Review: Hakuhodo J5523 Blending Brush
I’ve been wanting to review my Hakuhodo brushes for a while, but wanted to wait until I got the All About Brushes series started. Now that it’s rolling along, I’m on a mission to review all of my brushes (ambitious, I know). Let’s kick off the Hakuhodo reviews with one of my favorite brushes of all time – the J5523.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m kind of a stickler for quality when it comes to brushes. Since they’re not a consumable product like makeup is, I personally think they should be built to last for a good, long time. Which brings us to why over half of my brush collection is made up of Hakuhodo brushes – they’re just really, really well-constructed.
The J5523 has a black-laquered wooden handle with “Hakuhodo” printed in holographic lettering. I have two incredibly minor gripes about the brush handles in general from Hakuhodo. For one, most of the brushes don’t have the number printed on them (the K series does, for some reason). For the most part that’s probably not necessary, but it would be super handy for those of us who like to do reviews. I can remember most of my brush numbers pretty easily, but I’ve also been told that my ability to remember random strings of characters (like the product key for my office’s Windows XP license that was purchased in 2001) is unnatural. The other thing that I don’t totally love is that the lettering for the logo tends to wear off really quickly, as I discovered with my first couple of brushes from them. Luckily that problem is easily prevented with a quick swipe of clear nail polish. Aside from those two issues, the handle on the J5523 is perfect. It’s very slim, and long enough to balance the weight of the ferrule and brush head. It’s also fairly light, which is nice because I like to blend out my crease color by holding the brush way at the end of the handle and making big ‘rainbow’ motions.
The ferrule is silver-toned nickel/brass. It’s seamless (always a plus!) and pinched at the base of the brush head. The bristles and the handle are both attached very securely into the ferrule. I haven’t experienced any shedding with either of my J5523’s (I have two, one for dark colors and one for light), and there’s absolutely no movement if you attempt to tug or rock the handle.
“The hair!” you say, “tell us about the hair!” Well ok. The brush head is the most impressive thing about this particular brush. If you’ve ever used the MAC 217 (which I know is a holy grail blending brush for a lot of people), then you’ll be pretty familiar with the shape and size of the J5523 -they’re almost exactly the same. Unfortunately I no longer have my 217, but you can see Karima’s comparison photos on Shameless Fripperies. The brush head is flattened at the base by the pinched ferrule, and has a rounded tip. Be warned, a brand new J5523 looks a little too flat for blending, but the white goat hair fluffs up a bit after the first wash. The texture of the hair is almost magical. Hakuhodo’s brushes are hand-made, leaving the uncut tips of the hair intact. Uncut hair tips are much finer than hairs that have been laser-cut into shape, so they feel much softer on the skin. More gentle brushes are a great perk for everyone, and sometimes a necessity if you have sensitive skin. Until I got the J5523, I didn’t even realize it was possible to blend my eyeshadow without the brush turning my skin red.
The nice thing about this brush is that you can multitask quite a bit with it. I use it both to apply my crease color and blend it out. Goat hair is a bit springy, so you can use it to direct the shadow while you blend. I do find it a little too large for precision blending since I have small eyes, but for crease and applying my brow & inner corner highlights it’s perfect.
The hair is also undyed, so if you use it with liquid or cream products there’s no worry about dye bleeding. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve seen quite a few people mention that they use the J5523 for blending undereye concealer. I have used it with very dark and very bright colors, and it always washes clean with no staining. This brush holds up really well in general – after almost a year of weekly washes, it’s still the same shape and hasn’t shed.
Even though size comparisons to other brushes are pretty easy to find for the J5523, here are the measurements:
- Full length – 154mm
- Bristle length – 15mm
- Width of ferrule foot – 10mm
- Width of brush head at the widest point – 10mm
- Thickness of brush head at the tip – 8mm
And finally, a note on prices. Hakuhodo has a reputation for being super-expensive, and some of their brushes are, especially when you get into the series with fancy handles like the S-series and Kokutan. A lot of their brushes are really reasonably priced though, and that particularly goes for their eye brushes. Many of them are comparable to or less expensive than MAC brushes, even though Hakuhodo’s quality is far superior in my experience. The shipping costs are a bit high though – $9 flat rate in the US, and $14-$49 internationally (depending on whether you get tracking) – so it makes the most sense to buy several brushes in the same order.
In Short: I think everyone needs at least one of this brush, but two or three would be better.
The J5523 is available from hakuhodousa.com (they do ship internationally) for $18.