The secret behind why Japanese makeup brushes are the most sought after

You have probably been browsing online seen a nice looking brush set and thought that looks good clicked on the image and almost had a heart attack when you saw the price . Then wondered how and why on earth a single brush costs over $ 50 or 17k if you convert prices to naira like me.

You know you can get full sets for a fraction of the price and wonder what make it worth that price.

As a makeup aficionado and all thing high end, my progression to higher end makeup brushes seemed 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 hand crafted brush that is second to none.

This post is about trying to convince you on why I think they are worth price and the reason you need to take a second look. I will talk about the history and evolution which is pretty interesting, the top brands and share my favourites so you have a guide if you decide to take the plunge.

Japanese makeup brushes

History of Japanese makeup brushes

With regards hand crafted luxury makeup brushes, Japan is the mecca and Japanese brushes are the top of the line. All the brushes from your favourite high end brands will most likely have been made in japan.

For over 180 years most make up brushes have been made in Kumano, a city in Hiroshima. Before its transformation to the makeup brush capital of the world, Kumano was renowned for manufacturing Japanese calligraphy brushes for over   200 years. The city of Kumano produces 80% of the brushes made in Japan, with 100 companies manufacturing brushes under their name or for other brands. All the brushes are made by hand using 100-year-old techniques “traditional craft” and the Kumano method.


Brush type

Courtesy: Hakuhodo

Brushes are from specific animal hair depending on what they will be used for. This makes their performance much better than the normal synthetic brushes.  The brush hairs are extremely important and are made from pony, sable, squirrel weasel and PBT synthetic hair. Each hair type has a specific feature and is used for a specific brush type. Squirrel hair is the softest and most gentle so is used for face brushes, while water badger hair which is much firmer is used for eyebrow brushes.

You can choose brushes based on your skin type, oily, dry or sensitive or based on the results you want to achieve with your make up natural or dramatic. You are able to achieve such different results because of the irregularity on the surface of animal hair (cuticle). So hairs from each animal and pick up different amounts of pigment from your makeup because of their different structures.

Goat hair is recommended if you have oily skin because it is more durable so can be washed more often and have less dirt to clog your pores. Blue squirrel, on the other hand, is much more delicate so should be used for dry skin which produces less oil and will require the brush to be cleaned less frequently.

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.

Why you need Japanese makeup brushes in your collection 

They are beautiful

These are truly beautiful brushes to behold even if you choose the basic black brushes they are still a work of art and the balance and heft of each brush allow 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.

Courtesy: Sweetmakup Temptations

They feel like what I imagine a cloud would feel like – super soft  

These are the softest brushes I have ever used. Due to the care in choosing the bristles and use of natural hairs. Most synthetic brushes have their bristles cut to give them their shape. Japanese brushes, however, ensure that hairs are arranged so that the thinner tips of the hairs which come in contact with the skin remain on top. The focus on shaping the brush bristles takes time and requires tremendous skill and influences the 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. They 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

Although they are more expensive than synthetic brushes when compared to professional makeup brands like MAC the prices are comparable. However, when you take into account the other brushes are mass produced the Japanese brushes become a better investment.


Japanese brushes are fragile and require special care to be properly maintained. This is especially true for brushes made from delicate hairs like squirrel which should not be washed frequently. So are not the best choice, for oily acne prone skin, which requires frequent cleaning to prevent bacterial contamination.

Japanese makeup brush brands


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 mass produce handcrafted brushes.

Other brands include Koyudo and Uyeda Bisyodo which are not as well known.

Recommendations to start your brush collection

If you have an unlimited budget you could start your collection by buying a full collection from brands listed above. The Wayne Goss collection is a good mid-range entry point which allows 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. I did both and here are some brushes in my collection to get you started.

[shopr_shopthepost collection=”japanese-makeup-brushes” size=”medium” show_product_title=”yes”]


Where you can find them

I bought my Hakuhodo brushes from their US website, the ordering process is pretty simple and it comes in a lovely box Hakuhodo USA. The Wayne Goss brushes and chikuhodo are sold on Beautylish which is also easy to order from. Kuyudo and Uyeda Bisyodo are sold on a Japanese website CD Japan but 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, even more, the site sweet makeup temptations is a virtual encyclopedia of all things related to Japanese brushes. 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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