Rephr: P11B Brush Review
Rephr is the new kid on the block in the fude scene. They've entered the market selling exquisitely made Japanese makeup brushes from the famed city of Kumano — but they're a company with a twist. Be warned, it's a long review. I have many opinions. There are subtitles.
EDIT: My detailed Rephr reviews are now live on the blog. The review of The Core Collection can be found here and
"The company name rephr comes from the word "reference", in that we use community input & feedback as a reference point to design beauty products."
Rephr is what I'd describe as the quintessential millennial brand. It's sleek, luxurious and available online — all things that those of us with disposable incomes look for. In the 21st Century, brands must innovate, adapt and use technology to provide their customers with exactly what they need. This Canadian company seems to be doing just that as they're creating makeup brushes then directly asking their customers for feedback. It definitely is a new approach, one that currently is mutually beneficial for both company and consumer.
What sets Rephr apart from its competitors is their limited offering of brushes. They're great if you're just entering the fude market because they don't bombard you with twenty foundation brushes, ten highlighter brushes or forty eyeshadow brushes. They simplify the process so you add the brush to your cart and checkout. Easy peasy.
"A beauty company by 3 engineers who knew nothing about makeup"
In the most interesting of paradoxes, the founders of this makeup brush brand are three engineers who are self professed amateurs in the makeup game. Is this a pro or a con? Both. On one hand, having no personal makeup using experience means that they'll be more open to suggestions and on the other, it means there will be difficulty in discerning how much value to ascribe to reviews. The beauty community is one that can be feisty on a good day and vicious on a bad one. One might suggest that they drop the 'we're three men who don't know anything about makeup' routine because that hasn't gone down well online. While I'm sure that these three guys have the best of intentions, not being from the beauty world makes them vulnerable in the mine field that is the makeup community. I don't know how many dramageddons we're into now but we're living in a culture where 'mansplaining' is going to be called out whether it was intentional or not. Just food for thought.
Some women want to experience and luxuriate in their makeup application. I'm one of those makeup users who loves perfectly engineered tools and efficiency. I want maximum supermodel (shh, just go with it) for minimum effort. Perhaps a focus on efficient engineering might sound less condescending to prevent alienating a prickly customer base.
The timing of Rephr's arrival on YouTube and Instagram will also be tricky to navigate. The amount of sponsored content has turned some beauty gurus into cheap salespeople so viewers are departing in droves from the platform. Another big problem is that content creators who don't spend their own hard earned money on products or who own an abundance of products usually aren't as critical. I have not heard one note of constructive criticism outside of Reddit. Millennials work in the currency of trust but unfortunately many online have cashed too many cheques for 'trust me, these are good' to hack it.
Price, packaging and delivery
"a new approach to luxury beauty"
How does it all work? It begins with a prototype brush that Rephr offers on its website. Currently the system operates with customers buying the brush at its RRP plus postage and in return for giving detailed feedback, the company issues a credit equal to the purchase amount to spend on other prototypes or to be used in store when they officially launch in November 2019. In essence, you pay the price of postage in exchange for your valuable data.
I was kindly issued a $15 credit for backing the Kickstarter campaign which I used on the P11B that reduced it to USD$47 + USD$10 shipping (AUD$85).
I've been following Rephr since the inception of their referal program but I jumped in when I backed the wildly successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over USD$500 000. I have yet to receive my pledge which is due for delivery before Christmas this year so the P11B is my first official foray into the brand. I purchased their core collection + bronzer prototype for USD$129 (AUD$190) in June. The Aussie dollar is very weak against the US dollar right now.
The company launched the campaign with deep discounts that many fude lovers were quick to jump on. Kumano fude products are hand-made using natural animal hairs that aren't machine cut, unlike their synthetic counterparts which means that it's a labour-intensive process. As with all artisanal products, you pay for the human aspect. When they officially launch, The Core Collection (3 eye + 2 face brushes) will be priced at USD$168 and The Bespoke Collection (5 eye + 4 face brushes) at USD$272.
Postage to Sydney, Australia was through DHL express (a courier service here) for a flat rate of USD$10. It arrived in 4 days so the delivery was speedy.
As for the packaging, the single brush came wrapped inside a snug plastic sleeve that was encased by the black cardboard box. The inside of the box itself is lined with black felt which is a nice luxe touch but unrecycleable. Most of us have brush cups or holders already so it's a waste, unlike the box from their core collection which is specifically designed to be used as a brush cup. Big tick for engineers' efficiency there.
About the P11B
The P11B is a duo-fibre brush which is designed for foundation application. It consists of two differing lengths of hair with goat hair being the shorter and synthetic bristles being the longer hairs.
In the hand, it's a good quality brush. Both the synthetic and natural hair fibres are soft to the touch, there are no gaps in the ferrule and the handle is nicely weighted. Take this brush out of its plastic packaging and leave it to sit. It blooms naturally and will continue to spread with each use. I like to sanitise new brushes using 70% isopropyl alcohol on a towel. The round ferrule is packed very densely which is nice to see in a foundation brush.
Natural hair fibres traditionally absorb a lot of liquid which makes synthetic face brushes the premier choice for base application with the least wastage. More recently, the Beauty Blender or similar sponges have come into top spot for flawless application but like goat hair brushes, sponges tend to soak up too much product.
Like the smell of a new car, new goat hair brushes have a natural smell. If you could bottle it up as a eau de toilette, this would be 'essence of free range farm'. Nothing offensive but I'm going to mention fragrance later.
The P11B is best used with a liquid foundation. The more runny your foundation, the better for this one. If you're not into natural looking, minimal base makeup, this isn't the brush for you. Otherwise, it lives up to the two promises: it's ultra fast to use and seamless (so long as you use the right foundation).
The P11B is also good for applying finishing powder.
How I use the brush
I get really quick foundation application using this by dotting my liquid foundation all over my face and then stippling it in before swatting it all over to buff in the product. It doesn't produce streaky results.
Like all natural hair brushes, it eats up product but not as much as I thought it would. I have very dry skin so I apply a face oil on top of my serums and moisturiser and under sunscreen and slippy silicone primer for extra hydration and glide. I typically need only one pump of a medium coverage foundation to achieve medium coverage on my whole face with some hyperpigmentation and red post inflammatory eythema (PIE) poking through using my fingers to apply.
Using the P11B, I need at least 2 pumps or 2.5 pumps in two separate layers to achieve the same coverage as one pump with fingers. It stipples the foundation just fine. The problem is in the blending. Most of the first pump of foundation is absorbed by the brush. It's not streaky at all but this one's going to be for those who want a lighter coverage base otherwise it defies the whole point of a quick blending brush.
The brush is very soft. Maybe it's a little too soft if you're a circular blender. I'm not saying that it should be harder (hehe insert dirty joke here) but when the tips of the bristles are wet with liquid foundation, it loses a lot of its gliding power. A stiffer bristle won't be as soft and enjoyable on the face so perhaps the answer might be to shorten the synthetic hairs by just a tad because any circular motions used found the synthetic bristles splaying out while the natural hairs just blended the one spot. You have to physically pick up the brush to the next spot if you swirl it in the traditional anti-clockwise motions. I found quick downward swats as if you were fanning your face blended most effectively.
I got good results using Estee Lauder Double Wear Nude Water Fresh, Fenty Pro Filt'r Hydrating Foundation and Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser Natural Skin Perfector but lost a lot of coverage. These get downgraded from medium coverage to light, light-medium at best.
I would not recommend using this brush if you're using a thick foundation or a film forming foundation. Those who are familiar with the Estee Lauder Double Wear or Double Wear Light formula know that it sets down to form a flexible film on the skin. Other notable film forming foundations include the MAC Face & Body, YSL All Hours Foundation, Revlon Colourstay and pretty much anything that dries down with a tight pulling effect on the skin. You'll know if your foundation is a strong film former if it contains cyclopentasiloxane or anything that ends in 'polymer' or 'vinyl' as one of the first ingredients. I had an almost impossible time spreading Double Wear Light with this P11B brush.
Long wear foundations aren't that great either for this brush. These foundations are typically thicker in consistency and matte. The Rephr P11B is not suitable for any foundation that doesn't run when you pump it onto the back of your hand. The second layer doesn't buff as nicely, again because of the drag issue with the brush. I experienced patchiness over lines and wrinkles that I don't get using a smaller denser buffing brush or a sponge. Pictured right, I'm wearing Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Wear Foundation mixed with Fenty Pro Filtr Foundation. It's not great on the forehead and around the smile lines but fine on the cheeks. The patchiness appears on that second layer. If you're a fresh faced wrinkle-free twenty year old, it probably won't be a problem.
Luckily for me, I'm a foundation mixologist. I take equal parts tinted moisturiser to matte foundation to create a long lasting satin finish for my natural look and add more matte foundation if I want more coverage.
Sorry for the poor lighting in the picture below but it was an indoor cafe that mixed warm lights and streamed in natural sunlight. The point is, no forehead, eyebrow or smile line patchiness when I mix the same two foundations with the Chantecaille Just Skin tinted moisturiser and alter the ratios. I cocktail it with more of the Fenty Pro Filt'r Foundation which is a dimethicone-based runny foundation and less of the thicker ones and voila, it's better. To me, its proof that you need to use this brush with a slippy silicone foundation. It even glided over the awkwardly placed eye pimple that decided to show up. Additionally, a sheerer application definitely benefited. I've got some cheek hyperpigmentation showing up but you can see all four beauty spots under my eye so that means it's light-medium coverage.
I also tried using an Hourglass Ambient Lighting blush. It's a soft, baked blush but it picked up a lot of product despite the smallest dip into the pan. It was simultaneously easily blendable and unblendable. It blends in that one circular spot but doesn't blend anywhere else because it doesn't diffuse the edges. Remember Mr Mime from Pokemon? Yeah, that's what it looked like up close. It was more pronounced as I have a round face with fat cheeks. It won't be a big problem if you have a flatter cheek area or want to swipe blush in a draping motion up along the cheekbone. I have a small face with limited surface area so blush usually goes on the apples for me. Hard pressed less pigmented blushes do alright with this brush but it's not my brush of choice for blush.
Just out of sheer laziness because I couldn't be bothered getting another brush, I pinched the P11B to blend out my cream Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick. It ate all the product up and again was too large to be used on my face. I can't fault the P11B though because I need a small dense precision brush for that. I might buy the P11A at a later date.
After chatting to some others who own the brush about the finicky foundation application, they recommended using the P11B for finishing powders or glittery highlighters. I used Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder and I like the brush for this purpose but I definitely need to tap off excess before application. I still prefer a traditional powder brush but I will probably be using this brush for powder going forward.
Cleaning: Washing and Shedding
You're not supposed to wash natural hair bristle brushes very often. To extend the time between washes, I immediately wipe off the excess foundation on a textured paper towel or on a ridged microfibre cloth after usage. After complaining extensively about the circular motion problem above, it's actually the best method of removing leftover product from the brush. Swatting it over the cloth barely removes anything.
It shed every day for the first 5 days when I rubbed off the excess. I lost around 4-6 hairs a day. It never shed on my face during makeup application though.
This is what it looked like after 5 days. The synthetic tips clean off pretty nicely. I did a total of 14 days of usage before I deep clean washed it. I probably should have only gone 12 because that's when I decided to give Estee Lauder Double Wear Light a try and it gunked up the bristles a bit.
Also, I mentioned fragrance way earlier. The Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Wear has so much fragrance to the foundation, it's obnoxious if you use more than one pump. Anyone who uses a high end foundation like Lancome or Chanel etc knows that it smells like rich old lady. The bristles suck up the fragrance and it lingers there no matter how many days you air it out.
The P11B blooms a lot just from usage. After two weeks, it was ready for a deep clean. I knew 100% that I would be drying this in a brush guard.
It washed well using the Daiso Makeup Brush Cleaner and a textured silicone washing mat.
It didn't shed during the wash, probably because it shed during the wipe offs.
Post wash, it bloomed as expected. The side on view looks a little like a two-layered ballerina's tutu with the natural goat bristles fanning out and the synthetic ones remaining mostly upright in the centre. It's not bad but without a brush guard, it would be significant.
Similar brushes or Dupes:
Once upon a time MAC used to be the brand everyone in the community used. It was during the golden age of the early 2000s that the MAC187 brush achieved cult status. Back then, it was a goat plus synthetic duofibre stippling brush that allowed for very quick base application. MAC has switched over to 100% synthetic since 2017 and the 187S is not the same. I've got one floating around in the depths of my rejects drawer somewhere. I'll dig it out and post a comparison photo later. They're also stupidly priced (at US$42 and a ridiculously jacked up AUD$85) now that they're not natural fibre brushes.
I used the 187 religiously a decade ago for quick, light to medium application. Then MAC started making them with fewer bristles which ruined the density. A moment of silence for my 187 (2008-2013) RIP. This P11B is like if the 187 reincarnated itself into something softer. The quality of the Rephr synthetic fibre is better for the tactile feel. It's not as stabby but again, softness of the synthetic bristle is also part of what I believe contributes to its largest flaw in preventing easy blending. While I like the P11B more, there's no doubt that the MAC187 allowed for better coverage since it absorbed less liquid. The P11B also looks a lot like the Hakuhodo duo-fibre B4001 brush.
Thank you for reading my university length dissertation on a makeup brush. I do like the Rephr P11B brush. I think it looks lovely for a 'no makeup makeup' look. Do I USD$62 + $10 postage like it? No.
This brush is a good investment for the person who wants light coverage and hates to use their hands to apply foundation. It delivers everything Rephr promised in ultra fast application and it is seamless as long as you're using a slippy, runny base product. It's still a top quality brush. My preference is that I get a bit more coverage if I'm bothering with a brush otherwise I'd use my fingers to apply a skin tint, tinted moisturiser or BB cream. I'm intrigued by the P11A brush and based on the density of that one, it might be a better multi-purpose fit for how I like my makeup to look. The P11B is also good for using glittery or sheeny finishing powders because it doesn't encounter the skin drag problem caused by liquid foundation.
This brush IS for those who:
Use easily spreadable or blendable foundations with a runny consistency
Want light, natural coverage
Desire a quick application of foundation
Like to use a stamping or stippling motion followed by swatting motions
Want to apply finishing powders, particular those in small pans or containers
This brush IS NOT for those who:
Want more than a medium coverage
Like to build coverage in layers
Use thicker consistency foundations
Use a film forming foundation
Apply using circular blending motions
I'm looking forward to receiving my Kickstarter package. The hair quality is brilliant and the bristles are soft and silky. The handle is nicely sized and weighted for easy application. I'm deeply fascinated by Rephr's minimalist ideology that 5 brushes should be all one needs to apply makeup. While I'm not a collector, I've got more brushes than the average woman. There's a little scepticism that their eye collection in the Core 5 isn't going to cut it (especially on my deeply hooded eyes) without the addition of a traditional fluffy blending brush but I'm sure I'll write about why when I have them in my hands.