When you think Japanese makeup brushes, phrases like “exquisite“, “high quality“, and “expensive as shit” probably come to mind, and that last one is the reason why I stuck with my e.l.f. (please don’t judge) and Real Technique brushes all these years. But after hearing repeatedly that the right tools can take your makeup to the next level, I decided it was time to upgrade my kiddie brushes.
Why Hakuhodo brushes
- They’re readily available in the US. And by that I mean they have a US-based online store and they do 2-day priority shipping for a flat fee of $9 ($15 for outside of US). It’s much easier than navigating through CDJapan or eBay to source brushes from Japan. If you visit their CA showroom or attend IMATS, you can see and buy their brushes in person!
- Their beginner J-series is very reasonably priced. You’re looking at MAC brush prices, except the brush is softer and quality is better (I don’t own MAC brushes, but that’s the general consensus). The only difference between the J series and their more expensive series (assuming the brush number is the same) is the handle.
- The selection is incredible. I spent days trying to decide which brush to get because there were So. Many. Options. So don’t worry, you’ll definitely find something that fits your skin type and makeup needs.
- They’re made of natural hair, which are ideal for powder products. I use my makeup brushes exclusively for powder products, and natural hair picks up pigment much better, provide better application, and blends like a dream.
- They’re hand assembled in Japan. Which means each brush is carefully put together and inspected by an artisan to make sure it meets their stringent quality. This isn’t a guarantee that all brushes are flawless, but the chances of getting a “faulty” brush is much lower.
My first Hakuhodo brushes
- J5529 Eye Shadow Brush ($17) – I love this brush – it’s the perfect size for my crease area and it’s a beast at blending as well. Probably my most used eye brush.
- J5523 Eye Shadow Brush ($19) – Another wonderful gem. This is bigger than the 5529, so I use it for applying a base color and blending, the latter which it is incredible at. I’ve never tried the MAC217, which this is comparable to, but everyone says this is superior in every way.
- J242 Eye Shadow Brush ($18) – I love using this to pat eye shadow on my lid, and then lightly blend it in. I feel like this one is not being used to its full potential yet.
- G5514 Eye Shadow Brush ($17) – If you have a smaller crease, this one is great for doing the outer v and blending it out. I also like using it to apply shadow under my eyes along the waterline, and in the inner corners. Basically it’s perfect for finer details.
- G5528 Eye Shadow Brush ($30) – I’m ashamed to say that I have not used this one yet. It’s a very dense brush that I originally picked up for smudging, but between the above 4 brushes, I couldn’t squeeze this one in D:
- B110/J110 Blush Brush ($54) – A super versatile brush that can be used for bronzer, blush, or powder, though I mainly use it for blush. This is really soft and picks up just the right amount of color to give my cheeks the perfect glow. Love this.
I was so impressed the first time I used the Hakuhodo brushes that I took a selfie in Instagram stories (something that never happens) because my eye makeup was on point (you know, compared to previously):
There’s something magical about how these brushes just seem to pick up and deposit just the right amount of color on my lids, so I never have to worry about ending up with patches of color. That and these brushes make blending so easy, but I’m pretty sure I’ve said that already.
Of course, you might take my praises with a grain of salt considering the brushes I was using before. Would I have the same positive experience if I was using Sigma or Mac brushes already? Probably, though I’m not sure the difference would be as drastic.
The case for synthetic brushes
First of all, synthetic brushes ≠ bad brushes by any means, and some of them are just as soft and luxurious on the skin as the Hakuhodo (and also just as, if not more, expensive). Plus if you use any cream or liquid products, synthetic brushes are definitely the way to go.
For example I still use my Real Technique buffing brush for my foundation, and I recently bought the giant IT for Ulta All Over Powder Brush for all over powder (because ordering a single powder brush from Hakuhodo and paying $9 for shipping seemed silly), and that thing feels like a bunny on my face.
In the end it all comes down to the quality of the brush itself. That was probably the most DUH statement ever, but what I’m trying to say is that the hair type or a brush’s origin isn’t an automatic guarantee of a great brush – it’s a combination of all the different factors.
Also, while you do need to pay more for better quality brushes, you definitely don’t need to sell your home or your child to have a decent collection. There are some expensive brushes out there that really aren’t worth the $$$, and then there are some affordable brushes that are of great value.
Hakuhodo Makeup Brushes
For me the Hakuhodo brushes hit the perfect sweet spot between price and quality, and I would highly recommend them to anyone who's looking for an upgrade from their drugstore brushes. If I had to nitpick about one thing, it would be that they're also the most basic looking brushes I've seen. So if you want the pretty saffron handles and 24k gold ferules, you'll have to pay a pretty penny for them.
But if functionality is all you're looking for, you honestly can't go wrong with them. Just make sure you get all your brushes in one order to minimize the shipping cost!
Learn more about Japanese/Hakuhodo brushes
If you want to get down to the nitty gritty of Japanese (specifically Hakuhodo) brushes, definitely check out the following posts:
- The Hakuhodo J Series review by Sweet Makeup Temptations (her whole blog is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Japanese makeup brushes)
- The Hakuhodo Buying Guide from /r/fude subreddit
- Hakuhodo Starter Set Recommendation by A Different Face
- Japanese Brush Starter Kit by Shamless Fripperies (she also has a great post for face brushes)
- Comparison pic of most Hakuhodo brushes – super helpful when you want to figure out the size differences between 50 eye brushes
- Different brush hair types – each type has its characteristics that will affect the application and finish
Let me know what your favorite brushes are, Japanese or otherwise, because this girl is seriously trying to overhaul her brush collection. Have a fabulous weekend everyone and thanks for reading!