Review: hakuho-do + SEPHORA PRO Kusabi Brush

I thought I’d review this brush sooner rather than later since it is a limited edition item, and on Sephora’s site, it shows a couple of the styles (including this one) as “only a few left”.  So if anyone was interested in buying one of these, now is the time!

As you may recall, I purchased mine on complete impulse upon seeing the display at the front of the store in Sephora’s “Hot Now” section.  There are 5 brushes in this collection (ranging in price between $38 – $68) which are described in detail on Sephora’s site so I won’t rehash it here.
I’m focusing on the Wedge Sloping Powder (Kusabi) Brush which is described on Sephora as: A large angled powder brush with a brand-new shape developed by the Sephora Pro team for the self-application of powder, bronzer, or for neck shading.
The first thing you’ll notice about the brush is the packaging, each individual brush is housed it a distinctive red textured cardboard box, very reminiscent of how Asian calligraphy brushes are stored.
Since this is a collaboration between famed Japanese brush brand Hakuhodo (side note: not sure why Sephora hyphenated “Hakuho-do”? Hakuhodo themselves don’t hyphenate) and Sephora, the styling pays homage to the source.

The second feature of the brush is that it has cherry red lacquered handle:
And the ferrule is a matte black.  The pairing of the shiny red with the matte black looks very sleek.

I chose this brush shape because it’s unique to my collection – it has a squared off head with a front sloping angle rather than a side sloping cut (think angled contour brush).  Since it has a much wider plain for the slope, it would – theoretically – provide a softer blend that covers a larger area.
The brush head is a square, measuring 4.2 x 4.2 cm at the widest and highest points. The hand feel of the brush is quite soft, and the bristles are densely packed.
I tested this brush over a week, first using it with my Shiseido Sun Protection Compact Foundation SPF35 which I dust on lightly as my setting powder:
The bristles had a good amount of flex and firmness, however, I found the brush to drag a bit over my face.  I had to revise my application method – instead of sweeping the brush over my face, I used more of a patting motion.  I tested the brush with other powder products and, in the end, I found this brush better suited for bronzing and patting on lightly pigmented blushes (since the brush was so dense, medium or highly pigmented blushes would apply too strongly).  It’s better for patting colour on targeted areas like bronzer and blush rather than sweeping face powder all over – due to the dragging issue I experienced.  I haven’t tried this with liquid products but I read on Temptalia that it’s rather streaky.  Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed by this brush.

Comparison of the Kusabi brush to others in my collection which are similar:
L to R: Real Techniques Kabuki Brush, hakuho-do + SEPHORA PRO Kusabi Brush, Inglot 1SS Powder brush, Smashbox blush brush #16 (I mainly included this because it has a red lacquer handle too)

In terms of shape and function, surprisingly the RT Kabuki Brush is the most similar as it has a sloping head and synthetic bristles as well. I actually prefer the RT brush better because it doesn’t drag on the skin and blends powders smoothly.  In fact, I prefer all of the other brushes shown in the comparison better than the Kubasi! 😕

I feel this partnership between Hakuhodo and Sephora did not bring out the best of both brands – the brush head shape was developed by Sephora Pro team as noted in the product description, and the synthetic bristles are likely also Sephora influenced.  Which leaves what part of the brush as Hakuhodo’s contribution?  Just the handle, the packaging and the actual manufacturing?  If I was doing a collaboration with a brand known for their soft luxurious brushes, wouldn’t I want to bring that to the final product? They really should have gone with natural haired bristles for this collection, in my opinion.  The brush handle design and presentation are top-notch, but form over function doesn’t cut it in my books.  This was my first foray into Hakuhodo brushes, but I wouldn’t let this experience cloud my opinion of the brand since I’d say this was a 80/20 partnership with a heavy Sephora influence.
Lastly, I should note that while I was photographing the brush, I accidentally scraped the handle tip against a piece of white paper, and the red lacquer paint made a mark on the paper like a pencil crayon would. I inspected the brush handle and it didn’t look worn away, but I suspect that over time, the red lacquer will wear off.  I tried scraping my Smashbox brush handle (the only other brand with a red lacquered handled brush I own) against the paper and it left absolutely no red mark.

• beautifully presented
• unique brush shape
• good for applying powder bronzer / light pigment blush
• does not shed
• washes cleanly
• made in Japan

• overpriced for what it is
• drags on the face
• not very good at multi-tasking as claimed

Bottom line: a nice looking brush but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it

Stash worthiness: 6/10

Have you seen these brushes at Sephora? Did you pick up one?

16 thoughts on “Review: hakuho-do + SEPHORA PRO Kusabi Brush

  1. Aw, that is a shame. It is a stunning looking product. That said, my brush collection is not anywhere near as extensive and high-quality as yours, so this would probably still be a great addition to my stash. *sigh* So pretty. 😀 Won’t be buying it, though, thanks to your review!

    Yeah, that hyphen is weird. Japanese thing? Or Sephora just being weird?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You would do better buying the Real Techniques brush! Not nearly as pretty but better functioning. This Hakuhodo brushes would make very nice looking presents actually – I’d be so pleased to receive a boxed makeup brush!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t bought any of the RT face brushes, despite their awesome reviews, because of the massive handles! OMG where am I gonna put that brush? 😀

        Yeah, the Hakuhodo boxed brushes just reek of luxury! Le sigh.


  2. Wow the smashbox one you have looks similar to the hakuhodo one. Too bad you didn’t like it too much. Your brush collection should be another post you do if you haven’t already. Or a top ten type of post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank goodness I didn’t buy this! It is on deep sale over here. I was actually put off by it being synthetic? The other Hakuhodo that I have is goat hair and squirrel hair. Those felt a lot more “worth the money”?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, if you’re going to buy Hakuhodo, go for the natural hair bristles! Which Hakuhodo brushes do you own? I’m still very sore about not getting to the Hakuhodo store when I was in Japan! Ugh.


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