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Everything you Need to Know About Shaving Brushes

Did you know that shaving brushes were introduced by the French in the eighteenth century? Shaving brushes were invented to lather a shaving soap and to apply the lather onto the face before shaving. The common knowledge of the time that still rings true today is that a good lather is half the shave.

It was only in fairly modern history, during the last wave of commercial industrialization, that we started to see shaving foams in aerosol cans, not to mention electric razors which have almost rendered shaving brushes obsolete. But when compared to their modern counterpart, shaving brushes still seem to have that appeal that makes us men feel very manly about our shaving.

Luckily, shaving brushes are making a comeback with more people learning about the advantages of using it over electric shavers.

The use of shaving brushes has numerous benefits that go beyond making you feel like a proper gentleman. When compared to applying an aerosol canned shaving foam with the use of one’s hands, the gentle massage of a shaving brush enhances your skin and prepares your facial hair before the actual shaving is done. With each stroke, a shaving brush exfoliates your skin and allows for an even distribution of the soapsuds while it also softens the beard and lifts the hair away from the skin to prevents nicks and cuts as you shave.


If you have been considering switching to wet shaving for a while but feels slightly overwhelmed with the variety of types, materials, and makers of shaving brushes, well, here you’ll find all the answers to your questions. We’re covering pretty much everything you need to know about shaving brushes, and we’re even making a few picks of the best shaving brushes for you as well.

The Types of Hair on Shaving Brushes

Many things can change from one shaving brush to the next, such as the material of the handle, the length of the brush, but the one aspect that will define its quality more than any other is the type of hair used on the shaving brush.

It is the type of hair that will define a brush characteristics such as odor, bristle texture, and quite significantly, the shaving brush price. The most common type of hair used on brushes is boar hair, followed by the less common but still popular horse hair, and finally the more luxurious badger hair. Of course, there are also brushes made out of synthetic hair, but the ones made from animal hair tend to offer a greater variety of texture and to be more popular with wet shavers.

On the price range, you could find synthetic shaving brush starting at $8 with the more luxurious silvertip badger hair reaching up to $200 when made by traditional makers. While most people would consider the quality of a shaving brush to be in parallel with its price, it is always good to consider your skin’s sensitivity and its reaction against the softness or coarseness of a brush when making your choice.

Badger Hair Shaving Brushes

Being the softest and most luxurious type of hair, shaving brushes made with badger tend to be the first option amongst shaving aficionados.

The hair on these brushes are usually graded into four different qualities: pure, best, super, and silver tip. The pure badger hair is the cheapest among the badger brushes, but still very soft and considerably finer than boar bristles. The best grade of badger hair is slightly softer and absorbs water better than the pure badger. The super badger grade of hair feels even finer on the face with a greater better water holding capacity, and the silver tip grade is considered the finest and very best type of hair you can get in a shaving brush.

Parker Safety Razor Silvertip Badger Shaving Brush
  • Handmade for outstanding quality!
  • 100% silvertip badger bristles - the best available
  • Generates a fabulous lather with your favorite shave soap or cream
  • Incredibly high bristle density ensures fabulous water retention
  • Comes with a plastic brush/drip stand to ensure proper brush drying and storage

Horse Hair Shaving Brushes

The hair on these brushes feels a little harder than badger hair but are slightly softer than the boar hair type. These brushes are known for having a stronger animal hair smell than other brushes, but this should not be an issue as the scent will fade after a few shaves.

A popular maker of horse hair brushes is Vie-Long, a traditional Spanish maker that has been making shaving brushes since 1940 and it is trusted by barbers worldwide.

Boar Hair Shaving Brushes

When compared to badger and horse hair made brushes, boar hair brushes have harder bristles and a stronger scent which some people might find off-putting. The bristles can be softened before use simply by soaking the brush in warm water for at least 10 minutes.

On the other hand, the coarser feel of this brush contributes to creating a richer lather than ones with softer bristled hair. The natural odor on these bristles will fade away with time, and the bristles are likely to soften after prolonged use but this brush will not feel as gentle on the face as a badger hair shaving brush.

Boar hair shaving brushes are widely used by Italian barbers, perhaps due to the popularity of Omega, a long established Italian maker of boar hair shaving brushes.

Omega #13522 Boar Hair Shaving Brush
  • Lush, Soft Boar's Hair Bristles for a Close Shave
  • Easy to Hold, Comfortable Handle
  • Easy to Hold, Comfortable Resin Handle
  • High quality. Made in Italy

Synthetic Hair Shaving Brushes

If you are allergic to animal hair, or just don’t feel comfortable with the thought of using animal hair to brush your face, a synthetic hair shaving brush is the way to go.

These types of brushes have improved greatly throughout the years, and high-grade synthetic bristles are now made finer than they ever were and last considerably longer than their counterpart. The synthetic hair brush bristles dry faster than animal hair and are less prone to breaking down or shedding. Many argue that synthetic brushes have tips that are softer than animal hair, but you should be the judge of that.

The major benefit of synthetic hair brushes, one might say, is that they require less shaving soap than one would normally use with an animal hair brush. The German maker Mühle is by far the most popular makers of synthetic brushes with the Silvertip Fibre v2.0 brushes as the one with the finest hair among their product line.

Mühle Black Fiber Synthetic Hair Shaving Brush
  • Shaving brush with Black Fibre
  • Ring size M: 21 mm
  • Handles made of plum wood with chrome-plated metal highlights

The Types of Shaving Brush Handles

Shaving brush handles can be made out of plastic, metal, glass, porcelain, and even a combination of materials, but traditionally, shaving brushes have been made out of wood for hundreds of years. The most luxurious handles are carved out of woods like Bog Oak, Briarwood, and African Wenge.

Briarwood Gold Plated Shaving Set by Floris London

Luxurious Briarwood Gold Platted set with badger hair shaving brush by Floris London.

The most beautifully made handles, as well as most expensive, are those that are handcrafted out of luxury woods and combined with materials such as silver, gold, and ivory. If that’s your thing, this shaving set might be just what you’ve been looking to add to your morning grooming.

Despite the variety of materials, modern shaving brushes are very similar to one another. Quite often, handles are designed purely to give the user a firm grip to the brush. The handle will hardly affect the performance of the brush, so it is purely and aesthetic choice.


How to Care for Your Shaving Brush

If your new brush is made of animal hair, do not use detergents to ward off any hair odor. Eventually, after continuous use, the smell will fade away and you be left with odor free shaving brush. On its very first use, be it an animal or synthetic hair, be sure to wash it with soap and warm water.

After each use, be sure to rinse your brush under warm running water, remove any soap residue in between the bristles, shake off the excess water and hang it upside down. If you do not have a brush stand, consider getting one that fits your shaving brush. Leaving your brush sitting upwards might lead to water deposits which in turn could result in mold formation.

Slate Shave Shaving Brush Stand
  • This elegant stand is finely crafted in polished chrome and high quality sapphire blue resin.
  • The opening size of the stand : 2.77cm/1.1 inch for brush, 1.2cm/0.5 inch for razor.
  • Fits most brush and razor models. Notice: Although it fits almost all razors and brushes, it cannot possibly fit every type of razor and brush. Please Measure Your Brush And Razor Before Purchasing.
  • Rubber like non-slip sole weighted for stability.
  • Helps extend the life of your of shaving tools by allowing them to dry properly after each use.

Allow air to dry the bristles naturally. Do not store your brush in closed containers or plastic bags, as this will hasten the growth of mold and weaken the integrity of the handle.

If the bristles in your shaving brush change appearance after long-term use, it might be a built up of mildew or soap, so to get rid off that soak your brush in a solution of Borax, and that should refresh your brush lengthening its life for many years to come.

How to Pick the Perfect Shaving Brush

Now that you know a lot more about shaving brushes, you can pick the one that is perfect for you. In our experience, the perfect shaving brush is one where the combination of hair type and handle materials are suitable to your skin sensitivity as well as your personal aesthetic taste.

A coarser bristled brush may not be the best choice for someone with sensitive skin. On the other hand, some might prefer the less gentle brushes as they are better in exfoliating the skin and opening up their pores. While some might value the quality of a brush, others might just prefer to go with the most affordable choices.

In the end, you are the man, pick the brush that is the best for you.

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