Make up Brushes – My Collection + Review

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:brush-all

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.

Since I forgot to take a close up shot, in the top left hand corner are 3 kabuki brushes. The smallest one is a freebie from Dior. This one came from the Nude Bronzer, I have another from Nude Air powder. The bigger one is MAC, the laquered one is Bobbi Brown. I don’t have a detail pic for these. The MAC one has longer bristles. Otherwise in terms of use they are (BB & MAC) similar to me and interchangeable.

Onto the rest of the brushes.

brush-rm (2)
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:

brush-koyu-haku (more…)

Small Zoeva order

[I’ve edited this post to reflect my thoughts on these brushes having used them for a while – 08/Oct]

I only became aware of the brand Zoeva about two months or so ago. I’ve got most of my brushes covered but I did want to get something ‘generic’ – items that do not warrant heading towards shu uemura for, for example. This was my order:


First about the brushes. A close-up:


I got a brow comb and a brow liner brush. I wanted to use these with the MUFE Aqua Brow. I have an old Bobbi Brown brow brush that I use with powders daily and didn’t want to mix that up with a cream product. These two brushes do their job and I’m quite happy with the performance of the brow liner in terms of precision, and it has the right amount of firmness. And I’ve always wanted one of these type of brow combs/brushes instead of using a spoolie. Really no complaints.

The only thing I will point out though is the brow brush is not weighted and is feather light, it looks and feels like a slim pencil (and cheap). I wasn’t expecting the weight so was surprised when I picked it up. Also the black paint on both of these brushes is glossy and not matte as I thought they were from looking on their website. The brow liner has more heft and is a black with silver sparkles, which I expect the other brushes to be. Just a heads up since you can’t tell from the pictures on the site.

Update: I’ve since washed and used the brow liner brush on a few occasions and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be holding up well. The first few strokes with Aqua brow is nice and precise but when I start repeating the strokes the bristles divide into four to five separate ‘tufts’… like teeth on a comb but more spaced out. I can still get the colour on but it’s more shading than drawing, which was what I was shooting for.

Perhaps it’s the Aqua brow formula? Maybe it will perform better with a brow powder?

These brushes are 6.80 euros each so it’s not a catastrophe.

Anyway my favourite piece is the gate fold mirror. I’m taking this with me on my travels cos I hate doing my makeup in the bathroom (poor lighting) and my dingy compact mirror is just too small. This is slim, doesn’t take up space and stands on its own. Plus it lets me check out my profile haha.


The base can be adjusted so you can control the reclining angle. The same goes for the ‘doors’. One of them however is a little looser than the other. Just hoping it wouldn’t flop out completely eventually. This is 8.50 euros. There’s an inscription on the mirror that is a little kitschy and that I’m not 100% sure of. I’ll leave that as a surprise to those who order it.

Shipping was quick and the items are nicely packaged. The brushes come with their own little plastic zip-lock pouches. Very generously sized in fact and you can use them to put whatever you want or your own set of brushes when traveling. All in all I’m happy with what I’ve ordered, Despite the hiccup, I still think it’s a range worth taking a look at if someone’s just starting out on makeup, or on a tight budget. The other brand to check out of course is Real Techniques. These ones from Zoeva do look a lot more elegant, but don’t really know the range well enough to discuss the quality of their brushes howeverReal Techniques have some really fabulous ones and from personal experience they are work horses that can take abuse. Do leave a comment if you have tried Zoeva’s brushes, and especially their makeup!