Home Behind the Scenes Exploring brush shedding

Exploring brush shedding

by Sonia G.

When I started my blog in 2012, I had no idea that one day I would go to Japan, and even more, to Kumano. I had the opportunity to visit the brush (Fude) manufactures, meet the artisans and talk to them. This allowed me to get to know them better and to understand more the challenges they can face based on the different types of brushes they manufacture.

Although the manufacturing processes can be similar, each artisan has his or her very own expertise, tricks, tools or secret techniques that they have learned or inherited from previous generations. That’s why they are all so unique and special.

I work with several manufacturers. This has always been my dream. I’m not on this journey principally with a business perspective- I want to showcase their craftsmanship and legacy in a variety of special pieces. Working with various manufactures that are so closely connected requires a lot of diplomacy, and a lot of trust from all parties.

All those Fude companies have their own specific providers (ferrules, handles, materials…) or access to specific artisans or partners. They may be neighbors in Kumano, but they are also competitors.  Because of that, I dont want to cause them issues by going into too much detail. The information in this post should be informative but not too revealing for a competitor to take advantage.

Japanese handmade brushes were not so widely known ten years ago, they were actually difficult to get and we didn’t often have direct or easy access to them. The fact is, Kumano is small and it’s not that easy to access from big cities. They don’t have huge budgets and resources for running international interfaces. In Tokyo you can find more English speaking employees for example, but in a small town like Kumano, they may not be that easy to come by, specially 10+ years ago.

I remember shopping for Fude via very complicated routes! Through forwarding companies, Rakuten, using google translate… I think I tried it all or pretty much… It was such a party each time I received the long awaited Fude!!!
I have continued to accumulate brushes since then, I collect them but I also use them. Today I am still very much obsessed and I love to talk about brushes!

Today I want to address the topic of “shedding” in a make-up brush. Share my expectations as a customer, my experience as an OEM (brand), the process that is done at the manufacture to prevent it and also, what we can do at home to take good care of our precious Fude.

Brushes can shed bristles all along their life span, the bristles that come apart may be bristles that broke or that unattached upon usage, packaging or transport – or maybe, they were never attached to the base but only decided to fall once the brush bloomed and got to work.

Whether you are just starting with brushes, or you are a Fude lover and collector, I hope this is interesting to you!

Is a brush really supposed to shed?

Yes. If you ask this question to the manufacturers, they will say yes, but I don’t think you will get a precise answer with a calculated amount or even a formula that will get you a precise number of bristles.
My objective with this post is to talk about the causes of shedding and its prevention, it might also help to understand what we can expect to be normal or what we can consider as excessive.

Why do brushes shed?

There could be many reasons that trigger shedding, those reasons are specific to each brush. For example:

  1. the type of bristles used on the brush (synthetic/mix/natural),
  2. the manufacturing process (glue/shedding prevention/quality),
  3. the technique used with the brush
  4. the maintenance or cleaning
  5. the storage
  6. the density, shape or size of the brush

1. The type of bristles used

Do all brushes shed equally? Not at all. There are several types of brushes: full synthetic, full synthetic but bundled with different types of synthetic filaments, then there are full natural brushes but also brushes with a mix of natural bristles and synthetic filaments.

Type 1 – A 100% synthetic brush
Synthetic bristles don’t usually break like natural hair bristles do as they don’t have the same structure. The glues may also be different because stronger glues can sometimes be used with synthetic fibers -This is not a general rule as it depends on the manufacturing process. Unless there is an issue with the construction of the brush or the glue, a synthetic brush is quite unlikely to shed.
A synthetic bristle will have consistently and surgically the same strength across its length, which makes the base of the bristles attach with the same force.

Type 2 – A 100% synthetic brush but with a mix of different types of synthetic filaments
There are synthetic brushes that use exactly the same bristle for the entire brush head, and synthetic brushes that use a variety of synthetic bristles or filaments -thicker/thinner/wavy/straight and so on. A synthetic brush with mixed synthetic bristles is more complex to manufacture versus the type 1 above but it’s still stronger than a natural bristle brush and unlikely to shed.

Type 3 – A 100% natural bristle brush
Each natural bristle is different (even those of the same type and grade), they are not exactly the same strength, width, length, quality, shape… there is a lot of processing to do at the manufacture to even out the bristles before they go on a brush and then even after.
These brushes are more likely to shed due to the structure of the natural bristle, even the exact same brush will behave in different ways.
Due to natural bristles being different in width, strength and shape, each brush will shed in a slightly distinc way, some bristles have weak points but they will only yield once movement and pressure are put repeatedly on them, this is normal. We need to have a look at the manufacturing process, the technique used with the brush, the maintenance, storage, density and shape to understand why shedding happens and/or how to prevent it.

Type 4 – A brush with a combination of synthetic and natural bristles
From what I have seen, these brushes are complex in the manufacturing process because the artisans are bundling together two types of bristles that have two completely different structures and that behave totally distinctively, they require a specific technical knowhow.
The shedding will be quite similar to a fully natural brush or higher because of the various strengths of bristles working together, there will be friction and the natural bristles are going to have to resist – that is the reason why we cannot mix “any” synthetic bristle with “any” natural bristle, they are wonderful together but they have to be balanced in a certain way and able to work as a team without destroying each other.

Each type of brush and type of bundling or mix comes with a certain complexity and we need to take into consideration that the more steps, time and effort spent on a brush, the higher its price is going to be.

2. The manufacturing process

Since synthetic bristles are less likely to shed or break, the information below is more in relation to brushes that are bundled with 100% natural bristles, or with a mix of natural and synthetic.

The glue – The base of the bristles is usually glued. Well, another thing that I noticed is that with a synthetic brush, it’s easier to calculate the amount of glue required for each brush head (inside the ferrule) since the space reserved for the glue is going to always be consistent and more predictable vs a natural brush.
The artisan needs to use just the right amount of glue, which means it has to be enough to keep the bristles tightly secured, but not be too much that it will overflow. That’s why they cannot “simply use more” just to be safe.

The quality of the bristles – If there are too many weak or bad bristles in the batch, it’s not going to be a durable brush. Those bristles are identified by the artisans and will be removed from the batch, then from each brush by hand, using different techniques depending on the artisan. However, there is a factor of “luck” where the exact same brush will shed 3 bristles in its life and the other one 33… even if the batch is perfectly consistent, it’s like a lottery, some brushes will have more of those weaker bristles, it doesn’t mean that it is inferior. A brush is designed and manufactured taking into consideration the shedding that can occur.

The shedding prevention or as they call it “removing the bad hairs” is absolutely necessary. This shedding prevention is when the artisan uses his hands, tools and techniques to remove the bristles that are weak, unattached, unaligned…. Remember that each natural bristle is different and this process is very time-consuming. There is not only one person or artisan in charge of removing the hairs that will potentially shed in the future, there are many, one can be more experienced than the other but usually, I can tell you that I see them all working with the same diligence and expertise.

The shedding prevention done by the artisans is easier on a synthetic brush because the bristles can be aligned neatly, their synthetic structure means that there are no weird tips sticking out in a strange direction or wave, there aren’t really weak or wild bristles to clean up.

3. The technique used with the brush

The way we use the brushes is more important that we think: if you notice that the bristles that shed are mostly bristles that look broken, it could sometimes be the technique or the pressure that is used to apply make-up with that brush.

If for example a brush is a paddle type and it’s used in heavy circular motions, it’s not the best movement for the brush. If a brush is round and it’s used agressively sideways, it might damage the bristles. Ideally, we should not put excessive pressure on the brush for it to blend or pick up the products effectively, instead we should switch to a firmer/denser/stronger/shorter brush instead of putting too much stress on a brush that may not be the best for the purpose.
Putting excessive pressure will cause the core of the brush to twist in a way that the bristles will detach off the base.

4. The maintenance or cleaning

This can have quite an impact on the life-span of a brush. If you ask the manufacturer, how frenquently am I supposed to wash a brush? They will probably answer: “the minimum possible“. The more fine and delicate the natural bristles, the less it should be washed.

I have very special and delicate brushes from 15 years ago, they are still ok and effective but I am gentle with the washing. For example: I do not rub them excessively against a soap or a sillicone pad, the bristles don’t bend in a movement that is agressive for the brush, I do not leave them soaking in water or liquid and I don’t dry them under direct sunlight or with a hair dryer – This will alter the glue and weaken it, allowing the the bristles to come apart. Heat can also alter the metal (ferrule) and wood (handle) as metal and wood move with sudden changes in temperature, which may also cause issues on the brushes.
It’s important to gently wash the brushes with an appropriate product but in between washes, it’s great to wipe them on a microfiber towel, this will already remove a lot of the product and bacteria and if it’s only for yourself, you won’t need to wash them as often. It’s also possible to use sprays or products but instead of spraying directly onto the brush, prefer to spray on the towel and then wipe the brush over it.

We should not be afraid to wash our brushes at all (I know some of you are) but we should just adapt the method to the type of brush. If you are not sure, it’s good to ask the Brand or manufacturer if they have any speficic recommendations.

Just a few important recommandations as these can easily cause severe shedding on the brushes:

– Don’t use water that is too hot or too cold, lukewarm is good. Too hot will make the hairs loosen up, but too cold the soap may not clean effectively.
– Don’t leave soap residue on the brush, rinse very thouroughly. If the soap is not properly rinsed, it will cause the hair to clump and contribute to mildew and hair damage deep within the base.
– Don’t use the brushes when the base of the brush is not fully dry as the bristles won’t be as strong.
– Don’t dry the brushes in a way that the water will run into the ferrule (head side down or flat is ok).
– Never put them back in the drawers or boxes when they aren’t fully dry.

I wash my brushes all with the same type of soap, mostly Beautyblender solid soap, I am just very gentle with the process, more gentle with the more delicate brushes. I use sprays like Beautysoclean Wipeout but I spray on my towel and then I wipe the brushes on the towel. I have received many questions about other soaps and sprays so I am testing those and will report back. Most products are going to be ok, it’s more the method that should be adapted.
On a daily basis, after I use my brushes I wipe them on a dry microfiber cloth, I use mine and always have one on my lap or close to my vanity to wipe them as I apply make-up or after I finished.
Microfiber cloths have great properties to remove residue and product and although they don’t kill germs, they do a great job at removing them so this is already a great maintenance for everyday.

On the other hand it’s also important to find a balance between washing the brushes too often and leaving them dirty sitting there for a long time with bacteria and residue. Dirty brushes should not be ignored and left unattended.

5. The storage

Actually storage is more important than we think and it can have a direct impact on shedding and the durability of a brush. Sudden big changes in temperature or humidity may deteriorate the components or the glue, it’s good to ensure that brushes are not stored in a humid place or in the bathroom – unless there is a good ventilation for example.
Just remember, don’t store your brushes when they aren’t fully dry.

It’s also good to keep an eye on the brushes, make sure that there is no mold and no bugs. That they are stored in a dry and safe place. I have to use dehumidifier little bags in the drawers located against a wall that is prone to humidity, I imagine that most of us don’t have drawers full of brushes though! There are also cedar blocks for example that help and are natural bug repellants.

6. The density, size or shape of the brush

When a brush is very dense, it’s not unusual that it sheds more than a brush with a medium density. There are so many bristles on the brush that it’s not a concern at all for the brush, but more an source of bother for the owner or a cause of stress. It is normal that all brushes shed some bristles as time goes by but it’s even more usual on a dense brush. Some weak bristles will only detach with specific movements as the density is what kept them under the radar. The shedding prevention is done by the artisan but he cannot put excessive stress on the whole integrity of the brush just to remore a few more of those stubborn weaker bristles so it’s expected that they will detach upon usage.

Some brushes will have a shape that is more prone to shedding. For example, let’s take a big dense brush shaped like a ball: you’ll have some nice density, also a mix of very short and long bristles, and on top of that, a complex shape. A “ball” shape is difficult to achieve with some type of bristles as it requires body in the core of the brush and some degree of blooming or splaying out to form that ball shape. This shape can be difficult to achieve if the bristles are fine and silky, so the artisan may need to play with different thickness or different length of bristles. The brush will bloom and open as it gets accustomed to use and the trapped loose hairs will shed, this can happen over a few days, weeks or months based on how often the brush is washed and used.

A brush with little density or wispy can also shed and break, for example if we put excessive pressure on the bristles, there are less bristles to support that pressure, hence they might break more easily as they are bending too much or too agressively -but this is more related to the technique to use with a brush.

Severe or normal shedding?

We do not have a precise formula to calculate how much a brush is supposed to shed, as with any handmade product there is a possibility that the brush is defective but we need to remember that shedding can also be a normal process – to a certain extent.

Severe shedding can start from the very beginning but if it starts suddenly, then there could be other causes to that. Soap residue, humidity, storage issues, unstable core…

I don’t expect zero shedding (although I wish for it) so, if I notice severe shedding that worries me, I will wash the brush a couple of times gently, let it dry fully and properly before using it and then check it, see how it goes.

Brushes are meant to last a certain time. At some point they might start to shed more heavily or the bristles may become too undisciplined or too dry or the shape might be lost. Then it is meant to be changed, just like a calligraphy brush.

I have been collecting brushes since 15 years. I have bought brushes that had issues from the very start, with severe shedding, but, we cannot rush to judgement and define a brand based on one brush and I understand this, so I am happy when brands have great customer service and terms that are satisfying.

I don’t baby my brushes but I take great care of them and in these last 15 years, the only big issues I had were related to storage (because of an issue with a wet wall in my room) and only a couple of brushes were impacted. So far I never had to change a brush because it didn’t perform properly, although some very old ones aren’t that soft or perfectly shapped anymore.
I wash them quite regularly, use them with many products and to their limits to be able to really test them properly and I am often surprised how resilient they are!

It’s a real pain to have to deal with shedding but I still prefer natural brushes… It is annoying but it’s still normal – to a certain extent.

As an OEM brand, when my brushes are manufactured I always insist a million times on the shedding prevention process, I am very annoying because I keep telling them that their work is so important. I know they do all their best, they are amazing artisans, and very hard working people but sometimes shedding will still happen and it’s very upsetting.

Fude are an investment, we need to use these precious handmade brushes with the care that they deserve and enjoy them!

I hope that you are loving your brushes, for sure the artisans truly enjoyed creating them for you! As always, thank you for reading and if you have questions I will talk to you in the comments below!

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Tosin 31 July, 2022 - 7:20 pm

Very interesting read. I have a question. I bought a bunch of your brushes from beautylish recently but not used them yet. Left them the way they came in, just got rid of the external cardboard packaging. How long can I safely leave them as is as I got back up of some of my current favs.

Sonia G. 3 August, 2022 - 6:52 pm

Thank you Tosin!
It’s a very good question, but first of all, thank you for getting backups, if the brushes are worth getting backups it is really a huge compliment. I sincerely appreciate it.

When you say cardboard packaging, do you mean the Beautylish paper and box? or do you still have the plastic sleeve?
Ideally, even backups I would wash them and use them a couple of times or at least check that they have no visible damages. To be honest, I don’t systematically do it, but ideally I should if I wish to use the terms and conditions and make sure I can return something if I need to.
Honestly, the likelihood that there is an issue is very tiny though that’s why I don’t tend to check any backups or new brushes thouroughly.
So, if you ask with the intention to return them in case there is an issue, I would say you need to check them before the return deadlines of Beautylish. If you ask with the intention to store them and use them later, much later, if they are stored in a safe place, they can stay there for quite a while! However, it’s good to keep all the brushes in rotation (even if some less than others), they will be able to get some air circulation and get washed from time to time which is not a bad thing as per the manufacturers.
Bottom line: the probability that there is an issue with a new brush is tiny, but if you want to be on the safe side, it’s good to wash them, let them dry very very well and then put them back in their sleeve.

The terms and conditions that an OEM brand has, well, any type of returns is a loss, but then it’s better when we can be reactive if or when there are any complaints. I hope this helps but please do let me know if you have more questions! thank you again for your trust and your love!!

Kay 1 August, 2022 - 3:53 am

Hi Sonia, thank you for this article. I know you are trying to explain a very complex process and why some brushes are not up to expectations. Having purchased hundreds of Japanese brushes for the past 13 years, many based on what I read about in this blog (thank you!), I have, from time to time, run into issues of excess shedding, weak hairs that break off, inadequate glue, poor shape, cut or broken hairs that poked my face and rank animal smells, from well known Kumamo manufacturers. It doesn’t happen very often – I think Kumano brush manufacturers take a great deal of pride in their products and strive for perfection.
I have purchased many of your brushes, some in duplicate, and have found your brushes to be the most dependable and consistent of all the brands. The goat hair you use is consistently of high quality, soft, supple — to me, that is incredible! The brushes are well shaped, shed minimally and I have not seen any breakage. Of the 57 brushes I have purchased so far, only one has a couple of pokey hairs which I feel when I press too hard. Frankly, I am super impressed with how you have managed to achieve and maintain that high level of excellence since you started your brand. Aside from hair quality, the superior design, unique shapes, careful selection and mix of hairs have elevated the industry. I remember getting so excited about a particular brush that did what I wanted it to, and now it seems there is almost a guarantee that your brush will do exactly what you say it will. How amazing is that?

Sonia G. 3 August, 2022 - 7:09 pm

Hello Kay!
Thank you! Issues can happen for sure and it’s getting more difficult to reach the same level of quality than years ago because the materials are not the same. The artisans also struggle when what they receive is not up to the best expectations. I am always surprised as an OEM that the parts all come from different providers with each their own tolerance margins and yet the artisans can achieve such a great product! They do strive for perfection, that’s for sure.
I am very demanding, very annoying (but very respectful), I don’t compromise but even then, issues can happen… I know they do the best they can and I hope it continues that way.
Thank you for your feedback, it helps a lot, it gives me so much motivation! I would be very curious to know what brushes were the most exciting for you, or that where in your mind!!
Sending you lots of love!!!

Kay 11 August, 2022 - 2:48 am

I use the Sculpt One daily to contour the bottom of my face to disguise jowls that have sadly appeared with age. It helps a lot! I love the flex and movement on this brush so thought I should buy another but I don’t see it on Beautylish so assume you are not going to make this big brush anymore. I have two of the Master Face, great for applying powder, buffing, and removing oil/shine in the afternoon. I use this brush most often, love the round shape and hair. I also have two of the Face Pro, love the hair on this one as well and can use for similar purposes as Master Face even if it is a bit fluffier. The Face One, Buffer Pro and the Smooth Buffer work well but I only use them if I am not being lazy. Prefer the flex of the larger head with longer hair. The blush brushes I most often use are the Soft Cheek of which I have 2, and the Cheek Pro. The Soft Cheek is like a sturdier version of the original Suqqu cheek, perfect for light application. I have several other of your cheek brushes, but honestly, there are so many and I can’t remember what brush to reach for, LOL, so I tend to reach for either the soft one or the dense one depending on the blush. I really like your fan brushes, they are not wimpy, but don’t contour much other than hiding my jowls so they don’t get much use. But I do use the Fan Pro daily for a touch of highlighter. I hesitated getting the Niji because I don’t use bronzer but was curious. I was surprised at how absolutely gorgeous this brush is! I haven’t figured out how to incorporate it into my makeup routine, need to play with it more. With the exception of squirrel cheek brushes, your face brushes have replaced all of my Japanese face brushes. The squirrel face brushes are now too soft for me, as well as high maintenance, and some of the goat brushes too coarse. I used to think squirrel was the ultimate but with the high quality goat hair you use and amazing designs, I am a total goat convert! Hoping you can continue to source good goat hair, but I see you are using a mix of goat and synthetic which I do think works well when done right. So these are my favorites, mostly because of how I do my makeup currently — if I had to pick three it would be Sculpt One, Master Face and Soft Cheek. May change in the coming years as my face, makeup and needs change so I am glad to have them all. My best to you!

Anette 3 August, 2022 - 3:52 pm

My brush sets from Sonia G. hardly sheds at all! I alternate between bush sets, so all are in use. I wipe the brushes on a microfiber towel after every use, and wash them properly after one week’s use. I read somewhere that washing the brushes once a week was the best?

Sonia G. 3 August, 2022 - 7:19 pm

Hi Anette,
Amazing!!! Couldn’t be happier!!!
Honestly I couldn’t say how frequently it’s good to wash each brush, because it depends on the brush. For example, after a week of use I will wash some, but I have so many in rotation and testing that maybe some brushes remain in rotation for a longer time…
Usually eye brushes it’s once a week but if the brush still performs perfectly and is clean enough, I will continue to use it for longer – probably sanitize it with a spray after a few uses. A face brush it will take a longer time in between washes, again if it’s goat I will use spray but more often just the towel. The issue is that using spray may alter the way the brush feels or performs (until the next wash of course which resets the shape and bristles).
Really wiping them regularly and using some spray is going to truly reduce the frequency of washing by a lot! But for me, it depends on the brush. A brush I use with creams I will wash more frequently -although the Fusion series I don’t need to wash as often…
A week is a good frequency for some brushes, for other brushes it’s way too frequently. Then if it’s for a PRO use, they would need spray sanitizing and washing much more frequently.
Big hugs to you and have lots of fun with the brushes!!!

Anette 30 August, 2022 - 4:16 pm

Thank you for kind advice! I’ll look more closely at each brush, to see wether they really need washing. The ones used only for powders could perhaps wait a little longer? Have a nice day <3

seda 6 November, 2022 - 4:35 pm

Hi Sonia, what are you thinking about brush guard. can I use them with your brushes? many thanks

Sonia G. 3 December, 2022 - 11:48 am

Hi Seda,

I am not a huge fan of brush guards because when travelling, they made slide up and down and damage the bristles.
It depends on the brush guards, sometimes it can be less damaging to use them, sometimes it’s better not to use them.
It also depends on how fine the bristles are, some bristles are more rough or synthetic so it wouldn’t damage them even if they move up and down.
Sometimes it’s better to use the brushguards anyway because it will protect the bristles depending on how the brushes are carried (mixed in with other products, etc)
If it’s for drying the brushes and keeping their shape, I use just strips of kitchen paper secured with a little tape.
I hope this helps? thank you for stopping by!! 😀


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