When I first started investing in makeup brushes, Chikuhodo with their famed Z-series squirrel brushes were the epitomy of luxury to me. But much as I loved those soft silky squirrel brushes, sometimes I prefer goat for picking up more product (especially for meteorites and some sheer blushes). Goat hair is also hardier, and can withstand more abuses and washes. If anything, I found that good goat hair brushes retain their original texture far longer than squirrel, which lose their initial brand new silkiness almost right away. The question is therefore finding the best goat hair brushes that are as soft as squirrel, and as hardy as goat. And when Chikuhodo launched the Takumi brushes, I thought I had found the holy grail.
The Chikuhodo Takumi brushes are made from saikoho goat hair, which is reputed to be one of the softest and highest quality goat hair that is easily accessible. There are even softer (e.g. saibikoho), but those cost a pound of flesh, more expensive than grey squirrel… so take your pick. Of course, Chikuhodo is not the only brand offering brushes made from saikoho. Hakuhodo offers a good variety of Saikoho brushes and is cheaper; Koyudo also has some Saikoho and are even more affordable. But of course, the various houses have different styles, and so after much research, I decided on a few brushes that complement what I already own, and perform functions that I could use on a daily basis. The brushes I finally picked were T-4 cheek, T-6 large eyeshadow, and T-8 pencil.
Chikuhodo Takumi T-4 Cheek
I’m currently obsessed with round cheek brushes, and the T-4 was a consequence of that. Round cheek brushes are great because they allow you to lay down color and blend without having to reach for a separate brush. I also enjoy buffing color into my cheeks for that glow-from-within look. However, I have found that not all rounded cheek brushes are made equal.
Chikuhodo Takumi T-4 Cheek Brush Specifications:
Total brush length : 15cm
Length of hair : 3.8cm
Widest part of ferrule : 1.7cm
Widest part of bristles : 3.5cm (after washing)
The T-4 is the least dense of all my rounded cheek brushes, much looser than the Hakuhodo J210 (also made from saikoho) and Wayne Goss 13 (made from dyed goat hair). Perhaps because it is packed looser, the hairs splay out a lot more especially after washing, so that the overall area it covers is significantly wider than any of the round cheek brushes I own, and too big for my small-ish face.
I ordered the T-4 before the Surratt cheek [reviewed here] came into my life; and since then, I must say that I much prefer a perfectly domed cheek brush that is rounded at the top rather than being flat-ish. This is of course very personal, and it is something I discovered through trial and error, but I found the Surratt cheek to be much more precise at laying down color and then splays out perfectly to blend, whilst the Chikuhodo Takumi T-4 and Wayne Goss 13 with their flat-ish top to require more control in placing color. The Hakuhodo J210 is much to dense for blending blush, I use it more for contouring. On the other hand, I found the T-4 to be useful for swirling in a tin of meteorites and sweeping over the high points of my face to bring more glow and luminosity. It can also be used for all-over powder if you don’t mind it being just a little bit small.
Chikuhodo Takumi T-6 Large Eyeshadow
The T-6 large eyeshadow is a brush that I’ve never owned until now, and for a long while I was wondering what the heck I was going to do with it. For some of you this may be perfect for dusting base color all over the lids, but it is way too large for my tiny eye area. It would have been perfect for dusting powder to set under eye concealer and for powdering the crevices around my nose, but I hardly ever bother with a separate brush. Finally one day I found the perfect use for it – contouring my nose!! The curve of the T-6 fits the area between my nose and eye like a glove, and it is just the right size to dust sculpting powder down the sides of my nose and blend. The fluffy nature of the brush also ensures I don’t pick up too much product, giving a diffused look.
Chikuhodo Takumi T-6 Large Eyeshadow Brush Specifications:
Total brush length : 14cm
Length of hair : 2.4cm
Widest part of ferrule : 1cm
Widest part of bristles : 1.9cm (after washing)
Chikuhodo Takumi T-6 Pencil Eyeshadow Brush
I don’t own many pencil eyeshadow brushes, and the 2 that I had before this T-8 – Hakuhodo G5528 and B5520 were too fat and too tiny respectively. The G5528 was also too dense and I often had to spend a lot of time trying to blend out the smokey tip of my eye makeup if I used it. The B5520 was too tiny for laying down color on the inner corner of my eye, a purpose which I had intended it for originally. And then this T-8 arrived, and took over both the functions like a dream.
Chikuhodo Takumi T-8 Pencil Eyeshadow Brush Specifications:
Total brush length : 12.8cm
Length of hair : 1.3cm
Widest part of ferrule : 0.5cm
Widest part of bristles : 0.8cm (after washing)
The hairs are longer and more tapered on this T-8 than the Hakuhodo pencils that I have, which makes it perfect for laying down color and blending out. I’ve used it successfully to place color on the inner corner of my eye, a feat that is hard to achieve with other brushes; and I’ve used it on my outer corners to create smokey eyes. The size is perfect for my eyes, and the hairs feel soft and gentle. It picks up color easily, and places them precisely without much effort.
Until very recently, Chikuhodo was only available in Japan and their physical stores were rather hard to pin down, and this elusive nature made Chikuhodo brushes all the more covetable. Since Beautylish and CDJapan (cheapest!) started carrying these brushes (there are other online retailers in the past, but all had crazy mark-ups), there has been a frenzy for Chikuhodo brushes. And they have also obliged with more new (limited edition) releases at more accessible prices. I must say though, that my experience has not been altogether the absolute best so far. For a premium brush brand, I’m disappointed by the handles of these Takumi brushes. They feel light, like they are hollow inside instead of solid wood. I also wished the brand and model numbers are carved into the handles instead of printed, because I’d hate it when they wear off. The hairs splay out substantially after washing, and some grow all crazy zig-zagged like they have been electrocuted. This never happens with Tom Ford brushes, and to a much lesser extent with my Hakuhodos. The T-4 is not my favorite cheek brush at the moment, and I much prefer using the Hakuhodo J104 (also made of saikoho) with my meteorites than the T-4, and the Hakuhodo SJ110 cheek feels softer than the T-4. On the other hand, the T-6 is an interesting shape and size that I haven’t seen very often and serves a multitude of functions. Not a brush that is absolute essential, but nice to have. The T-8 has converted me to pencils, and I’m constantly finding reasons to use this brush!
Update: Bloggers tend to imply different things when they describe a brush as “soft”, and this was something I had intended to address in my post but somehow along the way neglected. Brushes may feel soft for many reasons – the way the hairs are arranged impacting the way they hit the skin; the hair fibres themselves; and how densely the hairs are bundled. Generally speaking, the more densely packed, the less “soft” the brush feels when applied to the skin. So, for loosely packed brushes, I prefer to describe them as fluffy instead of soft. Without making this post-edit overly long, I would just like to state for the record that these Takumis are not the softest saikoho brushes I own today. The T-4 and T-6 certainly feel “soft” due to their fluffy aka loosely bound nature (also means less hair for your buck if you are inclined to think that way), but if you are to compare the strands individually, some of my Hakuhodo saikoho brushes (SJ110, J104) and the Tom Ford bronzer and cheek brushes are finer and feel silkier to the touch. But different brushes lend themselves to different functions, the softest brush is by no means the best brush, so I would not use softness as a measure for superiority.
Have you tried any Chikuhodo brushes?