When I started my blog in 2012, I had no idea that one day I would go to Japan, and even more, to Kumano. I had the opportunity to visit the brush (Fude) manufactures, meet the artisans and talk to them. This allowed me to get to know them better and to understand more the challenges they can face based on the different types of brushes they manufacture.
Although the manufacturing processes can be similar, each artisan has his or her very own expertise, tricks, tools or secret techniques that they have learned or inherited from previous generations. That’s why they are all so unique and special.
I work with several manufacturers. This has always been my dream. I’m not on this journey principally with a business perspective- I want to showcase their craftsmanship and legacy in a variety of special pieces. Working with various manufactures that are so closely connected requires a lot of diplomacy, and a lot of trust from all parties.
All those Fude companies have their own specific providers (ferrules, handles, materials…) or access to specific artisans or partners. They may be neighbors in Kumano, but they are also competitors. Because of that, I dont want to cause them issues by going into too much detail. The information in this post should be informative but not too revealing for a competitor to take advantage.
Japanese handmade brushes were not so widely known ten years ago, they were actually difficult to get and we didn’t often have direct or easy access to them. The fact is, Kumano is small and it’s not that easy to access from big cities. They don’t have huge budgets and resources for running international interfaces. In Tokyo you can find more English speaking employees for example, but in a small town like Kumano, they may not be that easy to come by, specially 10+ years ago.
I remember shopping for Fude via very complicated routes! Through forwarding companies, Rakuten, using google translate… I think I tried it all or pretty much… It was such a party each time I received the long awaited Fude!!!
I have continued to accumulate brushes since then, I collect them but I also use them. Today I am still very much obsessed and I love to talk about brushes!
Today I want to address the topic of “shedding” in a make-up brush. Share my expectations as a customer, my experience as an OEM (brand), the process that is done at the manufacture to prevent it and also, what we can do at home to take good care of our precious Fude.
Brushes can shed bristles all along their life span, the bristles that come apart may be bristles that broke or that unattached upon usage, packaging or transport – or maybe, they were never attached to the base but only decided to fall once the brush bloomed and got to work.
Whether you are just starting with brushes, or you are a Fude lover and collector, I hope this is interesting to you!
Is a brush really supposed to shed?
Yes. If you ask this question to the manufacturers, they will say yes, but I don’t think you will get a precise answer with a calculated amount or even a formula that will get you a precise number of bristles.
My objective with this post is to talk about the causes of shedding and its prevention, it might also help to understand what we can expect to be normal or what we can consider as excessive.
Why do brushes shed?
There could be many reasons that trigger shedding, those reasons are specific to each brush. For example:
- the type of bristles used on the brush (synthetic/mix/natural),
- the manufacturing process (glue/shedding prevention/quality),
- the technique used with the brush
- the maintenance or cleaning
- the storage
- the density, shape or size of the brush
1. The type of bristles used
Do all brushes shed equally? Not at all. There are several types of brushes: full synthetic, full synthetic but bundled with different types of synthetic filaments, then there are full natural brushes but also brushes with a mix of natural bristles and synthetic filaments.
Type 1 – A 100% synthetic brush
Synthetic bristles don’t usually break like natural hair bristles do as they don’t have the same structure. The glues may also be different because stronger glues can sometimes be used with synthetic fibers -This is not a general rule as it depends on the manufacturing process. Unless there is an issue with the construction of the brush or the glue, a synthetic brush is quite unlikely to shed.
A synthetic bristle will have consistently and surgically the same strength across its length, which makes the base of the bristles attach with the same force.
Type 2 – A 100% synthetic brush but with a mix of different types of synthetic filaments
There are synthetic brushes that use exactly the same bristle for the entire brush head, and synthetic brushes that use a variety of synthetic bristles or filaments -thicker/thinner/wavy/straight and so on. A synthetic brush with mixed synthetic bristles is more complex to manufacture versus the type 1 above but it’s still stronger than a natural bristle brush and unlikely to shed.
Type 3 – A 100% natural bristle brush
Each natural bristle is different (even those of the same type and grade), they are not exactly the same strength, width, length, quality, shape… there is a lot of processing to do at the manufacture to even out the bristles before they go on a brush and then even after.
These brushes are more likely to shed due to the structure of the natural bristle, even the exact same brush will behave in different ways.
Due to natural bristles being different in width, strength and shape, each brush will shed in a slightly distinc way, some bristles have weak points but they will only yield once movement and pressure are put repeatedly on them, this is normal. We need to have a look at the manufacturing process, the technique used with the brush, the maintenance, storage, density and shape to understand why shedding happens and/or how to prevent it.
Type 4 – A brush with a combination of synthetic and natural bristles
From what I have seen, these brushes are complex in the manufacturing process because the artisans are bundling together two types of bristles that have two completely different structures and that behave totally distinctively, they require a specific technical knowhow.
The shedding will be quite similar to a fully natural brush or higher because of the various strengths of bristles working together, there will be friction and the natural bristles are going to have to resist – that is the reason why we cannot mix “any” synthetic bristle with “any” natural bristle, they are wonderful together but they have to be balanced in a certain way and able to work as a team without destroying each other.
Each type of brush and type of bundling or mix comes with a certain complexity and we need to take into consideration that the more steps, time and effort spent on a brush, the higher its price is going to be.
2. The manufacturing process
|Since synthetic bristles are less likely to shed or break, the information below is more in relation to brushes that are bundled with 100% natural bristles, or with a mix of natural and synthetic.|
The glue – The base of the bristles is usually glued. Well, another thing that I noticed is that with a synthetic brush, it’s easier to calculate the amount of glue required for each brush head (inside the ferrule) since the space reserved for the glue is going to always be consistent and more predictable vs a natural brush.
The artisan needs to use just the right amount of glue, which means it has to be enough to keep the bristles tightly secured, but not be too much that it will overflow. That’s why they cannot “simply use more” just to be safe.
The quality of the bristles – If there are too many weak or bad bristles in the batch, it’s not going to be a durable brush. Those bristles are identified by the artisans and will be removed from the batch, then from each brush by hand, using different techniques depending on the artisan. However, there is a factor of “luck” where the exact same brush will shed 3 bristles in its life and the other one 33… even if the batch is perfectly consistent, it’s like a lottery, some brushes will have more of those weaker bristles, it doesn’t mean that it is inferior. A brush is designed and manufactured taking into consideration the shedding that can occur.
The shedding prevention or as they call it “removing the bad hairs” is absolutely necessary. This shedding prevention is when the artisan uses his hands, tools and techniques to remove the bristles that are weak, unattached, unaligned…. Remember that each natural bristle is different and this process is very time-consuming. There is not only one person or artisan in charge of removing the hairs that will potentially shed in the future, there are many, one can be more experienced than the other but usually, I can tell you that I see them all working with the same diligence and expertise.
The shedding prevention done by the artisans is easier on a synthetic brush because the bristles can be aligned neatly, their synthetic structure means that there are no weird tips sticking out in a strange direction or wave, there aren’t really weak or wild bristles to clean up.
3. The technique used with the brush
The way we use the brushes is more important that we think: if you notice that the bristles that shed are mostly bristles that look broken, it could sometimes be the technique or the pressure that is used to apply make-up with that brush.
If for example a brush is a paddle type and it’s used in heavy circular motions, it’s not the best movement for the brush. If a brush is round and it’s used agressively sideways, it might damage the bristles. Ideally, we should not put excessive pressure on the brush for it to blend or pick up the products effectively, instead we should switch to a firmer/denser/stronger/shorter brush instead of putting too much stress on a brush that may not be the best for the purpose.
Putting excessive pressure will cause the core of the brush to twist in a way that the bristles will detach off the base.
4. The maintenance or cleaning
This can have quite an impact on the life-span of a brush. If you ask the manufacturer, how frenquently am I supposed to wash a brush? They will probably answer: “the minimum possible“. The more fine and delicate the natural bristles, the less it should be washed.
I have very special and delicate brushes from 15 years ago, they are still ok and effective but I am gentle with the washing. For example: I do not rub them excessively against a soap or a sillicone pad, the bristles don’t bend in a movement that is agressive for the brush, I do not leave them soaking in water or liquid and I don’t dry them under direct sunlight or with a hair dryer – This will alter the glue and weaken it, allowing the the bristles to come apart. Heat can also alter the metal (ferrule) and wood (handle) as metal and wood move with sudden changes in temperature, which may also cause issues on the brushes.
It’s important to gently wash the brushes with an appropriate product but in between washes, it’s great to wipe them on a microfiber towel, this will already remove a lot of the product and bacteria and if it’s only for yourself, you won’t need to wash them as often. It’s also possible to use sprays or products but instead of spraying directly onto the brush, prefer to spray on the towel and then wipe the brush over it.
We should not be afraid to wash our brushes at all (I know some of you are) but we should just adapt the method to the type of brush. If you are not sure, it’s good to ask the Brand or manufacturer if they have any speficic recommendations.
Just a few important recommandations as these can easily cause severe shedding on the brushes:
– Don’t use water that is too hot or too cold, lukewarm is good. Too hot will make the hairs loosen up, but too cold the soap may not clean effectively.
– Don’t leave soap residue on the brush, rinse very thouroughly. If the soap is not properly rinsed, it will cause the hair to clump and contribute to mildew and hair damage deep within the base.
– Don’t use the brushes when the base of the brush is not fully dry as the bristles won’t be as strong.
– Don’t dry the brushes in a way that the water will run into the ferrule (head side down or flat is ok).
– Never put them back in the drawers or boxes when they aren’t fully dry.
I wash my brushes all with the same type of soap, mostly Beautyblender solid soap, I am just very gentle with the process, more gentle with the more delicate brushes. I use sprays like Beautysoclean Wipeout but I spray on my towel and then I wipe the brushes on the towel. I have received many questions about other soaps and sprays so I am testing those and will report back. Most products are going to be ok, it’s more the method that should be adapted.
On a daily basis, after I use my brushes I wipe them on a dry microfiber cloth, I use mine and always have one on my lap or close to my vanity to wipe them as I apply make-up or after I finished.
Microfiber cloths have great properties to remove residue and product and although they don’t kill germs, they do a great job at removing them so this is already a great maintenance for everyday.
On the other hand it’s also important to find a balance between washing the brushes too often and leaving them dirty sitting there for a long time with bacteria and residue. Dirty brushes should not be ignored and left unattended.
5. The storage
Actually storage is more important than we think and it can have a direct impact on shedding and the durability of a brush. Sudden big changes in temperature or humidity may deteriorate the components or the glue, it’s good to ensure that brushes are not stored in a humid place or in the bathroom – unless there is a good ventilation for example.
Just remember, don’t store your brushes when they aren’t fully dry.
It’s also good to keep an eye on the brushes, make sure that there is no mold and no bugs. That they are stored in a dry and safe place. I have to use dehumidifier little bags in the drawers located against a wall that is prone to humidity, I imagine that most of us don’t have drawers full of brushes though! There are also cedar blocks for example that help and are natural bug repellants.
6. The density, size or shape of the brush
When a brush is very dense, it’s not unusual that it sheds more than a brush with a medium density. There are so many bristles on the brush that it’s not a concern at all for the brush, but more an source of bother for the owner or a cause of stress. It is normal that all brushes shed some bristles as time goes by but it’s even more usual on a dense brush. Some weak bristles will only detach with specific movements as the density is what kept them under the radar. The shedding prevention is done by the artisan but he cannot put excessive stress on the whole integrity of the brush just to remore a few more of those stubborn weaker bristles so it’s expected that they will detach upon usage.
Some brushes will have a shape that is more prone to shedding. For example, let’s take a big dense brush shaped like a ball: you’ll have some nice density, also a mix of very short and long bristles, and on top of that, a complex shape. A “ball” shape is difficult to achieve with some type of bristles as it requires body in the core of the brush and some degree of blooming or splaying out to form that ball shape. This shape can be difficult to achieve if the bristles are fine and silky, so the artisan may need to play with different thickness or different length of bristles. The brush will bloom and open as it gets accustomed to use and the trapped loose hairs will shed, this can happen over a few days, weeks or months based on how often the brush is washed and used.
A brush with little density or wispy can also shed and break, for example if we put excessive pressure on the bristles, there are less bristles to support that pressure, hence they might break more easily as they are bending too much or too agressively -but this is more related to the technique to use with a brush.
Severe or normal shedding?
We do not have a precise formula to calculate how much a brush is supposed to shed, as with any handmade product there is a possibility that the brush is defective but we need to remember that shedding can also be a normal process – to a certain extent.
Severe shedding can start from the very beginning but if it starts suddenly, then there could be other causes to that. Soap residue, humidity, storage issues, unstable core…
I don’t expect zero shedding (although I wish for it) so, if I notice severe shedding that worries me, I will wash the brush a couple of times gently, let it dry fully and properly before using it and then check it, see how it goes.
Brushes are meant to last a certain time. At some point they might start to shed more heavily or the bristles may become too undisciplined or too dry or the shape might be lost. Then it is meant to be changed, just like a calligraphy brush.
I have been collecting brushes since 15 years. I have bought brushes that had issues from the very start, with severe shedding, but, we cannot rush to judgement and define a brand based on one brush and I understand this, so I am happy when brands have great customer service and terms that are satisfying.
I don’t baby my brushes but I take great care of them and in these last 15 years, the only big issues I had were related to storage (because of an issue with a wet wall in my room) and only a couple of brushes were impacted. So far I never had to change a brush because it didn’t perform properly, although some very old ones aren’t that soft or perfectly shapped anymore.
I wash them quite regularly, use them with many products and to their limits to be able to really test them properly and I am often surprised how resilient they are!
It’s a real pain to have to deal with shedding but I still prefer natural brushes… It is annoying but it’s still normal – to a certain extent.
As an OEM brand, when my brushes are manufactured I always insist a million times on the shedding prevention process, I am very annoying because I keep telling them that their work is so important. I know they do all their best, they are amazing artisans, and very hard working people but sometimes shedding will still happen and it’s very upsetting.
Fude are an investment, we need to use these precious handmade brushes with the care that they deserve and enjoy them!
I hope that you are loving your brushes, for sure the artisans truly enjoyed creating them for you! As always, thank you for reading and if you have questions I will talk to you in the comments below!