Hakuhodo starter sets: my must-have recommendations

Lately this question has come up on a couple of beauty forums – “What Hakuhodo brushes should I buy on a [$X] budget?” Hakuhodo is one of my favorite brush brands, but I’ll be the first to admit their website is a little confusing and hard to navigate. When I first started researching, I found a ton of helpful information on blogs like Sweet Makeup Temptations and Drivel About Frivol, and I’ve also learned quite a bit through trial and error. So, I thought I would pay it forward and put together some ‘Hakuhodo starter sets’ for different budgets.

Before I start though, I do have to warn you that some of my recommendations depend a lot on my personal preferences. For example, I have sensitive skin and like to use the softest brush that will do the job, so I pretty much always will pick a white goat or squirrel blend over black goat. I’m also a fan of the standard black handles, so you won’t really see anything from the S or Kokutan series in here.

$50 Budget

Hakuhodo starter sets $50 Budget

J5523, G5507, J521

  • J5523 ($18) – I’m sure this is probably the most-recommended Hakuhodo brush of them all! It’s very similar in shape and size to the MAC 217, but it’s softer and doesn’t shed (at least, neither of mine have). It’s really efficient for blending and crease work, and I’ve heard of folks using it for concealer too.
  • G5507 ($18) – This is a great laydown brush, even for my small lids. It’s dense with a flat, tapered tip, so it picks up a ton of shadow and holds onto it well – which means less fallout.
  • J521 D1 ($14) – Possibly the itty-bittiest brush I’ve ever seen. I love this one for tightlining, and it also works for smudgy liner and wings.

Total: $50

$100 Budget

Hakuhodo starter sets $100 Budget

J5523, G5507, J521, J210

All of the above, plus-

  • J210 ($44) – Yes, it’s kind of pricey, but it’s also really versatile. The white goat hair means you can use it with powder or cream products, and it stands up really well to frequent washing. I use it mostly for blush, but it’s also good for contouring. I know some folks like it for liquid foundation too, but it’s a little more flexible than I like for that.

Total: $94

$250 Budget

Hakuhodo starter sets $250 Budget

J5523, G5507, J521, G5514, J5529, Wayne Goss 04 (stand-in for S146Bk), J210, G5521, Black Fan

Again, everything above, with these additions-

  • G5514 ($16) – A great, tiny little pencil brush for really precise detail work.
  • J5529 ($16) – Even though it’s tapered, with use the end fluffs out to a more rounded shape, which makes it great for blending in smaller areas.
  • S146Bk ($23) – Ok, so I have to disclaim here – this is the only one on this list that I don’t actually own. But as far as I can tell, the brush head is a perfect dupe for the Wayne Goss 04, which I reach for just about every day because it’s perfect for applying and blending my crease color all at the same time. And who doesn’t want to save time?
  • G5521 ($34) – This uber-soft squirrel/goat blend is great for powder contours and highlighters. I’ve also used it for blush on occasion, though it’s just a tiny bit to soft to use with harder or less-pigmented blushes.
  • Black Fan ($60) – Another absolutely lovely squirrel/goat brush. I got this one to use with my Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders, and it picks up the perfect amount. It also works really nicely with loose setting/finishing powders, as long as you make sure to tap off the excess product.

Total: $243

Also nice to have

Hakuhodo starter sets $400 Budget

G5528, J532, J104

If you’re really just planning to go all-out on upgrading your brush wardrobe, here are some others that I wouldn’t consider strictly essential, but they are pretty great.

  • G5528 ($29) – Even though it’s blue squirrel (and therefore really soft), this brush is so dense that it picks up a lot of eyeshadow in one swipe. It’s one of my favorites for placing my crease color.
  • J532 ($27) – Now, you might think “What would I possibly do with an eyeshadow brush this big?” And it’s a valid question. I got it because I wanted a flat brush that would cover my whole eye area (lash line to brow) in a couple swipes, since I like to use a neutral eyeshadow base before I start in with my other colors. I was not disappointed! It’s also really nice for spreading eye primer.
  • J104 ($80) – This is a huge, incredibly fluffy, super-soft powder brush. It will work with pressed powders, but it really shines with loose powder. I will say, though, that this is my only Hakuhodo that has slight issues with shedding. It’s really minor – it’ll lose maybe 3-4 hairs over a month – but I felt I should mention it anyway.


What are your favorite Hakuhodos? If I left out any of your must-haves, tell us about them in the comments!



  1. Emi at Project Swatch

    April 28, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Great post, I bet this will be very helpful to many! I share some of your favorites :) I definitely am not meaning to spam you, but if you’re interested in reading about my favorite brushes (Hakuhodo & others) I just posted about them, face and eye brushes are in separate posts. I know I’m always wanting to read about brushes!

    Also, is that the G5514 (pencil brush) or G5515 (miniature pencil brush)? It’s hard to tell scale from the photos, but it looks like it might be the G5515 – also one of my very very favorite brushes.

    1. Nikki

      April 29, 2014 at 8:48 am

      I always love to hear about favorites – the more the merrier! Feel free to add your links if you want to :-)

      I’m pretty sure it’s the G5514 – at least, that’s the one I ordered! I guess it’s technically possible I got the wrong one by accident, so I’ll measure it later to be sure :-)

  2. Sen

    April 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Fantastic post! I get so overwhelmed with Haks so I’m definitely going to save this for reference!

  3. GirlinaTrenchcoat

    April 29, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you so much for this! This is super helpful!

    I’ve been thinking of investing in their brushes but had no idea where to really start. Also, I’m planning a trip to their showroom in LA to buy said brushes… it will be a challenge not to buy every single one.

  4. GirlinaTrenchcoat

    April 29, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Oh follow up question… what Hakuhodo brush do you recommend for mineral powder foundations that’s under $200?

    1. Nikki

      April 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Oh geez, if I went to the showroom I don’t think I’d be able to control myself! Luckily I’m clear on the other side of the country :-)

      I don’t actually wear powder foundation, but I have used the G543 to buff in tinted setting powders, and it gives a beautiful finish. I use it mainly for liquid foundation though. Fair warning, it’s suuuuper dense, so if your skin is prone to flaking you’d want to be sure to exfoliate & moisturize well before you use it. It’s pricey, but if you have a $200 budget you’d still have a big chunk of that left for more brushes :-)

      The J527G also looks like a good candidate. I don’t have that one so I’m not quite sure what the density is like, but the shape looks about right. It might be worth checking out when you go shopping!

      1. The Girl

        April 29, 2014 at 7:41 pm

        Haha yeah, I will have to exercise utmost restraint in there. :) Thanks so much for your advice Nikki, I’ll def. keep that in mind when I check the place out!

  5. Jillian

    May 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Loved reading your recommendations! Lately, I’ve been in love with tiny eye brushes but skipped over the J521 D1 because I thought it was going to be too similar to the WG 08. This is the first I’ve seen/heard of the J532! I’ve been using the Tanseido paddle eye brushes daily (which are much thinner) so I should think about giving the J532 a go. I have the J220 G and I think I’ve used it once… It kind of turned me off large eye brushes.

    1. Nikki

      May 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I already had the J521 when the Goss brushes came out, so I skipped the WG08 – the look practically identical, and I think I only need one in that shape! What didn’t you like about the J220G?

  6. Jillian

    May 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    I’m with you! As much as I love brushes, I don’t have so many that I want to get the same shapes all the time.

    It just applies everything really sheerly. Now that I think of it, it might be good for smaller contouring work. But I probably just haven’t given it a fair chance. I got the Z-5 shortly after and I definitely prefer it for placing and blending color.

    Did you pick up any brushes from WG’s new collections?

    1. Nikki

      May 4, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Ahh, that makes sense. It sounds like it might be great for eye primer though! I haven’t gotten any of the new Goss brushes yet, but I may. I just got a couple Chikuhodos a few weeks ago and I’m still kind of waiting to see what the Koyudo red squirrel set is like, so I have to give my wallet some time too cool off :-)

  7. Gia T.

    June 26, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Nikki, just wanna say huge thank you again for this post, it really helped me pick my first couple Hakuhodo brushes; and I did try the S146 that you recommended and it does work perfectly as a crease color application/blending brush!

    1. Nikki

      June 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      Awesome, I’m so glad it helped!

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