Here’s a complete guide to your shaving brush. This article is going to give you the details on why you need a shaving brush, the different types of hair available on the market, how to care for it, a lathering tutorial video and so much more!
Why You Should Be Using A Shaving Brush
I don’t see an alternative, to be honest. You need a shaving brush but we don’t need to break the bank for one. There are a variety of hair-types and entry-level brushes you could get for $20 USD.
But you get what you pay for. If you see it as an investment, and with good maintenance, a badger brush could last you 10 years. You may have spent $80, but that’s $8/year! It’s not that bad when you put it that way. Nevertheless, I understand the majority of novice traditional shavers aren’t going to spend this. Heck, I didn’t either. That’s why this chapter lays out all the options you’ll have.
Regardless of the type, you need a shaving brush for 6 key reasons:
- The brush hairs really get underneath your facial hair so that the cream deeply absorbs into the skin
- The lather produced is far superior to one from a shaving foam can or attempting to create one in your hands. I don’t think I need to labour this point: it just does! You’d be crazy to look at the lovely lather below and think otherwise
Brushes will raise the hair on your face, making them ready to cut. This hugely reduces any chances of ingrown hairs. If you were to use your hands to rub the cream into your face, you’d have a tendency to push the hairs down, increasing ingrown hairs risk
The brush acts as a mild exfoliator when you rub the cream in. Removing any dead skin cells will unblock your pores
It’s therapeutic. Embrace the entire experience of traditional wet shaving and relax with your morning grooming 🙂
You’ll save money on shaving creams as developing a lather is effortless with a tiny amount of cream compared to using your hands
Simply put, your shaving brush is a small, handheld, magical tool designed to beautifully apply shaving cream to your face, like a painter. Effortlessly lathering your entire face. Without it, you’re kinda screwed. Moreover, the handles can be made of wood, metal (brass), horn or plastic.
Types of Hair
There are 4 main types of brush hair: boar, horse, synthetic/nylon and badger. The latter is undoubtedly the best because it retains the most water and is the softest. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s explore…
Here’s an infographic for shaving brush comparisons:
Anatomy of the Shaving Brush & Terminology
- Backbone – refers to the stiffness of the knot. In other words, the stiffness of the bristles. A stiffer backbone means increased exfoliation for your skin
- Lather – the end result of the cream/soap meeting your brush! It’s the most crucial part of the shave, providing moisturization, protection and lubrication
- Scrub – the scrub of a brush refers to the friction between the hair of the brush and your skin. A tighter knot will increase the scrub end exfoliation
- Water retention – important to determine the quality of the lather. Of course, you want a brush with great water retention
- Shaving cream warmer – very much a supplementary item. I’ve never used one but it will warm up the shaving cream or soap prior to shaving to make it feel more luxurious
- Scuttle – another term for the shaving bowl
In your wet shaving journey, you may come across such terms, so I just wanted to prepare you to avoid confusion!
Proper care for your brush is essential to really maximize its life. If you care for a badger brush well, it can last for 10 years or more. Thankfully, there are only a few very basic steps to follow:
- After shaving, rinse the brush under warm water to remove excess soap and shake. You can gently squeeze excess soap from the bristles also
- Purchase a stand. Many brushes come with one. That way, the bristles are pointing down to allow excess water to drip out, preventing it from getting to the handle to rot
- Keep the brush aerated on your bathroom counter and never in a cupboard. Don’t pull or tug at any hairs when you see one loose. It will naturally fall out over time.
- Although if you’ve got a good quality badger hair brush, after the first couple of weeks, shedding should be very few and far between
- A yearly ‘spring clean’ of your brush with a mild shampoo, or even pet shampoo. Lather as you normally would but just rinse afterwards. Don’t shave with the lather…
Finding a good quality brush
There are a few things to look out for. You can always play it safe by going with the brush I recommend from my essential shaving products article. If you don’t or you want to get an additional brush, here are some points to bear in mind:
- Does the brush feel nice in your hand? It shouldn’t feel too heavy like you’re holding a doorknob!
- Is it ethically produced? For example, does the packaging say the wooden handle is sustainably sourced from bamboo?
- Does it have a good knot? Basically, do the hairs feel too flimsy or too hard…
- Once you buy and use the brush, most importantly, did you get a good shave? Was the lather easy to develop and apply?
- Does a bad smell linger? You’ll find the ‘breaking in’ period of a brush is a couple of weeks. Especially with horsehair, you’ll find a pungent hair smell will be present. But if a
weird smell persists, you may want to stop using it…
Developing a lather
Okay, let’s just demonstrate another lather so that we really got the hang of this. I said we can either dip the brush and have it soaked for the duration of the shower, in a little mug or ceramic bowl.
What we’re doing is just soaking it under hot water, again no boiling water guys. Nothing that’s super hot. We’ll just get the brush nice and soft. You notice the shaving soap is blooming here. I only need to do one shaving soap lather development, so you’ll notice here one, two rinses, and my Kent Shaving Soap will work the exact same way. So you’ll notice here, its still hard shaving soap. Notice that this has got bloom water in it, let’s drain it. The application is going to be very similar to this. It’s the same principle, it’s still a hard shaving soap, this puck so happens to be quite a bit bigger.
Again, I prefer to do anticlockwise swirls. Already you’ll see plenty of lather developing, already overflowing. You’d rather have that than no lather at all. Look at that. Tons. So I’ll wipe off my hands a little bit. See there, look all that. That’s crazy. We’ve got tons. I found that the shaving soap lathered up really well, however, the application to the skin wasn’t as good. Regardless of the quality of the soap, you’re going to go by the method of lather development the same. So just to let you see what we’re working with guys. Lathering in the bowl. It’s how you get that right consistency, you know, like a good cream. It feels good to touch. It’s not too thin. This is exactly what you need to apply to your face.
You’ll see it’s not thin; it’s a good kind of viscosity for the cream you’re working with here. Again, you’ll do the exact same with this. You put a bit of bloom water, in this case with the Kent Shaving Soap. Similar thing, you put your bloom water in, you would let it set with a little bit of water on the surface. Just let it sit for the duration of the shower. You do the same process with rinsing and saturating, you’re soaking your brush with water and you would do the same anticlockwise motions and the development would be something similar.
The good thing about the Kent Soap is it comes with its own wooden shaving bowl. This little scuttle that I’ve got, the metal one, I bought separately for the William Shaving Soap. That’s what we’ve been lathering here on the left guys, on the right this comes with a bowl, but the principle’s the same. You’ve got a holder for the shaving part. You’ve put the bloom water in just to cover the shaving puck and we are lathering as we just did in the video and you’re ready to apply this awesome lather to your face. Look at that!
Cleaning your brush
And just to finish off with cleaning your brush, you see I’ve got a nice thick residual lather left here. We’re going to want to clean this nicely. So I’m just over the sink right now. And if you, especially, if maybe if you’re struggling with extra lather guys, you can just gently squeeze it. Look how much lather I just got out of the brush there. So if you’re struggling for a third pass or you want to do a touch-up pass, look at all this that’s still left. Gently squeeze the brush. Don’t apply too much pressure, but look at all that extra lather that could easily do you a touch-up pass. Let’s tidy everything up.
Even if you do it again, you’re still getting some extra lather, so we just want to make sure we’re rinsing the brush out nicely guys. Another way to get rid of it is just when you’re rinsing, just develop another little lather in your hand. You’ll notice how much soap is still left there. Look at that. Yeah, that’s crazy. All right. So just make sure that you’re getting everything out, rinsing the brush nicely, gentle twisting and twirling of the brush. Running up and down, almost developing a lather in your hand.
I’m using like medium temperature water here. It’s not too hot or too cold. You never want to use extreme temperature and you don’t want to damage the hair in the brush guys. You don’t want to make it extra hot or extra cold. And then just rinse off slightly. I’m just going gently dab everything dry. I mean this brush is still in really good condition. I get that some of the paintwork in the handle’s a little chipped away. But on the whole, this brush again shows you how good quality badger hair is, and if you maintain it well, how long it lasts.
I’ve had this brush for like 5-6 years and it still works really well. So there you have it. Everything is dried, cleaned. All I do now is just put it in a little stand and I keep it just on my cabinet. So, I’ll leave it there.
Full shave experience
Here’s a video of one of my complete shaves, from start to finish. Sit back, relax and enjoy 🙂