Choosing a shaving brush can be as challenging as choosing a safety razor. The large selection of brushes, array of hair sources (badger, boar or horse), range of grades of hair (pure, best, super and silver-tip in the case of badger hair), choice of shapes or materials for handles, and variety of knot sizes seem to produce a certain “buyers’ block”.
Some simple rules to follow:
- Bigger is not always better. Some big brushes, while certainly looking the part, might prove to be slightly impractical; especially due to their tendency to put lather in your ears as well as on your face.
- Boar and horse bristles will be thicker and scrubbier than badger hair (which tends to be the most flexible and with the best water-retention qualities).
- Soft and flexible is not always the answer. Some men, especially those with thicker beard and normal (not sensitive) skin types might end up deciding that a scrubbier boar or horse hair brush works best for them.
- Grade is not absolute. When it comes to pure, best, super and silver-tip badger hair, the classification is not uniform across brands and manufacturers. A Simpsons super badger might end up being superior to another producer’s silver-tip.
- Quality comes at a price. The maxim that you get what you pay for is rather accurate when shopping for a shaving brush. Still, you can find some brands with very good price/quality ratio. H.L. Thater probably makes the best silver-tip brushes, Vulfix most likely has some of the best super badgers and it’s very hard to find a better best-badger than the one made by Simpsons.
- Weigh all the factors. Remember that you pay not only for the hair grade but also for knot-density and craftsmanship. A floppy and shedding silver-tip might end up being useless compared to a better made, denser super-badger brush.
- Choose a hand-made brush. Machine-made brushes might be more prone to shedding and their bristles are trimmed in order to produce the distinctive shape of the brush. This last procedure destroys the bristles’ soft and very elastic tips, the main reason for choosing a badger brush.