Japanese makeup brushes

Makeup brushes come in all different shapes, models and sizes. When it comes to quality, Japanese brushes are by far one of the best. They’ve become popular recently and are only raising more and more interest.

makeup brushes

The history of Japanese makeup brushes

Most of the top-quality brushes you know are most likely from Japan. They have been probably made in Kumano, a city in Hiroshima. The brushes have been made there for over 180 years. The city itself produce around 80% of the brushes made in Japan and has over 100 companies manufacturing brushes under their name or for other brands. Surprisingly, the brushes are made by hand using ancient techniques: the Kumano method and the  “traditional craft”.


Brush types

All brushes are made up of hair. They’re made from different animal hair (most commonly goat, pony, squirrel weasel, sable):

  • Goat: commonly used. It’s a combination of softness and elasticity.
  • Weasel: gentle, smooth and elastic. It’s a very versatile and durable hair type used mostly for powder and liquid brushes.
  • Grey Squirrel: the most gentle on the skin that creates a perfect finish.
  • Tamage: the hair type is rounded and gentle on the skin. It’s a short and expensive hair type, mainly used for fine lines in eyeshadow and even in nail art.  
  • Pine Squirrel: it’s less cohesive than Gray Squirrel, but it’s just as smooth and soft which allows soft color application. It’s the perfect type for eyeshadow blending and highlighting.


This is what differentiates them from most brushes and makes their quality better than normal brushes that are synthetic. Each type has specific characteristics, features and is used for different purposes. They vary in softness – squirrel hair being the softest and most gentle, while water badger hair is quite firm and used for thicker, precise brushes.


Brushes should be chosen depending on your skin type. Dramatic looks require different brushes, while natural looks don’t need as many. The irregularity on the surface of animal hair helps you achieve different results. Different types of hair (because of their unique structure) pick up different amounts of pigment from makeup.


For oily skin it’s recommended to use brushes make from goat hair. The hair can be washed more often since it’s more durable which means the brush will be cleaner and have less  dirt and oils to clog your pores.

Squirrel hair is a lot more gentle and delicate – perfect for dry skin. It produces less oil and doesn’t need to be cleaned as often.


How are the brushes made?

The whole brush-making process consists of five steps. It involves choosing the best hair for the brushes and removing inferior hairs. With Japanese brushes, the natural structure of the hair is left and no hair is trimmed. This prevents irritation since the natural tips are soft. Next, they are shaped and inserted into a fastener and attached to a wooden handle made from Japanese wood.

brush types

Why Japanese brushes?

They’re aesthetically pleasing

Japanese brushes are very beautiful in their design. The best thing about these brushes is that they have a luxe feel and are pretty affordable. There are so many to choose from. Even basic black brushes look nice and fit perfectly in your hand.

They’re super soft

The brushest are one of the softest you’ll ever use. The bristles are super delicate thanks to them being carefully chosen. As opposed to natural brushes, most synthetic brushes have their bristles cut to give them shape. Japanese brushes take a lot more time to make. They ensure that hairs are arranged so the thinner ends come in contact on top. This requires a lot of skill, patience and time. It’s also a factor that determines the price of the brush.


They’re all handmade

Unlike most brushes, Japanese brushes aren’t mass-production. They are all individually man-made by skilled professionals. This process is called craftsmanship. As mentioned above, the brushes are all made in Kumano. The city even has its own brush museum. Every year during Autumn, they organise the Kumano Fude Matsuri Festival which exists since 1935. During this festival the city celebrates the brushes and their originality. Different ceremonies and activities take place such as calligraphy lessons, demonstrations, and a lot of brushes available on display to buy. Some famous brushes from Kumano include Hakuhodo (a brand that also manufactures Wayne Goss and Tom Ford brushes), Chikuhodo, or Mizuho.


They’re universal and technical

Japanese brushes use a mix of natural hair. Sometimes, synthetic hairs are mixed into the natural blend. When it comes to application, each brush is made for different purposes. Everything depends on the application (which part of the face), texture (powder, liquid, cream), the finish you’d like (natural, heavy) and your skin type (sensitive, oily, dry).


Makeup brush types and their uses:

  • Foundation Brush – used for applying an even layer of foundation onto the face. It creates a smooth canvas for the rest of your makeup. There are also many different types of foundation brushes
  • Concealer Brush – it’s typically used for the under eye area for liquid concealer. It’s usually small in its size
  • Powder Brush – they’re larger and more puffy. It’s used on top of foundation and concealer to set the products and mattify the face
  • Blush Brush – used for the application of blush to the cheeks. Blush brushes usually have a tapered end
  • Contour Brush – contour brushes are usually thick and slanted so that they fit the shape of the hollows of cheeks
  • Bronzer Brush – this brush is bigger in size and is used with bronzer to warm up the face
  • Highlight Brush – smaller brushes that are used to apply highlighter to the high points of the face
  • Eyeshadow Brush – used to apply eyeshadow on eyelids
  • Eyeshadow Crease Brush – used for precise crease application
  • Eyeshadow Blending Brush – for seamless blending eyeshadow into the crease, on the lids and around the eyebrow bone
  • Lip Brush – to precisely apply lipstick and draw out the lip shape

face brushes

One thing to watch out for with these brushes is that they’re very fragile and must be taken care of. The natural and delicate hair is more prone to damage. They can’t be washed to often (preferably once a month) and this might be a concern for some, especially those with acne prone or oily skin.

The natural hairs are easily exposed to bacterial contamination. You can’t watch them with alcohol-based products since they can ruin the structure of the bristles. Specific sprays are made for this purpose and for precise cleansing. The spray disinfects the brushes in between washes without damaging them.

Be sure not to wash them in very hot water or leave them in the water too long. Use mild soaps like baby shampoo and always dry them upside-down. Remember to not rub them too harshly and try to be as gentle as possible.

It isn’t too hard to take care of them and if you try your best to maintain their shape and structure, it’s definitely worth it. The brushes last for years!


Price = quality

The price of these brushes is definitely higher than most synthetic brushes, but compared to some brushes available at Sephora the price different isn’t too big. After taking every factor into account, especially the fact that Japanese brushes are hand-crafted, it’s clearly a better decision to buy them.

Our recommendations


This brand makes over 500,000 brushes a month. They even have a patent on their method of arranging brush heads.


KEBO Family Series

Kebo brush has been used for Japanese traditional craft of Makie which is sprinkled with gold powder as a decoration on cashew lacquer. The series is a regeneration of brushes that are fluffy and can easily distribute the right amount of makeup softly but precisely to build the right amount of coverage and pigmentation.


Kinoko and Fan Brushes

The brushes are made of luxury soft goat hair and our the top-selling Kinoko brush range (commonly known under the name of a Kabuki brush). They all provide medium to full coverage and the fan brush can be used for both powder and finishing. The roundish and compact shape is easy to pack and carry around.


J Series

This range introduces the next-generation of makeup brushes made from carefully selected the materials and specially designed brush shapes. The natural hair used in this range is the natural colour that hasn’t been dyed.  This means the bristles won’t lose any color. The bristles in this brush range are resistant and give a great colour payoff while allowing seamless blending.

brush styles


A very well-known and renowned Japanese brush manufacturer. They create brushes under their name as well as other brands like RMK and Suqqu. It was founded 40 years ago by Tesshu Chikuhodo, a renowned Japanese brush designer. Every Chikuhodo brush is made by hand, by someone who has is a master at this and knows how to perfect the technique. The whole process is very fascinating.


The GSN Series:

The hairs of this series incorporate a variety of high-quality hand-picked hairs (goat, gray squirrel, weasel, raccoon, badger, and fitch). Squirrel hair is the softest choice, making it more expensive than other natural hairs. The GSN is the largest series for professionals and contains 16 versatile brushes. They have an easy grip and long handles.


The Passion Series

These brushes contain soft, natural hairs that are never cut, only chosen well to match the brush ends. This set is a great place to start for beginners. It contains 7 brushes that are easy to handle and use. They also aren’t too expensive compared to other brushes from the brand. The hairs are soft, hand-picked and have the same great shape and design. They come in a fun colour described as “kawaii pink”.


The Z Series

The hairs are all made of gray squirrel hairs – the softest and most fine natural hair that’s available. This is what makes it so pricey. Every single hair is hand-picked by their trained professionals. The tips are also as soft as they can be. The Z series is very luxurious and is very suitable for sensitive skin since it doesn’t irritate it at all. These brushes are also known bestsellers.



Japanese brushes combine high-quality with amazing payoff. The finish they give your face and the fact that it’s super easy to worth with them is definitely worth the price.

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