If you’re truly serious about wet shaving and getting the closest, smoothest shave possible, then you need a shaving brush. It’s an old-school tool that your great-grandfather used – as well as your great-grandfather’s barber – and it’s still as effective today as ever.
There are just too many advantages to using a shave brush for you not to consider adding one to your own men’s grooming kit.
There are also hundreds of choices when it comes to shaving brushes and choosing the right one is crucial. In this post, we’ll give you our picks for the best shaving brushes of 2017 – including our top pick, the Edwin Jagger Best Badger Shaving Brush
We also explore some things you should consider before buying a shave brush, as well as the different types of brushes, and how to use your shave brush to get the best lather (and best shave) possible.
Let’s get started.
- Before you buy: 5 things to consider when purchasing a shave brush
- The 6 best shaving brushes of 2017
- 5 steps to a luxurious shave: How to use a shaving brush (A simple, illustrated guide)
- So, what’s better, a shaving brush or my hand?
- Here’s the difference: A closer look at the types of shaving brushes
- How we chose our best shaving brushes of 2017
Before You Buy: 5 Things to Consider When Purchasing a Shave Brush
OK, let’s cut to the chase: With hands, who needs a shave brush? Yes, we get it, you can always build a lather and apply it to your face with your hands, but is it as good as what you’d get by using a shave brush?
Purchasing a quality brush not only shows that you take wet shaving seriously, but also that you truly desire the kind of lather (and other attributes) that make for a close shave. There are many advantages to using a shave brush:
- It whips air into shaving cream or soap to generate a rich lather.
- A shaving brush softens and lifts the hair off the face, making it easier to shave.
- It adds heat to the skin during your shave which helps lubricate the skin while also opening skin pores.
- The brush’s bristles gently exfoliate the skin to rid of dead cells.
Yes, a shave brush is old school, but some things in life will always hold their value.
Now that you’re ready to buy a shave brush – whether it’s your first or one of many – here are some things to keep in mind before making your purchase.
One of the most important criterion when choosing a shave brush is the type of hair in the brush. And most types of shaving brushes come in one of four types of bristles: badger hair, boar hair, horse hair, or synthetic.
We’ll get into the pros and cons of each type of hair later in this post. As a general rule, however, boar hair is the type of brush you’ll find in many supermarkets and drug stores, while horse hair comes from the horse’s tail or mane and is making a comeback of sorts when it comes to shaving brushes.
Just a note: Harvesting badger and boar hair mean killing the animal. If that’s a personal concern, then you’re better off choosing a synthetic or horse hair brush.
The nice part about shave brushes is that you can find one to fit any budget. A top-notch Silvertip badger hair brush may cost as much as $150, while you can pick up a good boar brush for as little as $10. Quality synthetic versions can range in price for $30 to $150.
Brush size and shape is another important factor when buying a shaving brush. Most brush dimensions are expressed in millimeters and often divided into three sections: loft, knot, and overall height. The loft is the length of the hair from the top of the handle to the tip of the hair, while the knot refers to the amount of hair that’s packed into the handle. The length of the handle is included when determining the overall height of the brush.
The length of the handle is included when determining the overall height of the brush.
Generally speaking, larger brushes are superior for quickly lathering a large area of your face while smaller brushes have more control.
Brush handles are usually offered in different sizes and weights depending on the manufacturer. The size of your hand should be a key determining factor in choosing the right handle for you.
The most common materials used for brush handles are metal, wood, horn, and synthetic. Metal handles are often made of brass – and plated with chrome or nickel to increase their durability – while wooden handles come from a variety of wood types, such as pine, sycamore, and ash.
As far as horn handles, the best and most common option is buffalo horn – which has excellent durability among its many attributes.
Don’t be alarmed if your brush sheds some bristles for the first week or so after purchasing it. The shedding ends sooner than later, but you can expedite the process by washing your brush with shampoo or combing it.
We’ll dig deeper into the types of shave brush bristles later on, but now it’s time to get into our shaving brush reviews.
The 6 Best Shaving Brushes of 2017
Sheffield, England-based Edwin Jagger exists exclusively to meet the needs to wet shavers worldwide. Founded in 1988, it designs and manufactures a wide variety of high-quality wet shaving accessories, including their incomparable badger hair shaving brush.
And their Best Badger Shaving Brush (with drip stand) is the best badger shaving brush on the market – the name doesn’t lie. Then again, what else should one expect from a company that stakes its reputation on quality?
Edwin Jagger makes all of its shaving brushes from the hair of the Meles Meles badger – which is a “sustainable” source (and also known as the European Badger). As mentioned, badger hair is a common source of shaving brush bristles – and has been for a couple of hundred of years – and absorbs water better than other bristle types. Combining a top-quality badger hair brush with a superior shave cream or soap all but guarantees a lather that’s second-to-none.
Combining a top-quality badger hair brush with a superior shave cream or soap all but guarantees a lather that’s second-to-none.
But there’s more to like about Edwin Jagger’s Best Badger Shaving Brush with Drip Stand. Let’s break it down a bit:
- Badger hair absorbs hot water during the shave which, in turn, helps you to produce a rich, creamy later. A badger hair brush is also great when used with a hard shaving soap, especially for men who prefer a firmer feel during the lathering process, or who have coarse facial hair.
- Edwin Jagger makes its shaving brushes by hand and uses the latest technology combined with traditional craftsman skills.
- While the brush is shorter than some others, it fits comfortably in your hand and provides good control during the mixing and lathering processes. Its size also makes it an excellent travel shaving brush.
- Your Edwin Jagger Best Badger Shaving Brush comes with a drip stand that allows you to store your brush and hang it to dry. It’s important to rinse your brush with warm water after every use and hang it to dry. All in all, it makes for an excellent shaving brush kit.
- Badger hair
- Handmade, quality construction
- Helps prepare your face for the closest shave possible
- Comes with handy drip stand
- Takes a bit longer to break in than some brushes
Edwin Jagger has established itself as one of the key players in the wet shaving game and only enhances its strong reputation with products like the Edwin Jagger Best Badger Shaving Brush. A bonus is that it comes with a shaving brush stand, as well. We think this is the best shaving brush available.
With over 7,000 customer reviews on Escali and high ratings anywhere you look, Escali has reached a high standard with its 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush.
As its name suggests, there’s not a single synthetic bristle in this brush; instead, you get 100% pure badger hair that excellent for exfoliating your skin while preventing skin irritation. If you have sensitive skin, using this brush with the appropriate shave cream, soap, and razor all but guarantees an irritation-free shave.
Not that all synthetic bristles are bad for your skin, mind you, but they’re often weaker than badger and boar bristles and break more easily. Badger hair – especially pure badger hair – is also hard to beat when it comes to producing a rich, creamy lather.
This brush has many other attributes worth mentioning, including its wallet-friendly price. You can pay a lot more for a shaving brush that isn’t as good as Escali’s 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush (and you shouldn’t).
You’ll love the lather you get from the Escali Pure Badger Shaving Brush and it doesn’t take a ton of effort to produce it. You’re able to build a thick lather while the bristles easily spread your favorite shave cream or soap over your face. And the bristles do an excellent job of exfoliating the skin while ridding it of dead skin cells.
Like all quality badger hair brushes, the Escali Pure Badger Shaving Brush’s bristles hold and retain water superbly. They’re not only super absorbent but also easy to rinse out after your shave.
Another thing we like about this brush is its solid construction. It has a natural wood handle that fits comfortably in your hand. You’ll also note how few bristles you’ll lose over time. It’s a brush that’s made to last a long time.
- Badger hair
- 100% pure badger hair
- Works up a superb lather
- Excellent construction
- Handle is smaller than on many brushes
There are many excellent badger hair brushes worth considering but the Escali 100% Pure Badger Brush is a cut above. You’ll love the lather it produces as well as its top-notch construction.
The folks at Parker have made it their business to make only the best products for wet shavers everywhere, and their Silvertip Bristle Shaving Brush is as good as it gets.
Made from pure Silvertip badger hair – arguably the best material for bristles on the planet – this brush is extremely soft and better than a lot of brushes that carry a heavier price tag (although it’s not cheap, by any means). Its bristles can hold large amounts of water, which makes it easier to work up a beautiful lather.
The bristles are lighter in color at the top and feature a distinct black band, and they need little break-in time compared to any other kind of bristles. They’re soft but extremely tough and you can expect years of service with this brush before it’s time to buy a new one.
Like most of the top shaving brushes on the market, the Parker Silvertip has excellent exfoliating qualities. It’s also a great option if you have sensitive skin because of its soft bristles. The brush also has a low shed rate and you’ll experience minimal bristle loss after your first few uses.
The Parker Silvertip Badger Bristle Brush is a testament to craftsmanship as it’s handmade and you can feel the quality when you hold it in your palm. The handle is a comfortable length that’s neither too long or too short.
Another reason to like this brush is that it comes with a chrome shaving brush stand that ensures proper drying and storage.
Some reviewers suggest that the Parker Silvertip’s knot is a bit “looser,” i.e., higher up the handle, than other shaving brushes, which makes it less suitable for aerosol creams. Why? Because a portion of the aerosol cream remains stuck in the bristles and never reach your face.
Then again, if you’re using a shaving brush, there’s no sense in using a cheap aerosol cream instead of making your cream from scratch, or using shave soap. If you’re going to go “old school” and use a shave brush, why not be just as traditional with your cream or soap?
- Badger hair
- Silvertip badger hair bristles
- Comes with a shave brush stand
- Not many, although it doesn’t work as well with aerosol creams
The Silvertip Bristle Shaving Brush is a product that’s very representative of the type of wet shaving items that Parker produces on a regular basis. You’ll love the softness of the bristles, just as you’ll love the brush’s durability.
Founded in 1931, Italy’s Omega is one of the most popular shaving brush manufacturers worldwide. Their brushes are not only high quality but also reasonably priced (and worth every penny at any price).
Made of natural boar hair, the Professional Boar Bristle Shaving Brush comes with a black resin handle that’s almost as tall as the loft, making it one of the bigger handles out there. While it may not be as premium as a wooden handle, it has a quality feel to it. It also provides superior grip, unlike other models that feel too rough or too slick.
But more about the bristles.
As with many other boar brushes, the Omega Professional takes a bit of time to break in. But, also like most boar brushes, the more you use the bristles, the better they become. And the Omega Professional’s bristles are softer out of the box than most other boar brushes.
If you’re looking for a brush that will give you a rich lather that covers your entire shaving area, then the Omega Professional is right up your alley. The bristles are great for exfoliating – eliminating dead skin cells – the skin during your shave, and your face will feel smooth and refreshed when you’ve finished.
Again, the Omega Professional Boar Bristle Shaving Brush is very affordable. There are plenty of more expensive brushes available that aren’t of similar quality as the Omega.
We’d be shirking our duties if we didn’t touch on the Omega Professional Brush’s smell. The fact is, the brush has a strong odor when you first open up the package and during the break-in period.
Not to worry, however, because the odor goes away the more you use the brush. Furthermore, it’s made more bearable at the start because of the thick lather the bristles provide right from the get-go.
- Boar hair
- Builds an excellent lather
- Quality handle with good grip
- Bristles get even better with time
- Strong odor at the start
The Omega Professional shaving brush is the best boar shaving brush available. You’ll like the lather and the way it makes your skin feel after your shave. Even better, it’s available at a price that won’t bust your budget.
The Spanish company Vie-Long is the dominant player when it comes to horse hair shaving brushes with most other brands finishing a distant second. They have a nice line of brushes, and their 12705 is the best horse hair shaving brush available.
Horse hair is a great alternative for wet shavers who don’t like the idea of killing animals (i.e., badger and boar) but want the luxurious lather they can only get with a shaving brush. And, rest assured, you’ll get a nice rich lather with a horse hair brush.
Some people who turn to horse hair brushes out of concern for harming animals (and the hair usually comes from the mane of a living horse) are surprised by the quality of the bristles. Horse hair is strong, as you’d expect, and your brush will last a long time with proper care. Moreover, the bristles are softer at the tips and help produce a luxurious lather.
Here’s another thing: some users prefer the quality of horse hair brushes over those made with badger hair. And that’s saying a lot.
Another attribute of Vie-Long’s brushes is that they experience very little shedding. In turn, that also helps extends the longevity of their brushes, including the 12705.
The Vie-Long 12705 looks good right out of the box thanks to its red acrylic handle that makes for a handsome design. The brush has a squarer shape than other brushes, but the handle is easy to hold and you can count on a firm grip as you shave.
While the Vie-Long 12705 works well with all types of shave soaps and creams, it works particularly well with harder soaps.
- Horse hair
- Excellent design
- Strong odor (that goes away after several uses).
The Vie-Long 12705 is the perfect shaving brush for anyone who’d rather not use a badger or boar brush for personal reasons and doesn’t like using synthetics, but also anyone in general. It’s a very durable brush that will create the kind of lather that you desire.
We’ll dig deeper into synthetic shaving brushes a bit later, but a few things to consider:
- Synthetic brushes are an excellent alternative to shaving brushes that use animal hair and, hence, are considered “animal-friendly.”
- The quality of synthetic brushes compared to their animal hair counterparts produces plenty of debate. Synthetics usually don’t warrant the kind of respect in the shaving community as animal hair brushes, perhaps because they don’t feel as natural.
- All that said, a quality synthetic brush will build the kind of lather you deserve. That’s reason enough to include a premium synthetic in our shaving brush reviews. Which leads us to the Frank Shaving Pur-Tech Synthetic Hair Shaving Brush, the best synthetic shaving brush on the market.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Frank Shaving’s signature synthetic brush is the softness of its bristles. To the surprise of many reviewers, the Pur-Tech Synthetic Hair Shaving Brush feels soft like an animal hair brush and not “bristly” like you’d expect synthetic bristles to feel.
The Pur-Tech brush is also sturdy and comes with a black handle that fits comfortably in your hand. It works well with shaving soaps because it requires more water, but also with shaving creams. Yes, synthetic brushes require more water than animal hair brushes, but you also don’t need to soak synthetic bristles for long as animal hair bristles. Just wet it down and start shaving.
We also like how the Frank Shaving Pur-Tech brush spreads the lather on your face; the bristles spread just the right amount to create an even shaving foundation and, as mentioned, they feel soft on your skin.
At around $30 the Pur-Tech Synthetic Brush isn’t cheap, but it’s not overly expensive either. Besides, the brush also comes with a free shaving stand. Frank Shaving – which also produces badger and boar hair brushes – makes a commitment to cost effectiveness.
- Surprisingly soft for a synthetic brush
- Solid construction
- Produces a nice lather
- Doesn’t retain heat very well
If synthetic is your thing, this is the brush to buy. It’s solidly constructed, is softer than most synthetics, and gives you a luxurious lather which rivals that of animal hair brushes.
5 Steps to a Luxurious Shave: How to Use a Shaving Brush
Using a shaving brush isn’t rocket science. Then again, we’re not building rockets, and there is some technique involved if you want to get the most out of your shave brush (and create the kind of lather you and your face will love).
1. Prepare your bowl and brush
Get a mug or bowl – the best are those designed specifically for wet shaving – and fill it with hot water. Not boiling water, mind you, but still nice and warm. Place your brush in the water and make sure to cover all of the bristles with water. Let the brush soak for a few minutes, or even while you’re showering. Soaking it will soften the bristles and make lathering a whole lot easier.
2. Bring some water out
After the brush has soaked for a bit, take it out and squeeze its bristles until the excess water goes away. You only need to apply enough pressure to ensure that the brush isn’t dripping water but is still moist.
3. Building your lather
Now it’s time to build your lather and the process depends on whether you’re using shaving cream or shaving soap.
- With shave cream
There are a couple of ways to build your lather using a shave cream:
Place some cream in your shave bowl (after you’ve emptied it of water). Add drops of water to the cream to get your preferred thickness and texture as you swish the mixture around in the bowl with your brush.
The key thing to remember is that you want to create a lather that has the right mix of air and water. You’ll know you’re there when the lather is rich and creamy and not foamy. Building a good lather usually takes about a minute, maybe more, maybe less, depending on technique, products, brush, etc.
Or, create a small amount of shave cream in a small cavity of your hair brush. You can create the cavity by pushing down on the top of the shaving brush. Note: it’s still a good idea to mix your cream in the bowl before applying it to your brush.
- With shave soap
Place a small portion of shave soap in your bowl and add a few drops of water to moisten it. Swirl your brush on the top of it for several seconds (it doesn’t take long) until you have a good amount of soap on your brush.
4. Lathering your face with a shave brush
Now we’re on to the fun part – applying that luxurious lather to your face while using a shave brush.
- Make sure that your face is thoroughly wet before applying your lather. We’ve mentioned it in another post, and it’s worth repeating – a great time to shave is after you’ve showered because the warm shower water will soften your facial hairs and make them more pliable for your razor.
- Your first step in lathering your face is to apply it with swirling motions. You don’t need to apply a whole lot of pressure but just enough to thoroughly lather your face while exfoliating your skin.
- After you’ve covered your face with lather, use an up-and-down painting motion that will smooth out the cream on your face to provide a nice, slick shaving surface.
5. Re-apply lather
After you’ve completed one pass with your razor over your face and neck, it’s often wise to apply more lather to your face while using the same motions you used in step 4. Doing so ensures the closest shave possible. Just make sure that your lather doesn’t get dry while you’re shaving, so apply a few drops of water to keep it moist.
So, What’s Better, a Shaving Brush or my Hand?
If you’re one of those men who wonders why you can’t just skip all of the steps above and work up a lather in your hand instead, you’re not alone.
And let’s face it, men have created a lather in their hands – and applied their mix to their face by using their fingertips – for, well, a long, long time. That’s not going to change, either.
Indeed, using the palm of your hand is a simpler process than building a lather with a shave brush. You don’t have to deal with a bowl, wait for your brush to soak, etc.
Palm lathering is a nice option when using heavy creams because you won’t worry about more cream ending up around the perimeter of your bowl than on your brush.
But while the simple things in life are often more rewarding than those that are more complicated, that’s not the case when it comes to building a luxurious lather for your wet shave.
The fact is, a shaving brush has many more advantages than using your hand:
- A shaving brush is good for your skin. While you’re applying the lather to your face you’re also removing dry skin cells and exfoliating your skin.
- A shaving brush raises your facial hair and makes it softer. In turn, you’ll get a closer shave. You’re also less likely to irritate your skin during the shaving process.
- You’ll build a better lather with a shaving brush and bowl. End of story.
Here’s the Difference: A Closer Look at The Types of Shaving Brushes
We’re fortunate to live in an era where there are more options for shaving brushes than ever before. Synthetic materials are a big reason why, but animal hair brushes are as prevalent as ever (and the choice of many, many wet shavers).
Let’s delve into the different types of material used to create a shaving brush’s bristles:
1. Boar Hair Brushes
Boar hair brushes are the least expensive and most prevalent type of shaving brush available today. Also known as “Pure Bristle” or “Natural Bristle,” boar hair brushes are comparable in price to synthetic brushes (and, in most cases, cost less) and provide a lather that you probably won’t get with a non-animal hair brush.
There are a couple of drawbacks with boar hair brushes, 1) the bristles are harder and more prone to breaking than badger or horse hair brushes, and 2) they don’t retain water as well as other brushes.
It’s worth noting, however, that the bristles of a boar hair brush do become softer with use.
2. Badger Hair Brushes
Badger hair brushes are not only the oldest type of shaving brush – you’ll have plenty of options if you’re looking for an antique shaving brush that you’d like to restore – but also considered the best option for wet shaving. They’re excellent for sensitive skin, they produce a superb lather, and you have four types of badger hair brushes from which to choose:
- Pure Badger Hair
A pure badger hair brush is the lowest quality and least expensive brush of its kind. The bristles have a dark brown color and come from the belly of the badger. Cheaper doesn’t mean lesser, however, as many wet shavers prefer this type of bristle over any other. The bristles are soft, but not too soft.
- Best Badger Hair
The next step up grade-wise is the best badger hair brush. The brush is a bit larger and the bristles a lighter color (than pure badger hair), while the softness is excellent.
- Super Badger Hair
The bristles are even softer on a super badger hair brush than the previous two types and the quality is almost as good as it gets.
- Silvertip Badger Hair
Silvertip bristles are as good as it gets when it comes to badger hair. It comes from the neck of the badger, where the hair is extremely soft and is harder to find because it’s acquired during the winter only when the hair is a silver hue. Most Silvertip shaving brushes are handmade and can cost $100 – and more.
3. Horse Hair Brushes
Horse hair brushes are harder to find than other types but are the preference of many wet shavers in Spain – which produces the best brushes of this type. Horse hair is softer than boar hair but not as soft as badger hair. While the larger portion of horse hair brush bristles is stiffer than other types, the tips are pleasingly soft.
4. Synthetic brushes
Synthetic shaving brushes have come a long way, baby. Made of synthetic materials (think nylon) they’re considered a good option for folks who want a shaving brush that’s not as expensive and not made from the hair of animals.
While many of the kinks associated with synthetic brushes have been worked out over the years, users still complain that they don’t hold water as well as brushes made of animal hair. Synthetic bristles also tend to be stiffer than other types and may pick and poke your skin.
How We Chose Our Best Shaving Brushes of 2017
There is a variety of factors we considered when choosing our best shaving brushes of 2017. Perhaps the most important is the type of bristle – there’s no better way to evaluate a shave brush. Badger hair brushes remain the best of the bunch, but we also wanted to include at least one brush each of the other types of bristles.
The quality of the lather is another key criteria when selecting the best brushes; after all it’s all about providing the best foundation for your shave. Price is, of course, another factor, but like with all of our reviews, we want to include products in a good range of price options.
The quality of construction is another thing to consider when evaluating shaving brushes, and that includes the handle. If the brush isn’t comfortable in your hand, then chances are you’re not going to get a comfortable shave.
Finally, we spend a lot of time doing research, including perusing the reviews of others. While we can’t try every shave brush available, we do turn over every stone when it comes to digging through all of the literature available on shaving brushes (and men’s grooming products, in general).
We hope you found this “best-of” review helpful and that it positively influences your buying decisions. After all, an informed shopper is the best shopper. And, as always, we welcome your comments, suggestions, and overall feedback. Have you used any of the brushes listed in this review? Do you use a brush that you think should be on the list? We’d love to hear from you.