JFC. This draft has been sitting untouched for a month because i was so busy. I was really excited about it in my pre-haul post. My god, was that really 3+ months ago? I’ve been using the G-S2 for a long while now and it’s time i share the love. Finally.
I just ordered another one because it’s just THAT good for the price. (Oops? Spoiler alert?) Damn you CDJapan, why didn’t you add Houkodou brushes to your offerings earlier. I could have gotten this brush sooner and saved goat-loads of money by never buying another eye brush again. No that’s not a typo: i could have saved goat-loads … as in “boat loads” of money… Because most of my eye brushes are made from goat hair?
Well anyhow, we all know that’s not true 😛 I would have bought more eye brushes regardless of how happy i am with a certain brush because SCIENCE. Sorta. Hey it’s brush science okay?
This brush is from the Houkodou’s “Brilliant Gold Series” which are their nicest looking ones. I would put them on par with the Chikuhodo Z Series and Hakuhodo S Black Series as all these lines utilize expensive, fine materials.
The Brush + Specs
The G-S2 (3,000 yen) is a smaller, flat eye brush that I would classified somewhere between a lay-down eye shadow brush and blending brush and a pencil brush. From the front, it has that traditional flat-paddle shape of more well known lay-down/blending brushes like the MAC 217 and Hakuhodo 5523’s, but it is not as wide. There is minimal flaring of the bristles, even post wash and it retains its sleek shape rather well.
The G-S2 is made of Canadian Squirrel hair, a material which (for me) is additive as hell. The bristles have more firmness than grey squirrel so they don’t yield as much as grey squirrel does under the same amount of pressure, and almost snap back into shape like sable. The hairs are immaculately bundled with no strays or little pieces misbehaving and ruining the smooth silhouette.
Unlike most Japanese imports, the G-S2 has a medium length handle that is a comfortably long length that will feel at home in the hands of people accustomed to longer styled western brushes. (see picture at top most of post). It is quite a beautiful brush over all and resembles the Tom Ford brushes in aesthetic with glossy black handles and a golden ferrule. Unlike the TF brushes though, the ferrule to handle junction has crimps (rather than a seamless transition). However the crimps are extremely shallow and seem to be just…. there, for decorative purposes rather than structural adherence purposes. It also lacks the hefty feel of the TF brushes. That’s not to say that the brush is unbalanced though, because it is. It just doesn’t feel as expensive as it looks. It is unknown at this time if the ferrule is 24k gold plate, like the Tom Ford and Hakuhoso S brushes, or if it is just a gold colored alloy.
The Houkodou logo is engraved on in gold, but the font they chose to do it in is god awful imo. There are no other identifiers. As with any other brush, I would much prefer it if they labeled the handle with the name of the brush but i love it so much I’m going to remember it off the top of my head unless I have a serious brain fart. The Gold Series is also rather limited in its number of members so it would be quick & easy to find/look up the brush.
Viewed from the profile it looks rather like a bullet brush. The hairs are immaculately arranged to taper to a nice rounded point (bullet if you will) that competes with one of my beloved pencils, the Koyudo C011 (saikoho Goat). Because of that lovely tapering point, if held perpendicular to the skin, the G-S2 has a rather small oval “footprint” (surface area in contact with the skin) when used with light pressure. Using more pressure will result in a large area of effect and faster application time.
This brush is effortless and easy to love. It lays down color in a controlled manner. In terms of intensity application, it’s stronger than gray squirrel as good as some of my goat brushes, but horse still beats it hands down if i want COLOR! immediately. Layering will be required to get opaque color as one pass across the lid with the GS-2 will lay down a wash, like a tint, that may be too sheer for some people’s taste. If you want sheer, swipe. If you want more opaque color, pat. Of course this is also going to heavily depend on your eye shadow’s formulation.
I like to load up the brush by sliding the head across the pan surface at a 60 degree-ish angle a couple times and rocking it from side to side in a rolling type action. These combination of motions load up the belly of the brush with product so i rarely have to dip into a color more than twice to apply color to both eyes.
When I want to work quickly, I’ll use the wide, main face of the brush. I’ll use the tip for smoking shadow on my lash lines and for placing color precisely in the crease. Blending is effortless. Wipe it side to side like the wipers on car windows, or use it with circular motions, or a little of both at the same time. It’s your choice. Using the GS-2 is a total no brainer, as long as you dont mash it too hard into your skin (that’ll just wipe the color away) or use it with a product that is chalk masquerading as eye shadow. The hairs will do all the diffusion work for you.
My eye looks normally aren’t that complicated so i can use this one brush for a whole look. To refresh it, I just swipe it a few times on a microfiber cloth and it’ll be ready to use with another color. Deep cleaning is something i rarely do because powder slides right off -unless i use pigmented-as-fuck Sugarpill shadows or glitter bombs which are impossible to completely remove without solvent cleaning action. Anyways, the CS hairs don’t splay, puff-out or behave erratically after washing or more vigorous use even if i don’t groom. The brush head just dries back into the proper shape so post wash maintenance is kept to a minimum! Now why can’t some of my other eye brushes learn … The only time the G-2 gets frizzy is if it rubs against other brush heads, but that hardly counts. I have yet to find a brush that doesn’t do that that isn’t made from synthetic bristles.
This would world great for all eye shapes (my opinion). It’s a little smaller than what i would consider medium sized for eye brushes. Now if you have been blessed with huge eyes and lids that have zipcodes of their own, this might be too small to act as a lay down and blending brush (the G-S1 (3,500 yen) will be a better fit for you, see later in the review) but it still serves as a really good precision tool for work that you would normally do with a pencil brush or smudger.
There are enough hairs packed into the G-S2 to give it a medium-firm density and it is not floppy at all and flexes quite easily under pressure, but other wise keeps it shape. Though the brush head feels firm, it still feels very soft (the squirrel hairs are uncut after all) and is suitable for dry, sensitive eyes. I can poke and jab as much as i want around sensitive areas. No pain or discomfort whatsoever as long as i don’t jab too hard and accidentally end up with the ferrule in my eye! I would recommend the G-S2 for all skin types as I think that Cn Sq hairs are also more durable and tolerant of oily lids than grey squirrel. (Don’t quote me on that. I may be confusing Cn Sq with Tree Squirrel which looks similar). The hairs start tapering after half way up the head when viewed face on while, from the profile view, the hairs stat tapering from the 2/3’s point which means there is quite a bit of buffer for the body of the brush.
I have two Cn Sq eye brushes by Hakuhodo (in totally different shapes so they wont be making an appearance in this review) and the hair quality feels approximately the same to me in softness. However, the Hakuhodo hairs seem to be marginally finer in diameter and more flexible. However, i think that the firmer feeling of the G-S2 ‘s hair suits it just fine for my purposes as i will detail shortly.
Now that you’ve made it through that wall of text, lets look at some pictures.
Houkodou offers two eye brushes made of Canadian Squirrel hair in their Brilliant Gold Series (it has a striking resemblance to the Hakuhodo S100 Black series) This is the smaller sized eye brush. The other Canadian Squirrel “Flat Eye Brush”, the G-S1 (3,500 yen), is pretty fucking huge for a eye brush; Think Chikuhodo Takumi Takumi T-6 (3,500 yen) big but flat rather than oval. It’s apt for a face highlight brush (I do use it that way). The G-S1 is thinner, with longer hairs, so it has more flex. Comparisons stops here because they really aren’t comparable, but here’s a pic so you can see the size difference.
Like i said before, The G-S2 is somewhere between a blending brush and a pencil brush. It’s giving my Koyudo C011 (1,560 yen) a run for its money. The tips are similar in size. The G-S2 is less firm, but not by very much, for two reasons. 1. It’s made of squirrel rather than goat, and 2. the bristles are longer.The G-S2 “stores’ more product in the body of the brush (duh, it’s bigger) so i don’t have to re-dip as often as I would with the C011. The control i have over the application of color, as mentioned earlier, is pretty much on autopilot. It applies color smoothly in a semi-sheer wash that i can build up with more passes. The result will (almost) always look well-blended.
With the C011, i have to tap the brush head on the back of my hands a few times, otherwise too much color is laid down all at once and the mistake becomes a nightmare to blend. That tapping takes off a lot of pigment so i usually have to go back into the pot of shadow a couple times to get enough product for the color intensity that i want. If i load up the G-S2 right, all i need to do is just keep making passes until the intensity i want is achieved because the belly of the brush acts like a reserve. However, the C011 beats the G-S2 in versatility. Goat is compatible with cream shadows, and capable of smudging pencil/gel liner. Squirrel? nope, staying far away from that stuff.
Below is the G-S2 alongside the Hakuhodo J 5532 ($27) and G 5523 ($19). For those of you who think that the J5523 and Mac 217 ($25) are too big for your eyes but like the shape, rejoice! In case you haven’t heard by now. The G-S2 is on the small size and thus, preciser.
Between the 5523’s, the G 5523 is the closest to the G-S2 (kinda funny how they both start with G). The G 5523 (blue squirrel + goat) is more well behaved, staying in optimal shape after a washing or being pulled out of storage. Also, i prefer the G 5523 over the J5523 (saikoho goat). Even though the J 5523 is technically more efficient as a blending brush because it is made of pure goat (it blows out color faster), I don’t like it as much. The hairs tend to puff out and get unruly, rendering the brush head too big and imprecise. See that more diamond shaped side taper on the G5523 compared to the J5523 which is fuzzed out and has a rounder shape?
And in case you are wondering, yes that is the “old” G5523 from before Hakuhodo decided it, as a manufacturer, was no longer going to put dyed goat hairs in its brushes. I’m reluctant get a new one because that money could be spent on new shapes/brushes. *shrugs*
By request, here is the G-S2 in comparison to the Koyomo Nadeshiko Round Eye brush (2,500 yen) and the Chikuhodo Takumi T-7 (2,500 yen). They really don’t compare at all but they are all smaller sized eye brushes so i guess they’re cousins a few times removed from one another? They are arranged left to right from most firm to least firm. They also happen to be arranged in order from my most to least favorite. Seriously if you have $25 bucks, get the koyomo round eye brush over the T-7, or maybe splurge $5 more for the G-S2.
I’m just going to quickly plop down a quick comparison to the GSN-9 (2,400 yen) and G-4 (2,400 yen) because their shapes are vaguely similar to the G-S2. Both GSN-9 and G-4 are the same grey squirrel brush heads on different handles. It might be useful for some of you because the GSN-9 is quite popular as a small/precise lay-down brush. I actually prefer the G-4 because the handle is shorter, the name is printed on the handle, and the ferrule-handle transition is seamless rather than crimped. Anyhow, back on topic…
As you can see, all three paddles are pointed and have the ability to be precise if you use just the tip and cover a decent amount of area using the flat surface. All three can blend with side-to-side sweeping motions. However, the G-S2 is thicker and has a fuller body and those extra hairs buttress the long ones, giving the brush the strength that it needs to blend stuff when using circular motions, a job that the GSN-9 and G-4 aren’t very good at because they are too thin. The GSN-9 and G-4 are excellent eye brushes due to their springy short hairs but the G-S2 takes the cake. Ofc the expensive one wins. Damn my tastes. “>_>
Pricing and Availability
Aside from the Hakuhodo’s and Mac 217, all of brushes featured in this post were purchased from CDJapan. Shopping overview guide here if you are new to the world of Japanese makeup brushes and are considering your first purchase.
The G-S2 (3,000 yen) will run you somewhere around 28-32 USD. CDJapan is offering a free shipping promo (details here) so it’s best to make a list of things you want and get them altogether. As always, if buying form outside Japan, the purchase is tax free. The exchange rate is kind of shit right now (almost 100 yen per 1 USD and seems to be getting more unfavorable everyday… so get your fluffies while it hurts less.
If you were to ask for recommendations on what to buy from the Houkodou line, I would definitely recommend this one as my second pick. First slot is occupied by a kolinsky eye brush. However, i think that far more people would enjoy this one more because it is so soft and pleasant, so technically it gets bumped up to first place. >->