- Shave Brushes - Everything you Need to Know
What are shaving brushes?
A shaving brush is the go-to tool for creating a rich lather for the perfect shave.
Brushes are a key part of the traditional shaving technique. They consist of a handle, which can be a wood or polycarbonate. The woods used can be very exotic and typically are selected for their water resistant properties and visual appearance. In the past handles would be made from ivory or turtle shells but in the interests of animal preservation these are now faux i.e. designed to look like they are from ivory or turtle, but in reality are polycarbonates.
The hair can range from traditional badger, boar or horse hair to synthetic fibres like nylon. For premium brushes badger hair is the most common, the badger hair comes in grades depending on where the hair is harvested from: “silvertip” (the neck), “pure” (the tummy) or “best” (the rest of the pelt). The softer the hair, the more expensive the brush will be. However softer hairs don’t always mean the brush is good at whipping up a lather – it can be too soft. “Best” and “Pure” work well and are a bit stiffer. Quality brushes last a long time, and if well preserved can last in excess of 10 years.
Who is the shave brush for?
On the face of it, anyone that wants a traditional wet shave tends to turn to a brush; however brushes are great for everyone even if traditional razors are not your thing. They work much better than hand applied foams or gels for generating a rich lather. However they don’t work with gels and foams so it means moving to a soap or a cream.
Why should you use a shave brush?
To get the best shave a brush is as important as a quality razor and cream. It’s ability to generate foam helps give cushion and glide to the razor. This helps achieve a closer shave and decreases the chances of sore skin problems.
A brush also helps exfoliate the skin, dislodging old skin and encourages the stubble to stand away from the skin aiding a close shave. We also think using a brush is oddly therapeutic.
How to choose and maintain a shave brush?
This really depends on two things, the handle and the hair.
The handle is more of a visual and feel thing, but some shapes and sizes are more comfortable than others. Firstly pick the right size, big hands need big brushes, medium ones need medium handles etc.
In terms of shape, we recommend the traditional hour-glass shape, it’s the most comfortable. After that it’s a question of personal preference as to whether it’s a wood, polycarbonate or a metal handle – although with the latter, be cautious not to pick anything too heavy.
The type and grade of hair will be fundamental to the function. The most common brush hair is the badger; however there is also boar hair, horse hair and synthetic fibre. Badger is considered the best and most popular material as it absorbs and holds water like human hair. Synthetic fibres are now very good and it’s difficult to tell the two apart.
The badger hair is available in three different grades: best badger, pure badger and silvertip badger. They differ mostly in terms of water absorption, softness and ability to create rich leather.
The pure badger is about 60% of the whole badger’s coat, usually has a darker colour, comes from the animal’s belly and has thicker and less flexible hair. The best badger is the one preferred by most, comes from the animal’s back, covers about 25% of the whole badger’s coat and it has a finer and flexible hair. The silvertip hair is about 15% of the whole badger’s coat, comes from the animal’s neck and is extremely soft. If you’re new at this, start with the best badger: absorbs loads of water, creates the richest lather, and is easy to use and soft to your skin.
To ensure the brush lasts as long as possible, rinse it with water after use every usage and towel dry it. Ideally place the brush on a stand with the head pointing down to help drainage.