Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hair Type and Density Actually Make a Difference? Cheek Brushes

Very recently, I purchased a brand new Koyudo Canadian Squirrel cheek brush through a blog sale.  It was an impulse purchase fueled by greater interest in the more rare hair types available in brushes and partly fueled by my regret that I never purchased the red squirrel brush from Koyudo.

Eh, Canadian, Red, Grey.. horse.  Same difference.  Or IS IT?  DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!  Well is it?

Squirrels are impressive little creatures making home all over the world (except sad Australia.  But they have all sorts of weird marsupials, so I say we are about even with our Aussie friends) with a staggering diversity of more than 200 different species.

This is a very common Eastern Grey Squirrel that is often seen where I live (in the US Northeast).
I don't think these guys are made into hand crafted Japanese brushes with their stubby short hairs, but among premium brush materials, grey squirrel is among the finest.  The delightfully and unearthly soft SUQQU cheek brush is made out of grey squirrel.

I am going to post a little demo in an effort to:

  1. Justify the fact that I bought yet another cheek brush (ahem)
  2. Show how these brushes perform differently to the same product
  3. See if hair type & density actually make a noticeable difference in application.


I thought it would be a good exercise to show you how my brand new Canadian Squirrel cheek brush performs versus some of the other ones I own.  I was actually surprised at how many I own.  I actually have a handful of others, but I think for this demonstrations, these would be sufficient.

Before we get on to the brushes, a quick little look at Tom Ford Narcissist blush (DC, LE).  I own lots of super pigmented blushes, but this is the one that might rank number one in terms of pigmentation intensity.  This is the blush that makes me take the greatest care when I select a brush to apply it on my face.

I will be using this crazy bright pigmented blush to show how different brushes apply on my skin.

Here are the brushes I will be playing with today.
  1. Tom Ford Cheek brush - a very dense, large and very soft goat hair brush.
  2. Chikuhodo Artist Red 16-1 - a fair large grey squirrel brush, with some nice density
  3. SUQQU Cheek brush - a.k.a. Lisa Eldridge Kitten Paw.  Like the Artist Red, also grey squirrel, but with a very petite head and much less density.
  4. Koyudo Canadian Squirrel Cheek brush - the new kid on the block for me.  It is all Canadian Squirrel hair, which is soft but definitely with more bounce, resistance and firmness than grey squirrel.
  5. Trish McEvoy Fan brush - a fan shaped brush with hairs of two different lengths.  The longer black ones are very airily packed and allows picking up a fairy kiss's amount of product.  The shorter and firmer brown hairs allows for some light blending.  I don't know what these hairs are, but I'm seeing a generic "natural" when I search.  I'm guessing pony and dyed goat.
  6. MAC 187 Duo Fiber Face brush - I use this for blush, but it also works for foundations.  It is a blend of goat and sythentic fibers.  Like the TM fan brush, the longer hairs are very lightly packed and performs similarly to the fan brush in terms of pigmentation pick up and depositing.

The beauty blogger brush head picture.  This is a requisite picture.  Now I get a brownie point.  *plonk*

You can see relative head shape and size of each of the brushes.  5 & 6, the Trish and the MAC have the lightest hair/fiber distribution.  The Tom Ford, the giant of the brush is also the most densely packed.  Surprisingly, 4, the Canadian in the bunch is also fairly dense when compared to the 2 Chikuhodo and the 3 SUQQU Cheek.

If I can just summarize each brush again by density and softness:
  1. Tom Ford Cheek is super dense.  The goat hairs are soft, but has a lot of resilience and less give compared to all the other brushes.
  2. Chikuhodo Artist Red 16-1 is incredibly soft and dense, but less so than the Tom Ford and more so than the SUQQU.
  3. SUQQU Cheek is super soft, like the Chikuhodo Artist Red, but coupled with the airiness of the lack of density makes it magically soft all around.
  4. Koyudo Canadian Squirrel feel less soft than the SUQQU or the Chikuhodo grey squirrels, more slightly more soft than the Tom Ford goat hair.  It is much denser than the SUQQU, and slightly more dense than the Chukuhodo.  It is less dense than the Tom Ford.
  5. Trish McEvoy Fan Brush - is not terribly soft, but because the long hairs are so sparsely distributed, it feels very soft on the skin.
  6. MAC 187 like the Trish doesn't have the softness of the other all natural hair brushes, but the very loose density of the long hairs makes it feel very soft on the skin.
I've swirled each brush in the pan in a back and forth movement, covering the brush head evenly as I could.  The flash picture seems to show up the pigment on the hairs better than without.  Funny thing is how the SUQQU (3) looks like is completely packed on with color.

And now the application.  On some blogging days, I wish I had a longer arm.  Because then I would have used even more brushes!  *cackle cackle cackle*
The common wisdom is that a dense brush in a goat hair will product some impressively rich application.  And you can see how 1 Tom Ford is the darkest application.  Each swatch was swished twice, and I can see the 1 swatch needs some extra blending.  It was also the least controlled in terms of precise application, its large head kind of going all over the place.

The second darkest application was the new brush, the 4 Koyudo Canadian Squirrel one.  While it didn't produce as dark an application, it was pretty close and with it's more compact size and more directional shape produced a very precise and neat application.  It's practically perfectly blended right off the bat!

What surprised me was how similar the 2 Chikuhodo, 3 SUQQU, 5 Trish and the 6 MAC 187 were in terms of how darkly the blush was applied.  I do think for a really careful application of a blush like Narcissist, the fan and the 187 would be the better choice.  The more practical shape of the grey squirrel Chikuhodo and SUQQU brushes make then my staples for pretty much all the blushes I own.

I do see that my new Koyudo would make it a really excellent brush for the less pigmented blushes I have.  In the same way that Tom Ford & Koyudo make quick work out of picking up a LOT (maybe even too much product) of something pigmented like Narcissist, it also makes easy work out of picking up color from the lightly pigmented colors as well.

The other aspect to consider when you are thinking about the right set of cheek brushes for you is the actual shape of the brush head.  I only touched on it in passing, but it's the shape that gives precision or lack of precision in placement and allows for it to be a superior blending brush (or not)!  If I am going for a more apples of the cheeks placement and blending, the Tom Ford is my guy.  I'm looking for a soft and naturally blended one, then the Chikuhodo or the SUQQU ones will do.  Crazy pigmented colors?  Then the Trish or the MAC.  Now, how the Koyudo works its way in, I shall have to figure it out.

Blabbity blah blah.

In closing, I for one welcome our Canadian Squirrel Overlords.

What's your criteria for picking the best cheek brushes?

30 comments :

  1. Hi Belly,
    you have that Koyudo brush too? I am loving mine at the moment!
    I had to wake up at 5 am during my holidays to be able to snag it but it was worth it ;-)
    I think it all boons down to finding the right combination of blush and brush, only r and l differing.
    Thanks so much for putting all those pretties into test.

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    1. Hola, Sara! It's my first foray into Koyudo, so why not start off with something super special, right? I was so lucky to be able to buy it from a really lovely makeupalley regular's blogsale. You are totally dedicated to wake up at 5AM! Do you also have the red one? Vaguely contemplating one, but after my latest experiment, it looks like it might be redundant in function and shape.

      :D

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    2. Hi Belly,
      practically I have the red one, if it ever reaches me ;-) It is showing to be at customs since 6 weeks :-(
      I have heard though Red Squirrel one is even softer, which makes it useful for only clown cheek blushes :-P I have to admit, I like my Suqqu blush brush and Chikus more than Canadian Koyudo one, somehow it doesn't do the job of blending on me, but you like it right?

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    3. I just ordered a new red one! I am so excited for this and hope EMS hurries up! :) OH YAYA! Customs for 6 weeks?! That sounds completely overly nuts. I have also heard the red is crazy crazy soft. Seriously I can not imagine softer than a grey squirrel, so I am curious to try this out for myself. I just started using the Canadian on my face with one of the Spring SUQQU blushes and gave myself SERIOUS clown cheeks. I had no idea this could be possible with those spring blushes!!! O___o

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  2. Love these scientific brush comparison posts. And you know, like any scientific experiment, the more participants (squirrel-headed or otherwise), the more accurate the data: Infinite brush stash expanding justification right there!

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    1. zomg, I like how you think Unpaletteable. I swear, it's like the voice of Pan, directly transmitting via blogger comments into my makeup stuff hoarding heart. O__o
      MORE BRUSH.

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  3. I just got that brush in the mail, I haven't had time to open it up to check it out :( I'm still trying to love my Suqqu cheek brush... bit difficult since I don't wear blush everyday.

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    1. Oh, do check it out soon, Selphia. I would love to know your thoughts on this brush. I think it's kind of fugly looking compared to a pristine white goat or a dark grey squirrel one. The blotchy looking coloring is kind of ehhh looking for me. But I am totally pleased with how directional and efficient this little brush is! I figured I might like it when I read Sonia on SMT's description on it and golly, it's quite a good brush.

      No blushes in general for you, my beauty? When I forego blush, I tend to look a bit sickly. :(

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  4. Dabbing tissue around my mouth atm...too much droolz! Out of the big three Japanese brush houses (Haku, Chiku and Koyudo) my heart goes to Koyudo simply because the Japanese sales rep that always comes to the Sogo twice yearly Hokkaido Fair (where I make my Koyudo purchases) is the nicest person ever. He always gives me a little discount and a very generous gift. I haven't tried any of the brushes in this enamel red handle series, but I do have the grey squirrel one in the standard white handle BP series, which I love for the less pigmented and perhaps more powdery blushers. I'm def about collecting all sorts of differently textured brushes, from the dense to the loose, soft to stiff etc, but if it's a luxury priced brush, I would hope it strikes a good balance and can work wonders with a myriad of different products (Koyudo's 3D goat hair brush series really hits that spot for me)

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    1. Aw Noodlies. I would be so happy to be able to see these brushes in person all at once so that my purchases can be less *ZOMGBUYALLTEHTHINGS* and more thoughtful and considered.

      I don't know the Koyudo line as well as some of the others, but always on the lookout for special things from each company. I heard the BP brushes are quite good! A really good multi-purpose brush is so awesome. In general my SUQQU cheek in particular (based on my application & pigmentation preference) works as my best brush.

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  5. Shameful confession: while I DO love reading about brushes and seeing these kinds of experiments, I pretty much never put that knowledge to use outside of the "dense brush holds more stuffs" factor. Yeah I guess I also choose my cheek brushes based on the size of my face (because who actually wants to apply their blush with a brush that's too massive or too tiny?) but really, not much thought goes into the process. I buy a brush if it feels soft and looks like it will hold together when I wash it.
    I am such a bad makeup junkie! :P

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    1. Hehehe! Relationship between size of FACE to size of BRUSH is super important! I have a LARGE head, so the Tom Ford works pretty well for me, since a good rub rub rub with it also does some excellent blending. All makeup junkies are awesome makeup junkies! UNITE!

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  6. Ahhh I think I have the least amount of cheek brushes, relying mostly on a Real Techniques one that came in a set an angled synthetic one from Marionnaud that was super cheap, and a portable powder brush from Hakuhodo that I basically used for everything. I decided to bite the bullet and get an actual blush brush—the NARS Yachiyo—recently, and I kind of really love it? It made me realize how much of a difference a brush can make with blush application. I wish I could try out the Suqqu one, but perhaps in another life time~

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    1. It really is kind of a revelation when one brush totally opens your eyes to the possibility of awesome function! For me that was the SUQQU. I love it so much I'm considering getting a second, but then, eeeeek. It is so much money and looking at the cheek brush collection, I have a LOT a LOT.
      The Yachiyo has a lovely shape! I can see how it would be a great one for precise placement and nice blending too!

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  7. i know i should pay more attention to how a brush works but i dont have that attention to that level of detail BUT i know i won't be picking up that TF brush. blush is already scary w/ some of my clown cheek colors. i'd rather build on, than buff off... but i guess on the flip side, if you have iess pigmented blushes, the TF would be great for help out w/ payoff. its a balancing act...an expensive...#beautybloggerproblems balanacing act.

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    1. Exactly that flip side! The Tom Ford tends to be my go to brush for things liked the Chanel JCs and other more lightly pigmented stuff. :) That one is a brute of a workhorse, while still being so soft. Those goat hairs are incredibly fine and luxurious. I like to just pet it. That one and the bigger bronzer brushes are soooo cuddly.

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  8. With a so sheer application I don't understand the need of different shades of blushes , of course a clownish look is for laughing . Big hugs from Greece !

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    1. Hahaha! OMG, so said the unmetionable. :DDDD It's really a useless activity trying to find, as an example, a perfect coral or a perfect pink, because with the normal sheer and light application, everything really looks the same! Now that we said it, we won't mention this again. :D

      xoxo

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  9. Woot at the Canadian squirl!! :D Now I only have 2 no name blush brushes *hides* but they work super nicely so I haven't felt the need for new ones up until recently since I use them for bronzer as well. I like a smaller brush for more precise application. Someone I know is going to Japan in the fall I'll bet you'd know of an affordable set I might ask her to get for me? Are they easy to find?

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    1. WOOT WOOT CANADA! You guys have some nice floffy geese (that poop all over the place) and really nice fancy squirrels. I guess all the cold weather make them spontaneous grow really long nice hair. *ponders move up north*

      No need for fancy Japanese brushes when you have stuff that is awesome! But for things like specific function (like precision), maybe you want a smaller or candleshaped head? The Chikuhodo Z2 and Z4 are well loved. They are grey squirrel (so really soft) but very dense compared to SUQQU, so you get a nice pigment pick up with the hairs.
      All these brushes should be very accessible in Japan. Rosie has an amazingly helpful post about brush shopping there:
      http://allmadeup-nowheretogo.blogspot.com/2013/02/beauty-destination-brush-shopping-in.html

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  10. Love your brush experiments and subsequent essays on brush performance :) I haven't actually tested all of my cheek brushes this way - I guess I have a more instinctive feel of how they perform, but I also dislike having too much variety in my everyday brushes (uhm, dislike having all of them dirty all the time) so I only have one blush brush out at a time. Currently it's my Haku brush :)

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    1. HA! I am more go with the gut thing, but it seems over time I've developed the feel for which brush and with product. And a lot of the gut is absolutely influenced by DIRTY. :) Now that all my brushes are dirty with way too much Narcissist, I have to wash my brushes now. Can't have unintentional clown cheeks all week long.
      Hakuhodo is such a great brand for all pricepoint and all function! Now they really offer a myriad of options. Which is your fave that your are using now?

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  11. This was a supremely helpful post, so thank you! Brushes don't excite me the way other makeup does and I feel overwhlemed/uninformed, so I haven't dipped my toe in the world of higher end natural brushes. Well, I bought the Tom Ford Blush Brush but I returned it without ever using it (#fail)....but I think I need to get it and perhaps something squirrely to get me started!

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    1. Hi Jules! I'm so glad this was helpful. It was funny for me (and kind of exciting) to see that what I learned to be true was actually true!
      I got into brushes more recently in my beauty-loving madness. It is a bit of a rabbit hole. Once I've started to dip my toe into that fuzzy world, I've gotten very sucked in. Navigating certain sites like Hakuhodo is completely overwhelming for me. THat's probably one of the reasons why I don't own as much from this one particular brand even though there are so many gems.
      A good goat brush and a good squirrel one (really recommend grey) should cover the whole spectrum of blushes out there! I'd love to see your blog post if you end up posting!! :D

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  12. Wow, I love this geek-read, Belly! Always have an inkling that density + head shape + material = performance somehow yet never quite teased it out like you just did here. Actually, now I'm quite intrigued about TF blush for the lightly-pigmented blushes that I have (Like you said, the JCs), and the Koyudo for somewhat more pigmented. I bet the Koyudo will also do v. well for powder or even powder highlighter due to the paddle-shape head. Lovely brush collection, indeed you have something for everything!

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    1. I used to not really be into brushes and just buy because...you know... nice stuff. It's been a very good learning experience over time though to see how these aspects of brush construction actually DO make a difference! Ha! I really have probably too many something for everything. :)

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  13. Argh, i need that SUQQU cheek.... if only I can catch one!! Damn those elusive squirrel!!!

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    1. Late Fall, when they are fat from eating all the acorn, they are nice and slow. That's a good time to CATCH them!

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  14. Wonderful post Belly! Now I want the Koyudo Canadian Squirrel Cheek brush. I absolutely love the picture of the same blush applied with all of your different brushes. It really brings to light the difference a brush makes.

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    1. Who knew there were so many variety of squirrel that actually make a noticeable application difference? hehe, probably lots of people, but all new to me. It's a really interesting brush, that Canadian!

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