Shaving Brushes 101. What Makes One Brush Better From Another?

The history of the well-familiar to us shaving brush has about 250 years. It appeared in France in 1750th years. The first brushes, just like now, were made of  badger or boar hair. But the handles of the brushes were much more fanciful. They were being made of ivory, gold, silver, tortoiseshell, porcelain, and even rhinestone. In the 19th century, when the handy straight razor entered into the scene, the shaving brush became a certain symbol of wealth and status of its master. Connoisseurs were ordering and buying expensive, exclusive items.

Shaving brush. How to chooseBy their appearance, material and quality modern shaving brushes don’t differ very much form their predecessors of the former centuries. Although the handles of them are still made of quite various material including the most exotic, the nowadays handles are usually plastic. The manufacturers of shaving accessories widely use plastic even for most expensive items. Plastic handles are not damaged by water and don’t break. Some men prefer other materials such as wood or tortoiseshell, but it is needless to say that the handle, whatever it’s made of, can’t be of great matter for the shaving process.

The price of the shaving brush depends mostly not on the handle material, but on the hair it is made of. There is a wide range of prices for shaving brushed, starting from $5 to, say, $1200 for an exclusive model with badger hair from a prestigious manufacturer. The good brush anyway won’t cost you less than $20.

The brushes made of synthetic fiber are the cheapest. They are prickly and poor at retaining water. It is difficult to whip a good foam with such brushes. The combination alternative, such as synthetic plus boar hair, isn’t the best thing too. The boar hair retains water somewhat better, but is still as prickly as synthetic, and brittle, to boot. Undoubtedly, the real connoisseurs of wet shaving give their preferences to badger hair. Its softness and never causing any irritation, ability to absorb and retain water – all that far surpass any synthetic or boar hair. As a rule,  three kinds of badger shaving brushes are distinguished, namely: the common quality (purebadger), the high quality (bestbadger), and the highest one – superbadger or silvertip. Some manufacturers, such as Vulfix, make difference between superbadger and silvertip, but at the  Muhle-Pinsel factory, for example, there is not such a division. They merge superbadger and silvertip into the category named Fine badger hair with silver tip (Silberspitzen).

PureBadger Shaving BrushPure Badger Shaving Brushes

Pure Badger denotes the hair taken form the bottomside of a badger fur. It’s about 60% of the whole badger’s coat. This hair can be different in softness, elasticity and color. Usually it is dark and has tinges from beige to black and silver. Purebadger is cruder than bestbadger and, the more so, silvertip. The reason is the hairs themselves are more thick.

Best Badger Shaving BrushBest Badger Shaving Brushes

Best Badger. This fur is more thin and flexible. It comes from not more than 25% of the animal’s pelt, from places with longer and softer hair. Shaving brushes made of it are more dense and consequently able to make thicker foam. But many men says there is no difference really between bestbadger and purebadger.

Super Badger Shaving BrushSuper Badger Shaving Brushes

Shaving brushes made of super badger are more expencive than purebadger and bestbadger. It is a common opinion that superbadger is the same as silvertip, but it isn’t so. Usually superbadger is ordinary badger hair bleached at the tip so it would look like silvertip. Super in this case means that the hair for this brush was picked up very carefully. To distinguish superbadger from silvertip it would be enough to look at the endings of the hairs. In real silvertip they have a light gray hue, but in no case they are white. In contrast to this, bleached superbadger hair has a, so to say, sterility-white tint. And as a rule it doesn’t spread for the whole length of hairs.

Silvertip Shaving BrushSilvertip Shaving Brushes

Some manufacturers of shaving accessories, such as PlissonSimpsons and Rooney, make brushes of even higher price category. They call them variously – for example, extrasilvertip. The quality of such brushes is similar to that of usual silvertip, but they have a slightly different appearance. The hue can be more light and expand for all the length of fur. Allegedly, such brushes are still better for keeping the foam and gentler on the face. The price for such items can reach $500, partly because of the handles which are made of costly materials.Silvertip. Undoubtedly, that’s the king of the shaving brushes. It is a most expensive and rare thing. The hair of naturally light shade without any vestiges of bleaching comes form the badger’s neck. Such brushes have always a rich head of fur. They wonderfully keep water, and it is fast and easy to whip up a thick foam with them.

The badgers of North America and most countries of Europe are protected by law. That’s why the commercial supply of badger fur comes from China. No surprise that the manufacturers praise the quality of Asian badger. There are plenty of badgers in the northern provinces of China where they are considered a threat for agriculture crops. Local village cooperatives get licenses from the authorities for badger hunting and then sell badger fur to manufacturers of shaving brushes both abroad and in China.

The matter is much simpler with boar hair. It is cheaper and available in many countries. The wholesale price of such brushes made in China or India is only a dollar apiece. At the same time, the  wholesale price for a badger brush can’t be lower than $10 apiece. So, except for handles of exotic materials, it is the badger hair that makes the brushes so expensive. To reduce this factor, a Chinese companies recently came into the market with thin horsehair brushes resembling those of badger hair. As for synthetic fiber brushes, they are mostly produced in India.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Shaving Brushes

A good shaving brush with an opulent bunch of hair retains a great amount of water that combines with the soap in a special bowl. The more water is kept by the brush the more thick can be made the foam. And that means the more easy will be your shave: the hair will be neatly cut and not pulled out.

Beside this, using a good quality shaving brush facilitate skin peeling before the shave. The soap for shaving contents glycerin, so shaving procedure makes unnecessary morning face wash with a special peeling gel. There is no difference between making foam of soap or shaving cream – the same brush will be good for both. After the shave rinse it the hot and then cold water. A highly calcinated water can reduce absorbing ability of badger hair, but as the latter is a natural product, to restore its qualities you will only need to wash it with some shampoo and conditioner.

The main function of a good shaving brush is softening your bristle before shaving. You can’t achieve that simply applying cream or gel to your face with your hand. To have a really thick foam put the brush into the bowl with a soapy stuff and make circulate movements. With good foam, you needn’t press the razor against your skin. That’s why the combination of a straight razor and a fine quality shaving brush results in a good shave, not to mention you will be free of the necessity to endlessly buy disposal blades for safety razors.

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