So, what is a shaving brush? That’s why you clicked on this article, right? Get comfy and let me tell you, dear reader. Just like a safety razor (which you should be using in tandem), a shaving brush is a necessary accessory to anyone’s shaving routine. Why? It paved the way for personal shaving, gives you the best quality shave, and promotes the philosophy of investing quality time into your grooming routine, therefore yourself. Before I convince you, let’s cover a little history.
Records indicate that the shaving brush appeared around the 1750s in France, but it didn’t gain prevalence until the 1800s along with the safety razor, and the two were a match made in shaving heaven. The two liberated normal folk from relying on a barber constantly and brought personal grooming to homes far and wide. Since then, shaving brushes offer a cornucopia of hairs and handle materials to suit anyone’s needs.
The Shave Brush Handle
First and briefly, let’s cover the handle. Shaving brush handles have come in a variety of materials through history, including bison bone, aluminum, timber, crystal, gold, silver, porcelain, tortoiseshell, chrome, brass, nickel, and synthetic. Nowadays, the most popular are nylon, urethane, and plastic, even with the most premium manufacturers. These three synthetic materials typically last the longest, but many consumers prefer common but natural materials like wood, or more exotic materials like tortoiseshell. Ultimately, the handle’s material doesn’t noticeably affect the brush’s performance; it more so comes down to the user’s preference and what will give them the best quality lather.
Don’t Bristle At The Shave Brush Selections
Now, a brush’s bristles is a different story. The four popular materials are as follows: Badger, boar, horse, and synthetic, and each has its pros and cons that I want to review with you. First off, we have badger hair, which is undoubtedly the most common. Badger hair is known to retain water well, is smooth on the skin, and sports a high density of hairs, creating a great lather. On the negative side, badger hair tends to be fairly expensive due to its high quality, so if you find one that’s surprisingly cheap, it’s likely an imitation with lower-quality materials. So, if you want to spend more up front to get one that lasts, badger hair is the go-to. A little more info for you: There are four types of badger hairs: Pure, Best, Super, and Silvertip. If your goal is cost, go with the Pure or Best; if your goal is premium quality, go with Super and Silvertip.
Next, we have boar hair, which is a good choice because it softens over time, lifts the user’s hair up well, and is notably cheaper than badger hair, which makes it a excellent choice for beginner wet shavers. However, I must note that boar hair can be stiff for the first few shaves, retains less water than badger hair, and sheds the quickest compared to other hairs, which can definitely be annoying. But hey, if you’re on a budget, boar hair is a great choice.
Third, here comes horse hair. Brushes with horse hair are known to be softer than those with boar hair and are in roughly the same price point. Unfortunately, horse hair tends to smell at first, doesn’t retain water very well, and requires more upkeep than other brushes. However, like the boar brush, if your focus is cost, then a horse hair shaving brush is still a good option.
Don’t Want Animal Hair? Go Synthetic
Finally, we have synthetic brushes, which have gained popularity in the past few decades. Most notably, synthetic brushes avoid any animal ethics concerns, which is vital for many people. In addition to that, synthetic brushes are known to last and offer a wide selection from which to choose. On the flip side, synthetic brushes don’t retain water super well, can be rough on the skin, and even top tier synthetic brushes cannot quite match the quality of the top tier badger hair brushes.
You Better Knot Forget The Knot
So, now that you’ve got a rundown of handles and hairs, let’s discuss what does a good shaving brush make. Again, what is a shaving brush, really? First and foremost, the sign of a good quality brush is the tightness of its knot, which is what anchors the brush hairs to the handle. This knots dictates the flexibility of the hairs—are the hairs flimsy, too stiff, or just right? As you’d expect, there’s a whole world of different knots out there, so search thoroughly to find your ideal knot. As a note, the highest quality knots are hand tied.
Along with the knot, here are some other considerations: Does the brush shed hairs often? A few times a month is totally fine, but if you find yourself pulling out clumps of hairs, a new brush is in order. Also, like I hinted at earlier, are the hairs sourced ethically? Synthetic brushes avoid this concern, but ethically sourced animal hair brushes are widely available. However, I need to mention that most badger hairs come from China, and their record for animal rights is not great, so you may need to pay more upfront to get a high quality ethically sourced badger brush.
Now that I’ve answered “What is a shaving brush?” I need to answer the question that follows: Why use one? Since you’ve made it this far, dear reader, let’s not waste any time. First off, a brush effectively lifts your hair and exfoliates your skin, making the shave even better. Second off, a brush thoroughly lathers up the soap and, consequently, softens it and makes for a smoother shave. Those little bristles are fantastic at lifting your hairs, stimulating your follicles, and preparing your skin for a great shave—way better than your hands (it’s not personal, it’s just science).
So, now that you’re utterly convinced that a shaving brush is the way to go, how does one utilize this beautiful technology? Simple! Follow these steps: Before using your brand spanking brush, wash it with dish soap, let sit for 10-15 minutes, create a lather, let it sit overnight, rinse with warm water, and let dry. Now that it’s primed for your face (or wherever, no judgment), apply warm water to the skin to open your pores. Then, fill a bowl or mug with your soap or cream of choice, let the brush sit in warm (not hot!) water, and finally dip the brush into your soap and lather in a circular motion until the soap becomes light and foamy. Once you’ve achieved the ideal soap texture, lightly squeeze and shake off any excess water and apply the soap to your designated areas. Once you’ve completed your shave, rinse your brush and hang it bristles down to dry.
See? Super simple. “But Andrew,” you ask, “why not just use my hands? It’s quicker!” You’re right, and even I use my hands sometimes. However, let me say this: Like using a safety razor, a shaving brush demands a little more of your time, but that extra time is ultimately worth it. Investing time in your grooming routine is investing time in you, and you don’t deserve to be rushed. I cherish the extra time I devote to grooming, for I find it to be extremely meditative and peaceful, and I want everyone to experience that, too.