Friday, August 21, 2015

Chikuhodo x Beautylish Sakura Collection Brush Set // A Review

When New York wasn't busy testing my patience like in my previous post, it was giving me the opportunity to test the travel-friendliness of my new Chikuhodo x Beautylish Sakura Collection brush set. I'm a person that sometimes can't bring herself to use her nice things, so for this trip the Sakura Collection was the only brush set I took (save for one eye brush I will mention later). Suffice it to say that I had to use them. The seal has been broken.

As I mentioned previously, the set comes with a travel case, which has been a convenient storage option even at home, and 5 brushes: the powder brush, cheek brush, crease brush, shader brush, and detail brush. Though the name of each brush is the suggested function, they are all multi-functional in their own right.

I truly mean to post this sooner. However, in reviewing these brushes, I wanted to see how much better they performed (or didn't) in comparison to inexpensive, synthetic brushes you could purchase from a discount store. Thus, I took some extra time with these to compare them, and then began writing a blue streak about their performance. For the comparison, I was able to find 4 comparable synthetic brushes already in my collection and 1 natural-synthetic hair brush from a set I purchased from a European website. (In the photos, all Sakura brushes are on the left and have a black ferrule.)

Because all of the brushes in the Sakura Collection are made from natural (animal) hair, they are all incredibly soft. As such, Japanese brushes are often marketed as a great option for those with sensitive skin. I wrote this off until I compared these side-by-side during application. While my skin isn't so sensitive that synthetic brushes irritate it, there was a definite extra level of comfort that I preferred in using the natural bristle Japanese brushes. As a result of being so soft, they pick up just the right amount of product, making application easier to navigate, and diffuse and blend makeup with ease. When I first purchased the brushes, my mother-in-law, a talented sumi-e painter who knows a good brush, remarked that the natural hair Sakura brushes were likely to blend product better. This was true for all of the brushes, and the powder and cheek brushes were a stand out representation.

The Powder Brush
Made of grey squirrel and goat, the powder brush does the function its name suggests, but it also worked well to apply bronzer. What struck me most about this brush is how soft it is, especially in comparison to my inexpensive brush, the Real Techniques blush brush. Though marketed for blush, I've tended to use the Real Techniques for powder and bronzer in the past due to its sheer size. (I tend to like a smaller blush brush, which I'll detail later.) The Real Techniques brush not only kicked up way more product when dipping it into the compact, but as a result of that it took more blending. The Sakura brush picked up a smaller, more appropriate amount of product, and blended with much more ease.

Sakura Powder Brush & Real Techniques Blush Brush

The Cheek Brush
Because this is easily my favorite brush in the collection, I have plenty to say about it. The cheek brush does not at first look like your average blush brush. It is smaller than most of those you can find on the western market, and also has a flatter shape. During the pre-sale conference call Beautylish held for customers, they explained that this is because Japanese women often prefer a flatter brush to apply blush. Because I find blush application to be tricky, this piqued my interest. Wayne Goss's #2 brush, though rounded, was also made smaller than the average blush brush because Goss feels that they are often over sized and apply too much color than is necessary for a small area of the face. Goss also prefers to put cheek color farther back on the face rather than on the apple of the cheek, eschewing the technique of applying color to the apples of the cheek while smiling. Utilizing a smaller brush and putting color farther back on the cheekbone are 2 tips that have helped me feel a bit more confident and less like a clown in my blush application. The flat shape of the Sakura Collection cheek brush lends itself well to this non-traditional application of color. As well, while visiting the Charlotte Tilbury counter in Bergdorf Goodman during my travels, the artist at the counter used a shade of blush that I had previously tried, but I thought it too red for my coloring at the time. She demonstrated how she applied the color, picking up way less product than I used when sampling the color before. I'm not exactly sure where along the line I lost the "less is more" common sense approach to blush, but I have a feeling it was a habit created by years of synthetic brush use. As a result, I tended to remain very neutral in blush selection. Because of its softness and ability to pick up just the right amount of product, the Sakura Collection cheek brush has helped me come back to my senses. I'm a little more confident in wearing pinker shades, rather than just my standard peachy browns. In comparing it to a less expensive brush, the best thing I had to compare it to in my collection was the Real Techniques contour brush. Of course, as is the theme, the Sakura collection's cheek brush was much softer, it also blended like a dream with its grey squirrel bristles. Blush is, as I've realized, where you want to use a light hand and build from there. The Sakura brush helps make that light hand less of a conscious effort, and blends easier and much more effortlessly than my Real Techniques contour brush.

Sakura Cheek Brush & Real Techniques Contour Brush

The Crease Brush
Crease brushes are something I've written off in the past. They always seemed to be too soft, too large, or any other Goldilocks and the Three Bears adjective. Never "just right". Consequently, I've just grabbed whatever brush was within reach that looked like it might work. I was skeptical when I saw this brush. How is a pointed crease brush supposed to work? But its shape is what actually makes it work. With this crease brush, also made of grey squirrel, I actually feel like my blending game has been stepped up a notch. Soft? Of course, and as such it blurs the harsh lines of eye color well and gives crease color a softer and more diffused look. It was difficult to find anything like it in my collection to compare it to, obviously as it is so unique, but the closest I had was the Zoeva 224 Luxe Defined Crease brush. While the Zoeva brush is a slightly higher price point than the Real Techniques brushes (around $10) and available to US customers online only, it was the closest I came to the unique pointed shape of the Sakura collection brush. The Zoeva brush is also a blended natural-synthetic bristle brush, putting it on a different playing field than the previous synthetic model comparisons I'd been using. Given that it's blended, it's softer than the Real Techniques brushes, but not as soft as the Sakura brush. Even so, where the Sakura brush really wins is its pointed shape. I don't think I've ever seen a pointed crease brush before, and I'm wondering where its been all my life. Where other crease brushes splay no matter how narrow they're made, the Sakura brush maintains a precise point to get into the socket. It's so genius, I wish I'd thought of it.

Sakura Crease Brush & Zoeva Luxe Defined Crease Brush

The Shader Brush
Eye brushes are my vice. Simply put, I collect them all. Because I'm so used to having many at my disposal, littered around me as I do my eye makeup, just having two eye brushes on hand while on my trip was a little like tying one hand behind my back. As well, because these brushes are so soft, it's like having a light-handed autopilot on. While that was GREAT for the face brushes, I tend to pack on eye color like Mimi on the Drew Carey show, so this brush was a bit of a change from how I normally apply eyeshadow. That said, it can build up shadow intensity, it just does so at a more gradual pace than I generally work at. Given my comparison to Mimi, this is probably a good skill to re-learn: less is more. Though it builds up color gradually, the grey squirrel bristles blend and diffuses faster than a synthetic brush, which was a definite plus. I compared this to my Real Techniques Domed Shadow Brush. Slightly larger than the Sakura brush, its synthetic bristles definitely pick up a ton of color at once. And while I don't mind that, it definitely requires another brush for a softer blend. The recommended method to keep the Sakura brushes clean was just to simply wipe them off and deep clean them once/month. I was skeptical once more, but this method proved to work. I can wipe the Sakura brush clean and move on to another color with ease, while my synthetic brush tends to hold remnants of other colors. While I still like to utilize a variety of brushes while doing my eye makeup, this one has proven to be a workhorse that I reach for daily.

Sakura Shader Brush & Real Techniques Domed Shadow Brush

The Detail Brush
Last, smallest, but not least is the detail brush. Made of fitch (distant ancestor of the ferret) and horse, this brush lives up to its name and does jobs that need precision. Pinpoint concealing, lip color, and eyeliner are all made easier with this brush. I mentioned before that I took one extra brush along on my trip. I also packed the Zoeva 317 Wing Liner brush, thinking that there was nothing in this set that could do eyeliner. After my trip, I noticed that its description on the Beautylish website indicates this brush can actually be used for kohl liner. Up until that point, I had only used it for pinpoint concealing. True, this brush does a good job with eyeliner, but definitely gives it a kohl/smoky look as indicated in the description, and less of a "precise" line. If you're looking for precision, try it with lipstick. When I used this brush for lipstick, I was surprised at how it muted the color a bit. (This set has taught me that subtlety is perhaps not my forte.) I'm generally a straight-from-the-tube gal, even when using less than subtle red shades, so I don't often use a lip brush. Even if you prefer straight from the tube, this brush will help clean the edges for a more precise application. The smallest brush I had to compare this to was the lip/concealer brush from the Body Shop. Both brushes do all of the functions listed. The edge the Sakura brush has is its smaller size, and the ease of cleaning waxy products like concealer and lipstick from its natural bristles.

Sakura Detail Brush & Body Shop Lip/Concealer Brush

As you can imagine, a handcrafted set of brushes from Japan does not disappoint. After using these brushes almost daily for several weeks, I can definitely say that the quality is impeccable and the set is worth every penny. (Though brush enthusiasts will agree, the price point for the set is very competitive compared to the per-brush cost of a single handmade Japanese brush.) Given the variety of brushes in the set and their broad range of applicable uses, this collection would be great for someone looking to explore Japanese brushes...if you can get your hands on it. The set is currently sold out on the site and interested parties can join their email wait list.