Shaving is an unavoidable fact of life for men. Unless you have taken the vow of beardhood, your typical morning ritual includes the removal of facial hair out of a desire to look presentable for the world, or at least that pretty girl three office cubicles away from you. The only thing that worries you is that the piece of crap disposable razor you use causes ingrown hairs and bumps, making your chin look like a porcupine backside with all the quills pulled out. What’s a man to do?
Firstly, the use of disposable razors should be limited to that time period when your voice started changing and the ghost of an actual moustache was haunting your upper lip. Seriously, leave that stuff along with puberty; once you have experienced using a double edge razor (a.k.a. safety razor), you will not want to go back to the sad disposable days. However, with the use of DE razors comes the other shaving paraphernalia: soaps, creams, pre-shave oils, aftershave balms, brushes, etc. Arguably the most important tool after your razor is the shaving brush, but there are many types of brushes at different prices, which can get confusing for beginners.
Well, that’s what we’re here for. Let’s break it down.
There are three types of shaving brushes commonly found on the market: badger, boar, and synthetic.
Badger brushes are popular with most aficionados as badger hair has excellent properties that make it ideal for shaving use. Unlike many types of animal fur, badger hair performs similarly to human hair by absorbing water and retaining its heat. This characteristic, plus the fine tips and flexibility of badger hair, makes it super legit for creating dense smooth lather with just a tiny load of shaving cream. Badger brushes come in several grades, with the highest quality silvertip hair being incredibly soft, making for a luxurious and indulgent shaving experience
Boar brushes are usually the cheapest that you can find, but you get what you pay for in terms of performance: inflexible scratchy bristles, poor heat retention, and a pungent odor that has a tendency to overwhelm the scent of the shaving cream or soap used. In terms of lather, the weak foaming process means it is nowhere near as good as the other two types of brushes.
Synthetic brushes used to be pale imitations real shaving brushes, with terrible scratchiness and non-existent heat retention. These days however, it seems that technology has caught up and you are able to find synthetics that perform comparably to pure badger grade brushes, with a lower price tag to boot.
Edwin Jagger produces badger and synthetic brushes, with the badger brushes coming in four grades: pure badger, best badger, super badger and silver tip (from least to most expensive, natch). The brushes offer different properties, with pure badger being firmer to the touch and allowing for better exfoliation, and the silver tip being softest and the most absorbent. The other grades fall accordingly along the spectrum. We recommend that you find a brush that suits your needs, instead of operating under the assumption that “most expensive = best” and opting to go for a super or silver tip badger brush.
How do you decide what’s best, then? Easy:
1) A pure badger brush feels the least smooth comparatively, making it perfect for exfoliating your skin prior to shaving, with its firm hairs feeling stiffer and subsequently more snappy. This will cause a smooth lather when the bristles work its magic on your shaving cream. As pure badger is able to hold less water, the lather will be less wet, which may be more to your liking.
2) Best badger brushes combine the best of both worlds, with a softer touch than pure badger, and heat and water retention comparable to the higher grades. Lathering up is a dream, with a dense and creamy lather that will provide major cushioning while shaving. Synthetic brushes perform similarly to best badger grade.
3) The super badger is an upgrade, offering a softer and more luxurious feel due to the finer hairs that make up the brush; this also means that it is less springy and firm. The tips of the hair are not trimmed into shape, thus avoiding the coarseness of lower grade brushes. The resulting lather will be wetter as the thirsty thin hairs absorb significantly more water. What you get is a Sunday’s best brush to pamper your face for many years to come.
Once you have identified the most appropriate shaving brush, the next thing to consider is the appearance. Edwin Jagger shaving brushes come in a few variations, with ebony, ivory, tortoiseshell, and wood handles that range from large sizes for home use and thin handles for packing in your dopp kit. Whatever you choose, make sure you get a drip stand in the matching colour, so that the brush can air-dry properly after every use. This will prolong the lifespan of your shaving brush, which can last you up to 15 years with the proper care.
Now get out there and shave yourself!