I was having a conversation this past weekend with a friend of mine, and fairly recent convert to the wet shaving community, about the onslaught of shaving soaps and creams that I have picked up over the last couple of months and that are now piling up in my shave closet. I told him I would pass some along to him because there was no way I would be able to get through all of them in this life time. I started listing items that I had to offer, he stopped me half way through to ask me if he needed a different shaving brush for creams than he does for soaps. A great question and topic for a blog post.
I guess the proper answer to this question is that any brush can be used for any soap, it is just that some combination of brushes and soaps work better than others. But generally firmer, more dense brushes, tend to perform better with hard soaps, because the extra firmness to the brush helps to agitate the soap and in concert with water build the lather. Softer brushes tend to favour creams because they tend to hold more water, and the softer bristles work better at building a lather with the soft cream. That is not to say that you couldn’t use a softer brush to build lather from a hard soap, it just may take you longer, and with less favourable results.
I thought I would share some of my current brush line-up and quickly discuss what soap or cream I use for each:
Omega Boar Brush
The Omega Boar Brush was my first brush and it still one of my go to brushes. Generally I use this with my hard puck soaps like Col. Conk Soaps, or with my recently reviewed Geo F. Trumper Eucris. The extra backbone to the brush really helps in building a nice lather.
Vie-Long 12705 Horse Hair Brush
The Vie-Long Horse Hair Brush may be a good choice if you are looking to own only one brush but still want to be able to use both creams and hard soaps. The Vie-Long is not quite as firm as the boar hair brush, but does hold a bit more water, making it decent choice for soap lathering (just for the record I find that my horse hair brush performs better if I had ‘broken in’ the soap first with my boar brush). It is also soft enough to use with creams, not holding as much water as my badger brush, but more than enough to create a nice lather.
Edwin Jagger Best Badger Brush
I reach for my Edwin Jagger Best Badger Brush when ever I am using a cream like Taylor of Old Bond Street Grapefruit or Geo F. Trumper’s Rose. The water retention and softer bristles lends itself to the creams. I find that the badger brush doesn’t co-operate as well with the creams.
Omega Artificial Brush
I rarely use my Omega Synthetic brush, not that it isn’t a quality brush, I just don’t reach for it often. When I do use it, it tends to be when I break out one of my Taylor of Old Bond Street creams due to it being on the softer side, and its excellent water retention. The synthetic or artificial brush is a good choice if you would rather not use a product made from animals, or perhaps due to allergies. I’m sure there are those who prefer the feel to a synthetic brush but I am not one of them.
I guess in an ideal world you would have one brush to rule all creams and soaps. If at all possible your best bet would be to have a brush for creams and another for soaps, but failing that, a bit of research and experimentation and you should be able to find a single brush to meet your needs.