What Are the Differences in Shaving Brushes?

Shaving brushes come in so many colors, textures, sizes, and hair grades. It can be overwhelming. Let’s break it down. Here is a look at the variety of hair types and their benefits.


Types of Hair and Knot on Shaving Brushes

In general, boar has a lot of potential for those who can stick with it. Boar hair changes over time as it gets “broken in”. With repeated use, the strands split. And, in this case, split ends are good. They help to soften the shaving brush and add to its character. A boar hair shaving brush does tend to be more scritchy/scratchy with a nice exfoliation.


Some brushes are crafted from horse hair as well. These shaving brushes are created from the natural grooming that occurs with horses so the hair is recycled into brushes. Like boar hair you can get some good bang for your buck, but they both require quite a breaking in period. Also, like boar hair shaving brushes, horse hair shaving brushes can have more scritch, but they also perform a bit like a badger.

These shaving brushes are produced with manmade materials. The price point of synthetics make them excellent for entry into wet shaving and they allow you to get tons of different handles types to match every personality. Synthetic shaving brushes are often bigger knots (or can at least support that at a reasonable price) and are easy to maintain. Bigger knots load faster and produce lather faster.

Badger hair is harvested from the mammal, with close ties to the skunk, but don’t worry, any “gamey” smell should disappear with time and a good washing.  This type of hair is known for its water retention which aids in creating as lather, as well as a nice face feel. Heat retention and warmth, as well as softer tips (top of the brush with most contact with your skin) are often selling points of the most elite of these brushes usually called silvertip or super. The most luxurious hair comes from the back of the animal.

Most of these shaving brushes will benefit from soaking. This allows the hair of the brush to absorb water, helping to hydrate your lather appropriately. Swirl the brush over the soap or cream in a circular pattern until the tips of the shaving brush are pasty. This can take about 15-30 secs. Then take the brush to bowl/mug/face/palm to finish the lather which will build as you swirl/work the shaving brush.

Synthetics are an excellent way to test knot sizes and shapes at a much more reasonable price point. You can get a much larger knot size at an accessible price. If you tried to get a 30mm badger you would find the price exceedingly more than synthetics. West Coast Shaving carries plenty of shaving brushes to meet your needs – different handles, sizes, hair grades, hair types, and price points.

WCS recommendation:

You can never go wrong with an inexpensive badger hair brush to start, but don’t discount boar or horse if you are willing to put in a little bit of work. And, of course, we really are partial to our black synthetic hair that tops so many of our best selling brushes..

What’s your bottom line? Got an all-around favorite shaving brush? Or do you mix it up with a rotation of brushes? Let us know in the comments.

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