It took me some time to select the most loved face brushes in my collection because I love a brush beyond its functionality, I see those who made it and those who’ll use it and all those images, dedication and craftsmanship overwhelms me deeply. You have to see it to feel it, I saw it -twice- and it just gets to you, then you see behind the brush, the love that the artisan puts into his work, it changes your perception. I had no idea that it would change me like it did, I certainly traveled to Kumano driven by my passion and love for brushes but part of me never came back. There are other reasons to that, it felt a bit like home.
Until I was 11, I grew up in Spain with my grandparents in the tiniest poorest village, only elderly people lived there and when you needed something, you had to build it. I spent my childhood watching people build their homes, their tools, we would grow our own food, make our flour, our bread, our soap, our wine, we didn’t have running water, today it just sounds crazy but we wouldn’t buy things, we would make them for a living and I would sit there and watch them or help. Kumano is of course technically more advanced but it felt so familiar to see elderly people working in the fields or creating things, always working with such a joyful and humble attitude. Meeting the artisans who often were my grandparents age, spending time with them and discovering their values and customs reminded me of the past, I felt even closer to them. Today I feel much closer to Kumano than Geneva.
We all have our criteria to rate and select the best brushes: the functionality, the efficiency, the softness, the quality, the uniqueness, etc etc, once you go to Kumano, you definitely see the artisan and you will never forget the respect and love they have for their work.
Functionality is truly important, it should be your first criteria, once you get that covered you can adventure yourself into other territories. It’s how I proceeded, my priority are the brushes that rock my speedy daily routines, then I have the ones that I use for comfort on those special demanding days and I have the others that I have chosen just for the sake of love.
I can show you today some of my 2014 favorites powder/bronzer brushes but as always keep in mind I have even more that I adore, selection shouldn’t be permitted as it puts a negative accent on the ones that aren’t shown here, but I can’t show you all of them either… so anyway, let’s start with my very TOP 6 crazy beautiful tools, I am warning you, these are often expensive but often for a good reason:
I will comment them below, from left to right.
It’s made with goat hair, costs approx 190$, the length of the bristles is 5cm, the thickest part of the head is 4cm wide, it is round and just slightly tapered.
What’s special about it
Kashoen wanted unique and high quality goat hair for these WA series. They never told me which type of hair it was (Sokoho, Saikoho, Saibikodo, Ototsuho, etc…) we have no idea because they don’t want to reveal their secrets but they told me it was a special time consuming process for the selection, bristle by bristle. They just label their goat bristles with “S class” or “A class” so pay attention to that label when you order, S class is better than A, I didn’t find A class soft enough for my delicate skin. “SS class” is reserved for their Royal series and it is goat & squirrel, the Royal series are insane works of art (by famous artisans) but one face brush is approx 1’000$ so… not for me.
When I was having tea with the vice-president at their Ginza boutique I had the opportunity to watch customers purchase their Royal series, this is how close I will ever get to purchasing those series, just watching! 😀 Each time it only took them 2mn so at least my torture didn’t last long 😀 I think they just asked what their most valuable brush was! oh it would be fun to shop like that from time to time! No limits… what a dream 😛
Let’s come back to the still expensive but somehow more affordable WA series. Although being dyed, they do feel softer than any other goat dyed brush I have. If you are familiar with goat hair and its naming convention, it is softer than Sokoho, less soft than Saikoho, much less soft than Saibikoho. It that doesn’t speak to you, let’s say it is much more pleasant and clearly softer than Mac brushes.
I had a discussion with their President and she says that they focus more on the functionality -with quality- than on softness and I agree with her that their WA goat series are very efficient, soft enough for delicate skin but not the softest brushes you can get in Kumano if that is what you are looking for.
Why I love it
Because I truly deeply love goat brushes -seriously- and when I can find a goat brush that I can use on my sensitive skin, I hear angels. The application is effortless, I can use this brush with anything, bronzer, powder, it picks any product and you have a lot of control and no fear as it’s not too dense, not too tapered which is often the case with similar brushes. I wake up very early, apply my make-up while still partially sleeping but I know I can trust this brush, it will never disappoint. It did disappoint at the beginning because the gorgeous Kashoen logo started rubbing of in the first weeks that I had it, they changed my brushes and enhanced something that wasn’t going perfectly right in the process with one of their products and after more than a year, the logos are still fully visible and no signs of fading.
The Hakuhodo Kokutan H3980
I have been told by Hakuhodo that this is a combination of goat and synthetic, I paid 85 Euros for it as it was bought in an expo in Paris (thank you Noémie!). The length of the bristles is 5cm, the widest points are 4.5 and 3.5 sideways, it’s not completely round but not flat either. Just like the Kashoen, not too dense, not too directional. That’s my fav shape pattern for powder/bronzer brushes. For blush it’s a different story but I’ll show you in my next post.
These white Kokutan are not on the Hakuhodo website and are more rare to obtain, you may want to ask Hakuhodo or Toshiya (www.fudejapan.com) if they know where to get them, I think Toshiya could find some in Japan.
What’s special about it
The combination of a gorgeous wood handle, matte black ferrule and white bristles, holy molly, you will have trouble finding a more beautiful brush, this is a serious grown up design.
Why I love it
Because just like the Kashoen, it’s an effortless brush, plus those handles and the whole look of the brush is pure luxury. I already have many Kokutans but this (and the similar blush one) are within my very top favs.
Koyudo Yakusugi powder
It’s a red squirrel brush with a handle made with very special Yakusugi wood. The handle is just the most incredible feature on this brush, only some know the value of such a treasure. It’s a brush from a set, the link to the set is here or here and costs approx 900$. Due to the high grade of the material and the very unique handle its cost is high but understandable.
It is super mega soft, dense enough, applies product like a breeze, for us with super delicate skin this is a dream come true. I wouldn’t use it on a daily basis but I use it regularly.
What’s special about it
Everything. My friend Frankie, luv2luv77 on Youtube and Instagram, when he saw my pictures of these brushes on Instagram it made him react with such passion and admiration for Koyudo. He sent me this comment:
The yakusugi wood is so fascinating. Some of these trees are like 700 or 800 years old. They only grow like a centimeter per year I believe. This wood is so complex; there are so many different Japanese names, for the different types used. Awakobu means patchy pattern that occurs in a portion that could not grow normally due to disease. Komyo is sort of a graded shiny pattern that occurs when the tree could not grow straight for some reason. There are many different types of names depending on what type of wood, or how it grew. Vases, plates, and other things are made from this wood. It’s so special that this wood was used to make this set of brushes.
The scent is so extraordinary, sometimes I catch my bf red-handed sniffing the handles. He has a very sensitive nose so it’s enough for him to open the display cabinet and he can already smell them, then he looks at me and says “We need to go back to Japan”. Yes we do. When we were visiting, sometimes we would feel that Yakusugi wasn’t far… so we competed to find the source. Omg, we love it so much.
Today the handle still has this scent, if my hand is holding the brush and is too close to the nose it alters the scent and I cannot smell it, if I take away my hand then I can clearly notice it, the best way is to breath in slowly for as long as you can as the intensity of the scent gets higher the longer you breath in, after 3-4 sec is when the intensity peaks, the more sensitive the nose the easier it is.
This is some information I got from Koyudo :
About ＹＡＫＵＳＵＧＩ（Ancient Cedar Trees）
UNESCO to add Yakushima island to the list of natural World Heritage sites in 1993 and it was registered for Japan’s first World Natural Heritage.
The ancient Japanese cedar trees on Yakushima island grows from an altitude of more than 500 meters above sea level on the island. More than 1,000 years old cedar is only called “Yakusugi (Yaku cedar tree) “.
- Sublime fragrance of natural wood. (Contains resins of more than general cedar.)
- Durability to be kept after hundreds of years. (A high antibacterial action and effectively avoid decay from good conditions.)
- Beautiful and elegant grain. (The same pattern does not exist as one in the world.)
and so on.
This luxurious cedar is used for make-up brush’s handle.
※Regarding to Yakusugi, which is used for make-up brush’s handle; Yakushima island is registered the World Heritage sites and it is strictly prohibited to cut down Yakusugi。Therefore, this product is made from stumps of previously felled trees and trees that fell naturally in typhoons in Yakushima. These trees are called 「Domaiboku」,which literally means buried trees in the ground
Why I love it
Because it’s unique and because the person who made it -Koyudo’s President- is as nuts as I am about brushes and his creativity has no limits. You have to meet him to really see his love for unique things, when we talked there was no language barrier at all, he didn’t speak English, my bf and I didn’t speak Japanese but how easy we could understand each other was pure magic. Whatever I asked he would understand, when I asked if he could do a brush “like that” showing him with my hands, he would pick a random brush and explain what he would change so that it would fit my ideas. It was so much fun. He is such a serious and classy person, then he started to open up and gosh it was extreme fun. We spent the afternoon and the evening with him, he took us out for a Sushi dinner but it was more a Sushi orgy, my bf and I had never so much Sushi in our entire lives – we can sum up all the Sushi we had in our past and we wouldn’t come close to what he offered us that evening, it has hilarious to see my bf give up on Sushi, never thought that possible!
I think the President was really pleased to meet someone as passionate as him, the hours he puts into his creations are countless. He showed us some other brushes that aren’t produced (yet) or that he did for special events and before he could explain his work, my bf was already telling him why such work was so complex and that it was unbelievable that he achieved that. Thumbs up for a President so passionate about his work, he takes it a bit beyond “functional” 😀
The Koyudo Saibikoho powder
This is part of a set but CDJapan recently started to sell some individually, even though individually the price is still very very extreme. This is the finest goat hair in the world: Saibikoho. It comes from Saikoho bristles but only a very very little selection of Saikoho bristles can be labeled Saibikoho quality. Saikoho is located from the neck to the chest of the goat. It is softer than squirrel, softer than anything you can imagine. It has the price of gold though. You pay here for the material but also for the handle as it is maki-e painted.
I have the set but I bought one brush at a time… took me two years and a half. I think the price for the set now is approx 1650$. More details here.
What’s special about it
Well, it’s a brush for collectors, not the brush you would use on a daily basis, you have to buy a display cabinet to go with it! I do use it with powder but most of the time, it’s just to touch and admire.
Why I love it
Because it’s gold for a collector, the most extreme material that only Koyudo is crazy enough to invest on and to think it would sell… 😀 and some of us are crazy enough to buy them… Just let me tell you one more thing, they don’t keep this material on their work desks 😀 it is safely protected and secure!
The Chikuhodo Z-9
It’s a grey squirrel, is part of Chikuhodo Z-series, if you own one of them you know what quality it is, stunning. Bristles are 5cm long, at the widest point it is 5cm wide and sideways 3.5cm. The surface that touches your skin to apply the product is 4cmx 2.5cm, flat surface and dense, not floppy like most of the squirrel brushes out there, it’s a firm cushion that I call a lion’s paw, it applies the product with determination while keeping it gentle and with equal pressure from side to side of the brush. I can’t believe it’s the last brush I got from the Z-series because it’s my top fav from the lot. You cannot take this brush away from me ever.
You can now also buy them at Beautylish, this brush is 178$.
What’s special about it
We have a quote in french “Une main de fer dans un gant de velours“, I believe in English it goes like that: “An iron fist in a velvet glove“: this brush is pure strength and power delivered by you with the most delicate diplomatic approach.
Why I love it
Because I use bronzer nearly on a daily basis and this brush is simply perfect for that, for bronzer I usually prefer goat brushes over squirrel brushes but this brush works for me like no other, I use it with all my bronzers, specially Tom Ford Terra.
The Hakuhodo S 106
If you love the Hakuhodo S series you may be familiar with this brush. It’s a goat brush sold at 125$. You can get it here. The bristles are 4.5 cm long, quite firm and dense but soft. If you have powders or bronzers that require a more strong brush to pick up the product and blend it easily, that’s the one to go for.
What’s special about it
The brass ferrule is 24-karat gold plated with clear coating.
Why I love it
Because it looks gorgeous and it’s very efficient, I truly deeply love it, they should do more vermilion brushes with white bristles, they look so special. I love the angled shape, the fact that you can put more strength on the shorter side, or play with the surface and the angle to achieve many different applications, from heavier applications to more lightweight.
Bottom line: if somebody comes home and asks me to show them a beautiful make-up brush, I think I would pick the S 106, or the White Kokutan, the Yakusugi or the Saibikoho… or maybe the Chikuhodo Noel 2014 sets… which brings us the the second part of the post, my other very loved powder/bronzer brushes!
2014 was an insane year for brushes, when I thought I had seen it all Chikuhodo released their two Noel sets… a brown/burgundy and a blue that looked like this:
The 2014 icing on the cake! That’s what I call ending the year with a bold statement, I remember I was sitting in front of my computer when I saw these sets I was literally seeing stars and the most spectacular fireworks. Need.all. These two sets Etoile and Neige were screaming my name.
2014 was almost a spooky year for brush evolution, I had the feeling that in response to the sudden rise in customers interested by Kumano brushes, more competition, more challenges and more creativity rose within the manufactures. Competition is good as it gives customers better products but demand will make prices increase as material becomes more difficult to purchase, so when you see something you love, specially if it is LE, don’t hesitate, you’ll thank me later 🙂
I didn’t really bother about blue brushes before, this is a different story. The white/blue one here from their Noel set called Neige is shaped like the Kokutan white that you saw above, similar size, softness and usage. Felt like winning the lottery twice, not only both brush shapes are spot on for me but the handles of both Chikuhodo Noel sets are breathtaking.
The brown/burgundy brush here is from their Etoile set, it is similar to the Chikuhodo Z-9 but less dense, less firm but similar-ish quality. I rate the Z-9 hair quality a 10/10, this Etoile is a 9.5/10. I just love it to pieces.
If you didn’t miss those sets, good! if you missed them, then consider the Chikuhodo Z-9 as a very good (best) dupe candidate for the Noel Etoile powder brush, or you could consider the MK-2 or the R-P6. The MK-2 is rounder but full and nicely balanced, not floppy at all. The R-P6 is less dense and not quite as full but it is cheaper (130$), approx 50$ cheaper than the Z-9.
Bottom line: Always keep an eye on the Noel releases! I definitely will.
The Takumi T-2, the Hakuhodo J531, the Hakuhodo S 106
If you love brushes and you haven’t heard of the Chikuhodo Takumi yet, there is certainly at least one or maybe a few that you will want to try. The Takumi are made with Saikoho hair, hence super soft, the shapes and material of the Takumi are different to what they create in their other series. This T-2 is less dense and softer than the S 106, the T-2 is more airy and delivers a more lightweight application. I love to use it with powder or bronzer or also with dimensional blush. I call dimensional blush when you use just one pinky-brown powder to roughly sculpt the cheeks and the face, without the need of using a blush/contour/bronzer/highlight but instead just one product for the whole face. I have a few products that allow that fresh healthy looking non-make-up look in one swipe, but basically a satin pinky-brown powder, bronzer or blush will do the trick. I don’t usually wear make-up on the weekend, unless I am playing with make-up or brushes, so if I need an urgent fix, just gimme a angled brush like this, a pinky-brown powder and 10 seconds!
Another excellent option is the Hakuhodo J531, it’s a goat brush too, I find it softer than the S106, denser, softer and fuller than the T-2, the J531 is Saikoho too, some of the regular J series from Hakuhodo are of higher grade and those are flagged as Saikoho. When you see Saikoho near “goat” you’ll know you are looking at their high goat grade. Just search for Saikoho on the Hakuhodo website, here for example, you will see a selection of their softest J series!
I nearly forgot that I had the CDJapan CB100, I had to quickly wash it before I took this pic but I really want you to see it as it is a very affordable brush, I think today is approx 33$, it’s not as soft as the Takumi but it gets the job done nicely, it’s not pokey, allows a lot of different applications, it’s more airy than the S106 but not floppy at all and nearly as soft! If you are looking for a cheaper and good alternative this CDJapan is the one.
The Tom Ford 05 remains a fav brush of mine, one of the biggest brushes I own and I looove big brushes, the bigger the brush the happier I am 😀 It’s funny, today when you look at the other similar brushes in the market, suddenly the price of the Tom Ford (115$) doesn’t sound that expensive, when it was first released the price sounded surreal, today great brushes are all getting quite expensive anyway, so why not splurge in THE ONE that you really dream to have? Could be the TF or any other, but if the brush is good and hand made it will anyway be an investment.
Speaking of big mamas… did you see the size of the Chikuhodo T-1 and the Koyudo BP006? I have a review of the BP006, but seriously how cool is it to find huge brushes like that? It’s insane, the Koyudo BP006 is softer than the T-1, there is only one thing that I would change, I think we have a paradox situation here. The BP006 extreme hair quality just does not match the handle which is a bit more common. That BP006 deserves a gorgeous handle or something that stands out a bit more but I saw that same situation with several brands, the head just doesn’t match the body, my expectations are that the quality of the head is aligned with the looks of the body… 😀 of course it’s great that they keep them affordable, not complaining, just dreaming of a most unique combination, specially for this one. That BP006 I want to display it in my cabinet because when you see it you are naturally drawn to it like Gollum to the Ring but then the handle is a bit too ordinary… anyway, it is an insane brush.
I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning the canadian hair brushes, I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter the shape of the brush, it barely matters if the brush is dense, it just works, does the job, doesn’t ask questions, I have my clumsy days but they never let me down, they have a soft of autopilot that allows them to be used with pretty much anything, highly pigmented or not, they do the work and ask for more, you can’t stop using it. Since I discovered it, I have tried different shapes, densities, I could apply make-up with my feet and still succeed, seriously, it’s magic. It doesn’t slap the pigment onto your face, it retains it within the bristles and gently takes it along spreading it without irregularities. The Kiwami brushes aren’t available any more for now but any other brush would be a fantastic option. Here is the Chikuhodo Kiwami and the Koyudo Echizen, on the right the Takeda:
Another one that has a huge place in my heart: the Wayne Goss White Holiday brush that he released at Christmas. The shape, the shape and the shape… it’s spot on! I hate when big tapered brushes are too tight at the point, too directional or too dense, it’s ok for the smaller ones but big ones should allow a bit more flexibility and airiness, just like this one. That’s how you get the most out of it, you can reach the corners of your face without making a directional mess with your product, I can give it to a few people around me who never heard the word make-up and they will get the hand of it immediately. It is 100% goat, probably nice Sokoho, the Kashoen feels slightly softer but it’s also much more expensive.
If you visit Japan and the Kumano Fude Select Shops, you will come across very special brushes, either you like them or not, since I love big mamas, the Kyuka Sangyo here is so soft and sturdy, it makes me think of a bear in a tuxedo, I don’t know, I love sturdy huge brushes so this was meant to come with me 🙂
The bottom brush is a Fu-shikaden but not sure if this is still available, some details here, if you really want it, you may try to ask Fude Japan or search on Rakuten but I am really not sure it’s still manufactured. I love when a brush is mixed goat/squirrel, it remains soft but has much more strength and blending power and mixes are better if you have oily skin, even though I don’t like short handles, sometimes I can totally live with them.
The Fu-shikaden reminds me of the Kumano Fude Select Shop (second from the left in the next picture), the KFSS is not as soft but has similar fullness. Another brush that surprised me in 2014 and made it to my favs is the CD Japan powder, their collection is small but it’s absolutely lovely, it’s very soft, extremely pleasant for dry and delicate skin. If your skin is really oily you may prefer goat brushes or a mix of goat/squirrel bristles, with oily skin you may need to clean your very fine brushes more regularly, a microfiber cloth is often enough to maintain them dry and spot clean them.
Did I mention I love goat brushes ? yes I did but I really truly do, they are very efficient, more enduring. When I was using Mac brushes, some of the Mac I had were a pain to use and the more my skin was aging, the more painful they were becoming. I was dreaming for softer options and today it’s easily possible, there are a few 100% goat that really deserve out attention.
This Mac 138 has remained really soft for a goat brush, seriously I am very impressed! A very good goat brush is the Chikuhodo Special G-9, details here as it is discontinued and replaced with a similar brush but with a shorter handle, the Chikuhodo G-16 is the replacement. The shape of the special G-9 is so clever, it’s pointy but the upper part of the head has more surface to pick up the product and to better fit our faces, it doesn’t heart my skin and I am literally crazy about it.
Other softer-than-Mac brushes are the Bifudedo and the Koyudo BP series, some are better than others but I use these two and find them super comfy.
Bifudedo are quite difficult to find, I got mine on Rakuten, once more you may want to ask Toshiya (www.fudejapan.com) if you are interested.
If you still love the efficiency of goat brushes but they are definitely too rough for you, try the mixes. Here the Kumano Fude Select Shop and the Hakuhodo B501 are two of my favs with mixed bristles, the B501 is more directional, denser and softer than the KFSS.
When I was in Kyoto, Houkodou were displaying some of their brushes in a shopping mall and when I saw this peach Houkodou it had to come back with me! It’s 100% Sokoho goat hair, it’s so dense, so nicely bundled and nearly as soft as the Kashoen, it costs approx 6000JPY, only issue for me it’s the shorter handle, it’s 136mm in total but I’d rather use longer handles, but I love it! That’s how I actually imagine goat brushes should feel.
That’s it for today… these were my most loved and reached for face brushes. Next post if all goes as planned is the cheek brushes… Sorry if that is taking me so long, I still haven’t moved into my new office and the lighting here is catastrophic, I was hoping that I could take better pictures but for now, it’s all I can do. I know these brushes are quite expensive so I am looking for the cheapest alternatives and will post them in a separate upcoming post.
If you are wondering were my synthetic face brushes are, I have a few, I don’t reach for them very often but I have a dedicated post coming up after the move! 🙂