Shaving Brush Hair Basics: What You Need To Know To Get Started

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Brushes help turn a nice shave into a great shave. Not only to they add a wonderful element of luxury to any shave, they are also seen as retro cool. For more information on the benefits of brushes check out this article.

All natural hair brushes will have some odor with initial use, but this diminishes quickly.There are four main types of brushes that you'll need to understand before you start lathering up:

  • Badger
  • Boar
  • Horse
  • Synthetic


Badger hair grades vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, however the three commonly accepted grades are Pure, Best, and Silvertip. There are other unique grades from manufacturers, but these are often hard to define.

So what distinguishes these hair grades from one another? And what distinguishes badger from the other brush types?

Pure badger is the cheapest of the lot, as it uses a lower grade badger hair that is found on most of the badger. It is often darker, and even black in color. It doesn’t hold as much water as the higher grades of hair, and it is the most scratchy. This is beneficial for exfoliation and lathering hard soaps, but can also be irritating for sensitive skin. It is important to note that these brushes are often not handmade, unlike with the higher grades of hair.

Any of the classic brush makers out there will offer a great pure brush. You can’t really go wrong.

Best badger is a jump in hair quality from pure. The hair is often banded, which means it is two-toned in color. It holds more water than pure, and it is significantly softer, while still having a bit of scratch to exfoliate. If you are budget-minded, but still want to experience most of what badger brushes have to offer, this is the brush for you. Simpsons stands out when it comes to Best Brushes, although other makers, such as Edwin Jagger, are more than able competitors.

Silvertip, is considered the crème de la crème of shaving brushes. These brushes are carefully handmade out of badger neck hair. These are the softest, most luxurious brushes money can buy. They have exceptional water retention properties and are absolutely wonderful for making lather. Great examples of this are Shavemac, Edwin Jagger, and Da Vinci. But this luxury comes at a cost. These brushes are more delicate than any other brush and need to be looked after properly. This means proper drying, not being too harsh while lathering, and just common sense.

Badger is one of the classic brush types, and its different grades means that it can be within almost anyone’s price range. It offers different levels of scrubbiness, and can be as soft as a cloud, if you choose the right one. And due to the type of hair used in these brushes, they require little to no break-in period. While lower grades can arrive with a bit of an animal scent on them, it is easily gotten rid of with a couple of lathers.


Boar brushes are harder to categorize. There are cheap boar brushes and expensive boar brushes. As long as you go with a respected manufacturer, such as Omega or Semogue, boar brushes tend to be great brushes that won’t let you down.

The biggest thing boar brushes have going for them is the price—they are on average the cheapest of the all the brushes. They are soft, with just the right amount of scrub, once broken in. And while they hold less water than badger brushes, the amount held is still more than enough for making some great lather.

However, with such a bargain price comes some downsides. Arguably the biggest downside of boar brushes is the break-in period. This refers to the length of time it takes for the hairs to begin splitting, which makes the brush significantly softer. Boar brushes take between one and three weeks to break-in properly, which is a significant investment of time.

Lastly, boar, like badger, which makes it is unsuitable for certain people, depending on their views.


Horse brushes are very similar to boar brushes, albeit more expensive. They are very soft after a break-in period of a couple of weeks. Again they are not as expensive as the higher grades of badger, which is great if you are on a budget.

Also, unlike the other two natural options, horse hair is retrieved by brushing and grooming the animal. The best of the horse brushes are Vie Long, which is considered the standard.


The only non-animal option of brushes available, syntheticshave come a long way in recent years and have really caught up, with Mühle leading the way. These brushes are not the cheapest out there, however they are really starting to gain a following, due to their great qualities.

Due to their synthetic nature, these brushes are the most animal friendly option out there. They require no break-in period, so they are ready to use out of the box. The synthetic fibers dry very quickly, and this quality, combined with their resilience, make them perfect travel brushes. The fibers readily release lather, which uses up less shaving cream or soaps in the long run.

Although they have made great strides in recent years, synthetics will never be the same as a real silvertip brush. They also do not hold as much water as their natural counterparts, which is what makes them so great for travel.

Choosing For Yourself

In the end, brushes are a very personal thing, and it can take a great deal of experimentation to find the right one. Many men find that having multiple brushes adds a nice variety to their shaving routine. Investing in good brushes will help you to be set for many years to come with proper brush care.

Good luck on your hunt for the best brush hair for you! If you're still unsure which brush to choose, give our awesome customer service team a call. They would love to help you find your perfect fit.

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1 comment(s)
Stephen Taylor October 6, 2014 11:41 AM reply
What you missed is the really top of the line brushes which are two band silver tip brushes which are hard to find but produce the best shave possible. Runney makes these from time to time as do a few others and if you see one for sale grab it as you may not see another for awhile.

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