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Get yourself some snacks or nonperishable canned goods because this is a monster post! Welcome back to part 2 of the ‘Japanese Brush Starter Kit’, today we’re talking face brushes! In an attempt to make sense of the vast variety of brushes available, I’ve broken it down to 10 different categories so you can customise your own ‘face brush kit’ 🙂 I’ve linked stockists for each individual brush so click the blue text to purchase!

If you haven’t already seen ‘Part 1: Eye Brushes’, click here. If you’re new to high end or Japanese brushes, you might wanna read the Why Pay More For Makeup Brushes post.

NB: Brush preferences vary greatly so I’ve tried to cover the popular options with emphasis on my favourites (which tend to be Japanese made, hence the title). I’ve also listed some more affordable/widely available options that might not be my first pick, in fact, some of them I actively dislike because the fibres are not soft enough for my liking (said brushes will be marked with a ** double asterisk) but they’re great shapes and you may not be as concerned about softness. Or maybe you are, in which case consider the shape but steer clear of that particular model.

Face Powder Brush

A soft, fluffy brush used to dust powder over the face to set a liquid foundation. The denser the brush the heavier the powder application so I tend to opt for ‘loosely packed’ brushes for a very fine veil. Size is also a factor – if you powder your entire face it might make sense to select a larger brush whereas I powder strategically so my preferences lean towards smaller shapes.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
Wayne Goss – The Air Brush // Limited edition but I think it’ll become permanent (no insider knowledge on that comment FYI). Just as soft as the SUQQU Cheek (aka softest brush in the world) with a slightly flatter ‘paddle’ shape. I use it interchangeably with the SUQQU Cheek and it retails for 35USD. Bloody miracle.
SUQQU – Cheek Brush // A holy grail for uberrrrr fine powder application but at ~190USD… just get the Wayne Goss Air Brush. SUQQU Cheek review here.
Chikuhodo – Z4 // A bit denser than the SUQQU Cheek but equally soft (SUQQU Cheek and Z4 comparison here).
Rae Morris – 22 Pro Powder // My top pick for a bigger powder brush, very loosely packed and never disrupts foundation.

Other options
Zoeva – 101 Luxe Face Definer // A bit dense and big for my liking but not bad.
NARS – Yachiyo 27** // Brilliant shape and loosely packed but scratchy to touch 🙁 Many love it though!
Wayne Goss – 02 Brush // Candlestick shape, rather small and very soft. I prefer it for highlight.
It Cosmetics – CC+ Double Airbrush Ball Powder Brush // Softest option I’ve come across in a synthetic fibre. I can’t find this online 🙁

Under Eye Powder Brush

A tapered brush used to apply powder under the eyes in order to set concealer. To me, softness is of paramount importance since the fibres are likely to sweep the delicate lash line. For baking or liberal powder application, go for a dense brush OR a sponge. Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
Wayne Goss – The Air Brush // Tapered paddle shape allows for precision around the eyes. Soft like a bunny. I bought two backups lol.
Hakuhodo – G5533 // A crease brush that is useless for eyeshadow because it’s so floppy. Great for strategic powder application under the eyes though!
Beauty Blender – Blusher Sponge // Smaller version of the original. Great for the baking-esque techniques (to see my low key baking method, click here).
Rae Morris – 6 Deluxe Pro Blender // Missed this photoshoot opportunity because it’s at home! Another great paddle style brush.

Other options
Zoeva – 114 Luxe Face Focus // Very similar shape to the Rae Morris 6 but not as silky. Decent alternative.
Zoeva – 134 Luxe Powder Fusion // Narrow brush for sweeping powder under the eyes.
MAC – 224 // Aka, any large crease brush. This one is a bit scratchy but you can buy it anywhere 🙂

Highlight Brush

Put very simply, highlight brushes most often resemble a candlestick shape or a fan shape. Fan brushes have a very narrow profile so offer a confined, straight placement that is ideal for the tops of the cheekbones. Candlestick shapes deposit product in a slightly larger placement with more diffused edges. I love both but if you’re a minimalist, the candlestick shape is more versatile (also brilliant as an undereye powder brush or contour brush, just clean off your brush between functions). Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
Chikuhodo – Z2 // My top pick for a candlestick shape. Ridiculously soft and blends as it applies so no stripe-y highlight.
Rae Morris – 25 Highlighter // The fibre looks scratchy but it’s actually very soft 😉 Slightly smaller than the next option.
Hakuhodo – J4004 // Another solid fan brush. Soft, washes well etc.

Other options
Zoeva – 129 Luxe Fan // If you’re looking to save cash, the Zoeva fan brush is fab. I often use it thinking I’ve grabbed the Hakuhodo and barely notice a difference.
Hakuhodo – B5521 // I meant to photograph the Wayne Goss 02 but same shiz really, any candlestick shape can slot in here.

Blush Brush

Many options here depending on preference: smaller, larger, flat paddle style, rounded, pointed, angled and so on. I have naturally red cheeks so I like my blush brushes small (precise placement) and not at all dense (light application). Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
SUQQU – Cheek Brush // Ideal for SUPER pigmented blushers. This is one arena where the SUQQU trumps the Wayne Goss Air Brush as the rounder head is more conducive to blush placement.
Chikuhodo – Z4 // My most used blush brush. Perfect for your standard moderately pigmented blush. Leans small but not as petite as the SUQQU Cheek.
Hakuhodo – B505 // My pick for a larger blush brush. Flat side can be used for larger application, tip can be used for more precision.

Other options
NARS – Yachiyo 27** // Again, awesome shape but scratchy.
Zoeva – 126 Luxe Cheek Finish // Paddle style and rather dense. Definitely for those who favour a strong flush.
It Cosmetics – French Boutique Angled Blush Brush // Awesome synthetic option. Angled and soft.

Bronzer Brush

Typically a larger, fluffy brush used to dust a warm powder bronzer around the perimeter of the face. If you like your bronze to be of the Bahamas variety, you’re gonna want a large and dense tool. If you have heavy-hand-syndrome, compensate with a duo fibre or loosely packed brush that builds colour slowly. As per my face brush inclinations, I like them small (minds out of the gutter, people). Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face BrushesSome favourites
It Cosmetics – CC+ Double Airbrush Ball Powder Brush // My pick for a large bronzer brush for the rare occasions where I’m seeking Becca-esque beachy vibes. Duo fibre allows for gradual and foolproof application with no harsh edges.
Chikuhodo – Z4 // Most used bronzer brush for everyday purposes, primarily because the fibres are so delicate that they never disrupt my foundation. Comparatively small so best for small faces 🙂

Other options
Zoeva – 101 Luxe Face Definer // The density shifts my base underneath but I know Sharon loves it for bronzer.
It Cosmetics – Heavenly Luxe Wand Ball Powder Brush // Why are It Cosmetics names so ridiculously verbose? Anyways, lovely synthetic brush – large but not dense.
MAC – 187 // Duo fiber for soft bronzer application.
It Cosmetics – Jumbo Powder Brush // Name says it all. If you take your bronzer down your neck and chest and to your toes… Don’t apologise to anyone, my friend.

Contour Brush

Common contour shapes: squared, candlestick or petite domed brush (my personal favourite). The natural contours of our face (hollows of the cheekbones, under the jaw, sides of the nose etc) are smaller than the flat planes of our face so contour tools ought to offer more precision than a bronzer brush, for example. Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
SUQQU – Eyeshadow L // Actually a large crease brush but I adore it for shading the very hollows of the cheekbone. I will admit that this sort of sculpting best suits already prominent cheekbones, if your features are rounded or could be described as gorgeous baby faced, this tool will likely leave you looking stripe-y.
Rae Morris – 5 Flawless Shader // A spinoff of the square shape but rounded and tapered and far more forgiving IMO. Fab quality and results in a more diffused contour than the Eyeshadow L.

Other options
NARS – ITA** // The original square brush, scratchy but not dense. I’d recommend an upward flicking motion as opposed to a furious back and forth motion because harsh edges yo.
NARS – Yachiyo 27** // Broken record, great shape but so scratchy.
Charlotte Tilbury – Powder & Sculpt Brush** // I acquired this hoping it would be the better version of the Yachiyo 27 but alas, equally scratchy 🙁
Zoeva – 109 Face Paint // Softer than the NARS ITA but very dense so approach carefully.
MAC – 224 // Or any large crease brush that would substitute for the SUQQU.

Liquid Foundation Brush

I know this is a Japanese brush starter kit and I own numerous liquid foundation brushes from Japanese brands but y’know what? They were all underwhelming. I favour the good ol’ sponges and synthetic options from brands like Real Techniques and It Cosmetics (the gold standard of synthetic brushes, if you’re asking!). Perhaps obvious to some of you but I’m nothing if not thorough – liquid formulas are best suited to synthetic tools as opposed to natural fibres because the latter want to absorb all liquids.Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
Beauty Blender – Original Sponge // I’m sure you’re all familiar with this tool so I won’t bore you. If I had to pick one foundation tool aside from fingers, this would be it.
Real Techniques – Complexion Sponge // Close runner up to the beauty blender and not quite as bouncey.
Real Techniques – Contour Brush // If you only apply foundation to certain areas of the face, this size will float your boat.
Real Techniques – Buffing Brush // Not as dense as most of the buffing brushes on the market, which I appreciate.
It Cosmetics – Dual Ended Complexion Perfection Brush // Slightly softer than the RT counterparts, highly recommend all It Cosmetics synthetics.

Other options 
Zoeva – 104 Buffer // Flat buffing brush. Some people find that dense foundation brushes provide more coverage, on my skin they just push product around so not a fave.
MAC – 190 // An example of a traditional paddle foundation brush. They’re not trendy right now but awesome for laying flaky areas flat (where buffing motions exacerbate the problem).
MAC – 187 // This duo fibre foundation brush was all the rage a few years back, ideal for light coverage.

Cream Products Brushes

While we’re on the topic of synthetics, they do a bloody good job for cream blush, bronzer, highlight etc. I’m less obsessive particular in this category, I just grab whichever is the right size or if we’re being honest, whichever is clean.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Beauty Blender, Real Techniques Complexion Sponge, Real Techniques Contour, Real Techniques Buffing, It Cosmetics Dual Ended Complexion Perfection Brush, Hakuhodo G544 Discontinued, It Cosmetics CC+ Double Airbrush Ball Powder, Zoeva 105 Luxe Highlight, It Cosmetics Radiance Angled.

Undereye Concealer

Here are some brushes that are used with a cream or liquid concealer to conceal the undereyes or larger areas of the face (pigmentation etc). Two themes emerge: flat brushes and fluffier brush (plus hybrids of the two). If you watch my tutorials, you’ll know that I almost always place undereye concealer with the applicator and blend with a sponge – pretty straightforward – but I figured I’d give you some brush options anyways 🙂

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
Beauty Blender Blusher, BareMinerals Maximum Coverage Concealer Brush, MAC 195, Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush.

Other options
Real Techniques Deluxe Crease, Zoeva 142 Concealer Buffer, Real Techniques 200, Real Techniques Duo Fibre Eye Brush.

Spot Concealing Brushes

Spot concealing refers to pinpoint concealer application over blemishes or marks. Technically, any fine eyeliner brush should get the job done but… I’m neurotic about spot concealing. To watch a demo on how I spot conceal, click here and fast forward to 3:30.

Japanese Brush Starter Kit – Face Brushes

Some favourites
Chanel – 24 // The elusive 24… Perfectly tapered for precision yet soft enough to scribble and blend edges. And discontinued 🙁 Have been looking for a dupe for years and I’m seriously considering manufacturing my own.
Visign Pro –  26 // Purchased this one in Amsterdam and it’s my second favourite. A tiny flat brush with a little give… but no Chanel 24.

Other options
Eyeliner brush // Aka, any fine eyeliner brush.
Ecotools – Smudge Brush // Synthetic, a tad large for my liking.
Royal & Langnickel – Mini Smudger // Nice but not soft enough to rub over an ouchy pimple. Major quality control issues, I’ve owned three and they’re nothing alike.
Hakuhodo – 007 // Aka, any fine eyeliner brush.
LM – Smokey Eye Liner Brush // Perfectly tapered but stiff AF.

Phew. This post is a true mark of my obsessive personality, I can only laugh. Hope you found it helpful, feel free to leave any questions in the comment section! 100% honest moment – this blog doesn’t contribute bank at all, I create this content purely because I want to chat with you 🙂


NB: Some of the brushes in this post were sent to me for consideration and many were purchased with my own moneys. I’ve been collecting brushes for 10 years so I can’t even tell you which lol.

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  1. Yay face brush post! *bounce*

    It’s listed on the Sephora Australia site as out of stock, and it was OOS on the Sephora US site for quite a while (it’s back now but there aren’t many left), but I really like the Sephora #35 brush for spot concealing. It’s roughly the same length as the Laura Mercier Smoky Eyeliner, it’s marketed as an eyebrow brush (for use with stuff like Anastasia Dipbrow), but it has some give to it. Maybe a little more give than you may prefer? ($20 USD/$25 AUD)

    And a note that if you go through Selfridges, the Suqqu Cheek is now only $90 USD before shipping.

    Also x2: Hakuhodo has multiple WG Air Brush/Rae Morris #6 dupes, too. S116 (red and black handles) or B116 if you like grey squirrel; J116 if you want a goat-haired version. (Source: me researching Hakuhodo’s site for dupes. I’ve missed out on the Air Brush twice now.)

    1. I have the J116 and really like it, but it is denser and stiffer compared to the WG Air Brush. I like the J116 for precise highlighting, while I use the WG for anything powder

  2. This is great! Thanks for the post. Love the detail!

    I’m curious if you’ve used/what your thoughts are on Wayne Goss #14 brush? It’s an odd shape – quite loosely packed, almost floppy because of the length of the bristles, which might appeal to you by the sounds of it? I love it as a powder/bronzer brush. It doesn’t impart much pigment at all, but being very pale I don’t want too much pigment from my bronzers!

  3. Karima, do you find any other uses for the Wayne Goss air brush other than loose powder? I purchased it on a whim during the restock since everyone was saying it’s as good as the SUQQU, but as you mention it’s not great for blush. I’m pretty disappointed since I was looking forward to something as versatile as the SUQQU/chikuhodo πŸ™

  4. Karima, I can’t thank you enough for this brilliant post. You’re my guidance when it comes to brushes. I own the majority of my Japanese brushes thanks to your recommendations and never been disappointed. I’ll have to wait for the WG air brush to become permanent now. Can you please speed up the process? Many thanks again, you’ve made my weekend!

  5. Ohmygoodness I looooove your comprehensive and detailed posts!! You have no idea how often I come back to these for reference! You are the reason I bought the Chikuhodo Z2 when I went to Japan! Agh – though I wish I had saved up more to buy the Z4 too! Thank goodness for Beautylish! πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

    Thanks again Karima! Bravo! πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚ Well done on another wonderful blog post! I can’t tell you how grateful I am!

  6. Love brushes!!!! Some of my favorite blogposts to read, and yours are my favorite! Obsessive? Nah… detail oriented πŸ™‚
    I have a question, I am in the quest for two powder brushes, medium/big, one for lighter application (Ambient Lighting powders, bronzer), and a denser one for all-over powder – I ain’t shy with powder πŸ˜‰ I got the WG 00, but I found it -sacrilege!- slightly pocky and scratchy… I have thin skin that can’t take much abrasion. So still looking. They have to be soft but still be able to pick up product, so not too floppy. What would you (and anyone else caring to comment) think of these options?
    – The Rae Morris powder. You say very loosely packed so that could be my light application one. It is squirrel, but how soft is it? Not all squirrels are created equal…
    – Chikuhodo Z1. Ohh… how I want this!! But for that price, I want to be reasonably convinced it is something I would use.
    – It Cosmetics magic-ball-wand-whatever.
    And since we are talking brushes I thought I’d share some brushes I like with you all brushes geeks πŸ™‚ (some! Don’t want to take over your blog!)
    – Wayne Goss: # 11 (slightly denser and bigger than Chikuhodo Z4, increadibly soft goat, good for heavier applications of powder/blush), #12 (dense and flat, good for powder foundation), 13 (round and dense, many people love it for blush, I like it to buff liquid foundation when my skin is too sensitive for the Real Techniques ones)
    – Kevin Aucoin foundation brush: unusually shaped, big, very dense candlestick-esque shape, you don’t really buff with this one, but kind of bounce (a bit like a sponge?) and swipe, using the brush more parallel to the face instead of perpendicular. That is how I use it anyway.
    – Hakuhodo J214R: a round-headed baby duo fiber brush I adore for concealer (in stippling and buffing motions). I’ve never been good at concealer under my eyes, and this brush gives me the best application.
    – Real Techniques Metals powder: for those looking for a synthetic big paddle brush. It’s super soft.
    Oh, and wanted to share I do use the WG air brush for blush, again parallel to the skin, in small horizontal swipes (but it seems I apply blush in a strange way!)

    1. I own the Rae Morris one & it is the softest powder/face brush I own. It has become my go-to for applying powder. I don’t wear a lot on my face (I’m an eyeshadow fiend) so I prefer quite a light application but still very nice.

  7. lol i know the obsessive feeling,
    informative post thanks!
    Have you tried the sigma F68 pinpoint concealer? I think it’s a bit bigger than the Chanel but it’s the same general shape. I’m still trying it out and I suck at applying makeup but it’s doing the job for me (I’m usually too lazy to spot conceal tho so I’ve only tried it like twice?)

  8. Hi – thanks for this incredibly comprehensive post!
    In your section on contour brushes – you wrote the styles like the Suqqu Eyeshadow L are great for faces that already have naturally prominent cheekbones, but can be counterproductive for round faces. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions for people with round faces who are trying to figure out how to create the illusion of cheekbones?

    Thank you!

    Also – may I put in a plug for the Kevyn Aucoin concealer brush? I have tried many many concealer brushes, but nothing has given me pinpoint precision coverage like the Kevyn Aucoin! And the blush is a mindreader – It applies just enough concealer to cover whatever pimple I’m looking at, but not so much that when you blend, the concealer spreads out across your face.

    1. I have a round face, and find shading a larger portion of the face with a contour powder that is not too dark – with a brush that is not dense – helps refine the features. When I want a bit more definition I use a darker powder with a more directional brush, and I do it only underneath the more prominent part of the cheekbone, closer to the ear. If I take it more toward the center of the face it looks stripey

  9. Thank you so much writing this Karima! I was so excited when I saw this on your website. Your makeup brush reviews and smackdown series are one of my favorites πŸ™‚ Hope you enjoyed Korea!

  10. Hi Karima πŸ™‚ I really enjoyed this post. My bro is in Japan right now and I think I’ll send him a list!
    I have the charlotte tilbury eyes to mesmerise Mona Lisa which I bought ages ago, and it creases and fades no matter what! I use bars pro prime (albeit – couple of years old), have you had any luck with any primer? Which is the best with this eyeshadow? Thank you, Carla x

  11. Hi, I know this has nothing to do about makeup or this blog post but I saw that you went to Korea and I’m really interested in studying abroad in Korea. I don’t know a lot about the country so I was wondering if you could tell me more about it. Maybe make a video about what you did there and how you felt about it? You might be trying to make a video about everything you bought in korea but if you could also add how you felt about the country and what the people were like or anything that could inform me. I just really trust your opinion on makeup so hopefully your opinion on a country could help me out too. I know its a weird request and maybe a little too extra but any piece of info would be helpful. Thank you for reading thissss

  12. Hey, Karima! I know this isn’t really related to the blog post but I was wondering if you knew of a dupe for the oh-so-amazing SUQQU brow pen in the color moss green? Though I do love it to bits and pieces, spending around $40 on a brow product every few months is gets a little more difficult every time. Help please!

  13. Hey Karima!

    I was wondering if you’ve used the Too Faced Primed and Poreless Loose Powder. If you have, how is it in comparison to the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder? I have three powders (MAC pressed, Bobbi Brown Finishing Pressed powder and Too Faced *mentioned above*) currently in my arsenal but none of them give me the effect I want for my under eyes i.e removing the crease/not making it cakey. The Bobbi Brown is good for my cheeks + forehead: overdoing makes my face super bronzy as it’s the same colour as my brown skin. The MAC is okay for general touching up, nothing badaboom. Too faced is translucent but it does tend to catch the dry parts of my skin and make them obvious PLUS there’s this white haze on my face which just makes me look a tad bit sick. haha! I can get away with it if I put very little, only then I never know if it’s doing its job.

    It’s possible I haven’t quite learnt the art of applying loose powder properly for my under eyes. Too Faced could be amazing and I just don’t know how to use it. But I’d really like to know if I’m the only one facing that problem, fighting a lost cause. If it’s that – I’ll accept defeat and indulge in ANOTHER powder (Laura Mercier) without ever hitting pan on any of the ones I own (bye bye money).

    Do you have any suggestions for undereye loose powder application? Preferences for powders and for applicators specifically for a loose powder?

  14. Hello Karima (and other readers whose suggestions I would love to hear!)

    I made a post already but am unsure if it posted!

    I currently own three powders in my arsenal : MAC pressed finishing powder, Bobbi Brown pressed finishing powder and Too Faced Primed & Poreless Loose Powder. MAC pressed finishing powder is alright, good for touching up, but not jaw-dropping amazing. Bobbi Brown is good for my cheeks and forehead, but overdoing it makes my face look bronzy and blotchy, as it’s the same colour as my brown skin. Too Faced was bought thinking- ” here is my holy grail for undereye concealing”. Unfortunately, that didn’t work either. It makes my undereye creases even more obvious also there’s this ugly-makes-me-look-ill hazy white cast when I apply on my face. I think it’s just super drying for me too.

    It’s totally possible I don’t know how to apply loose powders and I’m overdoing the powder. But I want to know if I’m fighting a loose-ing powder battle. Should I just invest in a Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder (which is supposedly the BEST in the universe) without ever hitting on pan on any of the powders I own? Or are there some new methods of application I should try?

    My current application method —> use corrector/concealer using fingers and blending with beauty blender. Apply powder immediately with MAC 224.

  15. Thank you for all the details and photos!

    Have you tried Rae Morris’ Jishaku #9.1: Pencil Point Shader? I wondered if it could stand in for the Chanel 24 since it claims to be very precise, but soft. I have never seen either in person, so this is just a wild hypothesis.

  16. Hi Karima, Love the fact that you’ve detailed brushes of different price points, as well as the beauty blender and Real Techniques. And hats off to your extensive collection!

  17. Hi Karima, I have a question about Suqqu brush (mainly because I am broke lol). I heard from Harry makes it up that RMK cheek brush is a good alternative for Suqqu cheek brush, so I really wish to hear your opinion if you have tried it. Besides, I heard a lot of people complaining that WG 01 brush sheds a lot, like really a lot. Have you ever encountered that problem? If so would you give some suggestion about how to deal with it. would it be possible for you to share some info about how to properly store make brushes? I am now building my collection, but I have no clue how to protect and store them.

    BTW, love your video and style. I think you’re the perfect balance between glam make up and practical everyday make up, which to me is definitely the ultimate chic for people in their 20s and 30s. Thanks for the amazing content.

  18. Karima, have you tried the Giorgio Armani Crema Nuda? It’s supposed to be a tinted cream (moisturiser)/skincare product that acts like a completely secondskin foundation (supposedly it’s Kim Kardashian’s day foundation, she uses the Luminious Silk for nightime). It’s incredibly expensive too, but now that the Lasting Silk has been continued I need to find a replacement. Out of everything I’ve tried the Givenchy Teint Couture foundation comes the closest, I’m really loving it so far! Have you tried that one?

  19. Hey Karima πŸ™‚
    Have you tried the Giorgio Armani Crema Nuda? It’s supposed to be a tinted cream (moisturiser)/skincare product that acts like a completely secondskin foundation (supposedly it’s Kim Kardashian’s day foundation, she uses the Luminious Silk for nightime). It’s incredibly expensive too, but now that the Lasting Silk has been continued I need to find a replacement. Out of everything I’ve tried the Givenchy Teint Couture foundation comes the closest, I’m really loving it so far! Have you tried that one?

  20. You seem to really like the shape of the Nars Yachiyo brush, but just not the bristles. Have you tried the Hakuhodo Yachiyo Large Tapered brush? I hear it’s exactly the same just with different bristles.