What I bought while we were in lockdown
A quick life update and my thoughts about the fude purchases I made while the world was in quarantine.
It's now the end of September 2021 and I'm entering my fourteenth week of a state-mandated Covid-19 lockdown. Yes, you read that correctly. I wrote 14 weeks of lockdown. Sometime between dealing with my 5km radius, the one allowed hour of outdoor exercise per day, the curfew, the panic buying and the daily 11am press conference of doom, I zoned out. I've been absent from the online beauty community in recent months. A lot has happened so unfortunately I've fallen behind with my blog posts and I have no idea what the new releases are!
Like in many parts of the world right now, the Delta variant is wreaking havoc in my city. We hit a peak of 1500 cases a day but we're only now beginning experience that long-promised flattening of the curve. The all important vaccines were a scarce resource here until very recently. I fall in the under 40 age group so I had no access to any vaccine for a long time. My state is currently sitting at 85% of adults with one dose of a vaccine so we're all confident that we'll eventually reach high rates of community protection. Nevertheless, we'll be in lockdown for at least a few more weeks until the state hits the target of 70% of adults double vaccinated. Even then, many places still won't be able to reopen until we hit the 80% fully dosed mark which looks to be in another five weeks. That day can't come any sooner. I'm desperate for a hair cut.
I run my own small business so I'm thankful that I emerged from last year with my company mostly unscathed. This time around my business experienced some pretty extreme hemorrhaging. Lockdown hit without any warning and without any financial support. My business is only now just picking up again. By sheer luck, lockdown hit five days before the end of financial year so I had an extra buffer of six weeks' worth of wages and expenses put aside in case I had underestimated my taxes and the like. I would not have been able to weather the storm without it as politicians were still squabbling over business support when Week 8 of lockdown began. I'm exhausted and time poor but when I look around, I see how it could have been so much worse. Many businesses in my area, particularly in the hospitality industry, have closed their doors permanently. We're all in the same storm but unfortunately not everyone is in the right boat to survive it. I am glad that my company had that little life raft.
As life slowly inches towards some semblance of normal again, I hope to finally finish off my half-written drafts and return to a regular posting schedule soon. I'd love to get my hands on a few new releases in the Sonia G Fusion Series, the Lotus Set, the Rae Morris' new Jishaku range and a few other things but I'm leaving most of my luxury spending fund for the end of the year releases. If you follow me on Instagram then you might have seen that most of my discretionary spending is currently going to my waistline but I have put a halt to buying brushes or makeup until we emerge from lockdown. For now though, here's a look at some of the brushes that have entered my life in the two years since Covid-19 came into existence.
The Koyudo Somell Garden Series brushes
These brushes fit into the 'nice to have' but not a 'must buy' category. I purchased them because I like hakutotsuho hair brushes for foundation or buffing cream products. The Walnut and Orange brush are my stand-outs from this set. I reviewed the full set of the Koyudo Somell Garden brushes if you want to read more about them.
The Shou Shou Lang Green Dill Series
I know that most natural fibred Japanese fude tends to be costly. The high financial barrier for entry-level brush users can be a huge deterrent. Chinese brushes are increasingly becoming a good investment. While admittedly, they're not as good as Japanese-made brushes, the big name Chinese brush makers are creating quality products and selling them for half the price or less. I wrote up a comprehensive review of the Shou Shou Lang Green Dill brushes and if you're interested in buying them, I'd recommend investing the time learning how to use Taobao because they're marked up by four times the price on other sites which negates what makes them so attractive in the first place.
The Qin Zhi H Series
I feel a tad guilty for including these in this post since they're unavailable and potentially discontinued. The H Series brushes from Chinese brush maker Qin Zhi are the best bang for your buck grey squirrel brushes on the market. I'm kicking myself for not buying the entire range. Even the snobbiest of Japanese fude collectors would struggle to fault the hair quality on these brushes. For those in the know, the hair quality is slightly below that of the Chikuhodo Z Series but better than the blue squirrel offerings from Hakuhodo. On top of that, these Qin Zhi brushes beat out the low priced Wayne Goss squirrel options at about half of the price of those. Rest assured that if they ever make it back to the official store, I'll be snatching them up.
Chichodo and My Destiny
While there were some decent finds in my AliExpress haul, it was a net loss. I wrote about it in my blog post at the time and my opinion hasn't changed since. I became the chief hairdresser in my household during the first lockdown in 2020 and have continued to give haircuts during this lockdown too. These brushes have become part of the hairdressing experience but I implore you, spend your money elsewhere if you want to find a makeup brush.
The Rephr new additions
Brushes 23, 24 and 25 were first released as the 2020 Holiday Set but are now available as part of the permanent range as individual brushes. I reviewed them at the time and my opinions still haven't changed a year on. Brush 24 is my favourite brush from the entire Rephr range for its versatility and ease of use. Brushes 26, 27, 28 and 29 were sent to me early this year by the company and my half-written review is still languishing in the messiness that is my draft box. They are currently available as a set on the website. The short version of the coming review is that these types of brushes are the kind of things I hoped the company would make when they first came onto the scene. The well-established fude community didn't need another private label company on the market. These brushes aren't dupes – they're marked improvements of existing brushes or ones that fill a gap in the range. Rephr have the chance to really take a better position in the fude market if they continue to produce products like brushes 23 through to 29.
Sonia G The Sky Eye Set and the Keyaki Brush Set
I really like the Sky Eye Set from Sonia G. They are a nifty bunch of brushes that fulfils the exact aim Sonia had in mind in introducing a beginner to fude. I'm typically someone who is sceptical of a pre-packaged bundle because everyone's needs are different but if I had to recommend a brush set to a newcomer who primarily uses powder eyeshadows, it would be this one.
As for the Keyaki Brush Set which came out around Christmas 2020, I'm just going to come out and say it: they're underwhelming and not worth the price tag unless you're a collector. The keyaki wood handles are beautiful with a luxuriously smooth tactile experience that only is replicated by the Koyudo Yoshiki and Kakishibuzome lines. I gave the Keyaki Set a lukewarm review after I had spent four months with them and after nine months, my Mini Base brush has warped fractionally and shed more than what I consider to be normal. I have a lot of hair breakage around the edges, it's continued to shed white synthetic hairs and the hairs on my brush skew to one side. It's a shame because it's a soft brush that feels lovely on the face but between how disgustingly gunky this brush gets with foundation usage, it's small brush head and the warping, I think it's the biggest dud in the entire Sonia G range. It's not bad for targeted cream contour and blush application (which is what I use it for when my preferred brushes are dirty) but honestly, no one's buying Sonia G just to settle for something that's 'not bad'. The Classic Face is nice but months out I don't find myself gravitating towards it. It's too much of an in-between brush that it's just easier to use a squirrel or goat brush instead. I'm still interested in the Fusion Brushes but I've got to be honest – I'm extremely sceptical of the blended hair brushes. I never hear criticism of any Sonia G brushes because the majority of products in her line are excellent but this set was definitely overhyped.
The Koyudo Yoshiki Series
I got these when they were released in March 2020 have been tarrying with my review since. Spoiler alert: me likey. To me this is a quintessentially Asian set because the way these brushes are used, especially the eyeshadow trio, shows that the designer understands the needs of someone who needs to get around an epicanthal fold, a small crease or monolids. Koyudo has had one hand in the high end market, releasing brushes with big price tags for what are sometimes sub-par products in recent years while discontinuing reasonably priced quality lines with the other hand. The Yoshiki brushes are the only range left that can find ownership among both the budget-conscious and the high end lover. Compare these to the Kakishibuzome line (which I also acquired) and the value of the Yoshiki brushes is clear. While I wish that Koyudo would return to making lines like their mostly discontinued BP Series range, I think that ship has sailed.