Rephr Review: The Face Brushes
Today we analyse the face brushes on offer from Rephr from their Pro Collection.
This is the next installment in my series of reviews on Rephr. My review on The Core Collection can be found here on my blog. I suggest reading it first if you haven't already done so. I won't be covering the introductory points in as much detail in this post. The Core Collection features two face brushes which include the 04 angled brush and the 05 blush brush.
It's clear that I found the brushes in The Core Collection underwhelming. I still stand by my original criticisms about the funtionality of the brushes based on the issue of softness. The brushes being discussed today are known as the Pro Collection which are sold individually or as part of the entire bundle. I will also be covering a few of the prototype brushes which were only briefly available for purchase.
Rephr mixes three different hair grades in the creation of its brushes. If I had to guess, I'd say these are saikoho, sokoho and ototsuho. Ototsuho hair comes from the shoulder area of a goat and exhibits moderate elasticity without being as thick as hakutotsuho whereas the finer strands of saikoho and sokoho come from the chest region. None of my Rephr brushes contain fibres that are comparable in thickness to the hakutotsuho I own in my collection. They are also whiter in colour than any hakutotsuho in my possession which typically tends to throw off a yellowish tinge.
This review covers Brush 11, 17, 18, 19, 22 and 24.
Price, packaging and delivery
I talked about the purchase of these brushes at the end of my Core Collection review which were bought as a pre-order for a March 2020 delivery. I wasn't pleased with the packaged condition of my Kickstarter order but I'm happy to report that changes have been made to the way the brushes are now packed for shipping. The brushes are now encased in a thick bubble padded envelope which is then boxed so they arrived in pristine condition in Sydney, Australia via DHL. Even in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Rephr were impressively able to get my order out unlike many of their competitors. I'm confident that my problems in the original review have been redressed so any future orders from the company should arrive smoothly.
I will be listing the RRP of each individual brush below. The Rephr team reached out to me after reading my original review. I was kindly sent a few brushes by the team for consideration. Any brushes gifted to me will be disclosed as part of my review.
"Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah!" - Me when the postman saw me with this brush.
Brush 11 is a large medium-density powder brush made completely of saikoho hairs. It is gloriously soft and silky with great floppiness to allow the fibres to contour to your face and glide over effortlessly when you apply setting powders or finishing powders.
The hairs reach a 58mm length at its height and the oval-shaped ferrule is 27mm wide. The measurements on Brush 11 match exactly with the Chikuhodo T-1 brush which is also comprised of premium saikoho hairs but there are minute differences. The difference is that the Rephr iteration is a fluffier brush which is more rounded in its bundling. It fans out a bit more than the T-1. I prefer the Rephr 11 to the Chikuhodo T-1 because the even dome on the Rephr 11 gives me a more diffused application of powder with less pressure in comparison to the T-1 which has a more pronounced angle of gradation.
L to R: Rephr 22, Rephr 11, Chikuhodo T-1, Mecca Cosmetica Powder Brush, Hakuhodo B206, Koyudo Pearl Pink Face Brush
The Rephr brush is finer and silkier than the Chikuhodo but I'm splitting hairs here. The 11 is also slightly denser than the T-1. Another noticable difference is that the Rephr 11 is heavier than the Chikuhodo and this weight distinction applies to the contrast with all the Takumi brushes. There is easily more heft in the Rephr brushes which I feel is more suitable for a large brush. The final dissimilarity is in the ferrules. On the Rephr 11, it is thicker than that of the T-1.
Both brushes are made of hairs that are so long that if you wiggle the brush then the hairs will flop about. If you hypothetically shook your brushes about like a pair of maracas and the postman hypothetically heard you belting out 'wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah!' then did he really contort his face in bewilderment? If he claims that's what he saw then I'd say he was in the unfortunate grips of a feverish coronavirus-induced delirium.
Brush 11 is a limited edition brush that was initially sold as part of an exclusive package for early Kickstarter backers and has since been not been available for sale on the Rephr website. It was promoted at its full RRP of USD$130 during that period but I am uncertain what price it would be sold at if they were able to bring it back into production. I'm told that due to hair shortages of this length there are difficulties in bringing this back into production although they are trying. If they are successful in manufacturing Brush 11 and can offer it at a lower price than the Chikuhodo T-1 which retails for USD$115-125, then we'll have a real competition on our hands. I'm putting this on my list of recommended brushes to purchase. It's one of those brushes that makes applying powder a luxurious experience. This brush was sent to me by the Rephr team free of charge.
"This brush is designed with precision in mind and will allow you to effortlessly build coverage in targeted areas."
Brush 17 (USD$45) is a small flat-topped kabuki brush. I cannot emphasise how small this brush is. It easily fits in the space between the bottom of my nose and my upper lip. This is an exhausting brush to use so 'effortless' is nowhere near how I would describe my experience with Brush 17. Yes, you can achieve beautiful results but I'm not going to pretend that using Brush 17 to apply foundation is anything but a tedious experience given how long it takes to apply product. Let's live in the real world please. The Chikuhodo T-3 is the smallest brush I will use to apply base. I'm not going to reach for Brush 17 when I have half a dozen other brushes that will more than halve the time it takes to apply foundation. I have a small face so best of luck to you normal-sized people who attempt to use this brush. The bristles are 17mm long and after blooming, the full diameter of the brush reaches 25mm across.
L to R: Hakuhodo G5552, Rephr 17, Chikuhodo T-3, Chikuhodo GSN05, Real Techniques Stippling Brush, Sigma F80, Zoeva 102, Rephr P11B
Criticisms of its size aside, Brush 17 is pretty soft for a brush designed to buff foundation in. It has decent gliding power even on my desert-dry skin. This brush is easily softer than my preferred everyday foundation brushes in the Koyudo Fu-pa 02 and Rae Morris Mini Radiance which are made of thicker and slightly rougher hakutotsuho hairs. If I had to guess, I'd say Brush 17 is a sokoho and ototsuho mixed brush given the level of elasticity. As a sensory experience, this is a nice brush to use on your face if you can tamp down the vexation of how long you've spent buffing product in.
L to R: Rephr 17, Chikuhodo T-3, Chikuhodo GSN05, Hakuhodo G5552, Koyudo fu-pa02
One of the downsides of using a finer hair is that it absorbs more product which is already a problem with natural fibre foundation brushes. You're going to get a 'natural finish' with this brush unless you spend the time to apply multiple layers of foundation. Building coverage requires stamping or stippling the brush over the face rather than using small circular buffing motions which is how I achieved the look below. The flat top also creates a slight drag problem which does not happen with a brush that has rounded edges such as the Chikuhodo T-3. Brush 17 works well with most foundations but the runnier it is, the better this brush performs.
In the photo below I used Brush 17 to apply both foundation and a potted cream blush. It doesn't pick up cream product as well as a duofibre offering such as the Hakuhodo G5552 because the tips are too soft to grab enough blush without punching it into the pan. You can still do so but don't be under any illusions that you'll be dabbing into the pan unless it's an extremely soft formula. Of course you could use your finger to apply product onto the face before blending it with the brush but I would be more inclined to just follow through blending with my fingers if that was the case. The other downside of having a completely flat top is that it tends to move product if you layer. The edges of this brush disturbed my foundation when I went to apply cream blush on top.
I am pictured here on the left of the image wearing my idea of light minimal makeup using Brush 17 to apply a light layer of Estee Lauder Nude Fresh Water Foundation.
I have paradoxical feelings about Brush 17. I like the finish I get using it but I lack the patience to use it. My first Rephr review on my blog was of the P11B foundation prototype which failed to make the cut for good reason. Foundation brushes with a rounded ferrule are something the company need to work on because both have poor output in the effort to result ratio. If I could make changes, I'd make this one bigger by at least 50% and round the edges because a rounded edge on a kabuki brush gives a more polished, flawless base. Otherwise I'd take the P11B, shorten the synthetic fibres a bit and angle the bristles to create a foundation brush designed for slap-dash base application. Brush 24 is the only other brush I'd consider for foundation from the range.
"A structured and impactful highlighter that's impossibly soft. this small cheek brush is slightly tapered and dense, perfect for quick applications of highlight, contour and setting powder."
Brush 18 (USD$35) is a candlestick brush with a tapered head. These types of brush heads resemble flames and come to a tip which makes them great brushes to contour with, apply highlighter or to selectively powder areas of the face. This is easily my favourite brush shape to collect and I own so many of them that I had to cull a few from the comparison photo below.
L to R: Rae Morris 1, Rephr 18, Wayne Goss 10, Bisyodo Cheri Highlight, Rae Morris 2, Wayne Goss 02, Houkodou G-C5
Brush 18 has a maximum hair length of 32mm and a rounded ferrule. It is comprised of a mix of hair types which makes it the densest and most springy brush out of all the ones I possess in this shape. The density of this brush betrays the fine precision of a tapered tip where the finest saikoho hairs are bundled. If you contour using this brush, think of yourself applying product with a more rounded top rather than a precise tip which you'd get using a something like a Rae Morris #2 (made of hakutotsuho hair) or a Wayne Goss #10 (made of saikoho). This is not inherently a deal-breaker but you can definitively feel the tip that delivers a precise application of product in all of the other flame-shaped brushes pictured. My rounded face needs something far more precise to carve out cheekbones. There is a great amount of push-back to this brush which helps to keep the rigidity in its shape and structure but it also feels firm on the face.
This brush works great as a 'brontour' brush because using a neutral bronzer such as my favourite Charlotte Tilbury Bronze and Glow means I don't need to be as precise as when using an actual cool toned shadow product like the Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder. If you have a larger face than me or you don't need to be as exacting with product placement, Brush 18 would be a nice addition to your brush rotation.
As for its usage to apply highlighting powders, it packs a punch. The density and sokoho fibres allows the brush to hard pressed or gelee products which picks up product very easily. If you like strong highlight but don't like the roughness of hakutotsuho, then Brush 18 is the brush for you. It's also useful to have in amping up the glow of more subtle powders.
I don't like Brush 18 for setting the undereyes or for powdering any areas on my face. It's too dense and the high degree of resistance means you end up needing to pat the brush harder on your face to apply a pressed or loose powder.
"This brush is incredibly soft and is sloped on all sides to varying degree, providing you with maximum flexibility during application.
Brush 19 (USD$48) is a flame shaped brush with a twist. The hair length comes to 38mm but this isn't simply just the bigger version of Brush 18 despite them looking very similar online. Unwashed, Brushes 18 and 19 look the same but once the 19 has been washed and has bloomed, it becomes apparent how different these two are.
L to R: Rephr 05, Koyudo BP016, Rephr 18, Rephr 19, Chikuhodo Z-4, Houkodou G-C5, Wayne Goss Air Brush
Brush 19 confused me for some time because I couldn't work out a natural way to use it. It has an oval shaped ferrule which allows the brush head to fan out slightly. After you wash the brush, it becomes apparent what Rephr means by "sloped on all sides". It's almost impossible to photograph so I'll endeavour to explain. If you lay the brush flat with the lettering facing upwards and pinch the top and bottom, you'll feel a perfect triangle from the half-way point of the bristle to the tip. If you then pinch the left and right sides of the brush, then you feel it taper from the top third to the tip. It's an extraordinarily strange shape for a brush. Brush 19 is both pointy and rounded at the same time.
L to R: Side view of the Houkodou G-C5, Rephr 19, Chikuhodo Z-4, Wayne Goss Air Brush
One of the small pitfalls of Brush 18 is that the tip isn't particularly effective despite being visually noticeable. Brush 19 doesn't have this problem. It's not as densely packed as the 18 so you can get precision and a sharp contour using the larger brush. Who would have thought? Its precision is only slightly dulled by the brush head containing more saikoho hairs than sokoho so it's not only softer but it's also floppier. This floppiness and softness comes makes it a better candidate for applying setting powder under the eyes or to targeted areas of the face. As a goat hair setting brush, it's pretty nice but my personal preference is to use a squirrel-haired brush to powder.
If you want to use this to apply blush there's only one motion you can use it with given how the head is bundled at different angles. You must use a paddling motion that is a pat and swipe action with the wide side of the brush. I tend to wear blush on the apples of my cheeks so a larger flat paddle brush or a rounded pom pom shape is what I tend to use. If you are a fan of a draped blush look, this is the brush for you.
Highlighter application can be tailored using this brush depending on your preferences. Using the tips offers the most targeted placement on the very edge of your cheekbone whereas using the shorter taper creates much of the same effect as a traditional tapered flame brush. Finally, the flat edge will create a much more wider application of highlight for a bold look or it can diffuse a shimmery product over a larger surface area.
"An incredibly soft and luscious bronzer brush... The largest brush in our collection is incredibly substantial and is ideal for quick contour, application of bronzer, and powder."
Brush 22 (USD$110) is a large bronzer brush with a trapezoid shape that comes to a rounded dome on all edges. It has a pinched ferrule that slightly flattens its round shape. It is bundled with a combination of saikoho and sokoho hairs to create a very plush brush head that has a medium to high density. This brush blooms considerably after washing and I posted before and after photos of Brush 22 in my article on why brushes bloom. The bristle length reaches 48mm and its width can be controlled with the use of a brush guard post-washing or allowed to bloom wider.
Off the bat I'm going to reject the claim that this can be used to apply contour. It's simply too large for anyone to use with a true cool-toned shadow colour. It's also too large and soft to apply bronzer in my opinion. On my small face it eats up nearly all of my cheek space from my upper cheekbone to my jawline so I will muddy my look if I try to bronze using Brush 22. If you have a larger face, you'll have a much easier time using this brush for an all over bronzer application.
One of my main criticisms of the face brushes in The Core Collection pertained to how soft the brushes were since they caused a bit of drag on the face. I find that I have the same problem with Brush 22. The combination of saikoho and sokoho fibres makes it too soft for the swipe and buff action that most bronzers require to avoid creating a stripe of brown on one's face since the long fibres flop and bend if you use the tips to apply powder. The Koyudo BP013 (made of hakutotsuho) is only slightly smaller in size but won't flop due to it being comprised of shorter bristle length and a firmer hair type. It's also half the price of the Rephr 22. Some other reviewers claim that the Rephr 22 is a good dupe for the discontinued Tom Ford Bronzer Brush.
Brush 22 effectively picks up product from a baked pan or a gelee formula but tends to pick up a lot of powder from a bronzer that is finely milled or something in a traditional pressed pan formula.
L to R: Rephr 24, Koyudo BP013, Rephr 22, Rephr 22, Rephr 11
I much prefer using this brush for applying a finishing powder such as an Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder. I don't need to be precise unlike with bronzer application and since the bristles splay out quite considerably, Brush 22 can effectively buff over the entire face while remaining very soft. Although it's fine for apply finishing powder, it's still not my favourite brush to use because I prefer an airier, fluffier brush to diffuse powder products.
Ironically, I use this brush mostly without any product at all. It's a nice brush for buffing all over the face to blend all my products together. You get a really flawless finish when you buff until everything is worked into the skin and Brush 22 is another brush that gives a luxurious tactile experience.
I own two copies of this brush: one I bought during its prototype stage when it was still the P22 and the other one was gifted to me by Rephr. I have been asked if this brush is worth the large price tag. Currently, it is the most expensive offering from Rephr. For how I use the brush, I'd say no. Brush 22 is an expensive 'fix it' brush to me. It's only worth it if you're wanting to actually apply bronzer and that's highly dependent on how large your face is. If you want to apply setting powder or a finishing powder I'd easily recommend Brush 11 over Brush 22. However, if an absolutely flawless finish or a 'no makeup' look is important to you then yes, this is a good purchase. I'm personally not that fussed about my makeup looking airbrushed which is something you can achieve using Brush 22.
"A cheek brush that's incredibly soft with substantial density. Designed for pigmented application of blush, bronzer, highlight and buffing foundation."
Brush 24 (USD$62) is a cheek brush that is extremely multi-functional. At time of writing this review in June 2020, this brush is currently not on offer as part of the permanent range for sale but it should be. I was given a private link to purchase remaining stock but it will show up if the brush returns. It is not an affiliate link. (EDIT November 2020: Brush 24 has made a limited return as part of the 2020 Holiday Collection as part of a trio consisting but is also available as a single brush with a discount).
Brush 24 is a medium to high density brush that is a mini version of Brush 22. Reaching a height of 32mm, the head of this brush is also made from a blend of saikoho and sokoho hairs which are bundled in a trapezium shape.
My major criticism of Brush 05 as a blush brush was that as a goat fibred tool, it failed to pick up hard pressed powders effectively. I complained that Brush 05 wasn't able to pick up a hard pressed powder from the Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush range in my original review on The Core Collection but the densely packed Brush 24 has no problem with the same blush.
In the picture above I've used the same nude Tarte Paaarty blush which was indiscernable on the face using Brush 05. Using this as a blush brush paired with a lightly pigmented powder or a hard pressed product is my preference. Application is speedy if you tap the tips into the pan, pop it on your cheeks and buff out the edges.
Whereas Brush 22 is far too large on my face, Brush 24 is a perfectly sized bronzer brush on me as it's a scaled down version. It's a great fit for bronzer on my small cheek area and forehead. The shorter hair length prevents the brush from flopping with a back and forth swiping motion. I consider this brush too large for highlight application so I wouldnt recommend this for highlighter.
L to R: Koyudo BP016, Hakuhodo J110, Rephr 05, Wayne Goss 12, Rephr 24, Koyudo Fu-pa 02, Rae Morris Mini Radiance 27
Brush 24 is a surprisingly good candidate for foundation application in comparison to the others on offer from Rephr. My everyday foundation brush preference is the Koyudo Fu-pa 02 or the similarly shaped Rae Morris 27 which are large and densely packed hakutotsuho haired brushes designed to quickly buff in base products. The Rephr 24 is a softer and scaled down version of my regular foundation brushes with about a third less density. This brush allows you to achieve a medium to full coverage with foundation in a reasonably quick amount of time in comparison to Brush 17 which is geared towards those who prefer lighter coverage.
L to R: Side views of Rephr 05, Wayne Goss 12, Rephr 24, Koyudo fu-pa02, Rae Morris 27
The shape and size of Brush 24 is most similar to the Wayne Goss 12 (made of saikoho) but the Rephr iteration is more densely packed and contains more hair thus it is a third larger than the Wayne Goss brush in volume. It's possible to use the Wayne Goss 12 to contour because it has a slimmer profile but I wouldn't try using the Rephr 24 to do so.
The face brushes available in the Pro Collection are much better than those offered in the Core Collection. Each brush reviewed here has a distinct purpose and performs better because it doesn't try to cover too many functions at any one time. My definitive recommendations are for Brush 11 and Brush 24. These two brushes are suitable for a broad range of people and I can see them being crowd favourites. Brush 17 is nice only if you have the patience to spend time perfecting your base and if you have a preference towards light to light-medium coverage foundations. Brush 18 is for those who want quick but strong applications of highlight and contour. Brush 19 is the type of brush geared towards collectors of brushes outside the norm or minimalists who want to cut down on the number of brushes they own due to its multifunctionality. In my opinion it's a good contour brush and one for applying setting powder to selective parts of the face. I do not own Brush 20 which is a fan brush. Brush 22 is only suitable for anyone with a large face and a desire to apply all over bronzer or perhaps even as a body brush.
A distinctive feature of the Rephr brushes is their hair density. The majority of the brushes are tightly bundled with a combination of saikoho and sokoho hairs to create brushes that are voluminous and dense. Some brushes may potentially contain some ototsuho. The end result is that many brushes deliver strong pigmentation of powder products but has a tendency to absorb liquids moreso than a pure hakutotsuho brush. While visually it appears that these brushes are dupes from more established brands, in the hand there are enough differences to warrant the purchase if they align with your application preferences.
One aesthetic and tactile difference to some other brands is evident in the feel of the brush handles. The ferrules on all of the matte black handed Rephr brushes do not join smoothly in the transition to the handle. This detracts from the luxury aspect of the brush in my opinion because you can feel the point where it joins but this isn't a problem if you buy the pro series silver and black handled brushes where the connection is seamless.
Rephr runs sales for the purchase of the entire set of 15 brushes available which covers Brushes 01 to 05, Brushes 12 to 20 and Brush 22 for USD$299. Outside of their sales events for the entire set, Rephr also offer affiliate codes for some YouTubers. If you're keen on buying the whole set because you feel that you'd use a majority of the brushes then I'd take advantage of a code. I don't have any codes or discounts but I do wish that they'd offer some for individual brushes. (EDIT November 2020: This holiday season, they've answered and are offering a 20% discount storewide to allow you to pick up individual brushes to suit your needs.)
My initial Core Collection review concluded with a recommendation of the Rephr brushes to fude newbies. I still think the brand is a good first step into Japanese fude but I don't think most newcomers are willing to lay out a large sum of money as an experiment. I never recommend buying brush sets because there's never going be one where all the brushes are liked. My advice applies to all fude brands and I always encourage people to choose brushes selectively.
The final part of my review of the remaining eye brushes may be a long time coming. I only have Brush 14 and Brush 15 currently but I'm intrigued enough to buy the 12, 13 and 16 because I've now had enough experience with the brand's offerings to realise that none of these are dupes.