A Beginner’s Guide to Fude (Japanese Makeup Brushes)

I began purchasing fude just over eighteen months ago, so this “beginner’s guide” is really written by an amateur. I personally use a mixture of fude (e.g., Chikuhodo, Hakuhodo, Koyudo) and mainstram makeup brushes (e.g., Zoeva, EcoTools, ELF). There are a ton of affordable makeup brushes out there, and you absolutely do not need to use an expensive brush. It’s up to you to determine if the cost is worth it for your needs.

In this post I will share my thoughts based on my personal experience with different brushes and research. I will talk about what they are, hair types, shapes, popular brands, reputable retailers, and resources.

What is Fude?

Fude (筆) is Japanese for “a brush.” Although it is typically used to refer to calligraphy brushes, it is the common term used for “Japanese makeup brushes” in the online makeup community. Keshoufude (化粧筆) and meiku burashi (メイクブラシ) are more precise terms, but I will stick with fude from now on for simplicity’s sake.

There are several reasons why makeup enthusiasts and collectors invest in fude:

  • The quality – each brush is handmade and carefully shaped; brush makers are very particular when they pick out hairs to use
  • The softness – the hairs aren’t laser cut, which means that each hair tapers to a very fine tip
  • The performance – the brushes are crafted with purpose in mind (I have noticed an improved performance and increased satisfaction with my makeup application)
  • The variety – there is a wide range of price points, hair types, brush shapes, and handles to suit your personal needs

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Hair Types

There are several factors to consider when deciding on a hair type, including your price range, skin type, skin concerns, how you treat your brushes, and more. The two most popular hair types are goat and squirrel. Within those two categories, there are many subcategories. For instance, Saikōhō, which comes from the goat’s neck, is the softest form of goat hair. Rarer and softer types tend to be more expensive. Goat hair is more resilient and better for oily skin than squirrel hair. Squirrel hair tends to be the softest and is recommended for sensitive skin. If you have oily skin, you should not use squirrel hair directly on your skin – I only ever apply it over powder to preserve the brush. Squirrel hair is extremely delicate and high maintenance. Remember that softness isn’t everything! Research different hair types to learn what will work best for your needs. This post from Visage breaks down the profile and use of popular hair types.

Shape

One of the advantages of fude is the wide variety of shapes and sizes. Before you invest in an expensive brush, it’s important to know what kind of shape you like. Unless you are in Japan or at a makeup trade show, you will likely have to purchase these brushes online and you cannot return them. Do as much research as you can about each brush. You should be able to find comparison photos online. (I’ll link some of my favourite blogs below.) However, just because a brush is popular, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right brush for you!

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Popular Brands

Hakuhodo was my gateway to fude. Many brushes (namely the J and G series) are cheaper or around the same price as MAC brushes, though the price increases with fancier hair types and shapes. Hakuhodo is known for their exceptional Saikōhō hair (finest quality of goat; the hair comes from the neck) brushes. My favourites include the B104 for powder, J4004 for highlighter, and the G5523 for eyeshadow blending.

Chikuhodo is known for having some of the best squirrel hair brushes around. All of the brushes I’ve tried have been exceptional, but my two favourites are the Z-4 for blush and GSN-9 for eyeshadow multi-tasking.

Koyudo is well-known for their Fu-pa brushes, which I have not yet tried. I have only used one of their brushes, the C011 pencil brush, but I’ve recently picked up some more than I will test out.

There are several other famous fude brands, including Houkodou and Suqqu, but I have yet to try them because they are out of my budget right now.

Where to Buy

Beautylish is an American website that offers free international shipping for orders over $35. They sell Chikuhodo (though the prices are marked up) and Wayne Goss brushes. Wayne Goss brushes are manufactured by Hakuhodo, although I’ve heard they’re not quite as good (but they’re still really good!). Personally, I’ve never tried them (and probably won’t).

CDJapan is a Japanese retailer. They offer free international shipping for orders over ¥10,000, though they often have free shipping promotions. I typically ship for fude here because they have the lowest prices, fast international shipping via EMS, and a points system where you can save money on future purchases. They sell Chikuhodo, Koyodo, Houkodou, some Suqqu, and a few other small brands.

Hakuhodo USA is an American retailer that sells Hakuhodo brushes, as the name suggests. Their shipping is expensive ($14 USD flat-rate to Canada), but shipping is quick and I had a great experience shopping with them.

IMATS and other makeup trade shows often have a Hakuhodo booth where you can purchase brushes with a small discount. I went to the show in Toronto last October where I picked up these three brushes.

There are a few other retailers, like Visage USA and Selfridges, but I haven’t tried them because their prices are marked up and international shipping is expensive.

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Resources

Here are some blogs that have helped me a lot while on my search:

I’ve also learned a lot from several communities on Reddit (e.g., /r/fude, /r/makeupaddiction, /r/muacjdiscussion).

I will be posting reviews of comparing brushes within categories over the next few weeks. I will post comprehensive brand reviews in a few months after I’ve had time to use my new brushes from my latest CDJapan haul. Please let me know if you have any requests!

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As always, thank you for reading! If you have experience with fude, please let me know if you think I missed anything in this post.

Disclaimer: All brushes were purchased by me. The images and text are my own. The CDJapan links are affiliate links, but all other links are regular links.

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