You have probably been browsing online seen a gorgeous looking Japanese brush set, clicked on the image and almost had a heart attack at the price. Then wondered how and why on earth a single brush would cost over $ 50/17,000 naira. Especially when you have seen brush sets for that price.
As a makeup aficionado and all things high end, my progression to higher-end makeup brushes was natural. Don’t get me wrong I still have my trusty Real Techniques and Sigma brushes. However, there is something about the look and feel of a handcrafted Japanese brush that is second to none.
So if you would like to learn about why I think they are worth the price this is for you. I will explain their history, evolution, the top brands as well as some of my favourites if you decide to take the plunge.
History of Japanese makeup brushes
Japan is the mecca for handcrafted luxury makeup brushes. All the brushes from your favourite high-end brands are made in japan. For the past 180 years, Kumano a city in Japan has been responsible for making most make up brushes. Prior to becoming the makeup brush capital, the city of Kumao was known for manufacturing Japanese calligraphy brushes.
Kumano city produces 80% of the brushes made in Japan, with over 100 companies manufacturing brushes under their name or for other brands. All the brushes are made by hand using a 100-year-old technique known as “traditional craft” and the Kumano method.
The types of brushes
Japanese brushes are made from natural fibres specifically animal hair. The type of brush hair is important and each hair is chosen based the what they will be used for. The most common hair used pony, sable, squirrel weasel and PBT synthetic hair. Each hair has a specific feature and is used for a specific brush.
Since Squirrel hair is the softest and most gentle it is used for face brushes, while water badger hair which is much firmer is used for eyebrow brushes. This attention to detail makes their performance much better than the normal synthetic brushes.
How they are made
The brushes are made using a five-step process which consists of choosing the best hair and removing inferior hairs. The key in Japanese brushes is that no hair is trimmed and the natural tips are maintained to prevent irritation. They are then shaped and inserted into a fastener, and finally, attached to a wooden handle made from Japanese wood.
How to choose a Japanese brush
There are two ways of choosing the best Japanese makeup brush for your needs. You can choose based on your skin type or on the results you want to achieve.
1. Skin Type
Depending on if your skin is oily, dry or sensitive certain brush hairs will work better in the long run. If you have oily skin a goat hair brush is the best choice because it is more durable and can be washed more often. That way you have less dirt and oils to clog your pores. Blue squirrel, on the other hand, is much more delicate so is best used for dry skin which produces less oil and will require to be cleaned less frequently. The more sensitive brush hair also prevents dry skin from flaking which may be an issue with other brush hairs.
2. Based on Results
Depending on if you want a natural or a more dramatic look, different brush hairs can provide a different effect. These different results are possible animal hair has an irregular cuticle. Which in plain English means because of the different hair structure each animal hair each brush will pick up different amounts of pigment. So brushes with more irregular or firmer bristles like goat hair will give a more dramatic look, unlike the softer squirrel hairs that are more natural.
Why you need Japanese makeup brushes in your collection
They are beautiful
These brushes are a beauty to behold and even the basic black brushes are a work of art. Each brush is perfectly balanced with the right heft that allows it to sit perfectly in your hands. If you decide to go for a more luxurious collector’s version the craftsmanship is even more evident. A good example is the Hakuhodo vermilion range which has a gold-plated ferrule or the Chikuhodo Suka range.
They feel like what I imagine a cloud would feel like – super soft
These are the softest brushes I have ever used. Primarily because they are not cut and use of natural hairs. Most bristles in synthetic brushes are cut to give them their shape. Japanese brush hairs, on the other hand, are arranged so that the thinner tips which come in contact with your skin remain on top. It takes time and skin to shape the brush bristles which is the reason for the high price.
Bristles are chosen based on function and skin type
Japanese brushes use a mix of natural hairs from goat, horse, water badger, squirrel and weasel. The brushes are based on the type of application (face, eyes), product texture (liquid, cream, powder) and skin type. This improves performance and allows you to determine finish –soft, dramatic or airbrushed all based on the brush type.
Price is exceptional relative to the quality
They are more expensive than synthetic brushes. However, when compared to professional makeup brands like MAC which are mass-produced their prices relative to the quality is more than fair. Because buying a handmade Japanese brush is a better investment.
One of the major disadvantages is that Japanese brushes are more fragile and require special care. This is true for squirrel hair brushes which are more delicate and should not be washed frequently.
This means they are not the best choice if you have oily acne-prone skin. Because your brushes need to be washed frequently to prevent bacterial contamination and breakouts from clogged pores.
Japanese makeup brush brands
There are very many Japanese makeup brush brands on the market, ranging from luxury to slightly more affordable brands. Here are some listed below.
This is one of the most renowned Japanese brush manufacturers. They manufacture brushes under their name as well as for other popular brands including Suqqu and RMK. The Z range is the most well-known collection from this brand.
The Hakuhodo is one of the most prolific brands and makes about 500,000 brushes a month. They have a patent on the method of arranging brush heads which allows them to mass-produce handcrafted brushes.
Recommendations to start your brush collection
If you have an unlimited budget you could start your collection by buying a full collection from the brands listed above. The Wayne Goss collection and the Sonia G range both of which are mid-range entry points that allow you to see what the fuss is about.
Alternatively, you can build your collection with individual brushes from different brands to get the best of both worlds.
Where you can find them
I bought my Hakuhodo brushes from their US website, the ordering process is pretty simple. The Wayne Goss brushes and chikuhodo brushes are sold on Beautylish which unfortunately is not available to shop from in Nigeria. While Kuyudo and Uyeda Bisyodo are available on the Japanese website CD Japan . However, it can take up to three weeks to arrive so don’t be impatient and you won’t be disappointed.
I hope you have enjoyed my foray into the world of Japanese brushes. If you want to find out visit sweet makeup temptations the site is a virtual encyclopedia of all things Japanese brushes.
Now that you know why you need Japanese makeup brushes, the next step is to understand how to care for them so that they last a long time. This post on how to cleans your Japanese Makeup brushes breaks down the best way to store and clean each type of brush. One tip is to actually use your brushes, disuse makes them lose hair.
Let me know what you think in the comments. Do you have any of these brushes what do you like or dislike about them? Would you like to buy one now you know about the craftsmanship involved?
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First published in August 2018 and on Beauty In Lagos in January 2019