“DO I NEED A SHAVING BRUSH?”
This is a question we often hear from those new to wet shaving, and we're here to help! The short answer is “yes”. The long answer is “yes, probably”. The main job of a shaving brush is to whip a shaving cream or shaving soap into a thick, cushioning lather that will make your shave a whole lot less scratchy, and a whole lot more glidy. Shaving brushes pull double duty by helping to coax the hairs away from the skin, preparing them for being trimmed by the razor and lessening the need for pre-shave prep work.
Sure, you could spread some shaving cream across your cheeks with just your hands, but you won’t be getting the most of your cream, and your shave will suffer. With great options to suit all budgets, a shaving brush is a must-have item for all wet shavers.
BADGER HAIR BRISTLES
Traditionally, shaving brushes are made from badger hair bristles. Being a natural product, badger hair varies from quite stiff and dark, to very soft and light-coloured. As we covered in our Wet Shaving Basics article, these hairs are graded according to a standard scale which is explained below. As a rule of thumb, Pure Badger brushes are the least expensive, while Silver Tip Badger brushes are the most expensive.
Pure Badger: The lowest grade, these brushes are made from the most common badger fur and are usually dark in colour. They are generally coarser than higher grades and with greater variation between brushes.
Best Badger: Finer and lighter in colour, best badger bristles are packed more densely in the knot and will hold more water than a pure badger brush. The bristles are trimmed to length and provide a coarser feel against the skin than higher grades.
Super Badger: Super badger bristles are specially-graded pure badger bristles that have characteristics more favourable than either pure or best badger bristles. They are not trimmed to length, so do not feel prickly on the skin and easily make a thick lather.
Silver Tip Badger: The finest grade, Silver tip badger bristles are packed very densely and flair out towards the end to give the brush a full and fluffy feel. They feature naturally off-white tips and have excellent water retention to produce a perfect lather. Silver tip bristles are the softest of all badger bristles, and are therefore very gentle against the skin. For this same reason, they are not ideally suited for use with hard shaving soaps.
Synthetic bristles are a more recent development that replaces the natural badger hair fibres with nylon fibres. These nylon fibres are produced to closely resemble the finest silver tip badger hair in both appearance and feel, with densely-packed knots and incredibly soft tips.
Synthetic shaving brushes don’t hold quite as much water as a badger brush, but with some slight lathering adjustments, they are able to produce similarly thick lathers.
As a bonus, synthetic brushes are usually slightly more affordable than a similar silver tip badger hair brush.