Skin & Tonics : A Skincare Blog

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My Brush Collection: Part One – Favorite Foundation Brushes (Hakuhodo & Koyudo)

Last year, I turned into a full-on makeup brush snob. I decided to save up some money, then find and buy the absolute best brushes I could get my hands on, no matter where in the world those brushes might be. It turns out they were in Japan – Hakuhodo, Koyudo, Chikuhodo – it seemed all the greats originated from Kumano, a town adjacent to Hiroshima with a centuries long tradition of creating the finest, handmade, artisan brushes in the world. Since that realization, I’ve acquired a respectable number of magnificent Japanese brushes. I’m really proud of my collection, which is openly displayed on the antique desk in my bedroom. No matter how many times I walk past them, I still get excited every time I catch a glimpse. Today is the first installment of a three part series that will highlight my favorite performers, and I’ve decided to kick things off with the foundation brush category.

Koyudo Hakuhodo Brushes

My favorite foundation brushes, engaged in a group hug.

For years I assumed I was made to be a finger applicator when it came to foundation. I hated paddle brushes, which have somehow become the standard for foundation brushes. At some point I acquired the large, fluffy, Tarte foundation brush, which is how I learned that foundation brushes don’t have to suck. I then obtained a few Sigma brushes from the Kabuki collection, which also performed well. The Tarte and Sigma brushes aren’t high enough on my list to be called favorites exactly, but they will always have a special place in my heart – they taught me that not all foundation brushes are paddle-shaped pieces of crap, and filled my sails with the wind I needed to venture on my epic quest for The World’s Best Makeup Brushes.

Tarte Foundation Sigma Round Angled Kabuki

The first brushes to save me from paddle brushes.

I might be overselling the quest part. I didn’t sail a ship to Japan. I just got online and ordered myself a few Hakuhado brushes I’d been researching. Yay, global commerce! Of the Japanese artisan brush companies, Hakuhodo is probably the most well-known. They even have a distribution center in California, which is where all the US orders are shipped from. The brushes are still made in Japan, however, in the Kumano-based facility where each piece is still handmade, and every natural hair still uncut.

Hakuhodo G5557

My Hakuhodo foundation brush is the G5557. This is a full, round, angled brush primarily comprised of soft goat hair. It also contains synthetic fibers that are carefully arranged and extend just 2mm past the tips of the goat hair, making this brush a sort of primo duo-fibre. The longest side of the brush head measures about an inch (26mm), and the diameter is about the size of a poker chip. It performs unbelievably well with cream and liquid foundations, but the thicker foundations is where this brush really shines. It’s always the brush I reach for anytime I’m wearing something like Kat Von D Lock-it Tattoo Foundation, which has a particularly dense formula. It also works well with thinner liquids, such as the Urban Decay Naked Foundation and Chanel Perfection Lumiere. The finish is always even, smooth, and looks airbrushed. (Oh dear. I just realized this could get a bit tiresome – all of my favorite foundation brushes impart an even, smooth, airbrushed look. That’s why they’re my favorites. )

Hakuhodo G5557 Foundation Brush

Hakuhodo G5557

Hakuhodo G5557

Hakuhodo G5557

Hakuhodo G5557

Hakuhodo G5557

 

Koyudo Fu-Pa Series

It was my search for Hakuhodo brush reviews that led me to two wonderful discoveries . One of those discoveries was Koyudo, a small, Japanese artisan brush company also located in the legendary Kumano. The other discovery was the website that led me to Koyudo, a blog called “Sweet Makeup Temptations,” which heavily features photos and reviews for a huge variety of high-end and artisan makeup brushes. If you are at all interested in makeup brushes, Sweet Makeup Temptations will be your new pornography.

The Koyudo Fu-Pa series is what grabbed my attention first. I had never (and still haven’t) seen any makeup brushes like these before. They’re short and stocky, measuring anywhere from 3.5 to 4 inches, end-to-end. Each one is very, very, densely packed with carefully arranged, extremely soft, natural hair. The structure and shape of the brush heads are perfection – no weird dents, or irregularities to be found in any of the Fu-Pa brushes. I love how unique they look – they’re cute without being childish. But even more than the way they look, I love how they perform.

Koyudo Fu-Pa Series

Koyudo Fu-Pa Series
Left to right: Fu-Pa02, FuPa01, Fu-Pa14

The Koyudo Fu-Pa01 is labeled as a cheek brush, but I actually use this brush for powder foundation. The dense, tightly packed, soft Sokoho goat hair, rounded shape, and short handle all work together to make the perfect tool for applying and buffing mineral makeup and pressed powder foundations. I find that the wrong brush can displace my powder foundation if I accidentally buff a little too hard, but the softness of the Sokoho goat hair prevents that from happening with the Fu-Pa01. I reach for this brush when I want even, medium to full coverage from my Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation, my Kat Von D Lock-it Powder Foundation, or my MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation.

Koyudo Fu-Pa01 Cheek Brush

Koyudo Fu-Pa01

Koyudo Fu-Pa01 Cheek Brush

Koyudo Fu-Pa01

Sometimes I need lighter coverage with my powder foundations, and when that is the case, I reach for the Koyudo Fu-Pa14. The Fu-Pa14 is a powder brush made from gray squirrel hair. This brush is soft on a level I’m not even sure how to describe. You know how soft and silky cornstarch feels when you touch it? The Fu-Pa14 feels like that. It’s also very dense, but the hair is slightly longer and not quite as tightly packed as the Fu-Pa01. The Fu-Pa14 is also a little fuller. I really like it for sheer to medium coverage when I’m using my Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation, my Kat Von D Lock-it Powder Foundation, or my MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation. It’s also really great for finishing powder, and for blushes that require a lighter hand.

Koyudo Fu-Pa14 Powder Brush

Koyudo Fu-Pa14

Koyudo Fu-Pa14 Powder Brush

Koyudo Fu-Pa14

Koyudo Fu-Pa14 Powder Brush

Koyudo Fu-Pa14

There is a Fu-Pa brush for liquid and cream foundations too. The Koyudo Fu-Pa02 is one of the Fu-Pa liquid foundation brush offerings, and it is magnificent. The head for this one is wide, and about as close to flat as any Fu-Pa could get – though this brush is anything but flat. Its dense, Hakutotsuho goat hair is just as tightly packed as the hair in the Fu-Pa01, making this brush capable of an amazingly velvety finish, even with harder to work with foundation formulas (I’m lookin’ at you, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer).

Koyudo Fu-Pa02 Foundation Brush

Koyudo Fu-Pa02

Koyudo Fu-Pa02

Koyudo Fu-Pa02

Koyudo Fu-Pa02 Foundation Brush

Koyudo Fu-Pa02

 

Koyudo High Class (BP) Series

Koyudo has several different brush collections aside from their Fu-Pa series. The Koyudo BP013 Foundation Brush is part of the High Class Series. The BP013 is easily my most reached for brush of all my foundation brushes. If all of my brushes were trapped in a burning building (which they wouldn’t be, because I’d cram them all into my bathrobe pockets along with my Passport), and I could only save one of them – it would be the BP013. The BP013 has a sleek, elegant handle, but the brush head is large and in charge – I’d say it’s approximately 2 inches wide just after a wash, wider in between shampoos. The head is comprised of Hakutotsuho goat hair, which is densely packed. This brush is full but not round, and covers a lot of surface area at once, leaving behind a flawless, soft-focus effect on my skin. It’s a liquid foundation brush, and works spectacularly well with medium to thick textures. It’s a bit too large and full to efficiently use with thinner, watery foundations. I use it most often with Guerlain Tenure de Perfection (my holy grail foundation as of 4 months ago), which is right in the middle in terms of consistency.

Koyudo High Class Series BP013 Foundation Brush

Koyudo High Class Series BP013

Koyudo High Class Series BP013 Foundation Brush

Koyudo High Class Series BP013

The BP013 also has a sidekick, the Koyudo BP014. The BP014 is a miniature version of the BP013 – the handle is the same length, and the head is the same shape, and it’s made from the same Hakutotsuho goat hair. The only difference is that the brush head is about 1/8th the size of its counterpart, making the BP014 ideal for detail work. I use this brush to blend foundation around the sides my nose, and the vicinity of my eyes and mouth. It’s also really great for liquid highlighters such as Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector – it blends the highlighter into my foundation beautifully, imparting a natural-looking luminosity with no hard edges or streaks.

Koyudo High Class Series BP014 Foundation Brush

Koyudo High Class Series BP014

Koyudo High Class Series BP014, BP013, Fu-Pa02

Koyudo Liquid Foundation Brushes
Left to right: Fu-Pa02, BP013, BP014

 

Where to Buy

Hakuhodo G5557, Koyudo BP013, Koyudo BP014, Koyudo Fu-Pa02, Koyudo Fu-Pa01, Koyudo Fu-Pa14

Left to right: Hakuhodo G5557, Koyudo BP013, Koyudo BP014, Koyudo Fu-Pa02,
Koyudo Fu-Pa01, Koyudo Fu-Pa14

The Hakuhodo G5557 sells for $69 on the US Hakuhodo website. I ordered a few other brushes at the same time I ordered this one, and was delighted when I saw the box they came packaged in. The box is lavender with a bright orange logo paper wrapped around the center. I have kept all of my Hakuhodo boxes; throwing one away would feel too much like throwing away a butterfly.

Hakuhodo Box

Hakuhodo Box

Hakuhodo Box

Hakuhodo Box

 

The Koyudo brushes are available through a website called Cool Japan Now. Ordering through Cool Japan Now is pretty easy, and they do accept PayPal, which simplifies things quite a bit. The thing you need to know about Koyudo brushes, however, is that once you order one, you’ll be doing some waiting. Koyudo brushes are handmade after you order them. The wait time for the Fu-Pa series brushes is 2-4 weeks, and 1-2 weeks for the High Class Series. When I ordered my Koyudo brushes, they arrived exactly 28 days from the day I placed my order. They were 100% worth the wait.

EDIT 01/31/2014: It looks like there is also an eBay seller that now sells Koyudo brushes, by the name of engeica. It appears the products still ship from Japan, and the wait time still applies. The prices are slightly higher than the Cool Japan Now prices and the selection isn’t as wide, but it could potentially be a good option for those who are more comfortable with eBay shopping. I haven’t shopped with this seller before, but she does have a high feedback score.

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39 comments onMy Brush Collection: Part One – Favorite Foundation Brushes (Hakuhodo & Koyudo)

  1. I’ve haven’t saved up and made the effort to explore the Japanese brushes yet, but this post is fun and helpful! Definitely haven’t seen anything like those Koyudo brushes before.
    Erin recently posted…Is Orlane’s $75 line-reducing lip treatment worth it?My Profile

  2. The quality for those brushes look amazing! I once was contemplating about getting brushes from Japan everyone was raving about but then realized I didn’t use makeup very often. I did however buy the Samantha Chapman set which worked out okay. Its funny when people inexperienced with makeup come over and thing I’m a painter. Do you know if these brushes go on sale?

    • Kerry

      I don’t believe Hakuhodo ever goes on sale, but every once in a while, Cool Japan Now will offer sale prices on a select few Koyudo brushes!

  3. The brushes are amazing and looks like they haven’t used yet 🙂

    • Kerry

      They clean up really nice! I was worried before I bought these that white foundation brushes would get permanently stained, but the makeup washes out completely every time.

  4. Some gorgeous brushes there. I’m guilty of skimping when it comes to brushes. I keep meaning to get a MAC 217, though.
    Bethany recently posted…[Press Release + Impressions] Forget Fake – Go Natural with Victoria’s LashesMy Profile

    • Kerry

      The MAC 217 is a fabulous brush! FWIW, the Hakuhodo J5523 is the same type of brush, but it’s somehow less expensive than the MAC 217 (at least it is in the US). It might worth checking out!

    • I’d recommend Hakuhodo J5523 as well–it’s a big go-to for me. It looks pretty much exactly the same size/shape as the Mac217 but is supposed to feel a tad softer. I’d love to have 2 or 3 of this brush. It is fantastic for crease and blending. Shipping is a little high for Hakuhodo, so it’s worthwhile to order several brushes from them at the same time. I also love their J142 (similar in size but pointier and more for blending), J5523 (laydown–a huge workhorse for me), and G5515 (tiny, tiny pencil brush–great for detail work/inner corners).

      • Kerry

        Yes! I love the J5523! It’s definitely one of my most reached for eye brushes. I only have a few Hakuhodo eye brushes, but would really like to try more of them. I’ll definitely check out the J142 and the G5515. Thanks for the recommendations!

  5. Whenever I want to subject myself to products I probably don’t need/can’t afford right now I come to your blog LOL. I think right now I am the you that you described in your post–I only use my fingers because all the paddle brushes I’ve tried suck, and I just can’t make it work otherwise. I’ve never seen anything like those Koyudo brushes though and I have to say I’m really intrigued by the appearance alone; they seem like by principal they would work better for liquid makeup application. I’ve heard so many good reviews on Hakuhodo brushes, but I think I’m gonna order a Koyudo brush now. Thanks for this Kerry! Love your reviews as always.
    Tiffany recently posted…Collaboration Makeup Tutorial: Dark Moon PrincessMy Profile

    • Kerry

      Oooo! Which Koyudo brush(es) do you have you’re eye on? I’d love to know what you wind up picking up.

      Also, WTF is going on with paddle brushes? Everyone loves them so much, so I always felt like I must be using it incorrectly somehow. No matter how nice the paddle brush was or what techniques I tried, my foundation always ended up streaky and unblended with those things!

  6. What do you use to clean your brushes?

    • Kerry

      Hi Deborah! Lately I’ve been using the Hakuhodo brush cleanser with the Sigma Brushing Cleaning Glove for shampooing my brushes. I also like Dr.Bronner’s for brush cleansing. In between shampoos, I use Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner after most uses. I don’t spray the cleaner directly on the brush because I’m afraid it will be too harsh for the natural hairs over time. Instead, I put the cleaner on a paper towel, then gently stroke the brush back and forth until most of the makeup is removed.

  7. Hello,
    Amazing post… I want them all!!!
    Have you ever tried the shiseido perfect foundation brush? If so, do you know how it compares to the hakuhodo g5557?
    Thanks!

    • Kerry

      Hi Aline! I have no tried the Shiseido Perfect Foundation Brush yet, but I hear great things about it. Not sure how it compares to the G5557 since I haven’t had the chance to use one!

  8. They’re all so marvelously fluffy. I’m on more of a Real Techniques kind of budget at the moment, but my oh my are those some pretty brushes.
    Rebecca recently posted…Indie Friday: Notoriously Morbid’s “In Camelot” collectionMy Profile

  9. The brushes look wonderful! But would have to save up for those babies! I am sure they are worth every cent! I would be honored if you and any of your viewers would check out my new blog at http://www.bethandbeauty.com. Thanks in advance!

  10. Hi Kerry
    Just found your blog, love it. Was wondering you mentioned Chikuhodo products but you don’t seem to have any in your review?
    Was this because you aren’t as much a fan or had a hard time getting them? If it’s the latter try
    http://www.now-eproject.com
    Thanks again for the post I’ve got a wish list going
    Lynda

    • Kerry

      Hi Lynda! Thanks for the tip on the Chikuhodo brush seller! I’ve never had the pleasure of trying one, but I hear amazing things about them. The main reason I haven’t gotten around to them yet is that I had a spending limit for my brush binge, and decided to focus on Hakuhodo and Koyudo first. But I definitely hope to pick up a few Chikuhodos this year!

      What’s on your wish list?

  11. What brush do you prefer for thinner liquid foundations? I use Guerlain Lingerie de Peau; I’m not sure how it compares to Guerlain Tenure de Perfection in terms of thickness.

    • Kerry

      I like the Hakuhodo G5557 for thinner liquids. Urban Decay Naked Foundation and Chanel Perfection de Lumiere are both really thin – almost watery, even. I always reach for the G5557 for those. I haven’t used the Guerlain Lingerie de Peau before, but I imagine it’s thinner than Guerlain Tenure de Perfection since I think of that one as being medium in thickness.

  12. Hi Kerry,

    I found Sweet Makeup Temptation a couple of weeks ago and have since expanded my Japanese brush collection. I just received my second order from Cool Japan Now today and have been stroking my face with the BP013 for the past hour, soooo luxurious, lol.

    Just a question about using the Fu-Pa02 with the Sensual Skin Enhancer, do you dip the brush straight into the pot, or do you warm a small amount on the back of your hand first?

    Thanks,
    Jia-Min

    • Kerry

      Hi, Jia-Min! Welcome to the Koyudo club! 😉

      When I use the brush with the Sensual Skin Enhancer, the best method I’ve found is to dot the tiniest bit of the SSE on various points of my face, spread it a bit with my fingers, then lightly blend it into my skin with the Fu-Pa02. I’ll often blend the SSE with a bit of moisturizer as well, which makes it easy to spread, but I like to use it undiluted if I’m actually covering a spot.

  13. I LOVE your blog!!! I will spend many nights stalking it. I just purchased the Fupa 14, pink fan and a lavender heart shaped one because it was on sale. The Japanese site was way cheaper than EBay. Thanks for providing a source! I’m happy Hakuhodo now has a US base. Can’t wait to get them, no matter how long it takes! Thank you again!

    • Kerry

      You’re going to love them, Karen! Koyudo makes a magnificent brush. I would love an update on your thoughts about the pink fan and the lavender heart when you get them!

  14. Thank you for the brush info. I’ve thinking of trying one of the foundation brushes.

  15. Great post! I stumbled onto your blog while researching Japanese brushes. Do you still like the G527 for powder foundation, or has the Koyudo Fu-Pa’s replaced it? They all look amazingly soft!

    • Kerry

      Hey Michelle! You know, I haven’t touched my G527 since the Koyudo brushes arrived. The smaller circumference of the Koyudo brush heads make them easier to dip int smaller powder containers, and the brushes are infinitely softer. The G527 works well, but I that brush is much stiffer than any of my other brushes. That stiffness is great for heavier powder coverage, but I prefer the feel of the softer brushes.

  16. Hi, do you like the Fu-Pa 02 brush or Hakuhodo for applying liquid foundation? I guess I’m asking out of Hakuhodo, Koyudo, and Chikuhodo, which is the best for liquid foundation? I’m planning to buy one soon. Thanks for your help! 🙂

  17. Hey Kerry,
    For a guy visiting the world of make-up brushes, the whole thing is a scary scary place. So many choices, so many options. Your post definitely resonates though and I wonder if you and your readers would be up for a little challenge (and help me in the process)?!
    I’m looking to buy my wife a new set of brushes. She has always said that she wants to get around to owning a nice set. She has great taste and loves ‘nice things’. Having read around a little, I can see the beautifully crafted Japanese ones will be perfect. However, which to get?
    If you were putting together a set of 6 essential brushes made up of the ones you love in your collection, which would they be, what make, which type…
    Appreciate your thoughts! Thanks!

  18. Ylenia

    Does the Koyudo fu pa02 works also for cream foundation?

  19. Julia

    Thank you for a great review. I am exploring Japanese brushes and have started to buy a few. they are absolutely stunning and work beautifully. Once I tried the well crafted brushes and felt how soft they work, not to mention what a difference they make with makeup application . Koyudo is my next stop and am anxious to try a couple of these brushes. I am now going to load up at the link you gave.

  20. Kris

    I’ve been thinking about buying some foundation brushes. This review is very informative and helpful. I have the Sigma kabuki but I’m going to try some Japanese brushes after reading your review. Thanks a lot for your time and effort and sharing!

  21. Vivian

    I love brushes! And I love how those Japanese brushes look! But they are so pricey… I don’t think I could ever fork out that amount of cash for one. Sigh…