Choosing a shaving brush can be overwhelming for a new wet shaver. There are many bristle types, lofts and handle designs. Here are some basic things to consider when choosing a starter shaving brush.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A SHAVE BRUSH?
The shave brush is an essential tool to achieve a great shave. At a basic level the purpose of a shaving brush is to build and apply lather. It also helps lift the hair and exfoliate the skin to prepare for a good shave. A shave brush can be used with an artisan shave soap or cream, as well as canned shave cream.
THE TWO BASIC CLASSIFICATIONS OF SHAVE BRUSHES
There are 2 main classifications of shave brushes: Animal Hair and Synthetic Bristle brushes. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, depending on what you prefer, let’s explore.
ANIMAL HAIR BRUSHES
Most mainstream animal shave brushes are Boar and Badger hair. Animal hair brushes are fantastic at absorbing and retaining water and are the most common choice for a new wet shaver.
A boar hair brush is perfect if you are on a budget. They are often very accessible and extremely affordable. Boar bristle brushes are yellow or blonde in color, often scratchy or scritchy and are really good for exfoliation because of the natural characteristics of boar hair. They often have really good back bone, as the hairs are really strong and dense.
BREAK IN TIP: Boar hair brushes can take a bit of time to break in, they get better with time as the hair develops split ends. If you want to speed up the break in process of your boar hair brush, you can completely submerge and soak the brush, handle included, in cold water for 2-3 days. This soaking process can expedite the break in process of your boar hair shaving brush, softening the bristles and flaring the knot. For what not to do, also see 6 Shaving Brush Mistakes to Avoid.
There are several grades of badger hair used for shaving brushes. They include: Pure Badger, Best Badger, Super Badger and Silvertip Badger. Each grade has a different price point, look and feel depending on the brand.
Badger brushes are often more expensive than boar or synthetic brushes because of market prices. Pure badger is often the lowest price point and a great place to start if you are new to wet shaving. The hair is typically dark or black in color and has a really nice look in any shave den.
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE WITH ANIMAL HAIR SHAVING BRUSHES
THE SMELL: Animal brushes can sometimes have a gamey, funky or animal smell to them. The smell will dissipate with use as the smell of shave cream or soap collects in the brush.
BREAK IN TIP: To help reduce the funky smell of a new badger shaving brush, load the brush, build a lather and let it sit for 30 minutes. Rinse and repeat this process several more times over the coarse of a few days. You can use any type of soap or cream, but preferably something with a heavier scent.
SHEDDING: Another thing to note is that animal hair brushes can lose hair or shed with usage, especially in the beginning of the break in period. So don’t be alarmed when you loose a few hairs from your brush, it’s perfectly normal.
SYNTHETIC BRISTLE BRUSHES
Synthetic shave brushes have exploded in popularity in the last few years for new and experienced traditional wet shavers. They are made of nylon bristles, suitable for Vegans as they are not made from animal hair. Synthetic brushes are ultra-soft and provide a wonderful user experience and have no animal scent. They dry much quicker than animal hair shaving brushes, which make them great for travel. Synthetic brushes are also extremely well priced, similar in price point to boar hair brushes or entry level pure bristle badger brushes.
I recommend that you select a shave brush based on feel, look or by choosing a material that aligns with your personal values. Start with the brush that feels best in your hand, fits your budget and is aesthetically pleasing to you. Many wet shavers end up with several of each brush type as they build their collection. That being said, it’s perfectly normal to collect all types. If you have a shaving brush and are looking for some general maintenance and care tips for your shave brush, see 6 Shaving Brush Mistakes to Avoid.