A badger shaving brush is an essential part of a comfortable, close shave. When combined with a shaving soap or shaving cream it creates a rich lather that softens the beard, protects the skin and helps the razor to glide without irritation. Badger shaving brushes come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and prices and this guide aims to help you choose the right brush for you.
The shaving brush has three main benefits when it comes to shave preparation. Firstly it can used to make a much richer lather than you might be able to make with your hands. This allows the hair to be completely covered rather than a thin, runny lather that will only cover the roots of the hair. This is especially useful if you are someone who doesn't shave everyday. Secondly, the brush helps to gently exfoliate the skin, removing any dry cells or trapped dirt that may have built up in the pores on the skin. Dry skin can interfere with the razor's action on your face, getting in the way and causing irritation. Lastly, the brush helps to lift, soften and cover each individual whisker on the face, making the hair much easier to slice through. This allows you to get the closest shave possible whilst still protecting your skin from razor irritation.
There are a few different options when it comes to brush bristles. The most common sources are boar hair, horse hair, synthetic bristles and the most popular; badger hair. Unlike most animal pelts, badger hair retains water, rather than repelling it. The main aim of a brush is to soak up hot water which is then infused with your shaving cream or soap to make a luxurious lather which can then be applied to the face. Badger hair's outstanding water absorbing qualities make it the perfect material for the job. This and the natural softness of the hair combine to create a comfortable and beneficial experience for the skin.
Badger hair brushes are typically grouped into four different categories. Below is a description of each with the benefits of that particular hair type.
Pure badger hair is the most common and easily available grade of badger hair. This is due to the hair coming from around 60% of the badger's body. This means that pure brushes are the most in-expensive typically ranging from £20-£30. They make great brushes for beginners looking to try out wet shaving without making too much of an investment. With the hair being the most common on the body it often means that hairs are uneven when it comes to finishing a brush. This leads to hairs often being trimmed to fit. Trimming the hairs takes away the natural 'tip' making it feel more blunt. This is not a bad thing as the coarseness of the trimmed bristles intensifies the exfoliating process and can leave the skin feeling more tingly post shave. The stiffness of these brushes makes them ideal for working lather from a solid soap block.
When moving up into best badger territory, you are looking at slightly softer hair with a higher water retention rate than pure. Best badger hair can be found, again, from around 50% of the body, usually the belly. The main difference is that they are hand selected for the their greater length and finer quality. Best brushes are more densely packed and are more pliable than pure allowing them to create a thicker lather much easier. It is often argued that the difference between pure and best grades is almost unnoticeable. This generally depends on the manufacturer and whether or not they hand place the hairs or trim them to fit like pure hairs. They are still coarse enough to effectively work a soap and will have a slightly less prickly feel. Best badger brushes typically range from £25-£40.
Super badger hair is much less readily available and is found on the back of the animal. It is much finer than pure and best and has a distinct dark mid-section of colour. The hair is dramatically softer than previous grades and is hand selected and pinned with absolutely no trimming. The white tip of the super hair has a long tapered end to a fine point which provides a very smooth feel with no scratchy sensations whatsoever. Many manufacturers colour the tips to make them seem more like silver tip brushes. A bright brush is often seen to more aesthetically pleasing than the darker haired brushes. This does not decrease the natural feel of the brush. Super brushes tend to be very densely packed as the hairs are so thin. More hair means a thicker, creamier lather but the thin gauge of hair means that more care must be taken as the hair is a bit less robust than pure and best. These brushes are far more luxurious than their pure and best counterparts and work incredibly well with dense shaving creams. Some manufacturers will not make higher quality brushes than super and you are looking to spend upwards of £50 for a good quality brush.
Silver tip hairs are the rarest and highest grade of badger hair. The hair comes from the neck and is renowned for being the softest hair available. It's famous bright, silver tips make it a beautiful brush to behold and it's incredibly soft and pliable bristles make it the most comfortable. Similar to the super brushes, much care is needed with silver tip brushes as the bristles can break easily when used roughly. The advanced water retention and fanned hair placement mean that they can hold a large amount of water. This makes it easy to quickly make a rich lather so no effort is needed at all. Silver tip brushes can range anywhere from £50 to £500+. They are often paired with high quality, hand-made handles and are considered highly valuable collectors items.
Almost all shaving brush manufacturers source their badger hair from China. Badgers are considered a pest in China and their population had multiplied to the point of becomming a crop nuisance causing the government to licence the hunting and killing of Badgers. Badgers are caught, usually from the wild, and are then killed in an abattoir. In China the animals have many uses including food from the meat, medicine from the blood and shaving brushes and clothing from the pelts.
It is important to keep your badger shaving brush in good condition in order to prolong its life. After each use the brush should be rinsed thoroughly in warm water to clean the brush of any remaining shaving lather. Then gently squeeze or flick the excess water from the brush and allow it to air dry. Never put a damp shaving brush in an enclosed space. It is recommended that you wash the shaving brush in a mild borax solution every few months to kill any mildew that might be building up in the base of the knot.