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The Paula Dorf are good brushes,”good” does not say a lot about them so let’s see how they can place themselves in the market. I took the liberty of comparing these… to cars. I know, weird, but let me explain.
The same way we choose a car, we face different taste and different needs. Some just want to go from point A to point B, the cheapest way possible (there is nothing bad about that!). Others don’t care about the means but want to be able to drive on any surface or under any condition, others just want the best that fits their budget. The lucky ones will have one for special occasions and another(s) for daily use.
At the end, you buy a particular brand because you have connected with this brand, or because it’s just easier or cheaper. There isn’t a “better” car, there are “better cars within their own category and purpose”, just like brushes.
The car topic is addressed every single day at home, my boyfriend is so passionate about engines that when I am not talking brushes, he is talking cars. We support each other’s interests but I strongly believe that I am a better listener 🙂
He loves cars because of the pleasure of driving, of course he prefers “beautiful” cars but he often wants to just simply have fun and push their performance to the max, the technical features will come first.
Sometimes he is in the mood for a very fast drive in a very curvy road, but then for a daily trip to work a fun car can loose its interest in favor of a more comfortable and reliable one. With cars or here, brushes, the selection process is a little bit similar, you have to ask yourself:
- What is the purpose?
Paula Dorf has a range that covers all purposes BUT, her brushes are often sold out. I tried to contact them twice to get some info, never got a reply.
- What is your priority, comfort or efficiency ?
Sometimes both do not pair well. Too soft may mean not efficient enough.
- Does size really matters ?
The handles are approx 12.5 cm long, the eyeshadow brushes are a bit too light and too short but I have big hands and like to feel some more weight in a brush.
- Do you really need versatility or is that just a plus?
Versatility could mean compromise on a purpose that might be a key point for you or a waste of time and money trying to find the “one” brush that does it all. Nobody is good at everything.
- Do you have a budget to stick to?
And we may prefer quality over quantity.
- Frequency of use/wash ?
Professional use or private use will influence what you invest in. White bristles vs black bristles is also more important than we think, whiter brushes will require more frequent washes.
Answering these questions will help you identify if these brushes are the ones for you.
Paula Dorf are good in terms of performance, the price is middle range, the quality is middle range, the comfort is middle range, the design has been thought with efficiency in mind. They make me think of Mitsubishi Evolution cars.
They are driven in rallies by professionals, they perform really well, the price is in proportion with the fun they provide but they aren’t that comfortable. I feel as if the Paula Dorf are rally cars with an interior that could have been slightly improved.
Paula Dorf brushes, overhyped ?
To summarize, these Paula Dorf brushes …
… are efficient, hence the professional audience they can easily target
… aren’t that comfortable for sensitive skin but if you can tolerate them, they will do a great job
… the squirrel bristles are thicker threfore more durable to resist demanding performance and higher washing frequency
… can have inconsistency between them, some are better finished than others
… the design is innovative and done with performance in mind
Unfortunately I don’t know where they are manufactured and if they are hand or machine made.
Overhyped… well, it depends, if you know about other brands like Hakuhodo, Chikuhodo, Koyudo, (etc..) where you can get fantastic brushes for a reasonable price (not always), you may think these Paula Dorf are overhyped, but I have to insist on something : each brand has its audience.
On the back of the brushes you can read the name of each brush. There is one thing that is not often taken into consideration while designing brushes: a “wasp waist”, I find this characteristic so well thought. Easier to hold them when they have this shape and ergonomics are even more important for makeup artists who work with them for longer periods and at different angles. Holding a brush has not to be thought, it should feel natural and a wasp waist helps with that.
The hair is known to be squirrel hair. Now, don’t expect Hakuhodo’s or Koyudo’s quality and softness. These are thicker bristles, similar to Inglot, Charlotte Tilbury or Trish McEvoy. The Inglot here is softer (didn’t try the other Inglot but this is the only one that really captured my attention), Charlotte is rougher, the Trish eyeshadow here is slightly softer but I have a face brush from Trish that isn’t as soft as the Paula Dorf cheek. It a bit like a lottery, you don’t really know what quality you are going to get, could slightly differ from brush to brush.
Paula Dorf Cheek Cream
Costs 38 usd but I paid only 15.20 usd at Beautybridge.com, on sale. I don’t think I would have bought it if it wasn’t reduced but I am very happy with it. I do not like it for cream blush but I love it for cream contour. It just takes an elegant flick of the brush to place the contour exactly where you want it, then the blending is easy and directional, which allows corrections. At this price it was a steal, great hit for contour.
These synthetic bristles are soft, they have more flexibility than the Hakuhodo J4005 but the Hakuhodo “synthetic sensation” is more pleasant on my skin. Some of you don’t like the feeling of synthetic bristles rubbing the skin, the Paula Dorf here has some kind of “noise” that does not really bother me but you kind of feel the friction and you don’t feel that with the Hakuhodo. Not really a bad thing for the brush, just a personal thought. In comparison the Make Up for ever (the new synthetic range), the Mufe cheek brush feels quite awful after the first use, the bristles stick together and it requires a wash after each use, this Paula Dorf doesn’t have the same issue = more uses without washing it every day, kinda disgusting but feasible.
I really truly enjoy it for contour, I am using it every day with the Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate but I could use any other cream contour, it works just as well. One flick-swatch of the product with the angled side surface of the brush is enough for one cheek, then you switch to the other side of the brush for the other cheek, once both sides placed, blend with whatever is left on brush (hopefully near to nothing).
Final verdict: It will rock sculpting. It’s nice and heavy, it feels balanced although I prefer thinner and slightly longer handles. Blush application was a mess until I found a way, using very fast, light and short strokes but still, not loving it for blush.
The Bronzing Fan
Costs 32 usd, it’s not cheap. “Bronzing” I don’t know… highlighter : yes why not. It really depends on your technique. I will only use it for a little bit of shimmer along the cheeks, other than that, maybe to remove fall out but the problem is that it’s a bit too floppy. In my opinion 32 usd is a lot for it. It’s a nice fan compared to many I saw on the market but still, I prefer very dense fans.
The Hakuhodo is a bit denser and a bit more firm.
Sculpting with it would not be an option, not enough precision and firmness.
Verdict: yes with shimmer or to clean out fallout. “Bronzing” is not my cup of tea with this.
The Cheek Brush
Costs 45 usd. Not cheap but I would pay that price for it again. Absolutely love the shape and how it fits the cheekbones. Very flawless application, super efficient and pleasant to use. The bristles of this brush are softer than the eyeshadow brushes, it’s the same squirrel hair than the eyeshadow brushes but with enhanced quality, still not the finest squirrel hair but on the other hand it has more blending power and increased resilience.
Please excuse the Dior blush there, just helping me with the holding….
I have a thing for slanted brushes with a “body”. If they are thicker they will be fantastic for blush, if they are thinner like the Chikuhodo Special G-2, it’s more appropriate for sculpting. The Koyudo BP026 is goat hair but feels softer than this Paula Dorf. The Hakuhodo is a mix of squirrel and goat, so it’s even softer. The Chikuhodo has similar softness than the Paula Dorf but it’s firmer. Even though these are all different materials, it’s not because it’s 100% squirrel that it’s softer on the skin.
The shape of the Paula Dorf Cheek brush is spot on, fantastic balance between density and fluffiness.
Verdict: love it, a no-brainer with a successful shape.
The Eye Blender
Costs 32 usd. This one is huge but very efficient, specially as a sculpting brush. Can be a great blending brush if you are not too sensitive. I can use it but if I go too close to the inner corner or outside corner of the eye it doesn’t feel that pleasant at all. I will use it because it’s very efficient and I love big blending brushes but I do not recommend it if you have sensitive eyelids. I also think that the hair can differ considerably from one to another. When I look at pictures on other blogs I think that mine here seems to be a bit rougher.
The Trish below is softer, the Bobbi Brown is rougher. The Paula Dorf blender feels a bit softer than the Edward Bess. The Chikuhodo GSN 07 is much softer in comparison, the Evgeny even softer. My favorite shape of blender – the one I find to really be working the best- is the GSN-07 and the Trish here, I prefer the Chikuhodo because it’s softer.
The PD blender has a domed shape, densely packed but will not pack too much product. I can perfectly well apply contour on the sides of the nose and on the cheekbones.
Verdict : Due to its splayed out bristles, this Paula Dorf blender is a truly fantastic sculpting brush, for that precise purpose it’s simply the fastest and easiest way to go.
The Perfect Eyeshadow brush
Costs 28 usd. “Perfect” is not exactly what I would call it. When I took it out of its packaging, I saw some hair shedding, I gently pulled them out, then saw more shedding… did the same operation, then saw more … WTH ? wait a second… It’s not shedding bristles, it’s just bad-long bristles that are still attached, 2 long ones, since I was pulling gently I thought they were coming out, they weren’t. This brush looks like a bug with antennas.
I will have to cut them, there is no other choice, they are too long to deal with it as it is. Anyway let’s just ignore them (if you can).
The shape of the brush is interesting but not as interesting as her famous Sheer Crease brush. The problem with this “perfect” kof kof eyeshadow brush is that it’s not very pleasant to use in terms of softness, but it is a nice brush to apply shadow in or above the crease (not precisely), to blend, it’s fantastic for beginners, won’t pack too much product. It is also a nice balance between density and firmness. She confirms with every brush that the density vs firmness equation, she got it right.
I prefer the Mac 217 because it also delivers precision on top of what the Paula Dorf offers, the softness, firmness and density is nearly similar. The Hakuhodo J5523 is a softer version of these 2, and cheaper.
The hair is of similar quality than the Trish McEvoy but the Trish allows more precision.
I bought the Takeda because I like to work with that kind of shape (sorry I cannot find the details of the Takeda…I bought it in Japan). The Koyudo BP033 has same kind of shape but the purpose is different, it’s more appropriate when you want a bit more precision with the placement (lid or crease) but you can still use it to blend, if I have to put a brush in my makeup bag I throw this one, hence the usage marks on the ferrule…
The Paula Dorf is not really a brush for the mobile lid due to its lack of “side layering of hair”, the layers are more concentrated on the domed surface, but you can still use it on the lid, if you can tolerate it. My mobile lids are insanely delicate and this brush, although it’s ok to use on the upper part of my eyelids, when it gets close to the eye it’s just difficult. If you look at the bright side : since it’s more rough -but efficient- you will need less strokes, so you won’t be needing a lot of strokes anyway 🙂
Verdict: not that well bundled for its price… cheaper options are even more interesting.
The Sheer Crease brush
This is something you will not find online unless you are very lucky. It’s her most successful brush and it’s really good. It’s firm and dense yet does not leave a streaky application, similar brushes are the Nars 12 (the Nars has similar softness, just very slightly more flexible), or the Tom Ford (TF is softer, slightly firmer, you can’t barely tell the difference), the Sephora Rounded Crease 13 (which is just a little bit less dense but not much difference), the Trish McEvoy (is less soft, smaller, pointier).
Rumor has it that the Nars 13 (and 12) may not be released with the upcoming Nars brush collection but this is to be verified. It’s not really a very soft brush but I do love it, the use is very easy, same as with the Paula Dorf Sheer Crease.
Why is the Paula Dorf Sheer crease brush no longer in stock ? One of the reasons could be because it’s so good or did she discontinued it ? I contacted Paula Dorf customer services about this brush since I had a few friends interested but I did not receive a reply. I recently gave my Sheer Crease to a makeup artist friend, then I tried to find another one for me. Surprisingly I succeeded and found one in a blog sale. It arrived today, got washed earlier and it’s already dry to figure on the pics here. I used a paper towel self made guard to keep it in shape during drying and as you can see it’s nice and tapered, has just one or two hairs a bit longer but I will cut them. Other than that, it’s really a great brush.
Verdict: very efficient, the application is totally fool-proof. This one is much softer than the other two Paula Dorf eyeshadow brushes shown before.
A macro treatment ?
Shall we give them the same macro treatment as we did to the Kashoen ? I took some pics with the macro lens, hopefully you can have a better view of the hair.
This cheek brush hair is thicker than other squirrel brushes but it’s soft enough, really nice clever shape.
This one could be softer… but fantastic sculpting brush.
Beware of the antennas….
More little antennas… but nicely shaped and softer than the others!
I also took pictures of the other brushes, just for you to see if there is a difference with the macro lens, hair looks pretty much similar.
The Chikuhodo GSN-07 is softer and much more nicely bundled but the big plus with the Paula Dorf blender is the fluffier sides, with contouring products the Paula Dorf will be more appropriate.
The Edward Bess … nothing much to say about it, I don’t reach for it recently, could be a lot softer, it has a great potential as a blender for those of you who can use it. I can, but just on rare occasions, I have days that are ok and days where my skin is way too sensitive for an Edward Bess brush experience.
I recommend you to watch a few videos on Paula Dorf brushes, Lisa‘s for example.
The design of the brushes is innovative, I just wished the hair quality was more consistent, it’s difficult to say they are soft enough for everybody because the difference in quality within the same brush can be a blocking point if you have delicate skin.
Paula Dorf found the perfect balance between firmness and density but I think the handles and hair could be of better quality to deserve their price tag. Although I prefer softer brushes, buying these brushes is not “going back”, it’s just taking a different way.