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Friday, 5 October 2012

Precision Instruments

I favour precise tools. Usually this means small, and almost always directional, both to suit my features, which are small but defined (i.e. lots of protrudey bits and sunken-in bits) and, more importantly, to complement how I like to apply and wear my makeup.

Of course, there being no justice no justice at all in the world, sometimes even a small, directional brush in an exquisite hair type just...won't work. As I'm in full autumn clean mode (back-to-schoolism?), this post will be consist of much typing out loud to sort out some of the whys and wherefores of a few recent delights and disappointments.


Delight: Hakuhodo 5515 (G5515BkSL for $15)
This tiny pencil brush is a perfectly formed miniature of the MAC 219 -- its horse hair actually feels softer than MAC's goat and the shorter hairs maintain their tapered shape better, making it feel denser and work more precisely. The 5515 handles every formula I've thrown at it, from cream and powder shadows (used dry or foiled) to kohl and gel liners, and it even does a great job of smudging out liquids. It's both precise enough to line with (even tightline with), and has enough body to smudge with.
1. Real Techniques Pixel-Point Eyeliner Brush (synthetic, from the Starter Set)
2. Hakuhodo 5531 (synthetic)
*3. Hakuhodo 5515 (pony)
4. No 7 Smokey Eyeliner Brush
5. Laura Mercier Smoky Eyeliner Brush (synthetic)
6. MAC 219 (goat)
7. Suqqu Eyeshadow S (grey squirrel, discontinued)
The Hakuhodo 5515 is smaller than every other pencil brush in my collection, and its tip is even finer than the brushes to its left which are marketed as eyeliners (which, precision freak that I am, I use for spot concealing instead).




Disappointments: 
Chikuhodo Artist 6-6 (¥2520 for long or short handle) 
Hakuhodo 127 (B127BkSL for $33 or S127 for $51)
Neither of these brushes worked for me, for the same reason: a mismatch between shape/size and hair type (Canadian squirrel). They share a slightly tapered paddle shape, which is, along with the pencil, my favourite shape for eyeshadow brushes. 
1. Chikuhodo Artist 8-1 (kolinsky)
*2. Chikuhodo Artist 6-6 (Canadian squirrel)
*3. Hakuhodo 127 (Canadian squirrel)
4. Shu Uemura Natural 10 (kolinsky and sable)
Canadian squirrel lacks the body and snap of kolinsky/sable which makes the middle two brushes far less effective at lay-down. Each squirrel hair is also much finer and more naturally tapered which results in a thinner and less fluffy brush tip, so the sable brushes also win out for blending -- the reason I love this shape so much is because I can both pack on colour and blend it out with the kolinsky versions, used on their sides and tips.

My most-loved blending brushes are squirrel hair [hence the logic behind my original purchase] but they are much more rounded and precise, which prevents the softness of the hair from becoming a floppy liability.
1. MAC 286 (the only synthetic in the bunch, but to illustrate my consistent preference in blender brush shapes)
2. Stila 9 (old blue squirrel version; current version is goat)
3. Suqqu Eyeshadow L (grey squirrel)
*4. Hakuhodo 127 (Canadian squirrel)
*5. Chikuhodo Artist 6-6 (Canadian squirrel)
6. Nars 12 (squirrel)




Delights: 
Hakuhodo 5512 (G5512BkSL for $15)
Hakuhodo 521-D1 (G521 D1 for $20)
Before acquiring these two brushes I hardly ever tightlined, even though its benefits are ones that really do appeal to me: the appearance of thicker and longer lashes with just a few squiggles of an intriguingly gimmicky brush? Why won't you let me love you as I know I can? As it turns out, I just needed to go even gimmickier with the brush to fully appreciate the wonders of the technique....
1. MAC 231 (synthetic)
2. Chikuhodo Artist 6-1 (kolinsky)
*3. Hakuhodo 5512 (pony)
*4. Hakuhodo 521-D1 (weasel)
5. Laura Mercier Flat Eyeliner (synthetic)
6. Stila 13 One-Step Eyeliner (synthetic)

Compared to conventional tightlining brushes (especially 5 Laura Mercier's most famous rendition), the Hakuhodo precision instruments are, at a fraction of the length and width, and in ultra-short dense natural hairs, far more precise. My eyes are small but my lashline is quite curved so the wider, totally flat brushes tend to stamp awkward too-long, too-straight lines which look like makeup -- missing the very point of tightlining, invisible augmentation. And with a thin line of longish synthetic hairs, I find both the Laura Mercier and Stila versions unweildily floppy when trying to do the textbook 'wriggle in between the lashes' manoeuvre.
The curved push brushes (1 and 2) which I love for regular eyelining would be a workable size and length but their fluffiness (which stops liner from being too harsh) makes them too thick for tightlining -- at which the Hakuhodo 5512, a scaled-down version of the same shape, excels. But it's the 521-D1, with its concave curve -- it pushes colour right into the curve of my lashes by itself -- which really has me bewitchedbotheredandbewildered tightlining on the regular.



Obsolescence: Hakuhodo S116 Highlight Brush Round and Flat ($78 here)
Technically not really a disappointment -- I originally bought this ridiculously airy blue squirrel paddle to tap/sweep on soft blushes in soft Jung Saem Mool style placements (while humming her plinkyplonk music), and it worked perfectly well for that. Since ruthlessly editing my blush wardrobe this year to focus on creams and pigmented powders, I realised I kept passing over this in favour of more rounded brushes with greater bounce.
1. Illamasqua Highlighter (synthetic)
2. Chikuhodo Z-2 (grey squirrel)
*3. Hakuhodo S116 (blue squirrel)
4. Suqqu Cheek (grey squirrel)

In particualr, the Suqqu Cheek is my go-to for powder blushes, and the Illamasqua Highlighter for creams. But it's really the ridiculously versatile tapered candle shape and perfectly balanced grey squirrel hairs of the Chikuhodo Z-2, which can mimic the placement of a slim flat brush as well as a dense round one depending on the angle at which you use it, which finally convinced me to say goodbye to the S116.

37 comments:

  1. WOW, you have so many brushes! Haha ;) A very nice collection!

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    1. ahahaha but wait there's more. *hates washing*

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  2. OMG! Thank you so much for doing this post!!! I've been searching for the perfect pencil brush.. and I almost decided on the MAC 219, but I wished it was smaller. I think the Hakuhodo 5515 is EXACTLY what I was looking for! Ordering it now!

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    1. yay! <3 I hope you love it as much as I do!

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  3. I love, love, love the Hakuhodo G5515 and G5511 (slightly longer bristled version of the 5512)!!! The 5511 is my ideal tight-lining brush, and the 5515 is prefect for delicate placement, especially under the eye.

    I also love the 127, but we won't mention your dislike of my favorite child. >:(

    - Alex

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    1. The 5511 looks fab for smudgy 'proper' lining for me (not tightlining)! I may add it to my next order....

      Go on then, tell me how you like to use the beloved 127 :D

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  4. Great review! I've been looking to expand my Hakuhodo collection and I think I've found them from your post. I'm still looking for a good, versatile cheek brush. Suqqu is not available here in the U.S. and I do have the Hakuhodo K series version of the S116. I guess I'll keep looking.

    What is brush #6 on the blending brush picture? And which one is your favorite blending brush? Thanks.

    Claire

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    1. My favourite cheek brush from Hakuhodo is the Medium Pointed Yachiyo but I can't really buff with it as I can with Suqqu (freakishly sensitive skin here). I wish I had something more positive to say, but the Suqqu Cheek really blows everything else out of the water for me. I do have the Real Techniques Setting Brush on its way which looks similar in size/shape in pictures....

      Ooops! It's the Nars #12 (squirrel) which is my favourite small blender. Suqqu L is my fave large blender. Still looking for a medium one.... ;)

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    2. Oh dear.. how I wish I didn't hear you say those things about Suqqu cheek blush brush :-S I have never thought of NARS having a brush collection worth looking but now I will check out the #12 at local Sephora. I really enjoy my Stila #9 blender -- what do you reckon? I got this one way back when a Lip Glaze still cost USD$24 a pop, even their blush brushes used to be blue squirrel back then, I think.Thanks for all the info!

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    3. Sorry! >.< It is really my one true brush love.
      The 12 and 14 are the only Nars brushes I like to use :) I've been burned (quite literally) by their beautiful Japanese-inspired ones before.

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  5. OMG, now I'm really lemming Haku brushes :'(

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  6. You are ridiculously good at selling me things. You should be getting commission for these posts I swear.

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    1. ahaha wither my lost bright future in sales? ;D

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  7. I have the Haku 5512 and 521-D1 and love them both. They are so teeny tiny that they almost look like they're made for little pixies. I can't help but feel that they need to be joined by 5515 now :).

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    1. yesssss, it is the first step to our building a transportation device powered by mirrored brush stashes!

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  8. Yay! Thanks for the post! I came to your blog today thinking "hmmm I really wanna stare at Kate's brushes" and guess what I saw as the first post? xP
    I have a chikuhodo order on its way to me containing the 2 of the artist 6-1 (one short, one long, since I use the MAC 231 and Hakuhodo K005 to tightline), one artist 10-2 (I'm hoping the size would be similar to Shu 10N but pure konlinsky! Will do a comp. on MUA), a Z-4 cheek brush, and MK-2 the beautiful cherry blossom powder brush! xD
    I'm so beyond excited! :D

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    1. that is one epic haul, lady! :D I hope you love the 6-1 as much as I do

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  9. Funny, I have also discovered a preference for smaller brushes across the board, whether it is powder or cream. I have slowly been moving away from appying my cream/liquid products with hands to brushes because I got tired of having to wash my hands like 6 times during makeup application and then finally the bottles/pots. But now it means I need to wash the brushes. I'm still not sold on expensive brushes though. While I have never spent more than the most expensive brushes for MAC and Sephora's professional line (which is still kind of pricey), I am wondering if these are even worth the price. That's a post Ive been thinking about doing, but too lazy, lately. At least yours tied me over for the meantime. :)

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    1. It's impossible to answer (I know yours was rhetorical) the question of whether X is worth the price. I've never been happy with the results I get using my hands, and at this point (it's taken over 15 years of constant exploration to get here) I feel like my brush collection is pretty much complete; there might be the odd replacement along the way but if I had to go on with these for the rest of my life I'm quite sure I'd be able to achieve all the shapes and densities I like to wear :)
      Since starting to write about this stuff I've realised how differently even other beauty bloggers approach this hobby :)

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    2. Totally rhetorical! :) I can't even answer that because I've never used luxe brushes. But I have used mid-tier and cheapy - and while some cheapies suck, a few are ok. Maybe, I will invest in a luxe brush or two to find out.

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    3. I think drugstore everything has shot up in quality in the last few years. There was no Real Techniques, No 7, Ecotools etc. when I first started looking D: As with most things in makeup, even the 'bestest', priciest brush can be totally useless if it doesn't fit your needs.

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  10. the Hakuhodo 5515!!! I've pretty much given up on pencil brushes (all so huge!) but that looks like an insta-order.

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  11. At first I thought the Shu 10 was one of your disappointments! I nearly fainted. :P

    You have a beautiful collection Kate. I wonder how long I can hold out before I invest in all of your brush collection. D:

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    1. Well now I know what kind of trail to lay to lure you to my door :P

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  12. I am a huge fan of tightlining (it TOTALLY changed my life! I wish I were kidding...). I was never able to line my upper lash line all the way from inner to outer corner because my inner corner folds over, so any eyeliner applied to the top will crease within minutes, no matter the formula. But then I discovered tightlining..it gives me the defined look from inner to outer corner without leaving me a smudgy mess. I use a Sephora flat eyeliner brush similar to the Laura Mercier one and it works, but I do get what you mean that its too long and my eyes curve naturally so I always get smudges on my lids that I have to remove with a q-tip. For some reason, I never thought to use a tinier brush like those Hakuhodo brushes. It's brilliant! I can't wait to try this tomorrow! I don't have the same brush but I do have a Sonia Kashuk smudge brush that I can practice with. If I like it, maybe I'll order my first Hakuhodo brush! :D

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    1. You crack me up! Actually I think the first time I realised I had done all my makeup without recourse to a single q-tip was pretty awe-inspiring :D Small brushes FTW.

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  13. Thanks so much for showing your brushes and what you think of them. Love these posts and really appreciate the amount of work and time you put in to do this.

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  14. Just got the Hakuhodo 5515 & G521 Eyeliner Brush D1 in the mail. wow they are tiny and look like they will for for my tiny eyes. The mac 219 is so huge that if I tried to apply on my lower lash line I'd end up with dramatic smokey eye instead...and in a bad way.

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    1. <3 keep me posted! I really love these more every time I use them.

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  15. I'm in love with this post! I find brush reviews so helpful, and your pictures (and swatches) are among some of the best on the internetz. :) Can I ask what eyeliners are among your favorites to tightline with?

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    1. <3 ty! I use the same liners I do for regular lining (just pick up less product on a smaller brush): YSL cream liners, KATE gel and pencils from RBR and GOSH -- I pick up pigment with a brush even from the pencils :)

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  17. Thank you for reviewing the 5512 and the 521-D1. I'm a fan of tightlining, though I still have to get good at it. Perhaps I should invest in one of these brushes! :)

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  18. I loved reading your fascinating take on brushes.
    What's your opinion of the Koyudo brushes?

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