Review of Hakuhodo Brushes by ella343
I bought six from the Kokutan series, primarily for aesthetic reasons. Some of the brush heads are repeated at different price points, but with no diminishment in quality. Unfortunately, unless you can attend a trade show, these brushes can only be purchased online. As much as possible, anticipate what you are looking for. These brushes tend to be smaller than expected. And yes, they boast an exquisite softness, from the highest quality noge, the uncut hair tips, all bundled by hand, but except for the denser brushes, keep in mind that they deposit pigment more sheerly.
The Kokutan Eye Shadow Brush T E0183 ($42) is nearly perfect as a small, pointed brush for detail work; I only wish it were a millimeter or two smaller, as I use it primarily for smoky liner (a favorite technique) rather than creasework. This little nub of blue squirrel, fragile and extremely expensive, very soft on the skin but densely packed. Only the tip picks up pigment directly, but the brush is so well tapered it softens the line even as you apply, like a liner brush with a q-tip built in for automatic smudging.
A generous amount of high-quality goat hair is carefully bundled into an unusual angled shape for the Kokutan Finishing Brush LAG E0173 ($82)—I've never seen anything quite like it elsewhere—that fits neatly into the contours of the face no matter how clumsily you manipulate it. Because of its shape, you can manipulate the surface area, whether sweeping over tight corners or broad areas. The goat hair is cut long enough to be slightly floppy, as opposed to a squat, dense kabuki brush, and the tips are extremely fine, with some synthetic fibers woven in for extra delicacy. It's best for a diffuse application, or "finishing", a so-sheer-it's-invisible layer of powder to set foundation. A full base isn't my style, but I sometimes wear Chanel Poudre Universelle on its own, for a little luminosity, and this brush makes the process all that more luxurious. Not the most functional brush, but a beautiful one.
As a basic, all-purpose eyeshadow brush, the Kokutan Eye Shadow Brush WM E0186 ($54), thinner and longer than the Shu Uemura 10, is nothing short of perfection. In general, sable or weasel is my preference for eye brushes; it's often too expensive for most brands (Shu Uemura is the most notable exception). The hair is firm but pliant, so pigment applies in even layers, but extremely fine, and so practically blends itself, no harsh edges, without lifting off pigment already applied on the skin. When angled flat against the lid, you can pack on metallic pigments, but closer to the perpendicular, using mostly the tips, you get an ethereal wash of shimmer or do a little blending, and the sides can also smudge liner and even manage fairly decent creasework. My eye shape is relatively simple—they're symmetrically almond-shaped, wide-set, with no crease, and very little lid space—so the expense is well justified by its extreme usefulness.
If it were fluffier, it might serve as a blending brush, but Kokutan Eye Shadow SG E0188 ($28) performs similarly to the WM, slightly squatter in shape. Though not as expensive, its goat hair does not handle pigment quite as deftly as the weasel, so I find myself giving preference to the WM's precision and control. It does pair excellently with cream products; it's become my favorite brush to buff in my Laura Mercier Moisturizing Foundation, not all over but selectively, like a concealer, leaving most of the skin bare. The finish is so much more refined than a synthetic brush could ever yield.
The Kokutan Eye Shadow Brush SL E0189 ($32) is thicker than most liner brushes, only crafted of the same expensive weasel as my shadow brushes, unlike the generic synthetic flat liners, with rounded, tapered edges. To my surprise, this is the perfect tightlining brush, and easily my favorite out of all the ones I bought. I didn't account for how fine the uncut tips would be, and unlike dirt-cheap synthetic fibers, the flexible weasel hairs actually maneuver pigment right between lashes, but looks perfectly soft, not harsh. If you're not so eager for the Kokutan finishings, the K005 ($15) from the K Series is the exact same brush, a brilliant deal.
I generally apply lipstick straight from the tube without difficulty, but it's nice to have the Kokutan Lip Brush RS E0194 ($32) for completeness' sake, all the same. It's quite wide, which I like in a lip brush, since it lifts off lipcolor and softens edges, if that's what you want, with a slightly pointed tip for crisp edges, if that's what you want.
For full review and images, please read my original blog post (I hope it's ok to post an outside link, I'm not sure how to show images in post): http://arsaromatica.blogspot.com/2011/01/beauty-notes-hakuhodo.html.