Shaving With A Brush
New to male grooming? Or just want more information on bathroom cabinet essentials? Here's our guide to skincare basics.
The shaving brush - a time honoured essential.
The shaving brush has long been a staple of a man's shaving artillery, benefitting shavers with its ability to absorb and retain water, to create a generous lather and its 'scrubbiness' for removing dead skin cells and debris to give a closer shave with less tug and pull and minimal irritation. Choose your shaving cream and shaving brush carefully for the best shave possible; close and comfortable whilst avoiding shaving rash. Here is the Niven & Joshua expert guide to shaving with a brush.
SHAVING BRUSH TYPES
Boar Hair Shaving Brush
The most affordable option but often lacking in quality. Boar hair shaving brushes generally posses a small head of hair and are dyed to appear lighter (more expensive). Boar hair doesn't absorb and retain water as well as badger hair but despite having a poor reputation for quality, there are good examples of this inexpensive option. A good place and inexpensive way to start using a shave brush.
Badger Hair Shaving Brush
There are 4 grades of badger hair shaving brush; Pure Badger Hair, Best Badger Hair, Super Badger Hair and Finest also known as Silvertip Badger Hair. These options relate to the location of the hair on the badger and thus its softness and ability to absorb and retain water.
Pure Badger Hair Shaving Brush
Location: from the underbelly.
The most affordable badger hair shaving brush. It is again inexpensive but warrants a greater price compared to boar hair shaving brushes as it provides better absorption and water retention. It is again often dyed to make it appear lighter. Coarser hair is often trimmed to meet size demand, resulting in a scratchy feel. A Pure Badger Shave Brush will be 'broken in' over time but will never feel as soft as higher grade badger hair brushes.
Best Badger Hair Shaving Brush
Location: from the body.
Hair selected for Best Badger Shaving Brushes are finer, more pliable and found on 20 to 25% of the badgers body. Longer in length and lighter in colour compared to Pure Badger Hair, they are often more densely packed too. The result is a softer feel, better absorption and water retention but still with a slight scrubby feel. It is worth noting that the scrubby feel of Pure and Best Badger brushes are popular with those who prefer to shave with shaving soap as the bristles better agitate the surface of the soap.
Super Badger Hair Shaving Brush
Location: from the back.
Super Badger Hair Shaving Brushes are significantly softer than Pure and Best. They are lighter in colour and often posses an obvious dark band, the tips are dyed by some manufacturers to appear a more brilliant white. They retain more heat and absorb water better producing a richer lather. The soft feel of the hair is a big draw and brushes are often well very made.
Finest or Silvertip Badger Hair Shaving Brush
Location: from the neck area.
Super and Finest or Silvertip badger hair brushes are often categorised the same but there are plenty of differences. Similar to Super Badger, there is a distinctive dark banding with contrasting tips. Hair is carefully selected to ensure only the softest tips are used, they are never dyed for effect and retain their natural creamy colour. Finest or Silvertip is the most absorbent of all badger hair creating the richest lather possible, although only marginally more than Super Badger.
Synthetic Shaving Brush
Of late, Synthetic Shaving Brushes have become popular with manufacturers due mainly to affordability and for animal cruelty* reasons. They are springy and scrubby like boar but retain water almost as well as badger hair.
SHAVING BRUSH SIZE
There are 3 areas to look at when deciding which size shave brush to choose; Loft, Knot and Overall Height. Loft relates to the length of the hair and your decision is based on personal preference, there are no technical advantages over shorter or longer hair. The Loft is often arranged in a bulb or fan shape and again, the choice of which is personal preference.
The size of the Knot is something to consider. A smaller knot means more control and a larger knot allows for a quicker application. Again, the choice is personal preference but please bear in mind hand size - this leads on to Overall Height and a handle which sits comfortably in your hand between the thumb and forefinger is advisable. Look at a brush's millimetre sizing and measure it against your thumb and forefinger to see were it will sit.
HOW TO USE
- Soak your badger hair shaving brush in warm water.
- Shake excess water off, gently.
- Build an olive sized amount of shave cream into a rich lather in your palm or ideally a shaving bowl (often, shaving cream is packaged within a useable bowl) or shaving mug. Use circular motions for around 60 seconds.
- Apply lather to the beard in circular motions (over an aftershave balm if you choose), pinching lips closed, for 30-60 seconds.
- Hair will be raised and dead skin cells removed, with your beard coated in a rich protective lather.
You may also choose to apply your shaving cream or shaving soap directly to your face. Use a damp brush and coat the tips of the hair in shaving cream or soap and lather directly on to the beard. Use more water to create a richer lather.
Wash off excess shave cream or shave soap with warm water by rinsing and gently squeezing hair from the base of the Loft. Shake the brush gently to remove excess water. Dry the brush on a towel and place it on brush stand (or upright on its handle) to dry naturally, in an airy space. Every two years to remove build up of shave cream leave your brush in 1 part white wine vinegar to 9 parts water for 2 mins, then rinse.
We trust this guide gives you all the tools you need to make an informed choice. The majority of variation is within hair softness and feel and subsequently the shaving brushes' ability to lather. The resulting use will be unrivalled comfort while shaving.
*most badger hair is sourced from China where the badger is considered a pest and controlled under licence.