It is time to write my thoughts on the 6 Zoeva brushes I ordered in March, and with which I inaugurated this blog. I’ve been using them almost every day since then, it’ll be two months in a few days. So let’s get on to it.
Bristles & wear (so far)
Disclaimer: Let me begin by saying that I do not own any “luxury” brushes, Hakuhodo, Chikuhodo, Suqqu etc, so I can’t and I won’t compare these to luxury products. The most expensive brushes I own are MAC, and some are brilliant while others I think were overpriced. When I say soft, I mean soft within this price range. I can imagine softer brushes since I have experienced kitten bellies and bunny paws 😉 I still cannot justify the prices of luxury brands, but perhaps at some point I’ll gather courage and money and get one or two ;P
My Zoeva brushes have gotten washed many times now, some more than others.*
I’ll write about how I wash my brushes some other time.
They’ve stood up to wash well these two months. No shedding. All the brushes I got have the “luxe” modifier on their names, which if I understand correctly is used on all brushes with this blend of goat and synthetic fibres. I have to say I am not a fan of the synthetic fibres… they particularly stand out in 134, 224 and somewhat less so in 222 and 231. In these brushes some synthetic fibres are placed close to the outside edges of the brush and it is evident while stroking the brush on its sides, since they’re nowhere close to the softness of goat. This is probably a bit of an aesthetic complaint, though, because it doesn’t seem to detract from the performance or the feel of the tip of brush on the skin.
To me it feels like these bristles are used to add volume to the brush, but are shorter than the goat hairs, so don’t much act to pick or distribute product, but affect the stiffness and feel of the brush and behaviour of the goat hairs. You can surely do the same using all natural hair, as it is indeed done in Japanese brushes and others, but that’d increase costs. Now I am not sure to which extent these savings are being passed on to the end consumer, since I understand the prices of Zoeva brushes have been hiking up, but this seems certainly an effective and efficient product design. What I am not sure about is the longevity of said synthetic fibres…
As I said they aesthetically bother me, and particularly so while washing. These synthetic bristles stand out a lot while wet, particularly on brush 134. Just like happens to a viscose dress, when wet these fibres feel rough, stiff and brittle, and this texture disappears when dry. Viscose really is more fragile when wet, and I have no idea what the origin of these synthetic fibres is, but I do hope they’re more resilient than that, otherwise these brushes will be half bald in a few years… this is my biggest concern regarding these brushes.
On brushes 105 and 227 I can barely detect any synthetic fibres. These would have fooled me into believing they’re 100% goat. 105 is a delightfully shaped brush and quite soft. 227 is indeed a great dupe for MAC 217, but more thoughts on the current state of MAC brushes below in the footnotes… And despite the synthetic fibres being slightly more noticeable on 231, this is a brilliant brush with stiffer fibres at the core of the brush which offer some resistance, so it keeps its shape while being used, while still having a softer exterior layer which feels gentle and blends well, but I am getting ahead of myself…
The fluff test
Allow me a little intermezzo for a “fluff test”. If you tap the handle of a moist brush against your hand, it fluffs up the brush and you can get rid of some extra water. You can then smooth the hairs down to a point and lay it down to dry. Brushes react differently to this test. In general I find that the ones that can be smoothed down very nicely hold up their shape better in use.
Overall I am happy with the brushes and I am happy I got them.**
I’ll review performance brush by brush:
105 / luxe highlight
I love this brush and I use it almost every day.***
Let me begin by saying I find it way too large for highlight! I love highlight and apply some almost every day, but am not a highlight fiend (I admire those of you who are!) and keep it subtle. My face is very volumetric (some would say in all the wrong places, but whatever 😉 ) and I do not need more of that.
In any case this is a great brush and the shape, size and spring is perfect for other things. The shape, halfway between pointy and domed – like a beehive dome, fits perfectly on the undereye corner, so I started using it to set the concealer, but then liked it so much I am now using it to set the entire t-zone – it may seem a little small for that, but it gets done in no time. I push the powder, tapping lightly, and it has replaced my large velvet puff for this purpose. I never over-apply powder with it, in contrast with most other brushes I’ve tried. It has a stiff core 2/3 of the way up, and it is very soft on the upper 1/3 core and about 1/2 way down on the external perimeter. This is a great design, and you can see on the fluff test above that it keeps its shape very nicely. Highly recommended.
134 / luxe powder fusion
Mixed feelings. More on the synthetic bristles above, but when it comes to performance, I am not sure what to think if this brush. It looks way pointier in the website images, and I honestly got it with no particular purpose because I was curious. It doesn’t seem to have a particular intended purpose in any case.
“Eternal flame” is it’s tagline, and to be honest it is neither flame: there is no point to this brush, nor eternal: it has become wider and fluffier after a few washes. You can see on the fluff test above that it gets SUPER fluffy, and you can somewhat appreciate the roughness of those fibres when wet. I have trouble setting it to a point when moist, but it is possible to do if the brush is more wet, but I do not like to leave so much water in my brushes when I set them out to dry:
When it arrived I thought it instead looked just like a very large MAC 224**** with its perfectly circular dome, so I developed high hopes for it. Hovever I think it is missing a stiffer core. The brush has no resilience, it is a bit floppy. The top 1/3 dome is super soft though, but I feel a brush with these characteristics should then be a bit larger and of use with very pigmented blush. I feel it is too small for that. I use it for highlight, and very often in fact, because it is the right size and I don’t have other brushes for this purpose, but sometimes I think it is too fluffy. This may work wonderfully for deeper skintones, but being quite pale, I already have trouble finding highlighters that show up at all! So this one is recommended with reservations.
222 / luxe all over shader
I love this brush! it gets used every day (with my now favourite browbone eyeshadow Artdeco 68 matt ivory). It is a rather large standard packing eyeshadow brush, rounded and flat (I’d call this a cat tongue shape – these are traditionally called fluff eyeshadow brushes but they’re not very fluffy). Again it has a stiff enough core 2/3 of the way up and a very soft perimeter and top. If you have large surfaces to cover on your eyelids (I do) and/or like simple washes of all over eyeshadow, this is a great brush to have. I have been missing this type of brush in my collection for, let’s say decades! Highly recommended.
224 / luxe defined crease
If this is intended to be a dupe of MAC 224****, it is is a huge fail. It is smaller, narrower, very splayed at the top (which was a disappointment the moment I opened the package), with a much flatter dome (so it is almost cut straight at the top) and it feels like the fibres are the same throughout (so no stiffer core) and it feels too floppy and a bit sparse.
I have however warmed up to it. It does indeed work very well for a defined crease, but I suspect only so if you already have a well defined socket. I do have a deep socket and the brush goes in it, locks in place and works very well in back and forth motions. It blends as it goes with those fluffy splayed fibres it has. So it is not what I expected it to be, but it does what it says. I do need to bring up the crease shade because with age things start to drop, so I cannot use only this brush. It is no use outside the socket. Recommended with a lot of reservations, it may be more versatile for other eye shapes. I think I would avoid if you do not have a definite socket.
227 / luxe soft definer
Excellent dupe of MAC 217. Undetectable synthetic hairs. Not much more to say if you own or know that brush! Since now I own two of this shape, I’ve taken to use one of them (normally the Zoeva) to blend concealer out. It works beautifully for that, since I am missing a synthetic brush for that purpose in my collection.
This is a very versatile brush that can be used to apply crease colour, pack on eyeshadow with a medium payoff, and blend: it is great for blending. It has a slightly stiffer core about 1/2 way up and it is a flattened brush with a flatter elliptical dome. If you could only have one type of eyeshadow brush this is probably the way to go. Highly recommended.
231 / luxe petit crease
Last but most definitely not least, that’s just what the numbers dictated, this excellent little brush. This is an elongated and slightly fluffier pencil brush perfect for all crease and outer corner work. And I don’t do that, but inner corner too. I did not want a dupe of MAC 219 because I have too many pencil brushes, so I picked this one. The fibre placement is superb, again a stiff core of fibres, this time I’d say about 3/4th of the way up, so it is precise, and a perfect parabolic dome (elongated) soft tip and exterior. Let me repeat, superb. I think it is more versatile than MAC 219. GET IT.
The bottom line is that I am vey happy with these brushes, and they were worth their price. I made my choices with a mix of functionality and price in mind. 105, 222, 227 and 231 most definitely fit the bill. The other two get used. Not bad at all.
Let me also add that the design of these is sleek and very pleasing. The handles are great, sturdy and not too heavy or light, with good balance. The lacquer or whichever finish seems strong and doesn’t get grimy, the ferrules are good and shiny.
I do have a concern, which may not be justified, about the longevity of the synthetic fibres.
Their other brushes I would like to try are 110, 116, 122, 142, 144, 233 and 320. But in my current circumstances I cannot justify another purchase, plus all of these are synthetic I believe, and I find their prices on the high side for synthetic.
Zoeva gets a thumbs up from me.
*I wash my brushes a maximum of once a week. If a brush is too dirty to reuse another day, I just will use another brush until washday. I then wash the brushes that I’ve used that week. Eye brushes always get washed to avoid muddy colours, but face powder brushes may get washed every other week if I am using the same product with them. I rarely use brushes for cream products, with the exception of my concealer brush which of late I’ve taken to use every day (I need one or two more since I shouldn’t use it for an entire week) – so when I use a brush for foundation or other cream or liquid product, I use it twice at most then set it aside for wash day.
**My collection of brushes is limited, as I always agonise before getting something and my intention is to always use regularly the tools I get and keep. I tend to let go of stuff I do not use consistently (unless there is no resale value, in which case it ends up in a drawer or in the workshop destined to a lower purpose).
*** Let me clarify that I wear makeup most days, but not every day. Whenever I say “every day”, I mean “every day I wear makeup”.
**** My MAC 224 is one of my favoritest brushes ever, if not the top! I may have gotten lucky. This brush is perfect. I think I got it in 2004. It has been washed SO many times! and it is still as fresh as the first day and its shape is still perfect. It is my softest brush and perfectly domed (half sphere dome). It blends like a dream. This is not a brush for high colour payoff, it is low to medium, but it is what it is: a superb blending brush.
I had a look and a stroke at the current lineup of brushes very recently in the MAC store and I was appalled. Has their quality gone down the drain? good grief… The 224s where absolutely dreadful, rough and misshapen, and so where the others. I have not purchased any of their brushes in years and years and I have to say I am sort of glad I didn’t I could write a post on my MAC brushes, but if they have changed in quality so much, I don’t much see the point… let me know what you think!