Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chikuhodo Makeup Brushes - The Z Series

So back in May, I finally bit the bullet and started to look into Japanese makeup brushes. My initial goal was to just get a few eye brushes (none of my synthetics option really cuts it). Well, I ended up with more than a handful and am more or less content with (the size of) my collection. I will start reviewing them by brand and/or by series since I like some variety (and so far none of the brand was able to make me commit).

 Out of the two famous -kuhodos, I started my collection with Chikuhodo because

1. They (Visage USA, which by the way has a certain percentage of markup) had a 10% off promotion with free shipping while Hakuhodo never goes on sale. 
2. Most of the Hakuhodo brushes I was interested in are made with weasel, which are no longer carried/imported by Hakuhodo USA.
3. I was emotionally scarred by my first Hakuhodo-made brush experience (Chomotto lip), the handle of which chipped within a week. But I think I will get over it soon as there is that lip brush...
Back to topic, there are many series in Chikuhodo - I first went with the Z Series (for the aesthetics, as I like the glossy handle the best). It's supposedly the more luxurious line of the brand that's made of 100% uncut gray squirrel (with the exclusion of their lip brush and eye brow brush). The whole range has glossy, shorter black handle that's light weight but well-balanced. The print on the handle doesn't come off and the transition between the handle and ferrule of each brush is seamless.

The four brushes I got are Z-2 highlighter, Z-5 eyeshadow, Z-10 eyeshadow, pencil brush and Z-6 for eyebrow.
Z-2 is a candle shaped brush is meant to be used for highlighter. I mainly use it for controlled application of powder blush. Not only the small size seems perfect for the apples of the cheeks, I can also press the (small but generously bundled/not too fluffed-out) brush a bit for a slightly bigger area. One of the advantages of these soft, uncut hair is that practically all area of the brush head is usable so it's in theory (will go to the practical aspect later), multifunctional.

As for the hair. It is indeed very gentle, soft and silky smooth(some bloggers use those three interchangeably but I keep them separatly). The airiness(from the hair alone, not from loosely bundled hair) feels breeze on bare skin and applies any super pigmented powder blush like a well-blended and uber-natural cheek stain.
Z-5 is a big, fat eyeshadow laydown that's considerably bigger and thicker than most other shadow laydown. The large area covers the whole lid in quick swipes and make eyeshadow applies very thinly and naturally. 

The densely pact hair also enable you to multitask a bit: Using the belly to lay down sheerly or to lightly blend, using the tip and sides to apply a more concentrated dose of color in smaller area like (smaller Asians) lid and outer corners. 

Z-10 the pencil brush is a pencil brush that's rather tapered very soft and floppy. I personally like it a lot (I think it's the only one of the four that I love) as it applies a soft wash of highlight under eyes, does a great job depositing (again, a layer that's usually sheer ) color on my small lid space and is pointy enough to reach into the tiny folds on my eyes.

Since Z10 is only meant to use for a lighter wash and the swiping goes the same direction as the hair growth/flow, the hair get to retain it's silkiness.
Z-6 is a slanted raccoon brush that's less/not coarse than how I imagine brow brush (I only had one from Stila) to be. The relatively larger brush doesn't have much surface area but the length will give you a crisp line to either define the brow shape or give small and subtle patch filling.

This could be a wonderful tools for people who tend to be heavy-handed but since the only brow powder I have( from Paul and Joe) is already very firmly pressed and dry, I feel like spending days just to get a tiny bit of tint.  It will be silly to buy a more loosely packed brow powder just so that I can use this.
 A group shot with an US quarter to illustrate the size.

I have finished a quick(I think) rundown with the brushes, here come the part that I don't love/reason why I won't go for more of these.
The not random page break
While the gray squirrel brushes are the softest brushes I have tried, they don't stay that way for long. In fact, I find those brushes getting significantly more draggy on my face/lids just after a few uses.  From my observation and educated guesses, it seems that the ultra fine hair is more susceptible to the grease in product and from face (thus get matted in a sub-millimeter scale). Of course the oil can be cleaned up with soap but remeber( according to Chikuhodo's passive-aggressive brush care tips that they email you will you wait for the order to ship), you are only supposed to wash gray-squirrel hair brushes once a year!

So the hair is fine on those brushes, what are even finer are the uncut/ naturally tapered tips. When I mentioned how they are all in theory multifunctional (because all areas are usable), in reality they are not: dipping a delicate brush perpendicular to a pan or using it to pack on color will make the tips irreversibly kinky and dare I say, scratchy? I mean the whole brush would still be soft but the tip no longer feels like whispers or glides on your lid like a figure skater.

The last thing (from my experience) that drastically changes the feel of these hair is (a little silly): They simply feel much softer on bare and preferably dry skin than on a layer of tacky products (in my case, sunscreen only). While I really love wear bold colors as translucent tint, I have plenty of cheek stains for that (there is no burning desire for me to wear powder blush on bare face).

So far my complaints are all about gray squirrel but there is a tiny one just reserved for z series. The glossy black handles lose their mirror shine with wear (from micro scratch/something you don't pay attention until you look at it under direct sunlight). I don't think it's from my lack of care since I put them in the same (padded) whiskey jar and the Suqqu eyeliner brush and the Shu Uemura remain shiny and new-looking. It's not a big deal for most people but...I am not most people/get irked by small things like this.

Overall, I feel that this is a truly luxurious range as I am paying 35-70 dollars per brush and get to…babysit them! A big and fluffy gray squirrel face brush does indeed feel wonderful and make makeup application such a treat on my skin. For me, it's not worth it to just spend this amount on something to only use them sparingly/with extreme care.

TL/DR - The Z-10 is the only brush that I will recommend without reservation. I am not trying to stop you from buying other (my skin loves them and they make everything else/even some goat haired brush feel like dish scrubber), there is nothing like the initial whisper-like sensation. I don't regret buying them. How else would I figure out what I like/don't like if I haven't used them(I have another gray squirrel face brush and have decided to stop it right there) for two months? 


  1. This is all very educational! I do want to upgrade my brushes but probably wouldn't jump right into something like Chikuhodo, but I admit I've browsed them more than a few times.
    I am slowly learning shapes and sizes matter as much as the materials. I find some of the U.S. based ones with synthetic hair often are too big and awkwardly sized although I don't exactly find them scratchy or anything.
    I will look forward to further installments of your brush series! :)

    1. You should still get one gray squirrel brush though, just to get a feel of how soft they are. I don't think z-series is a much have because a similar brush / hair type and amount of hair, other brands (like koyudo) would have a better price.

      My favorite so far is canadian squirrels (thicker strand per hair, more durable than gray squirrel but gives the same sheer natural layers) and weasel/sable/kolinsky for eyes. For face/cheeks I think I would just go back to synthetic because natural brush care is too much of a hassle.

  2. Replies
    1. Lol, I will refrain from making comment...I actually bought a mizuho brush is similar(ok, it's more candle flame than it is egg shaped) that's quite nice as well but that was a limited run from cdjapan. And at first I thought mizuho uses better squirrel hair (turns out that it's super soft because it was new).


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