Of course before buying anything, its always best to understand what to look out for when picking up a shaving brush. Below we pick out some key qualities found in brushes in order for you to determine which one will work best for you and your morning shave routine that will ultimately help deliver a comfortable shave.
Components Of A Shaving Brush
When breaking down a shaving brush, there are three primary components that you should consider.
The loft length, knot size, and handle design. Here we will talk about each one a bit more further in detail:
Loft: The distance between the top of the handle and the tip of the bristles is considered the loft of the shaving brush. Generally speaking longer bristles will allow for a quicker lathering time due to the amount of shaving cream that they can contain. However, with a longer loft, much of the control is lost. Therefore if you want to just make a few minor passes with a razor to clean up a few areas that you may have missed, a long loft will be tough to get into the hard to reach areas. Of course contrary to a loft that is longer in length, a short loft offers maximum control but a longer lathering time.
While each may have its advantages over the other, its largely dependent on the preference of the wet shaver. If its your first ever shave brush, we would recommend trying out one that has a medium length loft size so you don’t feel overwhelmed on either end of the spectrum.
In addition to loft length, the backbone of the bristles may have an impact on the performance as well. A bristle that has a strong backbone may provide more control as opposed to one that is relatively soft.
Knot size: The knot is the area where the bristles are packed into the handle of the shave brush. Some shaving brushes are considered to have a dense knot and others may be a bit on the lighter side.
The biggest take away when determining a knot size is going to be the amount of lather that a shave brush can hold. Therefore if you are shaving a bit more of a surface area that goes well beyond just your face, a larger knot size would be preferred.
To note though, if you do decide on a shave brush with a larger knot size, it will require more shaving cream or shaving soap in order to be fully loaded. Therefore you will want to keep this in mind when determining excess waste of creams and soaps.
Handle design: While handles can come in many different shapes and materials, the largest factor to look out for is going to be the handle length. If you have larger hands, you will want to make sure you pick up a shaving brush that has a substantially longer handle.
A handle that is either too long or too short may be tougher to control. If you are looking for a point of reference, typically you want to have a handle that is no longer than the tip of your thumb to the center of your palm:
Fiber Types Found In Shaving Brushes
Now when it comes to fiber types that you use on a shaving brush, they are largely dominated by badger hair.
The reason for this is due to the rich tradition that is experienced within the wet shaving field. There are shaving brushes with other fiber types including boars hair, horse hair, and an animal friendly synthetic fiber.
Due to the popularity of badger hair, we will largely be concentrating on this fiber type within this review of determining the best shaving brush.
While here at Tools of Men we proudly prefer products that are sourced and assembled in the United States, badger hair unfortunately is not.
Virtually all the badger hair found in the full range of shaving brush types and grades is sourced from China.
Why is this?
In China, folks actually eat badgers. Being that a badger hair bristle brush requires the actual fiber from the badger, they are slaughtered for food and the left over badger hair is cleaned and then sold to shave brush manufacturers for production.
Even some of the higher end shave brushes that are assembled in Italy or England source the fibers from China.
One of the most confusing aspects that beginner shaving enthusiasts have about badger hair is the grades that it comes in.
Badger hair comes in four distinct grades and the price commanded from each one of those grades varies wildly.
While I go in much greater detail in a recent post about the different types of shave brushes, heres the high level overview on what you need to know:
1. Pure badger hair – The most common of all the badger hair fibers is also the cheapest shave brush that you can get. The low price point for this fiber type is due to the fact that the majority of the hair on a badgers body is considered “pure”. Typical cost for a shave brush in this fiber category is around $15. Its a great fiber for beginners who don’t initially realize the differences between this fiber and the higher grade fibers.
2. Best badger hair – A step up from the pure fiber is best badger hair. From a visual standpoint, best badger hair will appear a bit darker than its pure counterpart.
This hair fiber is substantially softer than pure badger hair, therefore won’t provide nearly as deep of a pre exfoliation when lathering. On the other hand, the soft bristles of this brush do retain more moisture allowing for a much more richer of a lather.
This fiber type is preferred by novice and intermediate wet shavers given its balance in the spectrum of fiber grades. Investment cost in this shave brush is typically around $25.
3. Super badger hair – Is a going to to be softer than both a best or pure badger hair grade. In addition to being softer, this badger hair grade also tends to be a bit thinner as well. This delicate fiber relies on a higher quality shaving cream or soap. Using an inferior product may lead to pre mature damage of the brush. Expect to invest around $50 for a shaving brush of this grade.
To help lengthen the life of this brush, a shaving stand is highly recommended, especially given its higher price tag.
4. Silvertip badger hair – The finest and softest of all the fibers is the silvertip badger hair grade. This fiber is sourced from the neck of the badger and will create an incredibly good lather. There are many faux silvertip brushes on the market that try to pass as being a badger hair of this grade.
However, a true silvertip badger hair brush will typically retail between $50 and $100. This brush grade is reserved for the wet shave enthusiasts who know how to draw out a good lather from a shaving cream or soap.
Since these fibers are so incredibly fine, much care should be given to the handling of the shaving brush. We recommend using a quality shaving stand for home use and a separate travel case for when you are on the road.
Essential Tools For The Perfect Grooming Routine
Getting the best shaving brush on the market doesn’t necessarily mean that it will deliver the most comfortable shave of your life. A proper shave brush needs a supporting cast of grooming tools in order to really shine.
Shaving Cream or Soap (required): While it almost goes without saying, a shave brush is dependent on a quality shaving cream or soap. When we say shaving cream, this isn’t to be mistaken for one that comes from a can. Instead, we highly recommend using a shaving cream that comes from a tube or tub.
These high end shaving creams, as opposed to one that comes from an aerosol can, typically contain a higher grade of ingredients. Most notably they usually contain carrier or essential oils that can both make your skin well nourished and moisturized, but also deliver that classic sandalwood barbershop scent reminiscent of yesteryear.
If you want to get up to speed on some of the latest shaving creams we reviewed, then you should definitely check out our reviews of the best shaving creams.
Much like a shaving cream, there are shaving soaps as well. These products are the quintessential shaving product that have been around for thousands of years. Unlike some shaving creams, all shaving soaps require a shaving brush for full use.
Whether you are using a shaving soap that is glycerin based or one that is triple milled, a shaving brush will draw out its full benefits to a richer and more comfortable shave. Just like for our shaving creams, we also reviewed some popular shaving soaps as well.
Shaving Brush Stand (optional – but strongly recommended): One of the most disappointing things that we see men do, is invest all this money into a great shaving station and somehow overlook a stand for their brush and razor.
A shaving brush stand will assist with both the long term performance of your brush and to help prevent the spread of bacteria.
First and foremost, a shave brush stand provides a house for your shaving brush that will help prevent it from being knocked over while resting on the counter. While a brush falling over seems relatively harmless, frequent falls may actually damage some of the bristles that may shed during the lathering process and ultimately loosen up the hairs within the knot.
While this damage is relatively minor, the biggest advantage of owning a shave brush is to properly dry out your brush after every use.
Remember, majority of shave brushes are made from actual animal fibers and are prone to developing bacteria at the base of the loft and in the general knot area. Therefore a shaving brush stand that holds the brush upside down will ensure that your brush gets fully dried out after every use.
The last thing that you want to be doing is spreading a brush full of bacteria over your face before every shave. Gross!
Pre Shave Oil (optional): The quality of the shaving cream or soap can dictate whether or not you need a pre shave oil. Pre shave oils, typically made of carrier and essential oils (usually castor oil as the carrier oil), provides a slick lubricating base prior to lathering on any sort of shaving cream.
A pre shave oil helps to not only provides a slick surface on your skin for your razor to easily pass, but also it will help in softening up your whiskers making for less tugging and pulling on the hair follicle when the razor (be it a double edge, straight, or cartridge) makes its appropriate pass. If you are looking for guidance on a excellent pre shave oil, be sure to check out our recent article reviewing some of the most popular oils.
Quality Razor Blades (important note): Whether you are coming from a background of using a straight edge razor, double edge safety razor, or even a cartridge razor, the quality of the blade has a large impact to providing a comfortable shave, and ultimately getting a clean cut on your whiskers.
Therefore if you use a straight edge razor, make sure that you use your strop regularly and that your blade is properly honed. Some wet shaving enthusiasts that use a straight edge tend to use shave soaps given their extra lubricating abilities over shaving creams.
If you currently use or are planning to use a double edge safety razor, we would recommend changing out your blades regularly. In addition to fresh blades, we also strongly recommend trying out a razor variety pack. Every mans whiskers are different and will of course react differently depending on not only the technique you use, but also the blade that is ultimately doing the cutting.
A great low cost variety pack to try out a few different blades is this one.
If you are planning on trying out a double edge razor for the first time and come from a cartridge based background, some men prefer to go with the 23C long handle by Merkur. This extraordinary popular razor is very similar in length and structure as your standard cartridge razor, which makes the transition easier. Another alternative to check out the 34C HD by Merkur. The 34C HD provide an ample weight that glides effortlessly through your hairs. The 34C HD is one of the most popular razors among wet shaving experts. Lastly if you are looking for a brand that isn’t Merkur, the Edwin Jagger DE89L is a fine choice.
If you use a cartridge razor, we recommend simply swapping out your blade on a regular basis. If you don’t like making the large investment, it may be worth checking out Dollar Shave Club as they have some pretty low price plans available that will get a new blade in your hand regularily.
Review Process To Determine The Best Shaving Brush
In order to determine a quality shaving brush, we will break down the review process into four major components that will ultimately roll up into a single overall score. Each component of the review process are as follows:
Bristle Quality: When investing in a shave brush there are several different fibers out there as we eluded to earlier. However across all the fibers, there are some that simply perform much better than others. Therefore we look at the lather ability along with the general feel of the fibers. In addition, we see if the fibers help in providing a gentle pre-exfoliation that will loosen both oils and dirt from the pores along with their ability to retain heat and moisture of the shaving cream or soap.
Shave Brush Integrity: No shave brush should have fibers falling out of the knot with prolonged use. While some initial shedding is to be expected for a brand new brush, older shaving brushes should retain their fibers within the knot. In addition to the knot quality, we also will dissect the loft length and its backbone regarding the type of lather and control that is produced. Lastly we will discuss the structural integrity of the handle and the general grip.
Performance: One of the most important aspects to this review is going to be the shave brush performance when its being used in tandem with a razor. Does the brush tend to load rather well when using a shave cream? Will it support enough lather to last your entire shave? Will it help generate a rich lather that is both slick and ample cushion? We break down each component.
Peer Review: From both a qualitative and quantitative perspective we look at how the shave brush has faired for other wet shaving enthusiasts. On the qualitative side we explore the longer term use of the shave brush and its lathering abilities. From a quantitative side we look at the market price for this shave brush when compared to review scores at major online retailers.
Overall Score: Once each component above is examined for each of the shave brushes listed below, we then tabulate up the results to determine which brush will reign champion as the best shaving brush.