A Guide to Makeup Brush Bristle Types
Aside from history and exquisite craftsmanship of Japanese Fude brushes, what sets them apart from other makeup brushes is their bristles. Bristles are hand-selected to ensure only the highest quality bristles are used; the bristles are then hand-bundled by artisans to achieve the different shapes. There is no cutting or trimming, to keep the natural tip intact for optimum softness and performance. This is a painstaking process, but one that allows the brushes their characteristic benefits: excellent product pickup; smooth and even distribution of product, and silky-soft tips that are friendly to sensitive skin.
NATURAL BRISTLE TYPES
There are many different types of animal hair used for fude makeup brushes, such as Goat, Squirrel, Weasel, Pony, Horse, Water Badger, and Racoon, each with the own unique qualities and applications.
The most important aspect of the quality of makeup brush is the tip of the hair, and natural cuticles allows the product pickup and control, and the softness of touch – cut-off hair tips can not only give an itchy-scratchy feeling, but can give skin irritation.
In some brushes, natural types are blended to take advantages of the different properties of each hair, or adding more resilience.
From the order of softness, silver fox/squirrel are regarded as the softness, then saibikoho goat > saikoho goat > sokoho goat > hakutotsuho goat > weasel / Kolinsky > water badger. But this may depend on differences in the cut of shape, length and density of the bristles.
Silver fox bristles have a luxurious softness comparable to gray squirrel, but with a little more elasticity and resilience. They’re characterized by ash-brown tips and a base of luminous silver-white. The workshops do not recommend them for cream products due to the delicate nature of the bristles (even though they're not quite as delicate as gray squirrel). However, some customers like to use silver fox for liquid and cream products but it is of the understanding that the bristles may be damaged with the frequent washing.
Widely regarded as the softest of all natural bristles. It has an excellent texture for powder makeup product. These bristles are difficult and more expensive for artisans to acquire and therefore the brushes are more expensive. The delicate fibres mean they are not recommended for cream or liquid type products, as these can damage the hair.
Exquisitely soft bristles that provide a sheer, airbrushed, natural-looking finish, and are suitable for very sensitive skin. They’re good for highly pigmented products as they won’t over-apply color; for bolder looks, the product can be built up. Not recommended for liquid and cream products, due to the delicate nature of the fibers.
Very rare and highly valued, its hair has an excellent uniformed body and great controllability. Its short hair limits its usage in smaller brushes such as eye shadow or highlighting brush.
Quite rare, Kazan (brown) squirrel is known for its fine, silky hair – even softer than that of gray squirrel. It has a unique wave to it that imparts an airy quality and more product pick up.
One of the rarest of them all – it is very limited in number and always in high value. It is similar to blue squirrel – soft and pleasant but has more delicate touch.
Often found in eye shadow brush, pine squirrel hair offer soft, thin bristle.
Goat are one of the most commonly used bristles within the natural hair varieties, known for their versatility and resilience, and for more pigmented applications of product. Goat can be found in just about every type of brush, from liquid foundation to highlighter and eyeshadow. Within the category of goat, there are various sub-types, which depend on where the bristles come from on the goat (eg. chest, back, side), the gender of the goat, and the quality of the actual bristles themselves. Goat may also come dyed black, with tea, or even persimmon (known as ‘kakishibuzome’ in Japanese).
Ototsuho and Hakutotsuho Goat
The most affordable of the goat bristles varieties, these bristles are soft and highly versatile, with moderate elasticity, a nice texture and coloration, and good durability.
Sokoho goat 粗光峰
Next up in the levels is sokoho goat, which comes from the area under than jaw and along the back. These type of bristles adheres to the skin well, picks up good amount of powder. Like the regular goat, sokoho is great for beginners as it's more reasonable and easy to get the desired result, plus more durable than other delicate natural hairs. Sokoho goat is soft enough to work as a finishing brush, but has enough strength to be blush, highlight, and eyeshadow brushes.
Saikoho goat 細光峰
Saikoho is generally regarded as the highest quality (saibikoho are a selection of the best-quality saikoho bristles). Each type is suited to different purchases and budgets. Sokoho and hakutotsuho goat pick up more product and applies ore heavily, and are better suited to liquids, creams, and gels as they're more resilient - but this also depends on the length of bristle and how its bundled.
Saibikoho are the strands selected from a pile of saikoho hair, discerned by an expert to be the longest and softest, best-quality hair. Saibikoho brushes are on the par with squirrel hair for the softness, and some say that saibikoho is even softer than grey or red squirrel bristles.The characters describe Saibikoho as hair that is long, luminous and incredibly fine, likened to lightness of the tip of the hair. Koyudo is the only workshop we stock making saibikoho brushes, which are rare releases and often sell out very quickly.
Horse is known for its strength and durability and affordability; although not as fine as squirrel, and with less elasticity than fox, horse bristle tips still have very soft tips and good blendability and can be found in all face, cheek and eyeshadow brushes. Horse bristles are ideal when you want more pigmented product, and for shimmer eyeshadows and blending tasks. Horse is often used in combination with goat or squirrel hair for added softness and balance.
Sable / Weasel
A firm, elastic type of bristle with cohesive tips and a moist feeling. These are typically used for eyeshadow and eyeliner and lip brushes, as well as liquid foundation, as they're resilient for cream and liquid products and don't absorb a lot of product. The firmness makes them good for detailed work and drawing fine lines. The non-absorbant hair type also makes it ideal for and packing on product.
Similar in characteristics and application as weasel, but finer and softer. A highly sought-after type of bristle due to its performance, feel, and resilience.
It is more flexible, controllable, and durable than weasel or the kolinsky. The downside is that it lacks cohesion. Raccoon bristles are a little thicker than weasel or Kolinsky bristles, both overall and at the tips. Raccoon bristle is often used as an eyebrow brush, but it can also be used to draw a firm line.
Stiff and resilient enough to define and shape, Badger’s hair is typically used for eye brushes. Water badger is more flexible, and excel in defining detailed sharp eye-line. Badger has long history and tradition in various parts of the world. And common material found in other kinds of brushes. Hair is thicker toward the tip and thinner at the bottom; good-quality badger bristles are typically light brown in color.
Fude brands are continuing to innovate in creating synthetic bristles, focusing on how to replicate the fine tip of uncut natural bristles in order to mimic their soft feel and smooth application. Bristles are all handmade and bundled like their natural counterparts. Some synthetic series we stock include Koyudo Makiko series, Chikuhodo AF Series, Bisyodo Futur Series, Nakamura Seisakusho Ai and Moe Series.
- More durable than natural bristles, and cleaning is easier since the fibres doesn’t absorb as much product
- Can be used easily with liquid and cream products
A great example of makeup brushes with synthetic hair is the Chikuhodo AF Series, Koyudo Makiko Series, Nakamura Seisakusho Ai Series and Moe Series, and Bisyodo Futur Series.
[update September 2021]