What $150 bought me on AliExpress
My review of the assortment of squirrel hair, goat hair and fox hair brushes from My Destiny and Chichodo
I spent a sizeable amount of money on Chinese-made brushes in 2020. Covid-19 totally destroyed my holiday plans and since I have a really packed work schedule, it will take another year or two of careful planning to orchestrate such a lengthy period of time off again. I took the money I would have otherwise spent on international airfares and splurged on a new set of pots and pans, new kitchen knives and on more makeup brushes.
I started buying brushes on AliExpress because it's the easiest site to navigate if English is your dominant language. Very little Chinese reading ability is necessary but unfortunately some things do get lost in translation. I have written a guide on this blog for navigating brush hair types so I'd recommend checking it out. You can get by using Google Translate on AliExpress but most Chinese sellers tend to post photos which aren't automatically translated.
My first order consisted of an assortment of brushes from the brand 米蒂斯 My Destiny. They also have a newly-formed sister brand 臻美堂 Chichodo. My review will cover the brushes from both brands. There was some drama with my AliExpress order and I can attest that their dispute system is robust, fair and quick because some listings are plain and deliberate deceptions. I filed a dispute, uploaded photos and had my complaint reviewed well within 24 hours. It took one business day for the refund to land back into my bank account.
Price, packaging, availability
米蒂斯 My Destiny and 臻美堂 Chichodo are available on a number of sites. I obviously bought mine from AliExpress but they're also available on Taobao. As part of the convenience of using AliExpress where the entire buying process is in English, you may pay a marked up price in comparison to the listed RRP on some (but not all) Chinese websites. However, if you are thrifty with the site coupons and the seller's coupons, you will be able to bring the price down. I have listed the brushes full retail price below but always check for coupons or sales.
This is a link for my personal referral code for first time AliExpress. It offers coupons of USD$19 for those who are new to the platform. I will receive a USD$5 credit on my account to spend on future purchases if you choose to make a purchase via my referral. I'd still advise you to seek out deals as well on the site. Some sellers will offer coupons for their stores.
Australia imposes a 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on foreign online retailers so AliExpress collects the tax on behalf of the government. Luckily, I was able to access some coupons and I received an overall discount for my order so I did not pay the full retail price. My total (including tax) for all the brushes pictured below came to AUD$152.12 but I disputed some of the listings and asked for a partial refund which was granted. As a consequence, I received $33.37 in refunds so my true total spend was AUD$118.75.
I received free standard shipping to Australia. My brushes were either boxed or bagged and placed in a large padded envelope. You receive a tracking code for your order which you can track via UBI Smart Parcel Line on their English version of the website. On top of that, I also received an Australia Post tracking code. My order was immediately dispatched from China within 24 hours of ordering however Covid-19 caused lengthy delays in the movement of the package out of Asia. My order sat in a Hong Kong port for weeks and it took another few weeks to land in Sydney, Australia. You have the option to choose to pay for expedited airmail shipping if you're unwilling to wait for sea freight postage.
The Chichodo 臻美堂 Range
I bought five brushes from the Chichodo range that features red handles. I purchased my brushes from the official Chichodo store on AliExpress where it's obvious that an online translator has been used. Many things have gotten lost in translation. The Chichodo listings provide visuals suggesting how to use each brush. The brushes don't have names or numbers.
I didn't buy every brush available in the range but they offer a variety of brush shapes for both face and eyes in a number of hair types ranging from grey squirrel to goat, pony and kolinsky. I will review them in order of largest to smallest.
Be very careful not to confuse this brand Chichodo with the famous Japanese brush maker Chikuhodo. They're not the same and I feel that the name similarity is a little disingenuous. Although, to be fair, a visual assessment of the Chinese brushes will show that they're not trying to dupe any of the Japanese maker's brushes.
Pictured here is the unwashed condition of these brushes. They match the measurements on the listings exactly however, prepare for them to bloom considerably. I like the brushes within the Chichodo range. They're good for the price and if you're new to natural-haired brushes and unwilling to dive into Japanese fude because of the higher price point, consider buying some of these.
Round powder brush (Grey squirrel hair)
This brush is the largest brush on offer at least in terms of volume and hair density. It's named the 圓头散粉刷 (yuán tóu sànfěn shuā) which is 'round head powder brush'. This brush is also made of grey squirrel hair 灰鼠毛 (huī shǔ máo) with a maximum hair length of 48mm and a head width of 40mm. This came packaged in a brush guard so I used it after washing. My brush bloomed to 58mm wide after it fully dried.
L to R: Real Techniques Blush Brush, Chichodo Brush (pre-wash), Koyomo Pearl Pink Powder Brush
Unfortunately, the English title in the listing for this brush has relied on an online translator. It says 'grey rat' but that's because the Chinese word for 'squirrel' translates to 'loose rat'. Grey squirrel is 灰松鼠 (huī sōngshǔ) but if you look through the brush information, you'll see it as 灰鼠毛 (huī shǔ máo) which in English is 'grey squirrel hair' but taken literally will mistranslate to 'grey rat hair'.
For the price I paid for this, I'm very happy. This is a large dense powder brush that's great for using with setting power or applying finishing powder. If you have a larger face or like a larger brush, you can use it for bronzer or blush depending on your personal preferences. I like to use it mostly with loose powder or finishing powder. I like how fluffy the Chichodo powder brush is so I can either pat product in with the fine tips or I can swirl product over my face.
L to R: Hakuhodo B206, Koyudo Pearl Pink Powder Brush (post-wash), Chichodo Powder Brush, Rephr 11, Chikuhodo T-1
The burning question everyone will have is: is the grey squirrel comparable to that from Japanese fude brands? No, it's not. It's not on par with any of the Chikuhodo, Hakuhodo, Wayne Goss or Koyudo grey squirrel brushes I own. However, the Chinese-made Chichodo brush is better than the grey squirrel hair quality from RMK. RMK is made by Chikuhodo in Japan but due to their low priced offerings, their grey squirrel hair is of a lower grade than that of the Chikuhodo Z Series brushes or it's mixed with goat hair. Don't get me wrong — this powder brush is soft. It's equally as soft as (if not a fraction softer than) my Koyomo Pearl Pink Powder Brush which is made of ancient ototsuho goat hair. I've never heard one complaint about the Koyomo brushes not being soft enough. The Chichodo powder brush is like a goat brush in its shape so I have purposely compared the shape to similarly behaving brushes in the photo above.
My point is, if you don't own the more expensive Japanese offerings, you will not feel like you've wasted your money. I don't feel like I've wasted my money at all. If you're new to natural haired brushes or if you're on a budget, this is a good one to pick up.
The full retail price of this brush is USD$16. With the use of coupons I paid AUD$24.
Large flat powder brush (Grey squirrel hair)
This brush is the next largest brush in the range even though the hair lengths are technically longer. This is named 扁圓散粉刷 (biǎn yuán sànfěn shuā) which is 'flat, round powder brush'. Again, it is listed as a 'grey rat hair' brush but it is made of grey squirrel hair which reaches a maximum length of 50mm and a maximum width of 53mm. Mine bloomed to a width of 55mm but puffed in volume.
L to R: Koyudo BP025, Rae Morris #6, Wayne Goss Air Brush, Chikuhodo Z4, RMK Cheek Brush, RMK Face Powder Brush, Chichodo flat powder brush
I have nothing like this brush. It is wide, flat and has a pinched ferrule. Most squirrel brushes of this hair length have either rounded or oval ferrules. The closest thing in my house is a literal paint brush that I used to cut the corners in when I painted my walls. I've long had the Houkodou G-C2 on my wishlist and that seems like the shapes would be close.
The best way to describe the shape of the Chichodo flat squirrel brush is to imagine if someone scaled up the current iteration of the Wayne Goss Air Brush since that also has a pinched ferrule and a flat brush head. This Chichodo brush is silkier than the rounded Chichodo powder brush because of the way you use it on your face. The hairs are long, smooth and straight so if you use this brush with sweeping motions or actual paddling motions, you'll feel the softness of this brush. Again, is the hair quality as nice as the big name Japanese brush makers? No, it's not but you're not going to complain for the price that you're able to purchase this for.
L to R: Side view of the Koyudo BP025, Rae Morris #6, Wayne Goss Air Brush, Chikuhodo Z4, RMK Cheek Brush, RMK Face Powder Brush, Chichodo flat powder brush
I like to use this brush to apply blush when I want it to spread from the apples of my cheeks in an outwards direction or when I feel like draping my blush. It's also a useful tool to use for brushing off any excess powder if I've been a little heavy-handed as I'm sometimes prone to do. If you bake, you might be keen on this brush to dust off excess product.
The full retail price is USD$21.99. I paid AUD$30 for this.
Eyeshadow brush (Goat hair)
This is one of many eyeshadow brushes available from Chichodo however it is the only white goat hair brush on offer. It is listed as 眼影刷 (yǎnyǐng shuā) which is 'eyeshadow brush' but it is specified that this is made from saikoho goat hair in 细光锋羊毛 (xì guāng fēng yáng máo).
The measurements of this brush has the hairs reaching a maximum of 15mm long and 12mm wide. Shape-wise it is a round and flat brush that is similar to the Hakuhodo J5523, Rephr 01 and the Sonia G Worker Pro which are the most used eyeshadow brushes in my arsenal. The hair quality on this brush is nice. If you own any of the ones I've just listed then you're not going to be disappointed at all with the softness of the goat hair in this Chichodo brush. There is one small downside to this brush in that the hairs splay a bit after washing.
L to R: Rephr 03, Chichodo eyeshadow, Hakuhodo J5523, Sonia G Worker Pro, Chikuhodo T-7, Koyomo Pearl Pink Flat Eyeshadow brush
This makes for an effective one-and-done type of eyeshadow brush because you can lay down eyeshadow with the flat edge of the brush and then turn it to use the tips to blend out product. The only mild difference between this one and the ones shown is that this one is a bit more squared in its shape and that the ferrule is more crimped so you get a fluffier blending brush if you prefer to use the tips to blend compared to the Sonia G Worker Pro or Hakuhodo J5523 brush.
The full retail price of this brush is USD$9.99. I paid AUD$14.
Medium eyeshadow brush (Grey squirrel and pony hair)
This is called the medium eyeshadow brush 中号眼影刷 (zhōng hào yǎnyǐng shuā). It is a flat laydown brush which measures 14mm long and 12mm wide. The brush mixes both grey squirrel 灰鼠毛 (huī shǔ máo) and pony hair 小马毛 (xiǎo mǎ máo).
L to R: Bisyodo Eyeshadow B, Chikuhodo T-7, Hakuhodo B004G, Hakuhodo J5523, Koyomo Pearl Pink Flat Eyeshadow, Chichodo flat eyeshadow
I like this brush. It's a very soft eyeshadow brush that is balanced by the pony hair to give it some elasticity and to prevent the squirrel hair from splaying everywhere. It does its job in laying down powder eyeshadow quickly and evenly by holding the brush horizontally to apply sideways strokes or using a pat and dab motion. I have bulbous protruding eyes so I like to use the softest of brushes if I want to pat eyeshadow onto my mobile lid and this brush is perfectly servicable.
This brush is slightly larger in both size and density than my well-used Hakuhodo B004G laydown brush and closest in size to the Koyomo Pearl Pink Flat Shadow Brush. The Chichodo flat eyeshadow brush bloomed only fractionally after being washed. A few hairs do look a bit scraggly but they don't affect the performance of the brush to any noticeable degree.
This brush retails for USD$9.19. I paid AUD$10 for this and I would buy another one if I had the occasion to shop on AliExpress again.
Small eyeshadow brush (Weasel or sable kolinsky hair)
I didn't order this. I paid AUD$13 for the grey squirrel and pony hair large eyeshadow crease brush (which was refunded) but this smudger brush came in the post instead. This is what can very easily happen when a manufacturer doesn't name any of its brushes, nor use any markings on either the brush or the packaging to denote what type of brush it is. It's a little eyeliner smudging brush but I have sensitive hooded eyelids that sag a little so this is a wasted brush in my possession. The online listing for this brush has the brush head coming to 8mm long but mine falls a little short at 6mm long. As a consequence it give the brush more density, less flexibility and therefore it feels a little hard on my eyelids.
The listing says that it's a weasel haired brush in both English and Chinese 黃狼 (huáng láng) but has also added in 'kolinsky' 貂毛 (diāomáo) in parenthesis. I can't discern which one it is in such a tiny brush.
I have taken to using this brush to clean up my lip edge when I use a finicky lipstick or to smudge out a lip pencil when I want to cheat the outline of my lip shape.
This brush retails for USD$11.99.
My Destiny 米蒂斯: The Snow White Series
I bought two goat hair brushes from The Snow White Series which are produced under the My Destiny 米蒂斯 brand.
These brushes are very inexpensive for natural-fibred brushes but they're cheap for a reason. These goat hair brushes are no where close to Japanese fude and are markedly worse than other Chinese brands such as Qin Zhi, Energy or Shou Shou Lang. Just pay the extra money to get better quality brushes. They're dense and oddly shaped. Both of them also have a strong animal-on-the-farm smell to them, even after washing.
L to R: My Destiny 011, My Destiny 014
011 Blush Brush (Goat hair)
The 011 Blush Brush 腮红刷 (sāi hóng shuā) retails for USD$9 but I paid AUD$13. It is made from what was labeled as saikoho 细光锋 (xì guāng fēng) hair but is on par with the goat hair quality from a brand like Zoeva.
It is a rounded blush brush that has a slightly pinched aluminium ferrule so it's not completely round in shape. The brush is quite dense and the brush head measures 47mm long and 45mm wide. It bloomed, as does all goat hair brushes after washing. I gave many family haircuts during the Covid-19 lockdown and I used this brush to sweep away loose hairs around the neck and face. My family joked that I was giving them the full luxury experience and sure, it's soft enough to use as a hairdressing accessory but don't subject your face to this. You deserve better.
014 Blush Brush (Goat hair)
The 014 Blush Brush is a very inexpensive brush at the full retail price of USD$4.19 but I paid AUD$6. It is a small flat round blush brush that is made of goat hair. There is no specific mention of the grade of goat hair used. The brush head measures 35mm long and 40mm wide. The shape is really squarish so it's strange to use. Again, just buy a better quality brush.
My Destiny 米蒂斯: Fox hair brush set
Fox hair might be new to me but I can sense synthetics from a mile away. This listing is highly misleading and deliberately so in my opinion. It consists of 9 brushes and the post purposefully lists out each brush with the hair type in English. The only brush that is listed as a synthetic haired brush is the angled brow brush whereas the other eight brushes are deliberated sold as fox hair brushes. Once I had them in my hand I could tell they were a mix of synthetic hairs and fox hairs. Some of the eye brushes have at least 50% synthetic fibres in its construction.
How can I tell? Synthetic fibres immediately spring back in the most unnatural way. If you placed a flat finger on the tips of the hairs on a natural haired brush, it wouldn't be able to hold itself up. If you do it to a synthetic fibre then it won't bend or flex and you can just hold it there forever with those hairs in suspension. Also, another tell is the smell of animal hair. These fox hair brushes have a distinctly wet dog kind of smell when you wash them but it will dissipate after they're dry.
The largest brush is only 5-10% synthetic fibre with a heavy concentration in the centre of the brush. I understand why the manufacturer would add some synthetic hairs in. Fox hair is really really fine and floppy like Japanese quality grey squirrel hair. The addition of synthetic fibres helps to loosely maintain its shape but synthetic fibres cause a drag problem on the skin because they don't natural bend to the curvatures of your face so you need to force it to move. The angled face brush is mostly synthetic-fibred in the short end of the brush but fox hair in the longer end so you end up with a brush that has 15-20% synthetic hair. They're not bad brushes and I'll use some of them but I requested a partial refund because I wouldn't have purchased them if they had disclosed that the brushes were made of fox hair mixed with synthetic fibres.
It retails for USD$29.60 or USD$32 with a brush pouch. This brush set cost me AUD$40 after initially applying a $5 coupon to it but I successfully managed to get a partial refund of AUD$20 on it.
Synthetic addition aside, these aren't poor brushes. If you're somehow tempted to pay their asking price then don't. Just skip it entirely. I think that the flame shape taper of the largest brush is unsuitable for fox hair. It won't hold itself up. Fox hair is even floppier than grey squirrel so you can't expect it to maintain the shape, even with the addition of synthetic fibres. Don't expect much pigmentation or product pick up with these brushes. Long-term readers know that I am heavy handed because I'm just not careful with my makeup application. Using these brushes actually allows me to dip into loose powder in the most careless of ways and still I won't be cakey. Joy. No, but seriously don't buy these brushes because there are better fox options out there.
The majority of my AliExpress brushes weren't worth the time and money. The only brushes I'd recommend are those in the Chichodo red handled line. Those are good value for what you get. Don't be mistaken in thinking they are equal to Japanese fude or other Chinese brushes but if you want a large squirrel brush and you aren't willing to pay the much higher price tag, then you might want to consider one of the ones I reviewed. It's not going to blow your mind but it's going to evoke one of those 'wow, bargain, I only paid $20 for this' kind of reactions. I've paid more money for crappy synthetics. I won't be detashing the red-handled brushes.
Remember to stack coupons if you shop on AliExpress and if it all goes pear-shaped, rest assured that their complaint system is fair and quick.