You may or may not know this about me, but I’m a brush addict. New brush series? I’m checking it out. New brand? Holy shit, you can bet I’m there. I stared longingly at photos of Chikuhodo brushes for a long time before I finally got my paws on one, though. At the time they were only available from Japan or one (now-closed) website based in Sweden, so shipping was astronomical. Add that to the brushes themselves (not exactly ones I can run out and buy every week) and my wallet managed to trample down my curiosity. For a while. I finally cracked when some friends wanted to do a group order so we could split shipping, and I told myself “I’ll just have one.” Liar liar pants on fire.
Not terribly long after that now-eproject.com (the Japanese web store) rebranded itself as Visage and brought their prices down a bit; around the same time Chikuhodo released the R-series brushes, which are a little more reasonably-priced than their Z-series. Ugh, ok, just a couple more. But that’s all. Then, naturally, they broke into the US market via Beautylish and released a holiday set that just happened to be University of Kentucky colors. How could I not?
I thought I’d take a nice long brush no-buy, but earlier this year CDJapan started carrying Chikuhodo, and their prices for whatever reason are much lower than other stores. My first and biggest Chikuhodo lust was the sakura MK-2, but at the time (around 3 years ago) it was $260-something + $35 shipping on now-eproject/Visage. I just couldn’t even. When I saw it for less than half that on CDJapan a couple months ago I decided to finally pull the trigger. Three years is long enough to wait.
Again, I thought that would hold me over for a while, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t announce the Beautylish x Chikuhodo Sakura collection the very same day the MK-2 got delivered. Or maybe it was the next day. You get the point. If it’d been anything but sakura I probably could have held out, but I mean, I love them so much that I have them permanently embedded in my skin. Goodbye, dollars.
But really, I have enough now. I’m just going to say that to myself over and over until I believe it. For now, here are some mini-reviews and comparisons.
Left to right:
- Wayne Goss 04 (blue squirrel, or maybe grey)
- Chikuhodo Sakura crease (grey squirrel)
- Chikuhodo Sakura pencil (horse & fitch)
- Hakuhodo G5514 (white goat)
- Chikuhodo Noel Neige shader (white goat)
- Chikuhodo Sakura shader (grey squirrel)
- Hakuhodo G5507 (horse)
I actually haven’t purchased any Chikuhodo eye brushes on their own – all of mine came in sets. I’ve already got a pretty good collection of eye brushes going, and I run them hard enough that I don’t necessarily want to dish out for fancier ones. The ones I have I’m pretty pleased with though. I’m going to try to keep this from becoming an entire novel (haha good luck with that) so I’ll keep my opinions pretty short. I threw in some other brushes for size/shape comparison.
Sakura crease brush – I was really curious how this would be since I didn’t have a brush quite this shape. The Goss 04 is close-ish – shorter, wider and less pointed. So not the same at all, actually. The hairs taper almost all the way down the brush, so it picks up more powder than you might expect. The length and the crazy-soft hair make it very flexible, so it gives a really diffuse application and blends a bit at the same time. Not really the thing you’re looking for if you want precision, but great at what it’s meant to do. The construction is great – everything is attached firmly to everything else and the hairs all follow the brush shape perfectly.
Sakura pencil brush – Gotta admit, I’m still not totally sure what I’m going to use this for. Probably lipstick, or maybe pinpoint concealing. It’s very very stiff (that’s what she said) and the hair is a pretty coarse texture as brushes go. I tried this out on my lash line but it was absolutely too rough. I have sensitive eyes so your mileage may vary. It does pick up cream products well, and sets them back down on your skin without just smearing everything around.
Noel Neige shader – I like this brush a lot; it’s great to pack shadow on the lid, and it’s firm enough to diffuse cream shadows as long as they’re not fully set. It’s not my absolute favorite though (for picky reasons, of course). It’s well-built, but the brush head isn’t shaped quite as skillfully – in the last picture you can see a few wild hairs. I had just washed it, so that’s how it dries. The hair also isn’t as fine and soft as the white goat from Hakuhodo.
Sakura shader – Like the Noel shader, it’s got a few crazy bits of hair, but they’re less noticeable. It’s the perfect counterpart to the Noel one though – it’s smooth as silk (like, really expensive silk) and leaves a light wash of color. It kind of skims over the surface of the skin, which seems to make a smoother finish and show fewer lines.
Left to right:
- Chikuhodo R-C2 (grey squirrel)
- Hakuhodo J210 (white goat)
- Chikuhodo Noel Neige Cheek (white goat)
- Chikuhodo Sakura Cheek (grey squirrel)
- Koyudo RS Cheek (red quirrel)
Cheek brushes are kind of my thing. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t get enough of them. Literally, I’m going to have to split them into two brush cups soon.
R-C2 – I’ve already done a full review on this one (here) and all my opinions still stand. It blends beautifully and soft enough that it doesn’t make my skin flush at all. I’ve had it for a little over a year now, and it’s still exactly the same shape as it’s always been.
Noel Neige – Like its little sister shader brush, the Noel cheek brush has a little bit of eccentric-scientist hair around the edges, and it’s not quite as smooth as what I’m used to with my Hakuhodo brushes. It’s still very soft just not as soft. It’s very big and fluffy so I don’t really use it to apply blush – it’s fantastic for blending out blush though, and especially for going over it with translucent powder if I’ve gotten a little carried away.
Sakura – I’ve seen a lot of people as how this compares to the Chikuhodo Z-4 and the Suqqu cheek brush. Unfortunately I have neither of those brushes, so I can’t tell you (sorry). But, it’s nearly as soft as the Koyudo RS, with slicker hair. The tapered sides pick up plenty of powder. Equally good at patting it on the way I’ve seen a lot of Korean youtubers do, or just sweeping it along your cheekbones. The brush head is really nicely shaped, with everything falling in the right place.
Left to right:
- Chikuhodo R-P6 (grey squirrel)
- Chikuhodo Passion powder (goat)
- Chikuhodo Sakura powder (goat/grey squirrel mix)
- Chikuhodo MK-2 (grey squirrel)
- Hakuhodo J104 (white goat)
Somehow nearly all my fluffy powder brushes are Chikuhodo. I didn’t really mean for that to happen, it just did. #NoRagrets
R-P6 – Another one I’ve already reviewed, and like the R-C2 it’s still keeping its shape like a champ. It’s so fluffy and delicate-feeling that I was a bit worried how it would hold up, but it looks like I was just being a worrywart. This one is great for really soft powders that aren’t meant to be applied heavily, like the Hourglass ALPs or Guerlain Meteorites ballz. Not so much for harder textures – there’s a limit to how much product it can pick up since it’s so soft.
Passion powder – Yet again, already reviewed. It was time to do an update to that though, because it’s really softened up considerably after a lot of use. It’s still dense and firm (it would be really odd if that changed) so it can kick up a ton of powder with soft products. Which is why I don’t really use it with soft products. I like it for loose setting powder, but where it really shines is bronzer. Most perfect bronzer brush ever, at least for ones that are tightly pressed. It picks up the right amount of product and doesn’t drop it all on the first spot it touches down on your face.
Sakura – If you could make a mashup of the R-P6, Passion powder brush and MK-2, this is what you’d get. The hair blend is 50/50 goat and grey squirrel, so you get the best of both. It’s nearly as soft as the R-P6 but firm enough to pick up pressed powders like the Passion brush, and has a lovely handle like the MK-2. When I first opened up the package I couldn’t really see the angle in the brush head, but it was much more obvious once I washed it and it fluffed out a little. The shape makes it convenient for sweeping on powder vs buffing it in since it follows the contours of your face more easily. The brush head is shaped really nicely, with all the hairs going in the right direction.
MK-2 – Literally this is the powder brush I’ve always wanted (for the last 3 years or so). Admittedly at first I was only interested in it for its looks, but as soon as I finally got it I was in love. The hair is dense and soft so it’s a lot firmer than the R-P6. I use this for literally all kinds of all-over powders – loose or pressed, hard or soft, setting or finishing. And of course the handle is so gorgeous I kind of want to put it in a specially-lighted display case instead of in the brush cup with the rest of them.
Noel Neige – As far as I can tell the brush head on this one is the exact same size and shape as the Passion powder brush, but softer and more fluffy. Just like the Noel cheek brush, the hair is soft but less fine than white goat I have from some other brands. I love it best for products that need a firmer brush to pick up the product (I’m looking at you, RBR Diaphanous) but I still only want to apply a small amount.
All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the brand as a whole. I know the big question a lot of people have: Hakuhodo or Chikuhodo? (Which I will be doing a spotlight on Hakuhodo at some point, don’t worry.) I’d say if you want high-quality workhorse brushes, Hakuhodo is going to be more cost-effective. If you want great brushes that are more interesting aesthetically, Chikuhodo might be the way to go – unlike Hakuhodo, they come out with special limited-edition sets that aren’t outrageously more expensive than their regular brush lines.
What are your favorite Japanese brushes?