Shaving brushes help turn a good shave into a great shave. Not only do they add a wonderful element of luxury to any shave, they are also pretty retro cool. Want to learn more? Let us take you through some shaving brush hair basics.
All natural hair shaving brushes will have some odor with initial use, but this diminishes quickly. There are four main types of brush hair that you will encounter as you start to lather.
Badger Shaving Brush
Badger is one of the classic shaving brush types and arguably the “best”, and its different grades means that it can be within almost anyone’s price range. It offers different levels of scrubbiness, and can be as soft as a cloud, if you choose the right one. Due to the type of badger hair used in these shaving brushes, they require little to no break-in period. While lower grades can arrive with a bit of an animal scent on them, that will quickly diminish with a couple of lathers.
Badger hair is a particularly popular choice for wet shaving because of its water retention, face feel, and backbone. It whips up a great lather with the water and firmness, and it feels great on your skin.
Badger hair shaving brush grades vary from manufacturer to manufacturer; however, the three commonly accepted grades are Pure, Best, and Silvertip. There are other unique grades from manufacturers, but these are often hard to define.
So what distinguishes these hair grades from one another?
Pure badger shaving brushes are the cheapest of the lot, as they use a lower grade badger hair that is found on most of the badger. It is often darker, and even black in color. It doesn’t hold as much water as the higher grades of hair, and it is the most scratchy. This is beneficial for exfoliation and lathering hard soaps, but can also be irritating for sensitive skin. It is important to note that these brushes are often not handmade, unlike with the higher grades of hair.
Any of the classic shaving brush makers out there will offer a great pure brush. You can’t really go wrong.
Best/Super badger shaving brushes are a jump up in hair quality. The hair is often banded, which means it is two-toned in color. It holds more water than pure, and it is significantly softer, while still having a bit of scratch to exfoliate. If you are budget-minded, but still want to experience most of what badger shaving brushes have to offer, this is the brush for you.
Silvertip shaving brushes are considered the crème de la crème of shaving brushes. These brushes are carefully handmade out of badger neck hair. These are the softest, most luxurious shaving brushes money can buy. They have exceptional water retention properties and are absolutely wonderful for making lather. Great examples of this are Edwin Jagger, Simpson, and Muhle. But this luxury comes at a cost. These shaving brushes are more delicate than any other brush and need to be looked after properly. This means proper drying, not being too harsh while lathering, and just common sense.
Boar Shaving Brush
Boar shaving brushes are harder to categorize as they are separated into hair grades.
The biggest thing boar shaving brushes have going for them is the price—they are on average the cheapest of all the brushes. They are soft, with just the right amount of scrub, once broken in. And while they hold less water than badger brushes, the amount held is still more than enough for making some great lather.
However, with such a bargain price comes some downsides. Arguably the biggest downside of boar shaving brushes is the break-in period. This refers to the length of time it takes for the hairs to begin splitting, which makes the brush significantly softer. Boar brushes take between one and three weeks to break-in properly, which is a significant investment of time.
Horse Hair Shaving Brush
Horse hair shaving brushes are very similar to boar brushes, albeit more expensive. They are very soft after a break-in period of a couple of weeks. Again they are not as expensive as the higher grades of badger shaving brushes, which is great if you are on a budget.
Also, unlike the other two natural options, horse hair is retrieved by brushing and grooming the animal. Vie Long has long set the standard for horse hair brushes.
Synthetic Shaving Brush
The only non-animal option of shaving brushes available, synthetics, have come a long way in recent years and have really caught up. These brushes are not the cheapest out there; however, they are really starting to gain a following, due to their great qualities.
Because of their man-made nature, synthetic shaving brushes are the most animal friendly option. They require no break-in period, so they are ready to use out of the box. The synthetic fibers dry very quickly, and this quality, combined with their resilience, make them perfect travel brushes. The fibers readily release lather, which uses up less shaving cream or soaps in the long run.
Although they have made great strides in recent years, synthetics will never be the same as a real silvertip shaving brush. They also do not hold as much water as their natural counterparts. This is what makes them so great for travel, but not as good as natural options.
Choosing For Yourself
In the end, shaving brushes are a very personal thing, and it can take a great deal of experimentation to find the right one. Many shavers find that having multiple brushes adds a nice variety to their shaving routine. Investing in good brushes will help you to be set for many years to come with proper brush care.
What’s your go-to? Do you have a favorite shaving brush. . . or two? Let us know in the comments below.