Shaving Brush Guide

What is the best shaving brush? There is no single right answer to this question because there are many things to take into consideration when determining what the best shaving brush would be. Are you using soap or cream? How much you are looking to spend? Are you concerned about using fur from an animal? Then there is the size of the handle, the size of the brush, color.  So many factors to take into consideration that being able to truly say that one is best is not so straightforward.

Why should I use a shaving brush?

If you have only ever used shaving cream from a can, then your confusion over why you should use a shaving brush is somewhat understandable. You would be unaware of the difference in lather that a brush provides, which then in turn provides a difference in your overall shave. Your fingers for one simply can’t hold water in the same way that a brush does, resulting a weak, watery lather.

In addition to helping you apply lather to your face the brush hairs also helps you exfoliate your skin removing dry dead skin from the surface. When it comes to shaving the brush actually helps soften the hair and raise them to achieve a close shave.  Finally, as a collector, they are fun items to have and use.  They look great, different brushes can be used for different situations, and there is always an option for those looking to buy you a gift.

Understanding Shaving Brush Types

Synthetic Brushes

Synthetic brushes are the relative newcomers to the shaving world. They offer a an option for those on a bit of a budget and / or for those looking for an item that is free from any potential animal cruelty. They are also fairly easy to keep clean.

You will find that the synthetic brush is really soft compared to a badger and definitely a boar brush. The biggest downside to the lack of firmness is that it doesn’t offer the added benefit of exfoliation.

I find them best when used with creams over soaps.

Horse Hair

My Vie-Long Horse Hair Brush

Horse hair shaving brushes used to be quite common until an anthrax scare pushed them to the background a century ago or so. But the have made somewhat of a comeback.  I feel that they still take a backseat to the badger and boar brushes, and possibly even the synthetic brushes, but in my opinion they really shouldn’t.

There are advantages to the horse hair brush.  They are cruelty free – the brush hair comes from the horse’s tail or main causing no pain to the animal. They tend to be not be cost prohibitive.

Potential downside to the horse hair brush is selection, compared to the badger and boar, there is much less of an option. I currently own one, the Vie-Long Horse Hair brush. Another downside is the initial smell of the hair might be a turnoff for those who lack the patience to wash it thoroughly or wait it out over the course of a few shaves.

The horse hair brush offers an experience that is softer than a boar brush but not quite as absorbent as a badger hair brush. More often than not my horse hair brush is my go to brush.  Offers a nice middle of the road option that you could use with a cream or a soap.

Boar Hair

My Omega Boar Hair Brush

Boar hair shaving brushes tend to be shavers first brush.  The accessibility and most often cheaper cost compared to a badger hair brush makes it a logical choice for a newcomer. Boar hair brushes are ‘stiffer’ compared to other brushes, and while it will soften over time, it will always provide that tougher feel to them.

I tend to reach for a boar brush when I am using a soap, I find the stiffer bristles help me build lather with greater ease. I can also say that I never, ever use my boar brush with a cream, it’s not that you can’t, I just don’t love the way it feels.

Best Badger & Pure Badger

My Edwin Jagger Best Badger Brush

Badger hair comes in various grades with the pure badger being the bottom of the grades.  With a darker hair and courser feel to them, pure badger and best badger brushes, are the least soft of the grades. That is not to say that they make for an inferior brush, for the most part you can pick one up that offers a nice balance between function and budget.

The best badger brush has a lighter colour than the pure badger, you will notice a softer feel and its ability to hold water is also improved. Personally I would skip the pure badger and make the jump to the best badger brush, like the Edwin Jagger Brush (in image above)

Super Badger

You guessed it the Super Badger is a step up from the best badger brush.  You will notice hair that is more white at the tips with a black band, even softer feel, a step up in ability to hold water, and of course a step up in what you will pay for it. If you can afford it I say why not.  It will offer you a great experience and you shouldn’t need to replace it for many years.

Silvertip Badger Hair

No need to really explain this.  The Silvertip Badger Hair brush is the top of the chain when it comes to badger hair brushes. Softer feel, holds more water, is silver in colour, and will cost you the most.

The Loft & Knot Height

Something else to consider is the loft and knot height of your brush. Most won’t be too concerned about this, but it is still good information to be aware of.  It really comes down to what you prefer but some knots have a bigger diameter than others, which of course results in a larger brush. The longer the loft of the brush will mean a softer experience simply because the hair is longer.  If you are buying from an artisan you can often request have your knot set deeper or more shallow to meet what your preference.

The Handle

Shave Brush Handles
Shave Brush Handles

When it comes to a handle shaving brushes should obviously feel comfortable and balanced when using it. Of course as I have mentioned before, if you don’t have the luxury of have a brick and mortar store to walk into to test this things out, you are going to have to rely on reviews, images and measurements.

Handles come in various designs and materials. Wood, metal, plastic, horn, etc. If you are buying from a reputable manufacturer, like Edwin Jagger, Omega, or Simpsons, you don’t really need to be too concerned over whether or not the handle will hold up to the water exposure.  If you are buying from an artisan you need to be sure that it is sealed properly to stand up to life on a bathroom counter.

Criteria

For this list we will stick with established companies. There are artisans out there that produce quality work, but ultimately they could decide to stop producing tomorrow, making their inclusion a bit pointless. Artisans aside here are some other elements that we will take into consideration:

So What Shaving Brush Should You Buy?

Synthetic Shaving Brush

My pick is the Parker Synthetic Shaving Brush provides a nice balance, between value, design, and function.  For those looking for a cruelty free option this is a good one.

Horsehair Brush

My pick is the Spanish made Vie-Long Horse Hair Brush (TheCloseShave review and more details on Amazon). I have had this brush for a few years now and really enjoy every shave. The square handle is a nice departure from the traditional round shape on most brushes.

Boar Hair Brush

When it comes to a boar hair brush I would suggest any brush by Omega.  Italy’s leading brush manufacturer offers a quality brush in a wide range of handle styles to suit anyone. My very first brush was an Omega boar hair brush and it still finds some use.


Best Badger Brush

My pick for Best Badger Brush would have to be the Edwin Jagger Best Badger Brush. Once again this is a brush that I have been using for some time and does a great job.  It might not be the most luxurious overall, but it provides great value.

Super Badger Brush

Simpsons brushes could have easily filled most of the these categories, but I would say that if you are buying a Simpson’s you might as well start with a Super Badger. Quality, great design, and reputation all make these an easy option.  For more on their Super Badger Offerings and their other brushes check them out here.

Silvertip Badger Brush

Can you really go wrong when picking up one of these?  Probably less likely, design of the handle is still important, but if you are buying from a quality manufacturer I’m sure the brush will not disappoint.  Nevertheless the pick fro Silvertip Badger Brush is the Kent Blk Silvertip Badger Brush.


If you found this article useful please consider sharing it via one of the social media links below. Also, you can keep up with future posts and reviews via one of the links at the top of the page.