Monday, July 6, 2015

Guest Post: Chikuhodo Z-1 versus Koyudo Fuwafuwa

After my last Koyudo post, I had an interesting discussion with Yelena Zheng of Jaywalking Birdwalking Jabberwocky on the subject of the Koyudo Fuwafuwa. I had wondered how it would compare to something like the Chikuhodo Z-1. Yelena owns both and kindly offered to send me comparison pictures, but being shamelessly demanding I asked her to write a guest post instead. So here I present to you Yelena's post. Be sure to click on the photos to zoom!

Thank you so, so, so much, Yelena, for being so generous with your time and for sharing with us all this thorough post, complete with pictures! 

This post is for people who want to splash out on a luxury, handmade Japanese makeup brush but have no idea where to start. I'll be comparing two round powder brushes - the Chikuhodo Z-1 Powder Brush and the Koyudo Fuwafuwa Powder brush - in as much detail as possible.

The two brushes are in no way dupes but both are excellent options to consider getting if you're looking up upgrade your tools.  Both brushes are also on the pricier side and not available to see in stores before making a purchase. I have little problem throwing $10 blindly at an online purchase, but when there's an extra 0 tacked onto the end, I start looking for reviews. Unfortunately, The Fuwafuwa is a newer brush so there's not much out there aside from IG posts. It was one of my first impulsive purchases but because this post exists, you won't have to go in blind. I hope that by comparing it to the more well established Z-1 you'll have a better idea of what to get.
That's my justification for this monster of a post anyways... Grab some munchies and find a comfy seat, this is going to take a while.

Specs + Comparison
Both brushes have a completely round build so I didn't bother taking pictures with the brushes flipped every which way. The Fuwafuwa flares slightly from the base and starts tapering a bit about two-thirds of the way up to the tips. The head looks very much like a dome that has been squashed and almost flattened. One way to describe it would be "pompom on a stick".

The Z-1 reminds me of a black egg sitting on a stick. The hairs start tapering very gently from about halway up and the round off in a pointed dome. There is minimal flaring from the ferrule out but do note that  i dry mine in a brush guard. The tip of the head may be shaped like  a pointed dome or a blunt dome according to how the brush has been resting. If kept in a brush pouch or laid flat on one side, the hairs will get compacted and the edge will look more squared off.  That can easily be adjusted by gently reshaping the brush with fingers.

The Z-1 brush is already on the shorter side compared to Western makeup brushes. The Fuwafuwa is even shorter. If you're seen a chibi style character before, imagine that thing as a brush. It's cute but might frustrate the crap out of someone with larger hands. That being said, both brushes are excellent travel companions if you are confident in your ability to not loose them. For reference, my hands are neither large nor small ( I know, I'm so helpful) but both fit comfortable in my hands. However, I normally don't hold the FuwaFuwa in the crook between the thumb and index fingers. Instead, I rest the flat end against my index finger-palm joint and wrap the rest of my digits around the handle naturally.

The Z-1's has a rounded end and is glossy coated. I've scratched at the logo a couple times and it doesn't seem to be in danger of coming off. The wood used for the handle is quite light and is joined seamlessly to the open ferrule. One thing that mildly irks me is the fact that there is no name label saying Z-1. Then again, the Z series only has 2 powder brushes so it shouldn't be too hard to extrapolate. The Fuwafuwa doesn't have its name written anywhere either but it's so unique that it's kind of not necessary. The handle is a parquetry of ebony (black-brown), pau rosa (red brown) and hard maple (light beige) with a flat base so it can stand up on its own. Though the handle feels absolutely seamless, I can't say the same for the fit of the handle to the brass ferrule. It certainly feels sturdy and secure, but it's not nearly impressive as the fit on the Z-1.  (At this point, I'm just nit picking.)

Onto the measurement of the brush heads. This should be self explanatory via the pictures and their labels. Due to the handmade nature of these brushes, there will be a window of variance from brush to brush but honestly, those differences should be too minimal to notice once you're using it on your face instead of scrutinizing it with a caliper.

As you can see in the diameter picture below, the Z-1 does not look completely round. That's just gravity doing it's thing. Again, fixable with a quick finger reshaping.

The Fuwafuwa is made of Saikoho goat (the second highest quality grade). I have a Takumi T-4, also made of saikoho, and i dare say that the Fuwafuwa uses superior saikoho hairs or at least, they were better sorted.. Every single one is whisper fine and stick straight which pleases me greatly. There is not a single hair that is wavy, bent or crooked hair - a common frustration of mine when it comes to natural bristles. It glides like a satin ribbon across the skin and was actually unnerving the first time becuse i was expecting some texture. The head is very densely packed. Notice that little triangle of space near my finger tips. In the pic, I'm pressing at the base of the hairs near the ferrule. I couldn't compress it farther than that without feeling like i was going to do some lasting damage.

Bouncing or sweeping it against my skin  feels like a patting or massaging with a firm, plush cushion. The extreme level of packing the head means excellent resilience and it springs back into shape without any effort. The brush is a good choice for people of all skin types.

I would describe the experience of using the Fuwafuwa as sumptuous and rich. By comparison, the Z-1 gives a sense of elegant, meditative luxury. I can get tired of running the Fuwafuwa all over my face because of it's firmness. It feels like a massage and my tolerance for it is the same way: it feels wonderful but there comes a point where I'm satisfied. The Z-1 by comparison is more like a caress, gentle and light. I can *endure* running it across my face for a longer length of time. The bristles fold around every contour rather than press.

The grey squirrel hairs in the Z-1 feel like those little baby hair that you can find floating around your forehead. They're wispy,fine and silky. The Z-1 would be considered dense by powder brush standards. The deliciously soft hairs combined with the yeilding firmness in the body make it feel like a cat's paw. Towards the tapering tip, the feeling gets slightly more airy due to the longer hairs, but there is still a cushiony feel to it.  If you are familliar with cleansing oils, here's description for you: running the tip of the brush over your face feels a lot like that siky, slightly buoyed glide of emulsified cleansing oil. The density of the body give this brush a certain of amount of spring-back if i gently press it into my skin. It reshapes nicely for the msot part but i stil like to groom it back into shape.

I would recommend the Fuwafuwa for applying powder foundations or any other powder product that you want actual coverage from. Sweeping and buffing will give me light to medium coverage depending on the product. As far as face/coloring products go, it's pretty good with lightly - normal pigmented bronzers because it has such a broad area. It's not directional enough for blush. The density means that the resulting lay down is heavier than i would like for setting powder. However, the combination of the soft hairs and firm body allows me to use it for brushing off excess powder without moving the product underneath and polishing away any texture that develops on my makeup.

I also use it with cream foundation straight out of the pan by swirling it around and patting the product onto my skin. The cut is so thick that the product doesn't sink into the hairs. The Fuwafuwa is also effective at blending out mousse foundation once it has been spread all over my face. Some people might call me out on brush abuse but I like the effect that the Fuwafuwa gives for those types. I would completely advise against using it with runnier and liquid foundations because the dense plushness of the hairs will cause it absorb product and be more difficult to wash out.
With the Z-1, I stick to strictly powder. I can use it with setting powders, finishing powders, bronzers and blushes. The tip is directional enough for semi precise placement of blush if you use a light enough hand. Pressing harder will increase the area of coverage and makes it suitable for setting, finishing and bronzing powders. The increase in area decreases the density so that products go on sheer with the first pass. You would have to be trying very hard to get cake-faced with too much powder or overdo the bronzer. The hairs release the product gradually. Little product is deposited every time you pass the brush over so the intensity build up is very controlled. The brush is dense enough to give a light coverage from powder foundations. It just takes a little more time than the Fuwafuwa because of the gradual product release. One thing that i really like about the Z-1 is that it pretty much auto blends everything for you. You don't need to sweep once to put down product, then sweep a few more times to blend it. It's a time saver and space if you have pretty good skin to start with because you can do your whole face with one brush (assuming you wipe it between products and don't contour).

Additional Notes
If you told me to choose one to save in case of fire, i would probably give you a venomous stare most foul. If you are a sucker for wood works like me, the Fuwafuwa is definitely one to check out. It is also the less expensive of the two options. That being said, I do use the Fuwafuwa more regularly because my skin is combination-normal. I mostly use the Z-1 during that one lovely week of every month when my hormones are all out of whack and my skin is flakier than your grandma's homemade pie crust. Tmi? Sorry.

Grey squirrel is recommended for drier, sensitive skin types. Though there's no real hard and fast rule when it comes to brushes, it is important to note that squirrel is more delicate than saikoho despite comparable fineness. If you have oily skin, the oils that transfer to the bristles will need to be washed away. Frequently washing squirrel reduces the lifespan faster that washing goat because goat hairs are more durable.

Pricing and Availiability
As far as i know, the Fuwafuwa is only available at CDJapan for 12,000 yen or on the Koyudo website for 12,960 yen if you want to show them some love. Koyudo's weblisting is higher they factor the 8% sales tax in. The price of the Fuwafuwa should translate to about $95-100 depending on the exchange rate.

The Z-1 is available in three places if you live in the states, but two of the three have significant markups so it's best to get it off CDJapan again for 16,000 yen or $128-133 USD.
If you live in the US, there is no import tax but you have to pay for shipping. If you live elsewhere, check your country's customs calculator.  One of the awesome things about buying from CDJapan is that there's no sales tax (at least not yet) which means i can justify more brushes =P
As D. has said previously, Japan is on sale! The exchange rate is currently in favor of the USD so you can at least wave your guilt away by telling yourself that you're saving money in the long run by getting it now.



Citrine said...

cdjapan has a double point thing going on now, so I am off to save some money....Ok, maybe not since I "saved" a lot for the past two months already. Anyway, this is a fun post to read and I actually looked at the baby hair on my forehead in the middle of it. Mine pokes straight up so it's probably not suitable candidate for comparison.

D. said...

Hi Citrine,

Yup. Spotted the double points promo last night. Damage done, although I was quite tame this time because, well, you know why... Very silly, yes, but I've got to have it now!!! LOL xD

Did you do any shopping?


Citrine said...

Ah, I didn't wait for a promotion and already bought some mizuho and a koyudo horse pencil brush from them two weeks ago( they way overcharged the shipping fee...basically I bought everything in stock and they were shipped on the same day, it cost 1200 but I was charged 2200yen for it...) I think my collection is really set for now (consider I want to use them regularly)so now all its left are funky shape and pretty handles, known collectively as gimmicks.I fancy some koyudo kolinsky but I hate waiting for weeks so I will pass. It's relieving that I actually don't have brush lemming as of now (saying that because I just bought three shu eye brushes last week ) so now I can gather all the overtime I do for a new laptop...

D. said...

Hey Citrine,

Holy cow, 3 shu eye brushes?!? You use them that often?

That's too bad. I was going to tell you that if your order hadn't shipped, you could cancel it and replace a new order to take advantage of the promotion.


Citrine said...

I don't use them that often (duh, because I only have two right now)the main reason is that for the same brush type, shape, purpose, the two detail brushes I have from shu are significantly better than the chikuhodo clone(from artist series).

So I reckon if I haven't found my perfect medium/small laydown (I mean, chikuhodo z5 is good but I have my peeves) brushes, I might very well get it from shu and stop hoarding once for all. It's not like I am buying that infamously pricey 11kolinsky anyway(at least not yet -_-)

My collection isn't too crazy right now since all of my Japanese brushes fit in the two whiskey glasses I have.

Citrine said...

By the way, I buy three *different* eye brushes. 5r, 10natural and 13g. Of course I am only insane enough to buy backup for (cheap) lip brushes.

D. said...

Oooh I see, 3 different brushes make better sense LOL I thought you bought 3 of the same brush since you bought multiple of lip brushes. Are you going to do another eye brush post soon? I'm dying to see the shu brushes ^.^


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