We've said it before: shave brushes are a surefire way to improve your morning routine. The vintage-inspired approach to shaving doesn't just look cool, it whips up a far superior lather and more thoroughly preps your face by evenly coating whiskers and gently exfoliating your skin.
They came into being in 18th century France, and once the advent of folding straight razors made at-home shaving more popular, tricked-out shave brushes with exotic handles and luxe bristles became a status symbol.
These days, there are all different kinds to suit nearly every budget and preference. Here's the breakdown:
Depending on how deeply the bristles are set into the brush's handle, they can either be floppy or stiff. If the handle is shorter and allows the bristles to expand outwards more, the bristles will be more floppy and flexible. If the handle is taller by even a few millimeters, the bristles will be more compact to you a more controlled lather. That stiffer setup is especially ideal for shaving soap.
Neither is better than the other; it's just a matter of preference.
These run the gamut from lower-end synthetics to pricier authentic animal bristles of all kinds. Such as:
The Runner Ups
While these might not be the brushes of choice for hardcore wet shavers, they'll serve you well as introductory options. If you're serious about your preferences and want a more luxe shave, though, they're not ideal.
Synthetic - Usually made with nylon that's machine-made and trimmed, resulting in sharper tips that have more prick to them. Which, as you might guess, isn't terribly comfortable.
But some synthetics are nicer than others, and they do perform well in whipping up a good lather and quickly drying.
Boar - Tend to be fairly inexpensive, and vary in quality. Some can be great, but most are only so-so. The better ones will break in as you use them, since the bristles start to split at the tip and become softer with use, but you don't get the right-off-the-bat silky feel from nicer badger brushes.
On the plus side, boar bristles actually absorb water, unlike synthetic or badger, which helps keep your shave cream moisturized and ready to re-apply. To take full advantage, you should soak them before lathering up.
Trust us: you want one of these in your shave gear lineup. Here's why, plus how to use it.
The Top Tier
Badger is the reigning champ of the shave brush world, thanks to their soft handfeel and the airy, sudsy lather they can whip up. But while there are generally accepted grades of the stuff, note that there's no strict standard that manufacturers have to follow. So buy from someplace you trust, or feel the brush in person before dropping serious money on a good one.
Pure badger - The most common grade, coming from the underbelly of the badger. They're very slightly scratchy, but that'll serve to help exfoliate your mug prior to your shave.
The color and pliability can vary pretty heavily among pure badger bristles, but it tends to be darker and a little coarser because the bast of the bristles are a bit wider. And since they're often trimmed to shape, the tips can be a bit stiffer than is ideal. But on the plus side, they're plenty affordable.
Fine badger - More pliable bristles that come from a smaller selection of a badger's coat. It gives you a step up in softness and quality, and brushes made with this stuff tend to have more densely packed bristles.
That means you get a richer lather, since there are more fibers to catch the soap and air. And for extra quality, they're usually fit to create a just-right brush shape with the soft and narrow tips intact, rather than being trimmed into place.
Silver tip badger - The very top of the line, which hails from the badger's neck area. It's the rarest and highest grade of bristle available for brushes.
The fibers are extraordinarily soft and have a fluffy appearance from a more flared bristle load, which lets these brushes hold a tremendous amount of water for their size. Because of that retention ability, they whip of a beautifully rich lather in no time, with almost no effort.
Whichever one you decide on, one thing's for sure: your shave routine is going to look a whole lot cooler.