Shaving Brush Startup Guide
Getting Started with a Shaving Brush
Getting started with classic wet shaving can feel like falling down a rabbit hole. Even though it is an old practice there can be a lot of “new”: new tools, new vocabulary, new techniques. Likely, one of those new items is a shaving brush. This tool is staging a comeback after being threatened by canned foams, electric razors, and modern methods. But how do you get started with a shaving brush? Let us fill you in on all you need to know.
Pick Your Shaving Brush
There are a number of factors to consider as you approach purchasing your first shaving brush: size, hair type & grade, handle material, and price are just a few things to consider.
- Size. Shaving brushes come in a variety of sizes and generally include overall height, knot diameter, loft, and handle height. The overall height is the measure of the entire brush from the bottom of the handle to the tips of the loft and it is often measured in mm. The knot diameter (also in mm) is an indication of the amount of hair packed into the head. The knot is the part of the head that gets glued into the handle. The diameter ranges from small - 20mm, medium/average - 24mm, large - 26mm. The loft refers to the hair that is visible from the top of the handle and up. This is what you are lathering with.
- Hair Type & Grade. Shaving brushes come in both synthetic and natural hair options. The most common natural hair options are badger, boar, and horse (arguably in that order). Within these types you have a number of grades. Particularly with badger hair you will find a range of hair grades: pure, best, super, silvertip. The hairs generally are progressively thinner, softer, and more luxurious. They usually have a price tag to match.
- Handle Material. Handles come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and materials. Natural materials may include wood, horn, ivory, or even metals. However, most handles today are plastic/resin. This allows the brush to withstand wet environments, endure sanitization, and take a myriad of colors and shapes.
- Price. Shaving Brushes can range in price from less than $10 to over $200.
Bottom Line: A greater starter brush would be a best badger or synthetic brush with a 24mm knot set into a plastic handle at around $20-25.
Prepare Your Shaving Brush
So, you’ve managed to narrow down the choices and purchased a shaving brush. What do you do when it arrives (well, after the unboxing video, of course)? Some shaving brushes require a bit of “breaking in” to arrive at the ultimate lather monster it longs to be. New shaving brushes are often stiff and (in the case of natural hair) stinky. Most of this will resolve quickly, especially if it gets frequent use, but here are a few steps to speed up the process.
Step One: Clean the shaving brush with a mild dish detergent. Put some dish detergent and hot water in a mug. Dunk the brush head in the mug and allow it to soak. Try to keep the handle from being submerged. You want to focus on those bristles. Let it soak for 10-20 minutes and then rinse with hot water. Make sure to get all the soapy detergent out. You may repeat this step a time or two before moving on to the next step.
Step Two: Lather with the shaving brush. Before you actually try to produce a lather for shaving purpose, try to replicate the process before actually shaving with the lather. The best way to break in a shaving brush is to use it. So this process of creating a lather is helping to break down and soften those hairs. Lather up that brush. Get a good lather going and let it grow and expand through all the strands all the way down to the handle. (Wipe the handle off so the soap doesn’t sit on it). When you have an epic lather going, set down the brush and walk away. That’s right. Leave all the soap in the head and get a good night’s sleep. Let the lather sit overnight and in the morning rinse off all the soap. You should notice an improvement in softness, texture, smell, and latherability. Note: Make sure you use a good quality shaving soap (that contains potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide) to help soften the bristles. Canned foams/aerosols won’t have the same effect.
Step Three: Have patience. As you use the shaving brush, it will get split ends and soften and just generally get better – especially if it is a badger or boar brush. So, keep lathering and see the benefits.
What do you love about your favorite shaving brush? Do you prefer a certain hair type or grade? Have a tried-and-true method of dealing with “badger funk”? Let us know in the comments below.