Why pay $34 for a Tarte brush when there’s a $6 dupe lurking in your local TJ Maxx?
Before I get into the dupe itself, please humor me on some brush history. If you don’t want to humor me and/or just don’t care at all about history, feel free to skip ahead!
Remember the wildly popular NARS Ita Kabuki Brush that blew up in the makeup community in 2014 with the emergence of contouring? I actually wrote a post way back in the day about how there was a perfect dupe for it, which was the Everyday Minerals Itahake brush, which I believe has since been discontinued (sad face).
When I was doing my research on those two brushes, I noticed that the name of the NARS “Ita” was just a shortened version of the Everyday Minerals “Itahake.” I found this extremely interesting, and figured that Itahake must just be a type of brush. I googled “Itahake brush” to see if I could find any brushes like this, and while the first few search options were for Everyday Minerals, I found out some more information.
Since I didn’t read the description on the Everyday Minerals website beforehand, I decided to go back and see if it said anything about this brush, and lo-and-behold, it did. The website read: “The Everyday Minerals ITAHAKE brush is full of tradition and a direct descendant of the same luxurious bamboo brushes used centuries ago by Japanese Kabuki performers.” In case you were wondering, this is where the history part comes in.
Upon further research, I found out that more specifically, this type of brush – the Itahake – was used by Geisha to apply their makeup. This brush, along with another Itahake called the “Nagae-Itahake,” were used to paint on the Kabuki Oshiroi, or white face paint. The Itahake has a more squat handle and is slightly wider to apply the face paint on larger areas, while the Nagae-Itahake has a longer handle and is more narrow, making it suitable for areas harder to reach, such as the neck.
These modern Itahake brushes actually look more like the traditional Nagae-Itahake than their namesakes, the regular Itahake. From my understanding of the reading, these brushes were used by both Maiko, which is what a Geisha would start off as, and Geisha.
In hindsight, I guess there wasn’t that much ~history~ in this post, but I just found it extremely interesting how a brush traditionally developed and used for putting on thick white face makeup has been remarketed and repurposed to being a contour brush. Whereas the Everyday Minerals brush has retained its bamboo origins and mostly traditional look, the NARS brush has been completely redesigned and made to look black and sleek to match the brand with only the shortened “Ita” name as a tip back to the traditional brush.
The NARS Ita brush can still be seen making its way around YouTube videos, but in the past three years, I think we’ve definitely seen an evolution in contouring – most people (from what I’ve seen) have moved away from the harsher “make a fish face, draw a line from your ear to lips, and slightly blend it upwards” to a more diffused, “natural” look. With this, here comes THE ENTIRE POINT of my little history lesson: a similar kind of brush to the Ita and Itahake brush exists, but its bristles are a lot “fluffier,” which is better suited to the more diffused contour look.
Enter the Tarte Swirl Power Contour & Bronzer Brush. This puppy retails for $34 and features a flat bamboo handle and synthetic bristles. I believe this launched in 2015, but I could be wrong. I remember being really excited about this brush, saving up, and booking it to Sephora to buy it because I was convinced this would finally help me crack the secret of the perfect contour. While I did use it for contour at the time, I’ve since kind of fallen out of the whole contour thing (I usually only contour on ~special occasions~ now) and find that I prefer it a lot more for a more “precise” bronzing due to its wider bristles on the top.
When I was in TJ Maxx this weekend, something caught my eye: a brush dubbed the Flat Kabuki Brush from EcoBeauty Australia (or ‘EBA’ for short) that looked exactly like the Tarte brush (which is, fun fact, the most expensive brush in my collection), except retails for $5.99 instead of $34. I snatched it up, took it home with me, and put the brushes side by side to compare.
With the bamboo handles and basic “elongated-triangle” shape of the brushes from the side view, these look basically identical right off the bat. The first noticeable difference is the color of the bristles – the Tarte brush’s bristles fade from a dark brown to white, while the EBA bristles fade from a cream to caramel brown to white.
Up close, the differences become a little more noticeable. The EBA bristles are slightly longer, and the bottom of the Tarte brush is a little more square than the EBA brush.
From a top view of the brushes, you can see the biggest difference between the two, which is that the EBA bristles are much more splayed and wider. Feeling the brushes, the Tarte brush is a little more dense and tightly-packed, while the EBA brush isn’t necessarily “flimsy,” but the bristles give way a little easier. I’d say they’re both equally as soft and the differences are minute enough that I would consider the EBA brush a pretty close dupe to the Tarte brush.
One thing that I think is a little strange about the EBA brush is its name. When I read “Flat Kabuki Brush,” I think of a flat-top foundation brush, which is what will come up if you search the term anyway:
Strange name aside, the only downside to this dupe is that it’s not easily found online – I did a bunch of ~Googling,~ which unfortunately yielded basically no results. The only place online I found EcoBeauty Australia is on Poshmark, but the selection here is limited. Given the nature of TJ Maxx stores, I wouldn’t be surprised if this brand has gone out of business, has been phasing out of business, or is some obscure small brand that you can’t really find anywhere.
Tl;dr – if you happen to see this EcoBeauty Australia brush in store at TJ Maxx (or maybe even Marshalls) and you’ve always been curious about the Tarte Swirl Power Contour & Bronzer Brush, or if you’re just curious, I’d say it’s worth it to pick it up! It’s soft, gets the job done, and is so much more affordable!
BRUSH HISTORY SOURCES:
- thegloss // Japanese Geisha-Maiko Makeup & Tools
- Smithsonian Journeys // Japan’s Tradition of Make-Up
- Immortal Geisha // Make-Up of Geisha and Maiko
*Disclaimer: I purchased all above product(s) with my own money and am not affiliated with or compensated by any of the brands mentioned (I wish!). As always, all thoughts & opinions are my own (unless stated otherwise)!