What is a Kabuki Brush?

Jayne Cannon

A kabuki brush is a short-handled brush used to apply foundation, blush, and other cosmetic powders. Its soft, densely-packed, dome-shaped bristles may be made of natural material like goat, sable, badger, or squirrel hair, or a synthetic such as taklon or nylon. Kabuki brush heads are generally short and wide, allowing for quick and easy application of powder over a large area. Many have tapered heads, advantageous for smooth, even application of makeup. They are also used to create a buffed, natural look when using powders on the face.

A kabuki brush gets its name from the Japanese style of theater where it is commonly employed.
A kabuki brush gets its name from the Japanese style of theater where it is commonly employed.

Kabuki brushes are widely used for applying mineral makeup. The short, flat-ended handle makes it easier to use the brush for blending makeup to create a flawless look, one of the reasons for its popularity. The dense, short bristles also allow the mineral makeup to penetrate deep into the brush, making it easier to load the kabuki brush with powder and apply it evenly. This brush's handle is typically 1 inch (2.54 cm) or less in length. Some brushes may have longer handles, or mini-heads which make them suitable for uses such as concealing and mineral blush application.

To use a kabuki brush, the user should tap a little powder into the container lid or other dish. She can then swirl the brush into the powder several times, making sure the powder has coated the entire brush, then tapping it slightly to remove any excess. The powder is then applied to the appropriate areas of the face using a circular motion to blend it into the skin. For mineral makeup especially, it's important to make sure the powder is thoroughly blended into the skin.

The kabuki brush is so named for its use for application of makeup by the actors in the kabuki style of theater and dance, popular for many centuries in Japan. They are readily available for purchase anywhere from drugstore cosmetic counters to higher-end cosmetics lines.

Keeping brushes clean is important, as they can pick up bacteria from repeated use. To clean a natural-haired brush, it can simply be swirled in warm water with a tiny amount of mild shampoo, then rinsed thoroughly with warm water. It should be allowed to dry flat. Caution should be used when synthetic kabuki brushes are cleaned; the bristles can easily lose their shape. After a synthetic kabuki brush is rinsed, the bristles should be carefully reshaped and allowed to air-dry overnight.

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Discussion Comments


@ocelot60- I agree with you, because I have found that kabuki brushes with longer handles are awkward to use. The kind that are short and have very thick, plushy bristles are the absolute best to from my experience.


I think that a good tip for choosing the best kabuki brush is to look for the shortest one available. Shorter brushes give you more control and a better makeup finish, in my opinion. The reason for this is probably because shorter kabuki brushes allows you to work closer to your face when applying makeup.

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