Kabuki Brush

kabuki brush with mineral makeup

With mineral makeup popularity on an upswing, it's a good time to review the tool that is used for the makeup's application; the kabuki brush. This versatile brush is also excellent for powder, blush and bronzing. There are dozens of excellent varieties to choose from, but you need a little information before you make a purchase.

Kabuki Brushes: A Dramatic History

As the name suggests, the kabuki brush is based on tools used in Japanese Kabuki Theater, where the makeup is required to be heavy, and yet, is beautifully flawless. Beginning in the 1950s, the brushes gained popularity among makeup artists, particularly those working in fashion and film, where those same levels of heaviness and flawlessness are essential.

Goat or Squirrel?

No, it's not a bizarre episode of Animal Planet. Your two main fiber choices in a kabuki brush are goat or squirrel hair. Some brushes are made of manmade fibers, but as the goat and squirrel hairs are harvested harmlessly and humanely, you should consider these natural ingredients first.

Ideally, before you buy a brush, go to a department store or a shop like Sephora and ask to test the brushes, or have them tested on you. What you'll find is that those made from squirrel are softer and are better for sheerer applications. Many women find that they prefer squirrel when they start using mineral makeup so as to prevent an uneven or overly heavy application.

Goat hair is also very soft, which anyone who adores cashmere already knows. The strong hairs pick up more makeup than the squirrel, thus giving you more coverage. Goat hair's flexibility also means you don't have to put in as much effort in the makeup application process; the brush will just about do it for you.

The Application Process

The main thing to remember about mineral makeup is that a little goes a long way, and until you've settled into a groove, you're better off applying a few light layers, rather than trying to put on one heavy layer. To start, gently work the powder into the brush, then tap the brush against the lid to dislodge any excess. Most makeup experts agree that applying in a gentle circular motion will result in the cleanest, most efficient coverage.


Since you really can't use mineral makeup without a kabuki brush, when you decide to purchase the makeup, the salesperson will encourage you to buy a brush of the same brand. However, there's no good reason to do so, because what matters is the feel of the brush in your hand and on your face. They'll all work the same with whatever makeup you prefer, so shop around to find the one that's perfect for you. Here are some popular brands:

  • Bare Escentuals
    • Since Bare Escentuals mineral makeup ranks high in consumer favorites, it makes sense that their brush is a bestseller, but opinions differ widely as to its quality. Some users insist it's the best they've ever tried, whereas others find that the goat hairs shed easily or are scratchy. Again, this is where testing beforehand can be useful.
  • Japonesque
    • Japonesque has a wide variety of brushes in different styles, including one with a longer handle that is wrapped in bamboo, although this is really best for contouring.
  • Cat Cosmetics
    • Cat Cosmentics sells one called the "Super Euro Goat" that, though $40, comes in a nifty vegan leather carrying case, so it will definitely last.
  • Lauren Hutton
    • Obviously, not all celebrity cosmetic lines are worth the price, but former model Lauren Hutton's product line is well-respected, and people who have bought the brushes tend to love them.

Keeping Your Kabuki Brush Perfect

If you're spending $40 or more on a brush, you want to keep it as long as possible. But even if you only spend $15, you still want to put in the effort to keep it clean, not only so it continues to perform well, but so that the canvas you're brushing stays beautiful. A dirty brush can cause breakouts or aggravate an existing skin problem, and you don't need that.You can clean your brushes effectively with a good shampoo or Castile soap, but be mindful of anything that might dry the bristles out. If the shampoo doesn't leave your hair soft, it won't leave your brush soft. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, as you don't want a greasy makeup tool. Purpose-made brush cleansers are also available, but before you make an additional investment, ask your salesperson or the brush's maker what they recommend.

The bottom line is, whichever brush you choose, once you get the hang of using it, your makeup will look fantastic!

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