In pursuit of good & affordable Japanese brushes: Koyudo

February 25, 2014

Has it been a year already that I started getting into brushes?  Felt like a long time and yet nothing at all when a friend first pointed me to Koyudo.  In addition to my favorite (and only) eyeshadow brush falling into an unreachable cockroach-infested crevice in my car, I also acquired a couple of highly pigmented blushes, and dared to ask this question: Which brush?  Specifically, I wanted something that didn’t break the bank and yet of a high quality.  Coupled with the ease of ordering through their online site without an profane mark-up, Koyudo quickly became a personal favorite.

Koyudo brushes

Made in Kumano, Japan (where most good brushes seem to originate from), Koyudo is known for their cute and innovative brush designs.  There is a large selection of mushrooms (better known as kabukis) in all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes (think flower and cat paw shaped!).  Also noteable is the heart-shaped facial cleansing brush.  I’m not really into novelty brushes and I know some people have had complains about their cheaper facial cleansing brushes… but you get what you pay for, and you must always have in mind what need you are trying to meet with a brush to compare like with like.  And here are my personal faves from Koyudo!

My First Love: Grey Squirrel Cheek Brush

The very first Koyudo brush that I own, the one that got me irreversibly hooked, was the Grey Squirrel Cheek Brush.  I was actually looking for the limited edition Red Squirrel that was released for Holiday 2012, but since that was sold out, I settled for the next closest thing.

Koyudo grey squirrel cheek

Grey squirrel hair is extremely soft and silky, and since these are uncut at the tips, incredibly fine.  I will always have a special place in my heart for this particular brush because until this came into my life, I never knew what good makeup brushes can really do.

Total brush length : 16.2cm
Length of hair : 3.7cm
Widest part of brush head : 3.5cm

This is not a very dense brush nor does it have much flex.  The natural grey squirrel bristles pick up color very well, so the lack of density makes it well suited for highly pigmented blushes.  The lack of flex does make it a little bit harder to blend color if you are particularly heavy-handed.  You are mainly supposed to just stroke along your cheekbones using the widest part of the brush, so that the brush hair just flows along the direction it is made, not buff or swish the brush left and right.  The way to use this is to just gently press the brush into the blush, tap off any excess, and sweep.  It works perfectly this way for me, but if you are still needing blending, then you can follow up with a fluffier and stiffer brush like the Hakuhodo J210 (read here).

The Elusive Red Squirrel Cheek Brush

When Koyudo re-released this (again only 100 pieces!) last Christmas, I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity again!  This is the only red squirrel brush that I know of, and with only 200 pieces worldwide, it is extremely rare.  If I thought Koyudo’s grey squirrel cheek was soft and silky, this red squirrel completely blew me away.  It is hands-down the softest and silkiest brush ever (although admittedly I hadn’t encountered that many… my fair share I think, enough).

Koyudo red squirrel cheek brush

It came in this beautifully handcrafted traditional keepsake wooden box lined with Japanese paper.  This gets personal, but I really truly love the red wooden handle and buffed golden ferrule.  And the red squirrel hair…. Sublime!

Total brush length : 16.4cm
Length of hair :  3.7cm
Widest part of brush head : 4cm

My HG Foundation Brush: Fu-Pa 02

I have been on the hunt for my HG foundation brush for most part of last year.  I have tried all the Hakuhodo foundation brushes, an addition to the Wayne Goss (read here), Shiseido, and others… none of them were it.  Although I am rather peculiar (again!) with regards to foundie brushes – I like them big (‘coz…lazy), soft, easy to maneuver any which way I like, and still able to get to most parts of my face without any problem.

Koyudo fupa 02

Total brush length : 10.5cm
Length of hair :  2.7cm
Widest part of brush head : 4.5cm

Made completely from baby goat chest hair, the Fu-Pa 02 is the softest foundation brush I have encountered, it certainly surpasses any synthetic hair brushes or synthetic & goat hair blend.  The Wayne Goss may be able to give it a run for the softness factor, but that is an angled brush and incredibly tiny, both factors make it rather undesirable for my lazy and can’t-be-bothered-to-brush-in-a-single-direction-only self.  I generally just sweep this along the flat side of the brush to cover greater surface area, but then for the under-eye area and around the nose, I hold the brush 90-degrees to the face and use the narrowest tip of the brush.  This way, I can get my foundation done easily in 5 seconds, I’m not kidding.

Even though it is made from very soft hair, it is made extremely dense and short (without very much flex in the brush head), therefore giving the user very good control over application.  The density ensures a smooth and even application with minimal strokes.  I use it with most of my liquid and cream foundations, leaving an air-brushed finish.  The only exception may be those thin and watery types of foundations (think Giorgio Armani Maestro Fusion foundation and Lancome Blanc Miracle), which I then switch out to a smaller and less dense brush that does not soak up as much of the product.

My HG Powder Foundation Brush: Fu-Pa 14

Koyudo Fu-Pa 14 really doesn’t need much introduction from me as it is the best-selling brush from the brand, and has been touted by almost every other makeup lover.  The only thing I have to point out here is that the name “Fu-Pa” does not only refer to this brush, but instead is a very large range of short and innovative brushes.  Even though it is Koyudo’s bestseller, I would recommend it for 1 very specific use – buffing of powder.  So if you don’t use powder foundations, or you don’t like the buffed look (prefer instead a more powdery finish), then the Fu-Pa 14 would not be of much use to you.

Koyudo Fu-Pa 14

Total brush length : 11.2cm
Length of hair :  3.5cm
Widest part of brush head : 3.8cm

The Fu-pa 14 is a round brush and is made from a blend of grey squirrel and goat. Just like Fu-Pa 02, the short handle and short bristle design gives this Fu-Pa 14 great control over for buffing.  The grey squirrel and goat blend is extremely soft and comfortable, which makes this ideal for working with powder.  It gives that nicely even, smooth, well buffed-in natural finish that you simply cannot achieve by applying with a sponge.  I would think you can use this too for certain loose powders as well, particularly those that are not as fine (e.g. La Prairie, Chacott, etc).

Just to prove to you there is an army of Fu-Pas out there: Fu-Pa 06

This was an accidental purchase, and took me a long time to figure out what it would be good for.  It is one of many dual-sided brushes in the Fu-Pa series, and is an entirely Koyudo innovation.  One side is full goat chest hair and is extremely soft and silky, the other side is PBT which is synthetic fiber.  They are designed for both liquid, powder and blush, although I had only success using the Fu-Pa 06 for liquids.  Even though I typically do not like applying foundations with a flat brush, I have made an exception for this Fu-Pa 06 as it is softer and not as stiff as most other flat foundation brushes, and therefore does not leave streaks and gives a more natural finish.  You could also flip over to the PBT side for application although I found it to tug on my skin more than the goat hair, or use it for blending.

Koyudo Fupa 06

Another Surprising Foundation Brush: BP013

When I was trawling for my HG foundation brush, I came across this BP013.  I wouldn’t lie to you, I thought it might be a dupe for the Tom Ford Bronzer brush 05.  And it does look alike, but suitable for a completely different use (then again, I have yet to find the perfect use for the TF 05).

Koyudo BP 013

Total brush length : 16.5cm
Length of hair :  4cm
Widest part of brush head : 5cm

Made from high-quality goat hair, the BP013 feels surprisingly soft for such a big brush.  However, it is not as dense nor as soft as the Fu-Pa 02, nor the TF 05 (you can refer to SweetMakeupTemptation’s comparison of the 3 here).  Having said that, there is a specific use for which I love the BP013 for, and that is for applying cream compact foundations!  I love the rich feel of cream foundations, and their compact variation makes it so portable and handy.  However, I prefer my makeup to look sheerer in general, without the cakey and mask-like look that often accompanies a sponge application, and this BP013 allows me to apply cream compact foundations straight out of the pan onto my face leaving a natural sheer finish.  Also, I fancy if the hefty price tag of the TF05 makes you quake, this BP013 is a really good and affordable option for fluffy big face brushes!

Another TF Dupe: BP014

I am madly in love with my Tom Ford Cream Foundation Brush 02, there is none comparable for applying cream blushes.  I started a mini-quest for a cream blush brush some time ago, looking at duo-fiber brushes that were most highly recommended, but abandoned it all when I encountered the TF 02.  After awhile, I started looking for a dupe for it as a backup, and came across BP014.

Koyudo BP 014

Total brush length : 14.7cm
Length of hair :  2.2cm
Widest part of brush head : 2.6cm

The BP014 is the smaller baby sister of the BP013, and both were originally meant for foundations.  With my queer leaning for larger foundation brushes, the BP013 is way too tiny for that purpose.  Having said that, it is perfect for the smaller crevices of the face such as around the nose and under eye.  It is made from goat hair, and is fairly dense.

Unfortunately, I don’t find it quite that similar to the TF 02 as it is not as dense and is much smaller.  It is a great size for getting into the Cle de Peau Rosy Frost Blush jar (see here), but it does take more strokes to buff out a more natural flush.  Regardless, it is a lovely brush, and perfectly suited for cream face products, and so affordable!

A couple of interesting eye brushes: Prairie Dogs!

I am full-up with Hakuhodo eye brushes, which I love, and so I hadn’t yet explored much of Koyudo eye brushes.  It is also hard to discern them without being able to actually hold and examine them in person.  Notwithstanding, Koyudo have some interesting eye brushes that are not as commonly found, such as these made from prairie dogs!!

Koyudo prairie dogs

Total brush length : 14.2cm
Length of hair :  1.1cm
Widest part of brush head : 2.6cm

Jolene and I had a great laugh over this one because these are not dogs at all, but really a sort of squirrel native to the grasslands of North America.  But if you were expecting these Koyudo Black Stick brushes to be as soft as the other grey or blue squirrel brushes you may be disappointed.  These are rather stiff and wide brushes, and come in sizes S, M, L.  The ones I picked up are M and L.  I do find they work quite well for laying down cream-based eyeshadows, but the diameter makes them not as ideal for my tiny eye area.  Not exactly a must-have, but an interesting find for brush aficionados.


And if you made it this far in this post, congratulations!  I am happy to inform that Koyudo will be making an appearance at Isetan from tomorrow 25 February onwards!  I’m not sure how extensive the range will be, or pricing, but do check them out in person if this post has piqued your interest somewhat!  If you are unable to get to Isetan in person, you may browse the entire collection and order directly here.  Have fun and let me know what you picked up!

xo Linda