Rephr: The Core Collection
The Rephr site has officially launched. I've had enough play time with these brushes to give a full, no holds barred review.
I first wrote about Rephr in my review of their prototype brush, the P11B on my site here. Rephr is the newest fude brand on the market with their brushes manufactured in Kumano, Japan. The company itself is an interesting 21st Century take on a traditional art form. Rephr claims to rely on consumer-based feedback to create brushes. In essence, they fully crowd-source their creations. It's both a positive and a negative for their company. I trashed their mansplaining marketing and the prototype P11B in my review and as far as I know, the brush hasn't made it to production. Perhaps that's a good sign that feedback is received. The negative aspects, I'll get into later in my review but as I used these brushes, I often thought, "who the hell thought this was a good idea?"
Those in the fude community have compared Rephr to Hakuhodo because we all believe the famed Japanese manufacturer to be the newcomer's OEM but if you think Rephr is just a repackaged version of Hakuhodo, you're wrong. They're not the same thing. This is a very long review. There are subtitles for each brush if you wish to skip but I wanted to offer comparisons to well known brushes for reference.
UPDATE: My next review of the Rephr Pro Collection face brushes can be found here.
Price, packaging and delivery
The Core Collection was originally offered via Kickstarter at the introductory price of USD$99 but since the online store has launched, it has jumped to its retail price of USD$168 which is roughtly AUD$250. At time of writing currently in February, 2020, Rephr are offering an additional large bronzer brush for free with the purchase of The Core Collection. I paid an additional USD$30 to receive two prototype brushes (one of which is now the bronzer brush) as additions which I won't be reviewing in this post so I spent a total of AUD$184.32 via Kickstarter for all of the brushes I recieved but only AUD$140 for the five being reviewed today.
All of the brushes in The Core Collection are available for purchase as individual brushes. It's my personal opinion that the eyeshadow brushes are overpriced by at least USD$5. I would definitely not pay USD$24 for their eyeshadow brushes.
The shipping information has changed since I wrote my first post. Postage is now dependent on where you live however Rephr offers free international postage for a reasonable spend.
During the pre-launch stage they used express DHL in Australia which ensured quick delivery but used a different service to deliver my Kickstarter package. It arrived via Hungary in an unacceptably tattered condition (pictured above). I was beyond annoyed to see it arrive in this condition. It looks like the package fell off a truck then was run over by said truck. Rephr also missed the guaranteed December 20th delivery date to Australia, although I know many people in other nations who received their packages a fortnight before that. I should have known that this would be an ominous sign of the things to come.
"Rest assured that we've learned our lesson and will use DHL express moving forward when shipping to your country."
The only saving grace is that it was packaged in a cardboard box which is intended for storage but mine is so banged up on all corners and edges that I'm not using it as a display piece. The box otherwise has a felt lining on the interior and is secured via a magnetic closure. Each brush is individually encased in a plastic sleeve and was packed inside the box.
UPDATE: Rephr has since resolved the shipping problem and my next two packages arrived in pristine condition.
The Core Collection
Consisting of five brushes, The Core Collection is the flagship offering from Rephr. Brushes 1 through to 3 are eyeshadow brushes, Brush 4 is an angled cheek brush and Brush 5 is a fluffy cheek brush.
The photo above shows them in their out of the package condition. These brushes bloom considerably after the first wash.
Rephr offers buyers the option to customise their brush handles. I opted for the sleek Signature black matte handles in the regular length and I think they look quite nice. They're nice and smooth to the touch and look different enough to my other fude brushes that I can easily locate these in my brush containers. The other option is called the Pro series with glossy black tapered handles and a silver ferrule. The brush numbers are printed near the brush head so they're visible when stored in a cup whereas the numbers are printed at the opposite end on the matte series.
"The impossible balance between softness, pigmentation and precision."
Rephr has summed up my exact problem with these brushes. They do not strike the perfect balance between softness, pigmentation and precision. Using these brushes, I feel like I'm living as Goldilocks if she had made it to Mama Bear's vanity. Some brushes are as hard as bricks and others are too soft. Of the five brushes in this collection, I've yet to find the one that is just right.
"A luxurious multi-purpose eyeshadow brush designed for effortless shading and blending. This brush works equally well with powder and cream products and is also capable of spot concealing and detail highlighting."
This brush is a round and flat brush which is often marketed as a blending brush. The shape of the Rephr 01 is reminiscent of Hakuhodo's J5523, MAC's 217 and Sigma's E25. This brush works best by laying down colour in horizontal swiping movements or by using the tips to blend the colour out. It does live up to its multi-purpose claim so long as you're using powder eyeshadows.
Pictured here, I've used all three eyeshadow brushes within The Core Collection to create a simple eye look with all of the four shadows in the Tom Ford 01 Golden Mink Eye Colour Quad.
The Rephr 01 works better with picking up matte eyeshadows than with shimmers. It doesn't pick up a lot of product when I dip my brush into the eyeshadow pan. I find that I make multiple dips or taps to pick up the same quantity as I would using my Hakuhodo J5523. You're going to need to tap and wiggle the brush into the pan to pick up enough shadow if you don't want to make repeated dips.
The upside of the brush not being able to capture a lot of powder is that using a more pigmented shadow such as those in my Viseart palettes allows me to build colour intensity slowly rather than having to work hard to blend out the powder. It's a soft brush that is a fraction softer than my Hakuhodo J5523 which has more flexibility. You're going to get a soft wash of colour using the Rephr 01 and a very blown out or diffused look at best or a muddy look at worst. You cannot achieve a complex eyeshadow look using the brushes in The Core Collection. It's why they've got traditional crease brushes for individual sale.
A side on view of the Rephr 01 and Hakuhodo J5523.
From the side, you can see that there is more of a flat domed shape with the Rephr 01 so you get less precision than the Hakuhodo J5523 which has more of a tapered tip. From the top-down, the Rephr 01 looks round so you get the blown out diffusion of a rounded crease brush when you blend your eyeshadow. This is a bonus if you like using just one colour on your eyelids. I'd venture to say that I get the same kind of blend using the Rephr 01 as I would the Hakuhodo J242 which is a rounded crease brush with longer hairs.
My other criticism is that it's too soft for being a truly multifunctional brush. As an undyed goat haired brush, I want to use it to blend my cream eyeshadow sticks or potted products. It has too much softness and not enough snap back in its flexibility to blend a By Terry Ombre Blackstar Eyeshadow Stick or a Laura Mercier Caviar Stick effectively without dragging and sticking to the product. Again, my Hakuhodo J5523 does this without problem. I thought I'd be getting a backup version of that when I purchased these but I was wrong. The Rephr 01 is by no means a bad eyeshadow brush but it's a one trick pony.
L to R: Hakuhodo J242, Rephr 01, Hakuhodo J5523, Chikuhodo Takumi T-7, Bisyodo Alba Brush B
"A firm shader brush that's dense and soft at the same time - optimized for maximum pigment payoff. Works with both powders and creams and is perfect for laying down pigments, quick smokey eyes and delicate work near the lower lashline."
I hate this brush. It's as hard as a brick and has zero give so you can't use it as a multifunctional flat shader brush which it is marketed as. It's thick and dense so you can't use it as a typical flat shader brush which most people use to pack on a metallic or shimmer eyeshadow. It hurt my eye to tap eyeshadow onto my eyelid. It only fulfils the requirements of being a shader brush in that it does a decent job in smudging out the lashline.
There is only one way you can use this brush and it's shown in the new videos Rephr has posted on its site. Their first featured video for Brush 02 shows the makeup artist applying a pencil to the lash line and smudging it out. I completely concur that's the only way you can only use this brush unless you have a very flat eye and you're not sensitive to rough movements. The best and only way in my opinion to use this brush is to swipe horizontally with the tips of the brush. If this was the intention, this might as well be an angled eyeshadow brush to blend out eyeliner and it also makes Brush 03 redundant.
"The 02 is our flagship shader brush and has been optimized to work for all eye shapes, including hooded eyes and monolids."
I wholeheartedly reject the idea that this 02 brush can be effectively used to lay down pigments which is a shame because the slightly coarser hairs picks up shimmers and metallics very well. Lengthen the hairs on this and halve the density and you'll have a fine shader brush that can pack on eyeshadow and smudge it out. The hairs on this need to be a bit longer to allow for a proper pat and press or rolling motion for a shimmer or metallic. If you're not using a glitter glue or using the eyeshadow wet, then this brush is going to encourage fall out. Rephr are already close to producing a better shader brush with their prototype P21 which is a synthetic shader brush with a more traditional shape.
I still maintain that the 02 is not a good shader brush because if it really is aimed at those with hooded eyes then it's too thick to be used as a precise smudging brush for the upper and lower lashlines.
L to R: Rephr 02, Hakuhodo B004G, Hakuhodo J242, Rephr P21
"A fine-pointed & firm pencil brush that's unexpectedly soft - designed for detail work near the most delicate areas. The 03 will allow you to effortless elevate any eye look with imaginative precision."
Brush 03 is made redundant by how Brush 02 is used. I like it more than the 02 but it's very firm so I don't think it's soft enough to go along the upper lashline without pulling at the eyelid. It's a feeling especially noticeable on hooded eyes or aging eyes which have a bit of sag to the eyelid.
I took a dark brown eyeshadow along the upper lashline to create the appearance of fuller eyelashes but I think the brush dragged too much to be comfortable.
I also winged out the dark brown eyeshadow slightly to elongate my rounded eye shape. The 03 Brush is fine to take out on the outer edges of the eyes but because it's a rounded pencil, it's only good for smoking out and smudging out a pencil liner or an eyeshadow. If you're after a razor sharp wing, you're not going to get it with this brush. This is where I feel Rephr could add to their collection. There's currently no angled eye brush for sale and given the prevalence of eyeliner usage, this could fill a gap in their offerings.
I'd rather use my old Rae Morris #9.1 (now discontinued and replaced by synthetic hairs) which is supremely superior by comparison because it is softer and more precise due to having a third less density which gives the brush a bit more flexibility to follow the natural curvature of the eye. Furthermore, the Rae Morris also has a finer tip so you can control the thickness of the liner whereas the Rephr 03 is a fatter pencil.
L to R: Rephr 03, Rae Morris #9.1
The Rephr 03 performs alright along the lower lash line which is less sensitive. I know that they are trialling a smaller pencil brush named Rephr 23 which I didn't purchase but I hope that it's an improvement. UPDATE: I have since received the Rephr 23 which I reviewed in the Rephr 2020 Holiday Collection and it does everything I wanted the Rephr 03 to do.
L to R: Rephr 23, Shou Shou Lang GD LL08, Rae Morris Jishaku #9.1 (discontinued), Rephr 03, Shou Shou Lang GD LL09, Sonia G Pencil Pro
"An ultra soft cheek brush that's angled to enable extreme versatility. originally designed for contouring, the 04 has also been calibrated for precision application of blush, highlight and bronzer."
L to R: Real Techniques Mini Sculpting Brush, Zoeva Cream Cheek 128, Rephr 04, Surratt Sculpting Brush, RMK Face Colour Brush, Eihodo 855.
I had high hopes for this brush. I touted this as The One for brontour. I imagined that this would become my holy grail brush to pair with my neutral bronzers. I love angled cheek brushes so why would I not love the Rephr 04?
Its downfall is that it's too damn soft to sweep with precision. It's worsened by the fact that the bristles can't pick up enough pigment. This brush is a good example of why softer isn't always better. You get less control and it struggles to pick up powder. The only get around for this brush is if you're using a highly pigmented powder or a very softly pressed powder.
Pictured here and in the photo featured with Brush 03, I'm using the bronzer from Charlotte Tilbury's Film Star Bronze and Glow in light/medium which is a subtle everyday neutral bronzer. I usually don't have an issue in picking up product using a natural haired brush or even a synthetic angled brush. The Film Star Bronze and Glow is not a high pigment bronzer but I typically just tap my brush into the pan twice then apply. The Rephr 04 barely makes any difference so there's no point in showing a before and after photo.
I have a small but a fat round face so I like to carve myself some fake cheekbones. This brush needs to be stiffer or have coarser hairs if it's going to claim precision or you need to have a much larger face than mine because it splays out with minimal pressure. It splays to the same degree as my grey squirrel/goat sokoho Eihodo brush which ironically picks up pigment better.
If your face isnt as round as mine or if you have naturally defined cheekbones, this brush will be able to give you a nice bronzer application provided that you're dipping into a highly pigmented powder.
Don't use the Rephr 04 for a cream contour. I went in with my old faithful Westman Atelier Contour Stick and this made a muddy mess. I'm not usually one to take off my makeup to restart but I did that day.
The photo here shows how ineffective the brush is in creating a sculpted look whereas the photo paired with the Brush 03 analysis shows me after going in with more of the same bronzer using the synthetic Zoeva Cream Cheek 128 Brush over the top of the minimal product which the Rephr 04 laid down to finally get the job done. It's still not as contoured as I would usually like but when a synthetic haired brush picks up pigment better than a goat haired brush, then the brush has serious problems.
I have purchased the Rephr 18 and Rephr 19 which has yet to arrive so I'll see if the tapered tips fit the contour purposes that this Brush 04 doesn't seem to fit. (UPDATE: They are. I reviewed them in my Rephr Face Brushes post.) My current favourite for using bronzer as a light contour is the Rae Morris #2 from the old Jishaku range which is made from hakutotsuho hairs. It delivers truly precision perfect application. I don't look rounded when I use the RM #2. I like it so much, I bought a second one.
Let's talk about the positives though. Even though I don't like the Rephr 04 for bronzer or contouring (which is what I purchased it for), it makes a good blush brush for those who like to tap powder onto the apples of the cheeks and sweep it up the top of the cheekbone. If you're into blush toppers or shimmery blushes, this might be a good buy for you. Alternately, if you're heavy-handed with blush application, the Rephr 04 would be a good choice.
L to R: Zoeva Cream Cheek 128, RMK Face Colour Brush, Rephr 04, Eihodo 855,
"An ultra soft cheek brush that will instantly elevate your face makeup in a luxurious way."
L to R: Sonia G Soft Cheek, Shou Shou Lang Green Dill 02, Koyudo BP016, Koyudo Kakishibuzome 03, Hakuhodo J110, Rephr 05.
This is another case where being ultra soft being doesn't make the brush better. How are darker skinned people even using this brush? They better own the most pigmented blushes on the market. I'm not in Pale Princess territory but I'd say I have light skin so pretty much every blush available for sale should show up on my skintone. Not with this brush. I think nearly everyone on the internet owns the nude Paaarty blush from Tarte. I got one with the Sephora birthday gift set. The Rephr 05 doesn't pick up anything unless I swirl my brush into the pan for at least 4 full rotations. That's for each cheek. I counted. I seriously did. I applied it and called it a 'no-makeup makeup look' because that's what it felt like. Spot the blush.
The Rephr 05 performs better with highly pigmented blushes or the very powdery ones. I had better luck with Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes and the Tom Ford Cheek Colour Blushes. If you've read my blog before, you might know that I'm heavy handed with my application so sometimes a brush that doesn't pick up a lot of powder helps me avoid going to clown town.
The reason why I thought it would be perfect for blush application is because I love the Hakuhodo J110 and the Koyudo BP016 for blush. I can control application by tapping once into a pigmented blush and get enough without looking crazy or I can always tap off excess powder. These brushes look like twins if you lay them flat but in no way do they perform the same way.
L to R: Rephr 05, Hakuhodo J110, Koyudo BP016
A side on view of these brushes shows why. I wash my brushes and dry them in brush guards. I even pictured the 05 being dried in my How to clean your fude brush guide. The Rephr 05 blooms to such an extraordinary degree that it's fully rounded from the top and sides. This is exactly what happened with the Rephr 01 eyeshadow brush. I got a very blown out, diffused application there and same here. The Rephr 05 is also the softest of the three brushes which means it's not picking up much product anyway. I keep picking up the 05 expecting to achieve moderate pigmentation because that's what I get from the other two. It defies my natural instinct to want to or even need to dip and swirl vigorously using this brush.
L to R: Side view of the Rephr 05, Hakuhodo J110, Koyudo BP016
I have one perfect match with the Rephr 05. The Tom Ford Sheer Cheek Duo is a gelee formula blush which is actually quite pigmented on my skin tone. The Rephr 05 can be swirled around without much care and still not pick up too much product. It also diffuses the shimmer in the blush nicely so you get a wonderfully sheeny application of the product. Unfortunately, I'm not a frequent user of shimmery blushes or blush toppers so the majesty of the 05 brush is mostly lost on me. If you like luminous blushes or toppers, you're going to appreciate this brush.
I'm losing the will to write. I feel like I'm either the pickiest reviewer on the internet or that my makeup application makes me the rarest of all unicorns out on the bloggersphere or compared to YouTubers. I happen to think that my face can look good when I'm not using these brushes. For instance, I definitely think I had better bronzer, blush, contour application in the photos featured in my Lisa Eldridge True Velvet Lipstick Review.
Somehow, articulating my criticisms of the Rephr Core Collection and looking at the photos of my makeup when I solely use these brushes makes me feel like a troll—you know, the ugly type that lives under a bridge and spitefully refuses to let travellers pass because the beautiful princesses of YouTube said these were the best things ever.
Speaking of YouTubers, I finally worked out why I never saw any of them reach for their Rephr brushes unless their Sonia G ones were dirty. Rephr brushes require you to change your makeup application and preferences, especially if you already own fude brushes. This brand manufactures shapes that are familiar to us but using them creates the opposite effects to the brushes we already own in our collections. As you can see, I have the same shaped heads three or four times over but I never get the effect I intend when I pick up one of The Core Collection brushes.
I want to like Rephr, I really do. I think they can fill in a niche in the fude market that is confusing to newbies in the fude world. They have the opportunity to entice fude beginners to them with lower prices or very appealing deals like the buy one get one free offer they ran during Christmas.
Would I recommend these? Only to people who don't own any natural hair brushes. If you don't own any fude, there's no expectation of how much pigmentation you should pick up because you don't have the other options to confuse you. The price point is particularly enticing because a few YouTubers have affiliate codes that get you $100 off the retail price of the sets. I don't have a code but it's well worth looking around for one if you are looking to buy these. Again, I haven't come across a bad review of these Rephr brushes so I must be in the minority in not being enthusiastic as other people.
Don't get me wrong, these are not bad brushes. I know it seems like I've just wrote a dissertation on how crap they are, but my issue with the Rephr brushes is that they've run with softness over precision. If I'm spending money on goat hair, I want precision and true multi-functionality. If I valued softness, I'd invest more in squirrel haired brushes. I don't think anyone who is an avid fude user would recommend these to others who already have large collections. We all own something superior so why would we reach for these when we've got more expensive brushes that perform better?
I didn't like the P11B prototype and I'm not particularly enjoying these five from The Core Collection but I still bought more brushes from them. I'm going to give Rephr one more go. I don't know whether I'm being stupid with my money but I purchased the 14, 15, 17, 18, 19 and 24. They seem more like traditional crease brushes and the face brushes seem to align with others I also have in my stash. I also bought some other prototypes along with my Kickstarter pledge which I'll review separately. Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of my Rephr review series.
UPDATE: The review of the Rephr Pro Collection Face brushes has been posted.
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