Before I even start writing anything substantive, I’m going to give you a couple disclaimers:
- I am not a brush expert. I am new to the Japenese brush (or fude) world, so I don’t have a lot of reference points. This review is just going to be my impressions of these, but not necessarily a comparison to a lot of popular high end Japanese brushes. Most of my brushes are a mix of Ecotools, Real Techniques, and MAC brushes, with one or two Chikuhodo brushes that I’ve splurged on over the last year. If you are looking for brush experts, head on over to:
- Sonia G’s blog, the OG brush expert to me. Heck, she even has her own line of brushes that are amazing.
- Wondegondigo’s blog, who I’ve been following for years.
- Temptalia, for obvious reasons.
- I purchased these brushes with a 50% discount after find out about them from katiejanehughes, one of my favorite makeup artists on Instagram. I don’t believe her discount code is available anymore. As part of the referral discount, I also received brush #7 for free.
Is anyone still with me? If you’re still interested in reading a brush noob’s review, here we go.
As mentioned above, I had never heard of rephr brushes until I saw katiejanehughe’s instagram. They are a very new Canadian brand that seems to have a business model based on referrals and feedback from consumers – whether they are industry profressionals, makeup artists, and general consumers. It seems that the goal is to create professional grade natural hair makeup brushes that are hand made in Japan, much like much more expensive brands like Hakuhodo, but at more affordable prices.
The brushes range from $24 to $130, which while expensive, are still less expensive than some of the higher end Hakuhodo lines.
It appears that right now, they are still in a “prototype” phase to gather more feedback on their first release of brushes, which is why you can only buy if you are “referred” by an existing tester.
As you can tell, I’m still a little confused. It’s an interesting model, for sure. I will say that at first, I was definitely suspicious. The original offer I had was to buy the brushes at 50% off, which for handmade Japanese brushes, was suspicious. But after seeing a couple other people on Instagram buy them and receive them, I decided to try it out as well.
I will say that my order was processed and shipped very quickly, and one of the founders, Kenny, even followed up with me about a month later to see how I was liking the brushes. From my interaction with him, it seems like they take all feedback very seriously, and since I wasn’t 100% happy with the 07 brush (that was already free, and more on that below), he offered to send me the next updated version of the brush. The new version hasn’t been released yet, so I haven’t received it yet.
I think I’m taking a “wait and see” attitude on my thoughts for the new brand. My hesitation mostly revolves around the referral part. In my mind, the “influencer” economy has gone too far, and I generally have very negative thoughts about it (and yes, I’m aware that by having an instagram account with a tiny bit of a following, I am considered a “nano influencer”….whatever that means.) The connection between buying products for a “tester,” (so, an influencer?) straddles the line of uncomfortable for me.
However, I also value their emphasis on feedback, and their dedication to making their brushes the best they can be. I was impressed with the conversation I had with Kenny, and it wasn’t just a “I hope you’re liking them!” type of conversation. He was genuinely interested in my thoughts, and asked what improvements I wanted to see.
I have a cautious hope that this brand can be successful, and I *want* to be optimistic that they can maintain this level of asking feedback and making improvements, but again…we’ll see.
I’ll leave my rambling thoughts there.
On to the actual brushes.
I was tempted to buy the whole line, of which there are 7, but ended up narrowing it down to the brushes I wanted the most. I ended up with:
- 02 ($24) – a flat shader brush like the MAC 237
- 03 ($24) – a tapered pencil brush
- 04 ($39) – angled cheek brush
- 07 (free), the free one that was included as a prototype – a flat blending brush
The first thing about these brushes are the handles. They are a matte black with a black ferrule, and they have a medium weight to them. I absolutely LOVE the matte black. I think it looks chic and sleek, and look more expensive than they are. It’s definitely a personal preference since I tend to like more minimal and I gravitate towards black packaging.
They also came packaged in a very sturdy cardboard box that is certainly reusable for storing brushes on my vanity or even to travel with. I definitely wasn’t expecting it, so it was a pleasant surprise.
This is a pretty basic shader brush shape, which is exactly why I wanted to try it. I use shader brushes every single day for my eyeshadow, and I can never really have enough of them. This one has a soft taper, and it isn’t super flat.
I have a couple flat shader brushes to compare – a very old Sonia Kashuk flat shader (though it’s my favorite), the MAC 239, a Luxie 213 flat shader, and a Chikuhodo GS09.
I find that the rephr 02 is much softer than the Sonia Kashuk and MAC ones, and about on par with the Chikuhodo one. Because the SK and MAC ones are stiffer, I use those for harder and denser formulas, like the Make Up For Ever shadows or MAC shadows, and I prefer to use the Chikuhodo and rephr ones for slightly softer formulas, like Viseart or Urban Decay.
The brush picks up powder very well and applies just as well as any other flat shader brush.
I love pencil brushes for applying shadows to my lower lash line, and this one is easily my favorite one. I always apply a bronze liner to my lower lashline for some soft definition, and then set that with a powder eyeshadow using a pencil brush. For years I’ve used this Ecotools one that’s only available in this set which has the perfect tip and size to apply and blend my shadows. I also have an It Cosmetics pencil brush, which also works, but is slightly thicker and stiffer than I’d prefer.
My Ecotools brush has been replaced by this rephr one. In comparison, the rephr brush is just a slightly larger, longer, and more tapered version. What I love about it is it is so soft, and it blends out my shadow perfectly. It is also small enough to apply my shadow precisely. I don’t usually use powder eyeshadow as a liner on my upper lashline, but on the rare occasion that I do, this also works perfectly for that.
If I could have 5 of these to always have one on hand, I would.
My current favorite blush brush is from Ecotools..again (which is now no longer available). I’ve used it for years, and though I’ve experimented with different kinds of brushes – tapered, angled, round, etc – I keep going back to the Ecotools one.
Recently, someone suggested that I try angled brushes to receive the diffusion and blending capabilities that I wanted. I first tried the sculpting brush from Surratt, which is an angled natural hair brush. I have really enjoyed mine…though I eventually have switched back to the Ecotools one.
This rephr one is extremely soft and silky, much like the other brushes that I ordered. Because it’s softer, I like to use it with my more pigmented or softer formula blushes, like the Surratt blushes, which I’ve been wearing a lot lately. It’s great for achieving a more diffused and sheer look, though I can build up pigmentation with this brush as well.
I also like to use this brush for highlighter, which it does do very well, especially since I usually want a very sheer application of highlighter
This is the prototype brush I received for free. I was confused and a little disappointed upon my initial impressions, because I was expecting a domed blending brush like the MAC 224, and the top of this is a little flat. This was the bulk of my conversation with Kenny, because I originally thought this was a “hand cut” error. I noticed that it was still applying and blending my transition shade really well – better, in fact, than all my other blending brushes, but I was still confused about the shape.
Kenny confirmed that it was intentionally designed as a flat top brush, so that it would be more versatile for different purposes. With that in mind, I am definitely more at ease because the brush feels super soft and silky, yet applies my transition shades flawlessly.
That said, I would still like to try the new version of the 07, which the brand is supposedly working on with a more domed shape.
For comparison, I brought out the MAC 217, MAC 224, and a Moda Pro synthetic pro brush. You can see that the MAC 217 is shorter and has more stiffer bristles. It is much more comparable in shape and application to the MAC 224.
So….given my relative rookie status with “nice” fude brushes….I really love these. I think the quality of all the brushes I have is fantastic. They have all been in my regular rotation, especially the 02, 03, and 07. I have also washed these a couple times with my usual diluted Dr. Bronners, and they have washed just fine.
I will stick with my “wait and see” attitude to see how this brand evolves and how they do with new releases. I would love for them to come out with more eye and cheek brushes (which are my personal favorite), though I wonder when they will come out of their “testing” phase and actually sell them to the public without a referral code.
I hope this was a helpful overview, from someone who isn’t a seasoned brush expert.
Have you tried any rephr brushes yet? How do you feel about them?
As always, thanks for reading.