I thought I’d write a post on brushes since I touched on the topic recently with my purchase from Koyudo. Originally meant to be one post, I have divided this into two because of length. This is part one, a run through of what I have and my thoughts of them. The second part will be what brushes to buy. This is a long, pic-heavy post!
I might have mentioned briefly in the past about how I started my collection (a humbly sized compared to collectors) but here’s all the history in one post 🙂
I bought brushes individually right from the beginning and heeded the advice of others who say to buy the best you can afford. Right from the bat I knew it was an investment so I started with shu uemura (this was like 20 years ago). I was quite a fan of theirs at the time anyway and even used their skincare range. Even back then I was told their brush prices climb up yearly and if you’re going to buy them anyway it’s better to get them early. So!
I started with 2 shadow brushes (sable, synthetic, both paddle style), 1 powder, 1 cheek (pony, also paddle style), 1 lip, the 5R (kolinsky) for socket and I think a spoolie. I still have all of them with me (although I LOST the 5R during a move). I have retired the cheek and powder brushes which started to shed gently a few years ago. The sable shadow brush is also coming loose at the ferrule, but otherwise still good. Considering they’re 20+ years old that’s not too bad. If you take good care of your brushes you can count on using them for 10 years no problem.
I was perfectly happy with these until I started experimenting more with makeup. So I added brushes like kabuki, stippling, eyeliner, dome shaped face brushes and so on and so forth. I’ve tried brushes from brands like MAC, Bobbi Brown in the early days, and in more recent years Sue Devitt, Lunasol, RMK, Rae Morris. And I never bought a set until Real Techniques came along. They’re so affordable and I believe at that time there were some brushes you could only get in the sets. I tried some Sigma, Sephora and zoeva brushes too. The last brushes I bought before the small Koyudo haul are Hakuhodo brushes when they were at the Bon Marché for a limited time.
This is the first time I counted how many brushes I have:
Little by little I have accumulated 63 brushes (59 in the picture above, a few didn’t make it in there but will be seen later in the post). I’m kind of surprised myself. They look so manageable sitting in glass candle jars and whatnot and you don’t even know how many you really have until you lay it out like that. Lucky the Man wasn’t at home when I took the picture. Even though I suspected as much that’s one big visual confirmation that I have too many. I really only use a handful regularly, and others are there when the regulars are dirty and I haven’t got the time to clean them 😛
I will try to be brief and go through the brushes as quickly as I can.
Onto the rest of the brushes.
I use the medium and fine point shader a lot. I probably reach for them the most, out of habit and because they work really well for me and suit my eye shape. With hooded eyes there’s just not much room to work with and most shadow brushes are too big.
Radiance is a nice brush, it works like a dense buffer brush. You can apply your foundation with it although I’ve never tried and have used it mainly as a dense buffing brush to polish the foundation and get a nice finish.
The smudger brush is soft and not scratchy like the Laura Mercier one but for some reason I just don’t reach for this often.
I really like the lip brush.
Precision liner I bought with the intention of mastering the flick. But I actually got better results with a push brush. It’s down to technique I suppose. I’ll keep practicing.
A word on these in case you didn’t know, these have magnets at the end of the brush and are designed to be displayed/arranged with a metal plate. They clump together if you store them flat or in a bag. The good thing though is I can easily hang them to dry in the kitchen 😛 I use the lid of an old coffee tin to store them upright.
Here’s a closer look:
Below is the Ultimate Cheekbone, which is exactly what it says, perfect for contouring that area.
My Hakuhodo and Koyudo brushes:
I still need to test the Koyudo properly, buy the small liner brush has already earned my love. The two Hakuhodo eye brushes are great staples. The cheek is a rounded dome brush and I use that when applying blushes that are on the sheer side. I wrote about this haul here.
I believe both RMK and Lunasol brushes are made by Chikuhodo. That’s a RMK cheek and a Lunasol powder. The retractable brush uses the same hair as the bigger brushes and is very soft. Most retractable brushes you find are synthetic or lower grade hair so this is wonderful. Make sure you dry it properly before you put it away after cleaning though, or you’ll end up with a smelly brush like mine is. I’ve been airing it for months now and the smell is almost gone, though I’m uncertain if the time is right to finally put it away…
Suqqu L and F, the softest brushes I have in my collection. I’ve been using the L to dust a layer of translucent powder under the eyes and over my eye liner. It’s silkiness makes it perfect for these delicate areas. F gives a wash of colour.
The Shiseido foundation brush is the cheaper drugstore Shiseido version available in Asia (or is it Japan only?) I don’t use this much at all. To start with I rarely use a brush for foundation, even when I do I tend to grab something else.
My Shu Uemura brushes, my oldest and first brushes. The cheek and powder brush weren’t in the big team photo. Those two were my work horses, especially the cheek (20 Pony). It’s not the softest brush but it just works with every kind of blush texture. I don’t know if the powder brush is supposed to be this big and fluffy. Here’s how it compares to the Lunasol powder:
Next to them is the 10 sable eye shadow brush. I chose the short handled version at the time and it’s been with me all over the world.
The shape and size of the Suqqu F and Shu 10 are very similar. Hair is very different though and you get different results in terms of application.
Back to the Shu brushes: Everyone needs a retractable lip brush. My only gripe is there isn’t really a cover.
The last one is a synthetic brush I used to lay down the base (since it’s bigger) and nowadays sometimes I use it to do cream products.
The Sue Devitt brushes are kolinsky. They were on sale when the brand folded. Love them and use them daily.
The only Laura Mercier brush I have is the smudger for smokey eyes. I like the size, it’s really small and the bristles are short so you can really get right in and smudge to perfection. Only thing is that it’s quite scratchy, not gentle at all.
The Bobbi Brown brow brush is really old, I mean look at that ‘packaging’. The eye shadow is has a rounded dome shape, which doesn’t really suit the way I apply my shadows now. However it does a great job picking up and packing on colours. The cream shadow brush I don’t really use.
Illamasqua contour brush with synthetic hair. This has a great shape, but I reach for the Rae Morris more often:
My MAC brushes. Of these only three (four if we add the kabuki) are regular version. The first four brushes in the picture from the left came in a limited edition set (oops there’s a slanted cheek brush I forgot to photograph). I’ve read the warnings but I didn’t listen. Now I’m in the club and I agree with everyone that they are just not as good. I bought this mainly for the 212 (the regular version is the last one on the right in the picture) but it just doesn’t compare:
It just doesn’t work – the lines I got were terrible and I hated using it.
You may have to squint but the full sized 187 was made in Japan, SE is China. You can see the difference at the tips.
FYI the 224 was made in France, while the 212 was also in Japan.
I haven’t bought any brushes from MAC since, mainly because they’re a lot more expensive in France. I would have gotten a new 212 from them if it weren’t for that. Anyway I have the small one from Koyudo now, here’s how they compare:
We’ve reached the high street selections!
Sigma small angle E65 is a slanted brush. I can’t remember if they advertised it for lining or not but it’s better suited as a brow brush.
The famous flat-top kabuki. Very nice. I bought this when it was all the rage back then and yes the hype was worthy.
That’s a brow brush from Zoeva. It does the job but it’s filmsy. I have also the 322 brow/line brush from them. It refuses to work with my gel liners and I can’t draw a proper line with it. Better suited with brow work but even then it’s a bit too wide to work with. There’s a picture of that in this post with a brief blurb I believe. These are the only brushes I bought from Zoeva. I probably would have placed another order but they use DHL or FedEx and I have really bad experience with courrier companies in Paris and avoid them if I can. Silly reason I know but it’s a nightmare dealing with them unless you’re home everyday to wait for the delivery. I don’t visit their site often but every time I do I notice the prices have gone up again. So if you’d like to try their brushes sooner is better than later.
KIKO retractable brush in synthetic hair. I have this because the Lunasol is recovering at home. In my search for a temporary replacement I noticed that companies overcharge for the convenience of having a retractable, portable brush. Then they sell you this over sized monster. I wanted something sleeker and reasonably priced. Found KIKO. No it’s not the best brush out there but it addressed my needs.
I don’t know if Sephora sells the same brushes globally. The two purple ones are identical, I liked it so much I bought a spare. It’s synthetic and works really well in packing on colours. The fan brush I use for highlight. I bought this to test the fan-shape in generally and am happy enough with the results I get from this. I guess I could splurge but there’s really no need.
There’s a sponge applicator that I’ve never used or need. Sandwiching it though are probably my favourites from Sephora. The rounded crease 13 and smudge 14. The smudge works really well because it’s so dense. I use the LM one to smudge liners usually, this one can do that but is also great with powder products. It’s not scratchy either. The Rae Morris is sometimes too gentle, and this Sephora version is happily in the middle.
The 13 is great for blending but I use this as a precision contouring brush for smaller areas. It’s perfect. You can use this for highlight as well, working that ‘C’ shape in.
It’s denser than the MAC 224. The Suqqu L is there for size comparison. It’s bigger than the others.
The Real Techniques brushes. I can’t remember which ones came in what sets but these are the first sets the put out. I only know that I bought the setting brush (first pink brush on the left), the blush brush (last pink brush on the right) and the expert face (flat stubby one in the middle) apart. They’ve since released a few other sets with different combos. For example you couldn’t get the setting brush in a set at that time but it comes in a set now. I don’t know if those are limited … to be honest I’ve stopped following them since they launched their e-newsletter/journal project and don’t really know what the latest news are in the RT brush world. Anyway!
Generally speaking the majority of the brushes don’t get much use. You know in the videos they use the eye shadow brush (that’s the purple brush, second from the left) a lot to do their concealing? Well I didn’t like it for concealing and it’s too big and clunky on my lids for shadow.
The two smaller, flat golden ones (4th & 5th brush from the left) are for foundation. Not a fan of these either. I found a better use for the smaller one to use with cream blushes though.
So the setting brush is like a smaller and more precise version of the contour brush (placed between the expert cheek and buffing brush in the picture). I prefer a flatter shape for contouring (see Rae Morrie Ultimate Cheekbones) so I just never used this.
The buffing brush is a nice one, here’s the Sigma flat on the left:
I don’t really feel strongly about either but you don’t need both.
I use the blush brush for powder and bought it for that purpose. It’s too big for blush placement. The multi-task brush (the other pink brush) I used for blushes for a while when I retired the Shu Uemura but didn’t have a proper replacement yet. This, and the candle tipped blush brush would also be nice for bronzer.
The setting brush I bought for applying my highlight actually. This was before I tried a fan brush, which gives a more subtle and ethereal finish. I find this one more versatile because of its smaller shape and relative precision. I guess I have a preference for smaller brushes in general?
Before I bought the expert face I wondered what the differences were between that and the buffing brush and wondered if I needed both (you don’t). To me the expert face is flatter so it can get into the sides of the nose and other smaller areas easily. It’s also more stubby (shorter hairs) so it wouldn’t splay as much when you apply pressure.
If I could only choose three brushes from Real Techniques, I’d pick the setting brush and the expert face brush.
As for the third brush … either the multi-task or the blush brush.
… so I got curious and checked the Real Techniques website. It seems that you can’t get those sets anymore. Oh well. None of the sets they have on offer interests me. Personally I think you are better off avoiding the sets and getting only the brushes that you want.
That’s it! Hope this was helpful to someone 🙂 Part two will be coming soon.