Spotlight: Hakuhodo Brushes
Ever since I did my post on Hakuhodo starter sets I’ve gotten a few requests to do a post on the rest of the Hakuhodo brushes I have. That’s kind of a daunting task since they make up BY FAR the biggest part of my brush collection, but I decided to finally buckle down and just do it (yesterday you said today! don’t let your dreams be dreams!). I even washed them for you and everything.
It’s fairly obvious that I love these things. In fact, I’m pretty sure I own more things from them than any other single makeup/beauty brand. There’s a good reason for that, though – the quality is absolutely outstanding. In the 5-ish years since I started collecting them I’ve run across a few that didn’t work for me due to the shape, size, hair type or whatever, but I’ve never come across one that was badly put together. Their brushes are all hand-made in Japan using traditional methods – there’s a great video about it here – and the attention to detail shows. The bristles are shaped nicely, there are no rough edges the handles or ferrules, and I’ve never had one shed excessively or fall apart like some brushes I’ve used. In some cases that level of craftsmanship does come with a hefty price tag, but their basic series (especially the eye brushes) are pretty reasonable – on par pricewise with MAC brushes, but softer and put together better. The face brushes can be a little pricier – part of why I don’t have quite as many of them – but oh so worth it.
Most of my brushes are from the B/G or J series, which are Hakuhodo’s ‘basic’ brushes – plain black handle, silver ferrule, no frills. They have brushes with fancier handles but a) they cost more and b) I like the black ones. When they started printing numbers on the brush handles a year or two ago, they consolidated some of the naming. Basically the B & G series were combined, so I’ve listed the old and new names for some of the ones that have changed.
Flat Eye Brushes
S144Bk – (Tamage, 2160 JPY ~= $18.50) – Right off the bat, here’s one that isn’t available on the US site (sorry!). I was looking for a very small, very flat brush to place eyeshadow right below my lower lash line – even with my smallest pencil brushes I kept managing to make myself look like I slept in my mascara. I eventually ran across this one on Hakuhodo’s Japan site, but unfortunately it isn’t sold in the US. I was able to arrange my purchase with @fudejapan. I’m assuming tamage has import restrictions in either California (where Hakuhodo USA is based) or the US in general. What is tamage, anyway? I can’t find a great answer to that – their site describes it as ‘hair acquired from a cat’. Fun fact – I’m allergic to cats. Animal allergens are typically proteins in the dander (dead skin) or saliva, not actually the hair, so this doesn’t bother me a bit. If you don’t want to fool with international shipping and mystery hair, the US site now has the J144 ($17) which is made of horse hair; I haven’t tried it.
G5507/B5507 – (Horse, $19) – This was one of first ‘nice’ brushes and it’s held up beautifully even though I’ve been using and washing it regularly for almost 5 years. It’s great for putting color down all over my eyelid, and the horse hair is sturdy enough to use for cream or powder products. Another fun fact – I’m allergic to horses too (allergists in Kentucky test for that, apparently). Like the S144, my skin seems to be ok with that.
J532 – (Goat, $28) – The J532 seems almost laughably huge for an eyeshadow brush, but I’ve discovered it’s really nice for applying eyeshadow primer or to put down a skin-tone powder shadow to set my eye primer. It’s un-dyed, so no worries about color bleeding off the bristles with cream/liquid products.
Detail Eye Brushes
K007 – (Weasel, 1296 JPY ~= $11) – The K007 is also no longer sold in the US, presumably because original weasel hair can’t be imported to California/the US(?). It’s still available on the Japan site, but the US site has the horse hair version, the J007, for $15. It’s a fantastic eyeliner brush to use with cream/gel liners – you know a single hair going off in a wonky direction can totally wreck your hard work, but the brush head is shaped so nicely here that it’s not a concern at all.
J521D – (Horse, $14) – Hands down the best brush ever for tightlining. Those teeny tiny barely-there bristles get right down into the lashline like nobody’s business. The length (or lack thereof, I guess) makes the brush really firm but the hairs themselves aren’t a bit scratchy.
G5514 – (Horse, $17) – I use this oddly tiny pencil brush to apply lighter colors along the inner part of my lower lash line, or anywhere else that I need to do detailed work with powder shadows. I think it’s best for placement because it isn’t quite stiff enough to smudge the color out. On the other hand, it isn’t stiff or pokey at all, which is great.
B533 – (Horse, $19) – Back when I bought this brush, it was made with black goat hair. It looks like they’ve now dropped it from the lineup and changed the name of the J533 (made of horse hair) to B533. I support that decision – the shape of the B533 is perfect for placing shadows in the outer corner of the eye, but the goat hair is a little stiff and wiry. If I had it to do over, I would get the horse version instead.
G5528 – (Blue squirrel, $30) – Just barely bigger than the B533, the G5528 is a great pencil brush for putting down my crease color, or would probably be good for general detail work if you have bigger eyes than I do. The dense squirrel hair feels nice and velvety. Btw I am not, at least to my knowledge, allergic to squirrels.
Blending Eye Brushes
Brushes so nice I bought ’em twice! Blending brushes are the real workhorses of the brush world, so I got backups of my favorites. The two on the left are the J5529, and the two on the right are the J5523. I could have just included one of each but I thought you might like to see the difference between newish and heavy use.
J5529 – (White goat, $17) – The J5529 is my absolute favorite for blending between colors on the lid and along my lower lash line – the smaller size is great for keeping everything from getting muddied up. My older one (far left) is finally starting to show its age – it doesn’t shed but the hairs are a little more splayed out than the new-ish one right next to it. It’s got plenty of life left in it though, so I plan to keep using both of them for a long, long time.
G5523 – (Blue squirrel, $27) – This is the squirrel version of the J5523 (see below). The more flexible hairs mean product doesn’t get pushed around as much as with goat brushes. I don’t actually use this brush very much because I like a smoother gradient along the upper edge of my crease color, but it’s really great to soften a defined shape. The length and shape of the bristles are the same as the J5523, but the hair doesn’t fluff out nearly as much after using & washing it.
J5523 – (White goat, $19) – Ah, the famous MAC 217 ‘dupe’. Except not a dupe, because the J5523 is superior in every way. It’s softer because the hairs have their natural tips instead of being laser cut into shape, and unlike the two(!) 217’s I bought and returned, the handle doesn’t feel like it could fall out of the ferrule any minute. I mostly use it for blending the outer edge of my crease color, but I also like it for brow & inner corner highlight, and it’s nice for blending concealer and getting setting powder into small areas. Now that I think of it, I may need two more….
J214R – (White goat/synthetic, $28) – I bought this during one of my ‘experimenting’ phases and for the longest time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Eventually I discovered it’s great for lightly blending out the pink corrector that I use to sort-of hide my undereye bags. Cute mental image, I know. Since the synthetic hairs are longer than the goat ones, it’s like the world’s smallest stippling brush.
J212 – (White goat, $39) – Another experimental purchase, and one that I don’t actually use a ton. It’s a little too small for blush, and a little too dense for most powder highlighting products. I like it a lot for blending liquid/cream highlights, and it also works well for contouring my nose.
G5521/B5521 – (Blue squirrel/goat, $53) – I reach for this (or the Wayne Goss 02, which is a really similar shape) almost every day because it’s perfect for powder highlights. Dense enough to blend, but soft enough that it doesn’t pick up a ton of product and make me look like a disco ball.
J210 – (White goat, $53) – Word to the wise, this is not a brush you want use for uber-pigmented brushes because you can end up looking pretty silly (glares at NARS Exhibit A). The hairs are really dense – GREAT for blending, but it also picks up a lot of powder so I save it for my more tame blush colors. It works equally well with creams and powders.
J5543 – (White goat, $63) – This is basically what you’d get if you squashed the J210. The hair length and density are pretty much the same but the pinched ferrule gives it a more flattened shape. I put my blush along my cheekbones instead of on the apples of my cheeks, so I actually like this shape a little better. Also nice for contouring along the hairline and jawline.
J104/B104 – (White goat, $83) – Most definitely one of the biggest and floofiest brushes I own. There’s a lot of hair in it, but the length makes it extremely flexible. Since it’s not too firm I like it better for finishing powders than setting powders.
Short Handled Brushes
Black fan – (Blue squirrel/goat, $110) – How cute is this little guy?! I used to recommend this to people alll the time for a great do-it-all brush – I use mine for contouring, highlighting, finishing powder, it can even handle more pigmented blushes. However, when I got it they were more in the $60-something range. I’m not sure if something has changed about it to cause a huge price jump like that – maybe the density, or squirrel-to-goat hair ratio? It’s still a great brush, but definitely a splurge at its current price.
G543 – (White goat, $98) – Also a splurge, but I can understand why when you consider the sheer amount of hair in this brush. The top of it feels more like a velvet puff than a brush. The description recommends it for powder foundation (which I don’t use) but it gives a nice even finish with liquid foundation too. Like all super-dense buffing brushes it can stir up flakes on dry skin, so that’s just a thing to know.
So there you have it! That’s just a really quick run-down of the ones I have so feel free to ask questions in the comments if there’s something I didn’t cover.
What are your favorites from Hakuhodo?
All products in this post were purchased by me. I know, it’s a problem.
JenJanuary 17, 2017 at 5:21 pm
Thanks for this post! I’m planning to make a Hakuhodo order for my birthday next month. Definitely want one (or two!) of the J5523, as I really like that shape for eyeshadow.
NikkiJanuary 18, 2017 at 4:22 pm
Always glad to enable :-) You really can’t go wrong with the J5523 no matter how many you get!
StevethemonkeyApril 27, 2017 at 10:17 am
Which brush do you think you’d recommend for use with Guerlain Meteorites? Thanks!
NikkiApril 27, 2017 at 10:35 am
The J104/B104, definitely. I’d say the black fan because it picks up a little more product, but the shape makes it hard to get into the Meteorites container. I also think the G5542 looks like a really good option but I haven’t used it. It’s a little smaller so I think it would fit in the container better and the shape looks like it would give you a little more control over where the product goes.