Friday, 21 September 2012

A basic introduction to Hakuhodo makeup brushes

Hakuhodo makeup brushes have been a hot topic in the makeup realms of the blogosphere and online forums for a while now.  Many questions have been repeatedly asked - what is 'Hakuhodo'?  Where do I get the brushes from?  What is so special about them?  Which ones should I buy?

It is easy to be overwhelmed by Hakuhodo - they have quite a number of brushes across several different series.  Consider that alongside the numerous reviews and pictures online, and one easily ends up dazed and confused.

I compiled some basic introductory information regarding the brand and the brushes, to help guide those who wish to begin purchasing or collecting Hakuhodo brushes.  The first section of this guide comprises information taken directly from the Hakuhodo Japan website; the last section comprises information written by me.

Disclaimer: The below text was completely transposed from the Hakuhodo Japan website, this text was not written by me.  The original text can be viewed at the Hakuhodo Japan website.

-About Hakuhodo-

The Hakuhodo head office is located about 20 kilometers east of the city of Hiroshima.

Hakuhodo was founded in 1974 in the town of Kumano and for around 200 years Kumano has had a long history in the production of brushes. At our main factory in Hiroshima we manufacture approximately 500,000 brushes a month. Our efficient production process which is based on the traditional techniques of truly skilled craftsmen continues to support this. We do not rely on machine manufacturing. In order to maintain the high quality of production, all our brushes are hand-crafted. We have obtained a patent for a method of arranging a brush head which enables us to achieve mass production of quality brushes. This ongoing production policy has enabled us to achieve the honour of receiving the first Prime Minister’s prize of Monodzukuri Japan Grand Award.

At Hakuhodo we supply our own brand brushes. However, we can also produce labeling for private companies and our OEM customers range from leading domestic and international cosmetic companies to makeup artists own brands.

-About the brushes-

At Hakuhodo the name "Fude" is used to denote a brush.
The hair tip is the most important part for a brush, maintaining it takes lots of skill. Other brush manufacturers lose the hair tip in the production process, cutting all their bristles to the same length. At Hakuhodo we use skilled craftsmen who are able to create a makeup tool keeping the most important element, the hair tip.
This is the reason why we continue to use the name "Fude". Here at Hakuhodo, we take advantage of the hair tip and the entire surface of the bristles is arranged three-dimensionally.
This hair tip is vital for a fude.

Our fudes offer you perfect control which allows you to freely draw lines of different thickness and tone. Glide the fude gently and freely on your skin, this helps you achieve a flawless finish.

If used properly, a fude will last longer.
Hakuhodo believes a fude should be a tool which helps you create the complexion and makeup finish you have always dreamt of, creating a natural, flawless finish. Makeup tools to fulfill all your needs.

Hakuhodo not only produce makeup brushes but also other types of brushes. For example, traditional artist or calligraphy brushes, brushes used for menso (painting a doll’s face) and even brushes for industrial use.

We are deeply committed to the development and production of traditional brushes and believe it is essential to carry on the tradition of the fude production method.

All of our fudes are manufactured at our main factory located at the Hakuhodo head office in Hiroshima.

We do not rely on machine manufacturing, but use our inventiveness to manufacture fudes by breaking down the production process and relying on the most skilled craftsmen in their individual field of expertise. 

In order to maintain the high quality of production, all our fudes are hand-crafted.

-How the brushes are made-

Brush hair procurement 
We select and import only the best quality hair from Europe and China and only the finest of these are chosen and used by us. 

Selecting the best hairs 
All the hair is carefully combed to remove any hairs that are without tip, bent or warn and any hairs we consider to be of inferior quality. 
This can only be done by hand and by the most experienced of craftsmen. 

Mixing hairs 
Hairs can be evenly mixed depending on their intended use or to stabilize product quality.

Arranging the brush head
Hairs are put into a mold to assemble and bundle them.
We never cut hairs to shape the bristles, this helps to achieve high brush performance. We have obtained a patent for this production process. 

Inserting hairs into a ferrule 
The bristles are inserted into a ferrule and glued together tightly. 

Handle setting 
A brush head (bristles and ferrule) is fitted to a brush handle. 

Before any of our products are shipped,we carefully inspect them individually to maintain our high standard and delivery of only the finest quality products.

-The Series-

S100 Vermillion brush range
S100 Vermillion brush range - this is the flagship range of Hakuhodo. Crafted for ease of use, our S100 series features a wide variety of brush types.  The handle is made of wood colored in rich vermillion, a traditional Japanese color.  The handle broadens slightly towards the bottom. Sumptuous to hold and superbly balanced for easy handling. The brass ferrule is 24-karat gold plated with clear coating.

S100 Black brush range
All the brush heads are identical to those of the S100 Vermillion brush range but these brushes have glossy wooden handles. The handle shape has been especially designed for ease of use, for everyone.

200 Series

Our 200 brush range features a wide variety of bristles. The bristles have natural spring and have been specially crafted for complete control and accuracy. These brushes are ideal for application with cream or water-based products.

K Series
Especially selected for ease of use, the brushes in our K range comprise a wide range of shapes and hair types.  Popular with everyone, from makeup beginners to makeup artists.

G Series
The brushes in our G range may herald a trend. Bristles combining a mix of blue squirrel and goat, have the possibility for wonderful application of water-based products. The large and unique eye brow and lip brush provide the highest level of precision and performance.

J Series

Our brand new J range introduces the next-generation of makeup brushes as we have carefully selected the materials and designed the brush shapes. The natural hair used in this range has not been dyed so keeps its original color. This means the bristles will not lose any color. The bristles in this brush range provide moderate resilience and produce great coloring and the bristle shapes available are our most standard to cutting edge.

Kokutan Series
The handles in our Kokutan -ebony wood- range are sumptuous to hold, improve as you use and are perfectly weighted for exacting control. These brushes feature precisely defined brush heads made from superior-quality blue squirrel, goat and synthetic blend.

Traditional Japanese brushes
The traditional Japanese makeup brushes that Hakuhodo contnue to manufacture are perfect for use in our everyday lives, as an excellent and handy makeup tool.

Kinoko and Fan brushes
With a full head of the luxury soft goat hair, our top-selling Kinoko brush range (commonly known under the name of a Kabuki brush) provides a medium to full application and our fan brush can be used for both powder and finishing. The roundish and compact shape is cute and fun to carry, ideal when you are on the go.

Retractable and Compact brushes for "on the go"
Our popular 'on the go' brush range. The small brushes do the work for you and are also easy to carry when you travel, etc. Slide face - our retractable blusher brush range - a must have!

Retractable Lip brushes
We offer three functional variations for the retractable lip brushes. The push-up lip brush and the cover lip brush have a cap which is inserted from the bottom end of the brush for use. The turn-style lip brush has a hexagonal shape, gorgeous and sumptuous to hold. The retractable tops keep the bristles clean.

Basic Selection
Our standard handle size has four color variations - glossy black, champagne gold, silver and white. The longer handles for professional use and the shorter handles for 'on the go', are only available in glossy black.

-The different hair types-

Goat; Blue Squirrel; Kazan Squirrel; Tree Squirrel; Pine Squirrel; Canadian Squirrel; Weasel; Kolinsky; Pahmi; Tamage; Horse; Water Badger; Synthetic Fibre; Raccoon Dog-Tanuki; Deer. 

Soft, resilient and durable, goat hair excels at creating great color, picking up the desired amount of product.
It is multi-purpose and can be used in brushes for powder, blush, highlighter and eye shadow.
Hair characteristics can differ depending on the gender and parts of the body.

Blue Squirrel
Ultra-soft, fine and thin at the hair tip, its texture is by far the smoothest. Blue squirrel hair can be used for any type of brush,
such as finishing, powder, blush, highlighter and eye shadow.
Bigger bristles made from this hair are suitable for highlighting and eye shadow as the brush offers good control.
Distributes the correct amount of powder to help achieve a natural and sheer look and when blended with goat hair, creates colors to the desired intensity.

Kazan Squirrel
Very rare and of high value, Kazan squirrel hair is similar to blue squirrel but softer.
Eye shadow and highlighter brushes (with rounded bristles) made of this hair offer easy control.
The round and flat shape of the longer bristles deliver makeup to achieve a natural and sheer finish.

Tree Squirrel
Similar to weasel, Tree squirrel hair has elasticity and work well with any type of product - liquid or cream based makeup and even powder.
Suitable for eye shadow brushes.

Pine Squirrel
Pine squirrel hair is soft and thin at the hair tip but has a less uniform body. Suitable for shorter bristles such as those in eye shadow brushes.
Ideal for smudging your eye shadow color.
If good quality pine squirrel hairs are carefully chosen and used in bristles, it can be used for blusher and highlighter brushes with longer bristles.

Canadian Squirrel
Canadian squirrel hair is soft and thin at the hair tip but has little natural spring.
Since it is shorter than blue squirrel hair, its usages are often limited to smaller brushes such as for eye shadow or highlighting.
Although very rare and expensive, it is highly prized by makeup artists and makeup enthusiasts due to its uniform body and controllability.

Soft yet resilient and long lasting. Weasel hair excels at producing colors, picking up the correct amount of products and can be used with all types of products - liquid or cream base makeup and even powder.
This multi?purpose hair is used in bristles for lip, eyeliner, concealer, eye shadow brushes, etc.

Very rare and of high value, Kolinsky hair is similar to weasel hair but softer and longer and of superior quality, therefore has more uniform body when used in bristles.
Since its hair tip is quite resilient, which provides good control, Kolinsky hair is also ideal for manicure brushes.

A bit coarser and shorter than weasel hair, Pahmi hair is commonly mixed with weasel or horse hair.

The name "Tamage" is used to denote the hair acquired from a cat. Hair from this animal has a roundish tip.
It has elasticity and durability, making it easy to control and will produce excellent color.
It can be used for liquid based makeup, although if used for powder it does not pick up the sufficient amount, due to its roundish tip.
Tamage is quite expensive and rather short in length so can be only used in the production of eye shadow brushes.

Horse hair is one of the most common hairs used in the production of makeup brushes. Like goat hair it can vary a bit in quality.
It is often combined with other hairs which can accentuate its resilience and durability and also make it softer.
When used correctly a brush made of horse hair will gradually become easier to use.
Suitable for blusher and eye shadow brushes as it produces great color. Hairs from the mane and tail are used primarily for making a brow brush.

Water Badger
Water badger hair is rather thick and resilient at the root but tapers toward the tip. Ideal for eyebrow brushes.

Synthetic Fibre
Synthetic hair produces great color but does not pick up sufficient amount of powder, however it does help achieve a natural and sheer look when makeup is applied.
It is ideal for all types of product - liquid or cream based makeup, even powder. It can be primarily used for concealer, lip or cheek cream.
It is often blended with natural hair, this helps maintain the brush shape and stabilize quality.

Raccoon Dog-Tanuki
Hair from this animal has natural spring and is very pointed at the hair tip. The hair tip is so smooth and when used in a brush can be swirled easily when used.
Therefore it is commonly used as an artist brush for decorating pottery.
Highly prized as it is strong enough to be used with sticky pigments but Tanuki hair does not work well with resins such as acrylic.
Not very uniform in body, it creates moderate rough lines.
Japanese Tanuki hair especially is of superior quality and can express beautiful lines.

Deer hair is sharp and coarse but has little spring and is primarily used for smaller brushes.
The hair tip is strong but the middle part to the hair root is fragile which can easily cause hair breakage.
Deer hair holds sumi-ink well and is frequently used as an additive to make the calligraphy brush thicker.

Disclaimer: The above text was completely transposed from the Hakuhodo Japan website, this text was not written by me.  The original text can be viewed at the Hakuhodo Japan website.

My thoughts...

So now that the Hakuhodo basics are covered, here are my thoughts on Hakuhodo brushes.

Firstly, are they worth the money?  Yes.  Yes, they are.  In comparison to most other natural hair brush ranges, the price is actually not that high.  For example - the MAC 109 currently retails for $35.00USD - its Hakuhodo counterpart, the Hakuhodo 210, is only $36.00USD - for an extra dollar, you get a superior brush that won't have the typical flaws of the MAC, being scratchy hairs and excessive hair shedding.  I would place Hakuhodo in around the mid range to high end price bracket - brushes that exceed Hakuhodo in both quality and price include coveted brands like Suqqu and Chikuhodo for example.

Most mass produced brushes utilise hair that has been laser cut.  This creates a 'less delicate' end to the hair shaft.  In comparison, Hakuhodo maintain the natural hair tip, which is why their softness is superior.  Laser cut brushes can also have a harsher feel to them - natural hair tips are less likely to be scratchy.  Hakuhodo brushes are also hand-made.

Does this matter?  This is entirely relative, and individual.  Some people just prefer the feel of a softer brush, whilst others may find they need a softer brush as scratchier brushes irritate their skin.  Softness isn't the be all and end all for brushes though - for the makeup user that has a more delicate touch, a more firm, dense and laser cut brush may be perfectly suitable.  In contrast, the heavy handed makeup user may find great benefit in using soft brushes with natural uncut hair tips.

Is there any real difference between the different Hakuhodo brush series?  Not really, no.  The brush 'series' are there more for an aesthetic reference point, for example, the stunning ebony handles of the Kokutan series and the distinct red handles of the S series.  The hairs that Hakuhodo utilise throughout their series are all very similar.  My advice is to disregard the series, unless brush aesthetic is important to you.  Otherwise, a buyer would be wise to simply pick the most suitable brush based on dimensions, shape and hair type, irrespective of the series.

How do you pick the best brushes for you?  This is the hardest question to answer.  For the experienced makeup user who already has a brush collection that they are looking to upgrade, my recommendation is to look at your existing brush collection, and pick out the brushes that you feel work best for you now.  Then, try to find similar brushes in the Hakuhodo range, and expand from there.  You can factor in hair type - for example, I wanted a softer, squirrel hair equivalent of the MAC 217 which is composed of goat hair - I found this in the Hakuhodo G5523BkSL (I shall be writing a comparative post on these two brushes in the near future).  Hakuhodo also have a newly released goat hair counterpart to the MAC 217, the Hakuhodo J5523 (I will also be presenting a comparative on this brush in the near future).

Also factor in other brush variables you wish you could change about your existing brushes - for example, your blush brush - do you wish it was softer, fluffier, or of a different shape?  Your eyeshadow blending brush - do you wish it was smaller, larger, firmer; or perhaps domed, angled or flat-rounded?

The Hakuhodo site lists comprehensive information on every brush, so you can easily see specifications relating to size, hair type, shape etc.

For the new or inexperienced makeup brush user, your purchase will require a different thought process.  There are some fantastic buying guides online already - Elizabeth of Glossed in Translation has an excellent Hakuhodo Buying Guide.  Start with some basics, and build from there.

I also highly recommend The Non Blonde, Delicate Hummingbird, and Drivel about Frivol for Hakuhodo brush reviews and pictures.

Where can you buy Hakuhodo brushes?
Within Japan, Hakuhodo can be purchased directly from the Hakuhodo Japan website, or from any of their retail locations.

Outside of Japan, Hakuhodo can be ordered from the Hakuhodo USA website, they ship worldwide for very reasonable shipping charges - shipping within the USA starts at $9.00USD, and shipping worldwide starts at $12.00USD.

Where can you see Hakuhodo brushes in person?
Unless you live in Japan, the only place you can see them in person is at IMATS (International Make-Up Artist Trade Show).  Unfortunately the Hakuhodo USA office does not permit visitors.

You can also contact Hakuhodo directly with any questions you may have - their customer service is amazing.

My Hakuhodo brush collection

My Hakuhodo brush collection (click to enlarge)
L-R: H2370, G5523BkSL, G5528BkSL, G5529BkSL, G5520BkSL, K007, K013, B264BkSL, B163BkSL, K014, 271, 270, B116BkSL, B523BkSL, G504, B512BkSL.

What is each brush for?
Lip brushes - 270, 271.
Eyebrow - B264BkSL, B163BkSL.
Grooming -  K014, K013.
Eyeliner - K007.
Eye brushes - G5520BkSL, G5523BkSL, G5528BkSL, G5529BkSL.
Cheek - B512BkSL.
Contour - G504, B523BkSL.
Highlight - B116BkSL.
Fan - H2370.

I shall post about my individual brushes as time dictates.

I hope this post has been informative!  Thank you for reading!

Bern x


  1. Great post!
    I'll be waiting for the MAC 217 / G5523BkSL / J5523 comparison and G504 & B523BkSL review! :)

    1. Thank you my dear!!
      Hopefully I will have the comparatives uploaded soon :D
      The G504 is my absolute favourite contouring brush! Love it!! It was my first Haku too, so has a special place in my heart <3
      The B523BkSL is fairly new - I still have yet to play with it properly, but I bought that for finer contouring e.g. nose.

  2. Ok Bern, this may just be the best post on Haku brushes ever! What a brilliant collection...I will favourite this post in my quest to update my brush collection! <3

    1. Thanks love!! I can't take full credit lol... I just consolidated some information that was already out there, to put it in one place.
      I do hope to review some of my individual brushes as time permits!
      If you need any assistance - you know how to find me <3

  3. Hi Bern, I just discovered your blog, I love your reviews and I love reading you ! I am a brush fiend and Hakuhodo has a huge place in my heart... mainly their J Series :) Looking forward to reading your next posts ;)

    1. Hi there!
      I shall have to check out your blog... I'm becoming quite the brush fiend myself! I recently got my first two Chikuhodos (you can see them on my Facebook page) - with more Chikus to come!
      I hope to do my first Hakuhodo comparative in the very near future.
      Thank you for the feedback!

  4. Hy! Don't you sell one or more of these burshes?

    1. Hi Lora!
      I recently sold a few of my Hakuhodo brushes that were sadly not suitable for me.
      If you are after some hakuhodo brushes second hand, check out blog sales (, or you can purchase new from Hakuhodo in the USA - they ship worldwide, their shipping rates are very reasonable! (

  5. Wow I love this post here I found some different kinds of makeup brushes thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for stopping by my blog! If I can be of assistance, please email me at any time :)