If you have a pair of hands, you may argue that you don’t need a shaving brush. And you know what? You’d be right. But if you want to get a better shave, this is something you’ll want to add.
But why, you ask? Because shaving brushes create a lather that your puny human hands simply can’t (unless your hands are covered in two-to-three inch long hair with excellent water retention, in which case I stand corrected). They also let you use different types of shaving “creams”—like soaps, for example.
However, not all shaving brushes are created equally. In fact, there’s a lot to consider before picking up a brush—getting the wrong brush (read: cheap garbage) will lead to a less than great experience. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Shaving Brushes: A Primer
First off, shaving brushes are generally made from hair—either from animals or something man-made. Here are the biggest four:
- Badger Hair: Water retention is one of the biggest contributors to a good brush, and there isn’t anything out there that does it as well as badger hair. This is often found in premium brushes.
- Boar Hair: While it doesn’t retain water as well as badger hair, boar hair is still the second most popular type of hair used in shaving brushes. It’s initially stiffer than badger hair, but breaks in over time. These brushes are generally more affordable than badger hair brushes.
- Horse Hair: This is the least common type of shaving brush (at least in the US), with a stiffness and water retention that sits somewhere between badger and boar.
- Synthetic: This is a man-made replacement for a natural product, and many animal lovers will prefer this product over its natural counterparts as a result. Synthetic material is generally not as good as animal hair when it comes to water retention, but it can oftentimes be softer and less irritating to the skin.
Since badger hair is generally used in premium brushes, it also has its own subset of categories, which is broken down by quality (listed from lowest to highest): Pure, Best, Super, and Silvertip. Each grade of badger brush steps up the quality from the previous, with Silvertip brushes containing the softest hairs with the best water retention. It gets its name from the silver ends of these hairs. If you’re interested in reading more information about each level of badger brush, Luxury Barber has an excellent breakdown.
Finally, a note animal hair harvesting. When it comes down to it, badger and boar brushes require the animal to be dead before the hair can be harvested. That doesn’t necessarily mean the animals were killed for the hair—badger meat is widely eaten in China where nearly 100% of the badger hair in brushes originates from—but it also doesn’t mean that they weren’t, either. If this is something that’s important to you, synthetic or horse hair will be your best choice. However, it’s also worth mentioning that since horse hair brushes aren’t as common, we don’t have one on our list for best brushes.
And with that little bit of general info out of the way, let’s talk about the best brushes.
The Best Premium Pick: Parker Silvertip Badger Brush ($60)
If you want to get right down to it, the Parker Silvertip badger hair shaving brush is one of the finest brushes you can get for the money. As stated in the name, this brush uses only the highest quality badger hair—Silvertip—along with a beautiful faux horn handle. If you’re not into the handle, there are other versions available too: chrome, olivewood, ivory, and black. Fortunately, they’re all the same price, so you can pick your favorite and knock it out.
If you don’t absolutely require silvertip, then this Edwin Jagger Best Badger Hair brush gets honorable mention—it’s $10 cheaper, too.
The Best Midrange Option: Vikings Blade Synthetic Silvertip Brush ($33)
If you want a silvertip brush but don’t fancy the idea of buying a brush made from real animal hair, this option from Vikings Blade should fit the bill perfectly. The synthetic material is crafted to replicate the quality and feel of silvertip badger hair—and it comes in at about half the cost of our premium pick.
The handle is weighted for a premium feel and it also comes with a drip stand. It’s also worth noting that the Amazon listing shows both black and white options, though the white is the only one that appears to be silvertip synthetic—the black one states “best” as the replicated quality. Interesting.
The Best Budget Choice: Parker Deluxe Boar Brush ($19)
If you’re just looking to try out a shaving brush and don’t want to spend more than an Andy on your brush, the Parker Deluxe Boar brush is the one for you. Despite its lower price tag, this brush will still provide a consistent and high-quality lather, and the naturally stiff boar bristles are said to also provide a bit of exfoliation, which can also lead to less shaving irritation.
The brush comes with either a rosewood or blue wood handle and comes with a drip stand.
The only other thing worth mentioning here is that when you start using your new brush there will be a certain amount of “shedding” during the first few shaves—some of the loose hairs will fall out, but after a couple of weeks this should stop. After that, you’ll get years of awesome lathering from the brush.