The best shaving brush is an essential part of wet shaving. We’ve explained why shaving soap is superior to modern foams and a brush is required to apply this to the face in a thick lather before shaving with your favourite safety razor.
While you can apply shaving soap to your face with your hands this tends to just be thin and wet. With a shaving brush the aim is to stir up a luxurious thick lather of beautifully-scented soap and air with hot water that could be the best part of your morning from now on.
- Best Shaving Brush Top Picks
- The Best Badger Shaving Brush Reviews
- Best Synthetic Shaving Brush: Cruelty-Free, Cheaper And… Better?
- Synthetic Shaving Brush vs Badger
- The Best Synthetic Shaving Brush Reviews
- Are Synthetic Shaving Brushes More Ethical?
- What is Backbone?
- Best Shaving Brush Types
- Other Shaving Brush Hairs
- The Handle
- How To Clean A Shaving Brush
Best Shaving Brush Top Picks
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- The Rolls Royce of shaving brushes
- Big size
- Super badger
- Beautiful metal handle
- Made in Germany
- Price: $$$
- Very soft badger
- Large comfortable handle
- Price: $$$$
- Excellent Weight
- Beautiful Handle
- Price: $$$
- Budget Simpsons equivalent
- Soft and floppy
- Price: $$
- Matching stand
- Price: $$
- Badger and synthetic available
- Metal rim
- Price: $$
- Wide variety
- With stand
- Price: $$
- Performs just like badger
- Great price
The Best Badger Shaving Brush Reviews
Using the best brush for shaving is a very different experience when wet shaving compared to using shaving cream out of a can.
Swirling a hot shave brush across the skin opens up your pores, cleaning the face and removing dead skin before you even start shaving. This brush movement also lifts and softens the bristles of the face ready for the best shave.
Simpsons have been made the world’s best shaving brushes since 1919 and have used the very same handmade methods ever since. You can get many great figures of the 20th Century started their days with one of these.
The chubby series is their most iconic and comes in three sizes, this being the largest. The hairs are incredibly dense which means it has superior water retention as you lather.
The base of the brush hairs within the brush are very stiff but taper out to be much softer where they touch your face, meaning you have a workable tool that responds exactly how you want it to.
With such brush size and density it can take a while to break in this badger hair brush and soften it up but don’t forget this is a badger brush to last you a very long time. Meanwhile the handle is made from a faux ivory so you can have a heritage feel with a sustainable and ethical reality. The only thing to watch is the price tag, but that’s what you get with the best world-class shaving products.
While lathering up with a badger shaving brush this size is certainly the best shaving experience, you may need to upgrade your shaving mug if it’s a little small.
On the other hand the chubby 1 is made with the same Simpsons shaving brush expertise but to a smaller scale.
- World-renowned brand
- Super badger
- Huge size
- High price tag for a premium product
Baxter of California have been a popular brand since 1965, when good quality men’s grooming products were hard to come by. They continue to follow an ethos of providing good quality essentials at a fair price.
The Baxter of California shaving brush is made in Germany using premium silvertip badger hair. Unlike many of the best shaving brushes it is very rare to encounter much shedding from a Baxter brush.
The loft is nicely rounded but what stands about about this shave brush is the stylish handle that features a metal base that sets it apart from the plastic “faux ivory” of many premium shaving brushes.
Another luxury premium option, Mason Pearson is the Rolls Royce of hairbrushes and so it is understandable that they should also produce a shaving brush. Mason Pearson is another one of those framily-owned heritage brands that has supplied royalty and celebrities throughout its 130-year history.
In terms of performance, shaving brushes are not their biggest focus but the Mason Pearson shaving brush performs well nonetheless.
What stands out is the generous handle for a comfortable grip. The badger hairs are very soft, which may or may not suit your preferences. It generally performs better with a softer shaving soap rather than a hard puck.
The shaving brush knot itself is quite small compared to others like the Simpsons Chubby 2 which is unusual considering its large handle.
Maison Lambert easily offer one of the best looking shaving brushes around with a beautiful imitation horn handle with chrome fittings. Not to be confused with Mason Pearson, Maison Lambert is a small artisanal shaving brand offering great quality for a reasonable price.
What stands out about this shaving brush is its weight at a mighty 168g/6 oz. That feels so much more satisfying than the light plastic handles we’ve grown used to that always feel a bit cheap next to the hefty best safety razor.
Mason Lambert could easily offer the best value silvertip badger brush on the market at under $100. The performance is great with a decent backbone and a knot that feels just right – neither too stiff nor too soft. It holds plenty of hot water and delivers fantastic service for years.
Progress Vulfix is one of the oldest shaving brush companies in Britain still manufacturing top of the range shaving brushes. The Vulfix Old Original Shaving Brush Company was established in 1893 in Manchester.
In 2008 Vulfix actually bought Simpson’s and so together they produce top quality handmade shaving brushes. Vulfix was traditionally more of an everyday person’s shaving brush rather than the higher priced Simpsons brushes.
Vulfix shave brushes are known to have a taller loft and so tend to be much softer and floppier than most shaving brushes.
While much lower in price, Edwin Jagger offers another best badger shaving brush that’s sure to satisfy.
This comes with a plastic handle that is much lighter than Simpsons. Edwin Jagger have been going since 1988 but have quickly established themselves as a classic shaving brand. Match this shave brush and brush stand with one of their Edwin Jagger safety razors.
This will never match the Simpsons chubby brush, but on the other hand of price this shaving brush offers excellent value for money.
Despite the lower price the brush feels great with a good weight and a knot that can hold plenty of hot water and lathers well. Despite the hefty Viking branding and metal-rimmed handle this is a brush that’s still gentle on the face.
Vikings Blade also do a ‘White Knight’ synthetic brush that aims to be a premium synthetic brush. This clearly matches many more expensive badger brushes proving even Vikings can be vegan!
Parker offer a wide range of high quality brushes in a range of materials from boar to badger to synthetic. That means you will always be able to find your preference from rigid stiff boar to luxuriously soft pure badger.
Omega began in Italy in 1932 manufacturing brushes for shaving and painting and so are an absolute specialist. They offer a wide range of hair types including boar and synthetic while they also cater to a wide range of budgets. Omega shaving brushes tend to be thick and dense with a lot of backbone.
Best Synthetic Shaving Brush: Cruelty-Free, Cheaper And… Better?
Finding the best synthetic shaving brush is now a very different to how it was years ago. Previously synthetic shaving brushes were hard to come by of a particularly good quality.
Today the technology has improved massively. Just as eco friendly razors have become a popular industry, vegan cruelty-free shaving brushes have been forced to catch up.
The best shaving brushes are traditionally made from badger hair which does require the killing of the badger. What’s more, the very finest quality silvertip badger brushes use just the hairs of the neck and muzzle area, so it’s not like one badger is going to produce that many. The quality shaving brushes produced has meant this ethical concern has often been tolerated for the sake of the final product.
Now though you can find the best synthetic shaving brushes that compete with the best silvertip badger brush originals.
Indeed the highest quality brands like Simpsons will offer their synthetic shaving brushes alongside the finest badger hair. It’s not a case of a downgrade – it’s simply a different option like a different colour or handle. The quality shave of the best synthetic shaving brush means you may hardly notice the difference.
Synthetic Shaving Brush vs Badger
A synthetic shaving brush now has a number of big advantages:
- More ethical – this goes without saying. Whatever you think of animal products, it still seems a shame a whole badger has to be killed to make your shaving brush. At least the cow that made your shoes provided enough beef for lots of consumers and the leather was a mere by-product.
- Cheaper – Synthetics are often cheaper and synthetic shaving brushes are no exception. While the best silvertip shaving brush by Simpsons costs over $200, the Muhle synthetic shaving brush offers a similar performance for under $50.
- Easier to shave with – while badger shaving brushes require a long soak in hot water before you shave, synthetic shaving brushes really don’t. Give them a bit of a soak for maximum water absorption but the fibres don’t change much nomatter how long you soak them.
- Scent – There is no badger smell with a synthetic shaving brush for obvious reasons. You also don’t need to be quite so careful with the aftercare as a synthetic shaving brush won’t mind too much if it stays wet for longer. Synthetic shaving brushes also dry very quickly.
The Best Synthetic Shaving Brush Reviews
Supply is a thoroughly modern shaving startup with a small but high quality product line that’s meticulously thought out.
Their shaving brush is made from what they’ve called (and even trademarked) Silvertip Synthetic that delivers excellent performance with a beautiful handle.
The synthetic hair is wonderfully soft but still holds good backbone and a generous loft. We’ve no experience of this brush shedding – but one customer who did was immediately sent a replacement by customer service.
Like all Supply products you get a 60-day trial with a free return guaranteed if you’re not satisfied.
Muhle is a renowned razor brand and features one of our best safety razors, so it’s not surprise they lead the pack when it comes to the best synthetic shaving brush.
This fibre has been carefully developed to closely replicate the performance of the best silvertip badger shaving brush. It has decent backbone, great lathering ability and still has the optimum feature of being soft at the tip and yet still holds its shape with a lot of hot water.
The Tuxedo knot has become the most popular synthetic knot thanks to super soft tips and medium backbone. Again West Coast Shaving has gone to great lengths to make sure this feels natural and not too springy.
Stylistically it is unusual to have a shaving brush with hairs that are so black but the white tips make it seem like badger, hence the name tuxedo.
This is a prefect all rounder and a bargain under $30.
Much as we love heritage shaving brands, Fendrihan has rocketed to success since 2007 combining traditional quality and modern convenience.
The best synthetic shaving brushes they offer are no exception with this ethical synthetic option offering an experience that competes with fine badger. Some experienced shavers have gone so far as to say it beats their badger shaving brushes.
The Fendrihan shaving brush is also very cheap under $20. Then let’s not forget that beautiful resin brush handle.
Plus you don’t have to put up with the occasional shedding of badger hair that naturally occurs with hair brushes.
Yaqi Shaving Brush
Yaqi are a fascinating success. They are a Chinese manufacturer in the Hubei province most known historically for brush production. Yaqi is their house brand, although we suspect they supply plenty of other well-known brands. What stands out about Yaqi is that they are incredibly cheap and yet well-received throughout the wet shaving community. They also offer a wide range of handle designs in both badger and synthetic brush hairs. West Coast Shaving are their US stockist.
Are Synthetic Shaving Brushes More Ethical?
To many shavers the ultimate shaving brush to whip up a rich warm lather in the morning is a silvertip badger shaving brush. These soft and shapely hairs have been collected from around the face of the badger and offer the best performance.
However, producing badger hair shaving brushes does require the killing of the badger. For many people this is quite easily overlooked. Afterall, we use many animal products in society and while veganism is growing in popularity the majority of us still eat meat, wear leather and probably use a wealth of animal products we’re not even aware of like pig gelatine in sweets.
How the badgers are actually treated is surely an important consideration if we take the time to think about it. Badgers are a protected species in North America and Europe and so nearly all commercial badger hair for brushes comes from China. That makes monitoring animal ethics quite difficult.
The more positive story is that in Northern China badgers are so prevalent they are actually a pest that damages harvests and so the government licenses village cooperatives to hunt them.
China also has a Wildlife Protection Law that bans the use of cruel hunting methods like snares.
On the other hand, a 2019 investigation by PETA found badgers at several farms were caught with traps, caged and killed cruelly. A video from PETA showed badgers individually held in small cages before being beaten with a chair leg. In the video a badger’s throat was cut but found minutes later to still be moving.
What’s interesting here is that many countries do have laws on the import of badger hair. That said, just because a badger is wild and hunted legally doesn’t necessarily reflect the nature of its demise – something which customs may not scrutinize.
The PETA investigation was enough for Proctor & Gamble to stop selling badger shaving brushes and switch to synthetic only. That does pose a few questions – did Proctor & Gamble actually have much of a foothold in the shaving brush market to make this anything more than an inconvenient PR exercize? One of their brands that comes to mind is The Art of Shaving – but The Art of Shaving still has badger shaving brushes on its website unless these are now a limited stock until they run out.
What is Backbone?
Part of what separates the best shaving brush from the average brush is its ability to hold hot water when shaving so the brush stays hot as it works its way across your face.
There’s also what’s frequently called the ‘backbone’ of the brush, which refers to the stiffness of the brush hairs.
A good brush should still be soft on the face but also tight and stiff enough to hold its form when full of hot water. This can be influenced by the type of hair but also the tightness of the knot. The amount of hair and the diameter of the hole in the shaving brush handle has a big influence on the backbone and the performance of the shaving brush.
Best Shaving Brush Types
Shaving brushes come in a range of bristle choices: synthetic, badger, boar and horse. These have their own advantages and disadvantages for wet shaving.
Unfortunately making a shave brush with badger bristles and boar bristles does require the killing of the animal and so this may be of concern to you. If so then synthetic brushes might be a better option for you.
There are 8 types of badger found in the world and few more subspecies that are brought up. The species most commonly harvested for its bristles is the Eurasian Badger. While this badger was once harvested in Europe, it is currently a protected species. This species is also common throughout Asia, and is considered to be a nuisance animal in rural China.
Village cooperatives are licensed by the national government to hunt badgers and sell the hair to processors. As such, the harvest of badger bristle and making of shaving knots (and other items) has developed into an industry of its own in China. Because of the harvest restrictions in place elsewhere and the over abundance of badgers in China, China has become the world’s largest exporter of badger hair products.
Badger hair is sought after because of its unusual properties. Badger bristles are actually wider at the tips than they are at the base. Most of the water retained in a badger brush is the water in between the bristles. The density of the knot and capillary action between the hairs causes the water to be retained. This results in a brush that has excellent water retention properties. Badger brushes are also known for being particularly soft against the skin.
The badger bristles alone can be separated into different grades.
The first thing you should know is that there is no uniform standard for grading badger knots (or any other shaving brush knots for that matter).
There are a few commonly used “grades” of badger knots and quite a few “special / select / premium” grades as well. However, when users of badger shaving brushes discuss knots, the following criteria are always brought up regardless of the “grade” of knot.
- Natural tips or clipped: Better quality knots retain the natural tip of the bristle. This results in a softer tip. Cheaper brushes are formed into a knot and have the the crown of the bulb trimmed into a visually pleasing shape. This leaves a harsher edge than a natural tip.
- Density of the knot: More often than not a badger knot that has more densely packed badger bristles will perform better due to better water retention. This isn’t alway the case as some brushes are notorious for being lather hogs, but more often than not is true.
- Hand made or machine made: Machine made knots are usually cheaper but are often found to have excessive shedding of bristles, poor knot density, and clipped ends. Handmade knots can have the same issues, but it would be rare to encounter all three issues, let alone one.
- Knot size: The larger the knot the firmer the knot feels against the face. Because a larger knot requires more badger hair, they are usually more expensive.
- Color: You will hear people refer to many grades of badger by a color or color combination. Silvertip, two band, three band, black badger….
- Where the hair is harvested from: Silvertip comes from the muzzle and neck of the badger, while black badger hair is harvested from the belly of the badger. Different grades of hair come from different parts of the badgers body.
Pure Badger Hair
Pure badger brushes use the most common hair from the underbelly of a badger. This hair varies greatly in softness, pliability and color. It’s darker in color and varies between light tan to a near-black or silver.
The pure badger hair is coarser than ‘best’ or ‘silvertip’ hair due to its larger shaft. This makes cheap brushes that are often trimmed to shape making a stiff and scratchy finish that’s hardly what you want when shaving.
Best Badger Hair
Best badger brushes use the finer and more pliable hairs from 20 – 25% of the badger’s body. It is longer and lighter in color than ‘pure’ badger hair. While these brushes tend to be denser and produce a better lather there’s not much comparison to the pure badger.
Super badger is often an imitation of silvertip badger where the hairs are artifically coloured lighter at the tips. However, they do tend to be arranged carefully to create the correct brush shape naturally.
One way to determine if a brush bears a ‘super’ or ‘silvertip’ badger hair load is to look at the color of the bristle tips.
A true ‘silvertip’ brush has tips that are an off-white as a natural product. A ‘super’ brush on the other hand has bristle tips that are a more grey-white that don’t extend far down the hair.
Silvertip Badger Hair
Silvertip badger hair is the most expensive and rare type of badger hair. The tips on this badger hair appear white naturally, without bleaching.
This is due to the rarity of the bristle as it is only found on the badgers neck and muzzle area. “Silvertip” bristles are are generally longer and finer. This results in a denser knot that can hold more water, while being extremely soft. These are generally considered to be the best shaving brush material available.
The badger hair is naturally shaped in a way to hold water fantastically well and produce an amazing lather easily. You will often find grades above silvertip like ‘super silvertip’, but these will be minor improvements or brandings on the ultimate badger brush.
While it is true that many of the cheap and low quality shave brushes you find are synthetic, recent years have seen a real push towards developing high quality synthetic brushes that compete with the best pure silvertip badger.
While at Artisan Shaving we strive towards a zero-waste approach of reducing plastic, one of these best synthetic brushes is sure to last a very long time.
Nevertheless it remains that the best shaving brush is generally a silvertip badger shaving brush that can cost hundreds of dollars. A Simpson shaving brush is the top choice here.
Other Shaving Brush Hairs
Boar Shaving Brushes
The next type of shaving brush knot is made out of Boar. Boar bristle is is obtained from shaving the hairs from a boar… who would’ve guessed?
Boar hair is characterized as being stronger, thicker, and less flexible than badger hair. A little water is retained by capillary action, but most of the water retention is by the bristle soaking up the water. These brushes excel in lathering harder soaps and face lathering.
Choosing a boar bristle brush is much simpler than choosing a badger hair brush. Not only is there no agreed upon standard, the are no standards at all. When you look up boar bristle brushes you will see the following things “discussed”
- Coloring: Many boar brushes have a dark ring dyed into the outer layer of bristles to simulate the look of a badger brush
- Cut tip or natural: Over time natural boar bristle will split into 2 or 3 individual ‘hair tips’ connected to the same thick shaft. This gives you the benefit of a finer, thinner and softer hair with the support of a thicker, firmer bristle. If the bristles have been cut to shape there is a much less likely chance of this happening.
- Hair length: The shorter hairs shaved from the boar are not as large and therefore not quite as stiff and may be a bit softer .
- Hair thickness: The thicker the hair, the stiffer the brush
- Bleached: Many brushes are sold bleached to be more uniformly colored or before being dyed.
- Loft: Taller loft will have a greater brush splay.
- Knot size: The larger the knot, the stiffer the brush backbone will be.
Boar bristles have more “backbone” than badger brushes. As such they are great for face lathering. Boar brushes dry out quicker than badger brushes, and are often used while travelling (because how often do you have the time required to let a brush dry out properly when hopping from motel to motel).
Natural boar bristle will split into 2 or 3 individual tips connected to the same shaft. These split ends give you the benefit of a finer, thinner and softer hair with the support of a thicker, firmer bristle. This in effect “breaks-in” the brush and results in a much more enjoyable shave (in my opinion). If the bristles have been cut to shape there is little chance of this happening.
Horse Shaving Brushes
Horsehair shaving brushes were extremely common in the 1800s and early 1900s. Due to an anthrax scare in the early 1900s horsehair was discontinued and the market was dominated by badger and boar hair.
One of the selling points that people will hear about is the humane harvesting of horsehair. People assume that the hair is cut from the horse and the horse is left to grow more hair for next time. If you do a little research you will see that most horse hair seems to be gathered at large scale butcher shops or rendering plants. This actually makes a lot more sense if you think about it. It is a natural byproduct of the harvesting process and caring for a horse is expensive.
Features of horsehair shaving brushes:
- Horsehair is often described as being between badger and boar. It retains a good backbone but is still very soft.
- Horsehair is harvested from the tail and mane of the horse. I haven’t found much info on the differences as far as feel or lathering ability between the two.
- Horse does not absorb water like boar, but rather holds water in a “sheath” around the outside of the brush.
- Traditional horsehair brushes have a hollow center. The bristles are arranged on the outer rim of the brush.
- They release lather by a slapping or painting motion.
- The brush will smell when new. De-funk it as you would any other brush.
After so much detail on best shave brush badger bristles and boar hair, the handle is the main consideration remaining. The handle comes down largely to personal choice. Some wet shaving fans prefer a heavy handle that fits nicely in the hand. Others prefer a lightweight handle as they whirl a good lather of shaving soap across their face when shaving.
How To Clean A Shaving Brush
It can seem very disappointing if you indulge in an expensive silvertip badger shaving brush only to find what arrives smells like an animal. This is perfectly normal and will fade quickly with use – thank God for scented shaving soap! But what can you do to speed up the process? Even if you’re not concerned about the smell its a good idea to wash it with warm soapy water before its first use just as an extra hygiene precaution.
One great little hack is cleaning the brush with pet shampoo. Human hair shampoo can also work but we think pet shampoo is obviously more suited to the badger hair and won’t risk interfering with the fibres.
Everytime you use your shaving brush make sure to finish by rinsing it in running water and shake it out before leaving it to dry – preferably upside down in a brush stand. Some shavers also like to gently dry their brush on a towel by dabbing the sides. Synthetic shaving brushes dry much faster and tend to be more forgiving in their aftercare.
If you use shaving oil then this can result in a buildup of oils in the brush which will reduce the water absorption of the hair. In that case you should deep clean it properly every couple of months. To deep clean a shaving brush you can mix one part water with one part vinegar, or use a Borax style soap and soak the brush before rinsing it thoroughly in cold water.
Unfortunately yes. The species most commonly harvested for its bristles is the Eurasian Badger. While this badger was once harvested in Europe, it is currently a protected species. This species is also common throughout Asia, and is considered to be a nuisance animal in rural China. Village cooperatives are licensed by the national government to hunt badgers and sell the hair to processors. However, there are now some excellent synthetic shaving brushes available that perform just like badger.
Only you can decide the best shaving brush for you but generally the silvertip badger shaving brush is considered the best type. Most shavers also like a large size of knot.
Badger hair is shaped perfectly in needles that taper to a point and has excellent water retention qualities.
A good shaving brush will last many years. You may notice a little shedding now and then, especially with a new brush, but in most cases that should not be a problem. You can prolong the life of a badger shaving brush by drying it after use and gently washing it, maybe even with some pet shampoo. Make sure you treat it right when you use it and massage it gently across shaving soap and your face rather than pressing it in.
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