If you are interested in the Surratt Beauty Artistic Face Brush, you are likely no stranger to high end brushes or Fude (Japanese made brushes). If you are new, I think this review will still be easy to digest for you and (hopefully) informative. I think when most people see the price tag ($230 in USD) on Sephora, or where ever there are browsing, they go “WDF, WHY?!” then move on. Brush hounds will look at the price, raise an eyebrow, look for the brush head material (it’s squirrel) then instantly start tail wagging + salivating, and look for the magic words: made-in-Japan, artisans, hand-crafted, etc. Or maybe that’s just me. >_> As always, feel free to skip the preface to get to the review.
I’m actually quite surprised that I can’t find that many reviews on this brush. Lately, There seems to be a culture of “@#$%^!!! $$$Obscenely-Priced-Item! See MAH REVIEW!!!!!” (Wow I’m such a hypocrite. Anyways…) It’s even more surprising considering that this brush is quite easy to stumble upon, and buy in the Western market compared to some of the other sticker-shocking brushes out there. The Surratt Brushes also aren’t brand new, though they are newer players in the world of high end brushes. It seems like most of Troy Surratt’s line is a copy pasta of Addiction Beauty’s aesthetic which is perfectly understandable because he says that his brand is inspired by Japanese cosmetics and seems to serve as the bridge between markets across continents. From Surratt Beauty’s website (I normally don’t complain about typography but I haaaate that font):
after visiting japan for the first time, troy fell in love with the unparalleled skill of japanese methods, and began a decade-long journey that led to the creation of surratt beauty, now comprised of 200 bespoke products. while developing surratt beauty, troy traveled back to japan countless times, seeking out the top tier of artisans, materials, and formulas, and then elevated each product to the next level of innovation.
I wouldn’t be surprised if his color cosmetic products have the same OEM as Addition Beauty or Three Cosmetics because things like the blushes and eyeshadows just look so darn similar. The Addiction line of brushes are OEM’d by Chikuhodo, so perhaps his makeup manufacturing contacts are the same as Addiction’s. In case you are confused, Addiction [Beauty] by Ayako is not on that list because the brand falls under the Kose Corporation umbrella. Fun fact. Troy Surratt worked under Kevyn Aucoin. And my favorite foundation from Kevyn Aucoin Beauty, the Sensual Skin Enhancer, is made in Japan. Perhaps, he retained some of his mentor’s contacts. This article suggests otherwise though,
Anyways, I didn’t get this brush at full price thanks to the winter Sephora 20% off sale and some gift cards but I will be reviewing it as if I did. If you think I am being too generous to it, please feel free to tell me off. I am not without bias though I try my best to be.
Yup, presentation gets it’s own section. The brush may be Japanese made, but the packaging is everything you’d expect from a luxury beauty brand: cardboard. French cardboard to be specific. Hey, an actual box is miles better than the plastic slip that most Japanese brands deliver their brushes in, but I can’t help but wonder how much the fancy box added to the end cost. Then again, Surratt is targeting the Western markets and people here expect a certain level of niceness in presentation when shelling out any more than $50. Let’s be honest. I do too. The brush still comes with the plastic slip that keeps all the hairs in place and prevents the head from rubbing against the lining of the box and getting frizzy when it is brand new. I’ve had mine for near half a year before I even got around to taking pictures so that plastic slip is long gone. These pictures are heavily edited because I took these non-essential pics in the shittiest lighting possible. Sorry.
Anyhow, the box has a cover that slides off to reveal a velvet lined, slightly plush, removable insert equipped with an elastic band to hold the brush in place, should you choose to store and travel with it. I personally do not use the box because it’s too bulky and takes up too much space on my already chaotic vanity. It’s stored away in an obscure corner of somewhere, probably getting chewed up by moths. The only boxes I use and keep on display are the recycled-paper-shell-with-fabric-lining Koyomo ones and the wooden ones from some special Koyudo’s.
The Artistique Face Brush is a medium size powder brush made of grey squirrel hair. On my cheeks, it works as a blush brush. The brush head completely round from the ferrule, starts tapering from around halfway up the brush head, and ends in dome crown. I’ve previously described the Chikuhodo Z-1 powder brush as an egg on a stick. Well the Surratt Face brush is even more like an egg on a stick as it is more tapered tip and has a pointed dome, like what you would find on the apex end of an egg. (See comparison section) Do keep in mind that I store and wash my brushes with a brush guard so it will be have a smaller width measurement than many other people’s. The Artisque Face Brush can puff up to about 30% more volume if you allow it to air-dry naked.
The Artisque face brush has a very nicely done matte-metallic black ferrule on both the handle and brush head ends. It is crimped inward where it meets the brush hairs and seamless where it encounters the handles. That crimp inward were it meets the brush head just gives the overall look of the brush a little extra bit of sexiness. (more details also cost more in the manufacturing process :P) The color transition from the ferrule to handle is also pretty well done in terms of the “texture” that can be visibly perceived. The handle is made of painted, lacquered wood, but for the first 1/3 after the ferrule, it looks believably like it is also matte metal.
As for the other 2/3’s of the handle, well, that’s what gives Surratt brushes their signature look. The matte-metallic looking black transitions to a more glossy coat of silvery shimmer brushed over a warm violet + muted emerald duo-chrome base. The black lettering that spells out the brand name is slightly raised but is well sealed under the glossy coat preventing it from getting scratched off. The Artisque brush collection is rather small and well edited, so it comes a no surprise to me that the brushes are not individually labeled with their names (face brush, sculpting brush, moyenne eye brush, etc). Additional lettering would also detract from the over all beauty of the handle by unnecessarily covering up that precious jewel-like handle, so though I normally would put that point out “no brush name” as a negative, it is a positive point for the Surratt Face brush.
Though at first glance, the handle appears to have a flat bottom, it does not. It can’t firmly stand up on it’s own like the Tom Ford brushes. The handle butt is actually more like what would happen if you cut a piece out from the side of a circle with a VERY large diameter. It looks straight but it’s actually slightly curved. There’s a slight bezel transition from the false flat bottom into the main body of the brush.
The bezel rim on mine has chipped in one small place from a drop. I’m not sure when when the chip was acquired as I’ve dropped it several times in the period I’ve had it, but it doesn’t surprise me that it’s on the bezel/corner, a weak spot that takes all the force of impact quite sharply. I know the Hakuhodo S brushes are susceptible to chipping as well (hence why I only own one; too many tiled floors and not enough carpet). This chipping wouldn’t occur nearly as readily with round butt brushes like my Chikuhodo Z-1, which has been dropped numerous times over the 3 years I’ve had it. My Z-1 still has a pristine and unscratched handle+ferrule even despite the glossy, lacquer finish (which i thought was going to be destroyed by my bumbling paws). That’s more than I can say for my Tom Ford brushes which have acquired fine abrasion lines on the once mirror-shine ferrules. My heavier Tom Ford face brushes have also chipped at the corner where the body of the brush meets the base. Anyways, enough bitching about the durability, or lack, of expensive brushes. It’s not a huge issue, but i know i know it might be a turn-off for some people. In case you’re curious, the wood underneath the lacquer is a light color. I patched it up with some dark purple-black nail polish and now you wouldn’t be able to tell there’s something wrong with it unless you nit pick at it very closely. Oh the perks of doing a review after owning and using something for a while, as opposed to right away. That’s definitely not just my excuse to procrastinate and be lazy.
I feel like the balance on this brush is a little off. It is ever so slightly top heavy. The hand feel of it is similar to that of the Chikuhodo squirrel face powder brushes which also have very light, wood for their handles. The brush head is quite dense, relatively heavy and incredibly resistant for a squirrel brush.
The brush head is springy to the point that I have a difficult time believing that it is made of only grey squirrel hair. It is so “bouncy” in nature that I would have been inclined to guess that there was a small percentage of a more resilient bristle, like goat or horse, mixed in… if the composition of the head wasn’t specified by the brand. The bristles don’t splay out very much or conform easily around curves like i have come to expect from squirrel. Don’t get me wrong the brush is still squirrel soft. It’s just not as “wimpy” and super flexible. As with all squirrel haired brushes, it is not recommended that you use this with any products that are “wet” in texture (creams, liquids, gels), only powders for this precious.
This section is going to be very dry and boring. Get some munchies or a cup of your favorite drink.
For me, this brush excellent at apply pressed setting powders, but is only “alright” for applying loose powders.I have a very strong preference for using thick paddle brushes OR very-dense, round brushes with loose powders. The Artisque Face Brush is dense for a squirrel brush but I doesn’t even begins to touch densely bundled goat in performance when it comes to applying loose setting powder.
When using the Artisque Face Brush with pressed setting powders, you’ll never have to be careful about evenly distributing the product within the brush head before you go to apply it to the face. Just load it up with powder from the pan by swirling, and buff it on using light motions for an even layer. With loose powder, there is less control. You’ll have to tap, shake and roll the brush a bit to distribute the powder evenly among the bristles of the brush head. More work >_> Once you apply it, you get the same end result. I can’t imagine doing this everyday with the recommended in brand, Surratt Diaphanous Loose Powder.
The Face Brush, as expected, works fantastically with balls of powder. It’s quite fun to swirl it around in a jar of pearls, but more importantly it is able to effectively pick up product without kicking up a dust storm and apply the product in such a way that there is a visible, final result. The head of the face brush actually is dense and resilient enough to create excess powder fallout if you mash it into the powder (pressed or balled) too hard. That resilience though, allows the Artisque Face Brush to work with baked powders even though baked products tend to have a harder texture and need to be scraped at/ loosened.
If you want a very, very sheer layer of powder this brush is not for you. Yes the powder applied will still be gossamer feeling and invisible compared to powder application using many other brushes out there, but there WILL be a layer thicker than if you used a less firm, less densely packed squirrel brush like the Koyudo BP009 for example.
The Artisque Face brush is capable of providing light coverage. Enough so to the point that if you wanted to use it with a compact powder foundation, you could. This is assuming that you have relatively clear skin with nothing but a few spots for conceal afterward. This brush head has enough “power” to apply product with good pigmentation intensity. Perfectly capable of evening out a complexion that just needs a little boost. Alternatively if (for example) you use a medium coverage liquid foundation normally and wanted a bit more coverage for a special occasion, you could grab an a tinted powder and apply it with the Surratt Face Brush.
It works like no other with Guerlain Pressed Meteorites (Wulong, limited edition) for finishing the face. The Wulong meteorites pressed powder is already a pretty good product. When I use the Wulong with most other brushes, squirrel or goat powder, the powder gives me a lightly filtered look. It somehow softens everything and slightly mattifies my foundation’s luminous-satin finish. (I use Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in case you were wondering.) Nothing too extraordinary in difference, just a little extra niceness that I can’t get even from the highly acclaimed Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders (I use Ethereal Light and Diffused Light on a near daily basis). I’m not saying the ALP’s are bad. I’m just saying that they don’t augment my makeup as well as the meteorites do.
The Artisque Face Brush kicks up the performance of the powder up a couple notches. I can see actual results (including some light coverage) when I use the Surratt Face Brush instead of that vague “I look nicer I’ll but it doesn’t show in before and after pictures” level of difference. The first time I paired the two I was stunned. Like holy hell, where did my pores and inner corner wrinkles go?! Both in real like and in pictures.
Better yet, my skin looks harmonious in test shots… Is that what I would look like touched up?! I finally understood what people meant when they claim a “Photoshop effect”. Whenever I use the two together, it’s an A+ makeup day and I’m a bit more trigger happy when it comes to pictures.
I don’t have nearly as much love for it when pair it with the Ambient Lighting Powders’s for some reason. I think it might be due to the fact that ALP’s are a baked product so less powder gets picked up and/or distributed differently. The Face Brush works fantastically with Wet ‘n Wilds Reserve Your Cabana which is a softer-pressed powder that I use as a finishing powder, like the meteorites, but it doesn’t have as refined as an effect as the Wulong powder. You get what you pay for? Side note: The juxtaposition of an uber cheap product with an uber expensive brush is amusing to me.
I don’t like using this Artisque Face Brush for bronzer. Big, plush, fluffy. The Surratt face brush seems like it would be perfect, right? Not in my opinion it’s not. The Artisque Face Brush falls into that awkward transition point that makes it a lukewarm bronzer applicator for me; I like them really dense OR really supple. The brush head isn’t supple enough to fold around the face contours as well as I would like it to and thus doesn’t deposit an even, sheer wash of color in one pass as I would prefer. At the same time, though it is firm, it’s not firm enough like the Tom Ford Bronzer Brush or the Koyudo White Mushroom. The Surratt Face Brush firm enough to deposit a ton of color on first contact with skin, but not firm enough to allow me to effortlessly blend and blow the color out.
When it comes to wanting color to show up semi strongly rather than sheerly (like with blush application), the Surratt Face brush is awesome. That tapered point in conjunction with the medium-large size gives a really cute diffused flushed look. if you are after a sculpted blush look, rather than the haze of color, you’d be much better off using a much smaller brush. If you don’t care and just want to add a general cloud of color back to your skin after foundation, this brush will do the trick nicely and flush each cheek in seconds.
Comparison to the Chikuhodo Z-1
The Surratt Artisque Face Brush is just the slightest longer than the Chikuhodo Z-1 Powder Brush. It is also less wide (poofy) after being freed from their brush guards so the Z-1 will look bigger when both are viewed from above. The Surratt Face bush is very interesting, because though it is about 15% less dense, and contains less hair by volume than the Z-1, the Surratt face brush is springier and more resilient. On a semi–random note: I like the way my hand feels wrapped around the handle of the Surratt Face Brush better due to the slightly slimmer handle.
Both are round powder brushes. Both are made of grey squirrel. Both are domed. The Surrat Face brush however, has a more pointy taper. The tip of the brush head is also less flexible. If you handed me the Z-1 and Surratt t Face Brush in the dark and asked me to identify them by feeling the heads alone, I would be able to unequivocally identify which was what every time. They are that different in feel. The Z-1 and Surratt Face Brush look extremely similar but act differently when used against skin. I would liken identical twins with completely different personalities where one is slightly more lean and less chubby than the other.
The Z-1, despite having more hairs and being denser, is more flexible and conforming in nature. When I brush it across curved surfaces like my face or arms, the bristles will splay out more and closely hug the surface it is up against. The overall flexibility of the head lends itself to a more airy feel and bigger working surface areas. The Z-1 is soft to the point that it noticeably collapses more under it’s own weight when only gravity is pushing on the brush heads and when my hand is applying pressure ((see pictures below))
Thanks to the flexibility of the hairs, Z-1 applies product with less intensity in thinner layers. This it is more suitable for bronzer than the Z-1 in my opinion as it applies quite a sheer wash of product in one pass. However because the Z-1 splays out, it is less controllable so I can’t use it for blush like I can with the Surratt Face brush. I used to think the Z-1 was suitable for powder foundation, but now that I have compared it to the Surratt Face brush? It is not. The coverage and pigmentation intensity that you get from the Surratt Face brush blows the Z-1 clear out of the water. The brush head is just so much “stronger” that the efficiency difference between the two is quite clear.
If you live near Costa Mesa, South Coast Plaza’s Sephora has a Surratt display where you can see the brushes. However, they are sealed in an acrylic case so you can’t fondle, ahem, I mean touch them to feel their softness, spring, and density. You can only get a rough idea of their size. Stupidly enough though, the brushes are available on the shelves right underneath the display and don’t have tamper proof packaging. So when you get your brush home, wash it first. Someone with less than stellar scruples could have opened it up and played with it, then put it back in the box prior.
If you are interested in the Chikuhodo Z-1 Powder Brush, it is available on CDJapan for 16,000 yen or ($140-155) tax free with free shipping as long as the free shipping promo lasts (which seems to be forever. The current one has being going for 1.3+ years consecutively). If is also available on other online retailers (Beautylish and VisageUSA) at a higher price. If you don’t know about CDJapan and you have an interest in Japanese makeup brushes, you should really get to know it.
I actually reach for the Surratt Face Brush more than I do for the Z-1. Would I have initially gotten it myself full price? No way. But now that I’ve had it, played with it and enjoyed it, would I replace it if I lost my current one? Yes… only if there was a 20% sale running and I had a few gift cards that had a substantial combined balance. I would be willing to pay a little more than Z-1 (assuming 16,000 yen ~ $140-155 USD) price for the pretty handle and to obtain that phenomenal finish it gives with pressed powders again. $200 (with tax) would still be a very hard sell for me.
When I was chatting brushes and brands with the general manager at HakuhodoUSA, I mentioned there was a line of brushes at Sephora that looked genetically similar to the Chikuhodo Z-Series so naturally we had to look it up. The expression of shock upon seeing the price of the face brush was pretty funny and a reality check moment. When the GM of Hakuhodo expresses shock at the price of a single brush, you know it’s over priced. The face brush is more expensive than any single brush Hakuhodo sells. Their most expensive is a ebony wood kinoko ringing in at $225 and kinokos/kabuki brushes tend to be more expensive than handle brushes with an equivalent brush head, in general never mind added luxury “fee” for the ebony that makes up the handle.
If you value value, then the Surratt Face brush is not for you. If you value beautiful aesthetics as well as high performance (and don’t drop your brushes on the regular), then the Surratt Artisque Face Brush is a good candidate to consider if you want a luxurious powder brush… and blush brush if you’ve got chipmunk cheeks like me.