt yourself.
The Hakuhodo G5534 is very similar in length and width but the tip is pointier, it’s much softer and has much more flexibility than the Shu 5R.
This 5R has many uses, for example, concealer, highlighter (inner corner of the eye), placing of eyeshadow (crease, outer V, …), placing shadow below the lasline for a smokey application it works really well. Placing, not really blending…
The Louise Young seems similar but as you can see it’s not, much softer and looks more like a crease eyeshadow brush.
The Hakuhodo and the LY are not meant to be used with cream products unlike the Shu 5R.
Shu Uemura #7H lip brush (kolinsky)
Hair length : 1.1cm
Full length : 16.6cm
Ferrule base : 0.6cm
Again, another unique brush and of course I fell into the “oooh-different” trap. I am so glad I did.
I have never seen an angled lip brush before. When I got this, I was so excited to try it but I knew I could be disappointed and was fearing the moment. I have absolutely no idea if I am using it correctly but it feels so right 🙂
So far, I tried it with matte lipsticks, creamy lipsticks, it can handle anything. It feels like applying the lipstick with your fingertip, it’s firm and soft, you can really dose the pressure and you get precision. It gets a bit funny when you have to do the upper lip, you turn the brush upside down and there you go. There is something special about some of these Shu brushes, they truly make you look good and feel good.
I also have the tiny Shu Uemura lip brush, but it is really small therefore I don’t use it, I am more a 7H fan due to how fast I can work with it, the only problem is that it’s not retractable.
The Lunasol EX N lipbrush is also kolinsky (even though I found 2 websites sites that say it’s weasel, Lunasol mentions and confirms it’s full kolinsky), it’s much thicker and also does a great job with any lipstick, my ideal brush would be a retractable and heavy brush like this Lunasol with the head of the 7H, both these brushes are fantastic.
The Shu feels like applying the lipstick like a stain, same as you would do with your fingertip, but then the other side of the brush is pointed which allows more precision when you need it. Although to be honest I find it a bit tricky, the point is a bit too thin and in a way “bouncy”, therefore sensitive to movement so I need to be careful when drawing a very precise line.
If I am going for a stain-application, I pick the Shu 7H, if I am going for a dark-precise-controlled application, I pick the Lunasol, but either will work.
I hope these pictures help if you were looking for some information or comparisons.
I think Shu Uemura is not sold anymore in the USA but you can buy their products online.
If you are in London for example, you can try them directly at their counters, many department stores have them (Selfridges, Space NK, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fenwick, Liberty…)
If you are in Europe, I know you can order them from Harrods or Space NK for example, but be aware of the import taxes 🙁
There are also more online stores that sell Shu products, just make sure they are not overly inflating their prices.
The prices may vary depending on which country or online store you buy them, but since these brushes are very expensive, you better try to find the best deal. I paid for mine myself but I always managed to get them at reduced price on special discount days.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me !