A spinoff discussion related to my Top Brushes Series – why pay more for brushes? Right off the bat, pricy brushes aren’t for everyone; some just want a tool that works. If you’re entirely satisfied with your Sigma/MAC/whatever brushes then great! Keep using them. That being said, there is rhyme and reason behind the prices of luxe* brushes, shall we?
Disclaimer here: I’m not here to sell you anything or suggest that pricy brushes are always better. I’ll map out the facts and the pros/cons, you can determine if the price is justifiable for you.
* Luxe = Generally speaking, I’m referring to handmade, Japanese brushes. Brands include Hakuhodo, SUQQU, Chikuhodo and such.
They’re not laser cut
If you think of an eyelash, the base of the individual strand is denser before it tapers to a very fine tip. For the most part, mass produced brushes use a technique whereby the fibres are cut to shape, removing the fine tip. Handmade Japanese brushes are generally crafted by arranging the hairs to construct the shape, which preserves the tip of the hair. But what does this mean? In layman’s terms, the brushes are softer to touch, which leads me to my next point.
They tend to be softer
I’ve never come across a mass produced brush, synthetic or natural, that is as soft as my Japanese brushes. This is partially explained by the omission of laser shaping but additionally, the fibres themselves tend to be better quality and hence, softer. This is especially crucial if, like me, your skin is barely two atoms deep.
Variety of fibres and shapes
For every purpose, a hair type is selected based on characteristics. For soft and sheer application, you may opt for Kazan Squirrel. For an eyebrow brush with a stiff and resilient form, Water Badger is the better option – you get the gist, full explanation of each hair type here. This just gives you more options, depending on the kind of look you want to achieve.
Anyone who has visited the Hakuhodo website will tell you, that sh*t is overwhelming. If you’re a brush fanatic, you will appreciate the extensive range; any shape and fibre you could possibly want, they got you covered.
Craftsmanship, yo. For the most part, you get what you pay for. Handmade attention to detail generally results in greater quality assurance so minimal shedding, no bleeding of dye and brushes that last a lifetime. If you never have to replace them, is it actually more costly in the long run?
Ofcourse. Firstly, I’ve noticed the fibres used in Japanese brushes tend to be more delicate than those available on the mass market so extra care is required when washing. Additionally, you can’t just run to your local department store and pick up a Japanese brush (unless you’re in Japan!), they tend to be less accessible so do a solid amount of research before buying online. Finally and perhaps the most obvious, handmade brushes can be more expensive than the other alternatives, but not always…
Let’s talk about prices
Yes, SUQQU and Chikuhodo brushes are expensive. Like… sell an arm and a leg and a kidney sorta expensive. Japanese brushes aren’t always as pricy as you may have perceived, Bern poses a valid observation: MAC 109 currently retails for $35.00USD – its Hakuhodo counterpart, the Hakuhodo 210, is only $36.00USD. The MAC staple 217 is $22.5USD while the closest Hakuhodo dupe (the J5523) is $18USD. I can say with confidence that the Hakuhodo equivalent is far, far superior in all respects.
So, there you have it, the pros/cons/cold hard facts. I reiterate, Japanese brushes are not the be all end all (I use and abuse my synthetic Real Techniques brushes on a daily basis!) but if you were considering investing some cash and research into a Japanese brush haul, I hope this post clarified things! Let’s start a discussion, is it worth it to you? Why or why not?