The shaving brush was invented in the mid 18th century, around 75 years after the first folding straight razors made their way into homes. Badger hair was the most common hair used, but just like today, cheaper alternatives were found including boar and horse hairs.
A good shaving brush does more than just agitate the soap to a soft foam, and then apply it to your face. It gently moves your hairs away from your face, moistening and lubricating the skin underneath them, while gently exfoliating your skin and preparing it for your shave.
A boar bristle shaving brush is generally the least expensive ranging from $10 – $15. The bristles are much more rigid than other hair types, especially when new. Though they will soften with use, they are at first rather uncomfortable. Price is really the only reason to go with these brushes.
Synthetic shaving brushes have really stepped up their game over the last few years. The hairs used to be thick and only marginally softer than boar bristle and so you’d see very long fibres used to make them feel softer to the skin. However, these days, some brushes are incredibly soft and can last a long time. The increasing demand for animal-free products has increased the demand for synthetic brushes which can range from $25 to $150. These brushes are a good medium-point option that also makes you feel good, knowing that you’ve helped save a polar bear.
It’s generally known as a badger brush for a reason. A badger hair shaving brush is incredibly soft and, even within the range of badger brushes, the style is further divided into 4 different categories. Pure, Best, Super, and Silvertip (from hardest to softest), though each manufacturer really decides on their own standard. Silvertip badger brushes can range in cost $50 to $500 depending on the classification of hair and the type of handle. These are the highest quality brushes and something you’ll be proud of each time you use it.
In the end a brush is a very personal thing that is the starting point of your shaving experience. Make sure you choose a handle and hair combination you’re going to love using. Consider the diameter of the knot (handle) and the loft height (height of the bristles) as, generally speaking, the wider and taller, the softer it will be. Also be aware that your brush will most likely shed during its first few uses, which is normal.
Before you hop in the shower, fill your mug with hot water and let your brush rest in there until you get out. This will make the bristles even softer and warmer, and you’ll get a nice warm lather out of the soap.