Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chikuhodo Z-5 eyeshadow brush review & alternatives

Today's brush review is the Chikuhodo Z-5 100% gray squirrel large eyeshadow brush. As you would expect from the name, the Z-5 is from Chikuhodo's Z series, known for its high quality squirrel hair and shiny black ferrules and handles. The brush also bears the phrase "by Tesshyu", in acknowledgement of Chikuhodo Chairmain Tesshu Takmori. Tesshu Takmori is one of the most well known brush artisans globally and was the founder of Chikuhodo Co, ltd. You can read more about him and the history of Chikuhodo on their website and in this New York Times profile.

I purchased my Z-5 from CD Japan for about $33 (4,000 yen + 320 yen tax in Japan), but prices will vary based on retailer and current currency exchange to yen. You can also purchase the Chikuhodo Z-5 from Beautylish ($44) and Visage USA ($43).

Brush specifics:
  • 100% Gray Squirrel, extremely soft and supple
  • Full length: 135mm (short handle) 
  • Hair length: 16mm, hair thickness approx. 6mm
  • Ferrule width approx. 15mm
  • Large oval brush head footprint with rounded tips and a gentle taper
  • Excellent quality construction - I have used this almost daily for 3 months and washed it several times with no change to the shape and no shedding

Comparisons & affordable alternatives
If you are interested in the shape of the Z-5 but the price tag is a bit steep for you, I have two brushes in my collection with a similar shape. Neither of these are a dupe by any means, but they could serve a similar purpose in your collection.

First, the Sigma E50 large fluff eyeshadow brush. The Sigma E50 has a similar shape but features a wider ferrule, slightly longer bristles, and is generally larger. Unfortunately, the E50 is a truly terrible brush and an absolute waste of $16. It looks like a plausible alternative to the Z-5 until you feel it. The E50 is strangely abrasive, the bristle ends poke the lid and the brush feels scratchy at the edges. I find the E50 lacking in every comparative quality, from functionality to materials to construction.

Second, the Ecotools large eye brush from the Essential Eye Set. The Essential Eye Set retails for $7.99 and contains 6 short handle brushes, and this set is worth the money for this one brush alone. The Ecotools large eye brush has a slightly different shape than a typical large oval brush because it softly tapers at the edges to form a blunt point, creating an interesting side footprint. This brush is not as soft as gray squirrel (but what is?), but it is soft and doesn't irritate the skin at all.

The Ecotools large eye brush isn't a dupe for the Chikuhodo Z-5 per se, but I think it is a sensible alternative if you want synthetic bristles, an affordable price, or to try out the shape before buying a more expensive brush.

A look at the three brushes in profile for comparison. The Ecotools large eye brush has its widest part in the middle and features a very defined taper on the edges. The Chikuhodo Z-5, center, is the slimmest in width of the three and has the most round taper. The Chikuhodo is also interesting because the bristles start to taper much closer to the ferrule than the other brushes. The Sigma E50 is the largest and widest of the group, with a shape in between the Ecotools and Z-5 (on a slightly larger scale). All three brushes have crimped ferrules.

Overall, I adore my Chikuhodo Z-5. I use it almost every day and it is a pleasure to use. I have dry, sensitive skin that irritates easily and this brush is extremely soft, as expected from a high end squirrel brush. I love this brush for laying down an all over lid base shade and for focusing color on the outer part of the lid and blending it into the crease. It also functions as a browbone highlighting brush for me, but some may find it too large to be ideal for that placement.

I think the Z-5 is absolutely worth the money - the combination of the shape and gray squirrel hair places this brush at the peak of functional luxury. 


  1. i really enjoy the quality of this one. but i find it a little bit too big for my eyeshape. what would you recommend as a smaller alternative?

    1. Good question! Unfortunately, I think this shape is tricky to find in eye brushes, most shader brushes I see on the market are narrower in the ferrule without the side taper. I'm not aware of anything with this shape but proportionally smaller. Sorry!


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