Shaving Brushes Guide: The Different Types And How They Work

You might have heard of or seen a shaving brush before and thought “really, what is the point of this?” If you want to experience what real shaving feels like though, it is essential to have one of these brushes. Real shaving cream (not the chemical kind that you normally see in supermarkets) is mixed together with water in a bowl or mug by using a shaving brush, and then applied to the face directly afterwards. It’s time to get knowledgeable about these types of brushes and even switch to one so that you can start shaving like a real man does.

If you want to be sure that you’ll get nothing but the highest quality brushes for shaving, you have to be familiar with the different types of shaving brushes that are on the market today. Your experience of wet shaving with a safety or straight razor directly depends on whether you can choose the type of brush that is right for your needs, as well as your preferences.

How Does a Shaving Brush Work?

On first glance, a shaving brush might look like those makeup brushes that your wife has. They are different however in that the bristles are much more suited towards absorbing water and allowing you get a nice, rich lather going. These brushes do just that but they also help in blending together with the shaving cream before applying it on your face. Depending on the type of bristles that are actually on the shaving brush, the absorbency of the water greatly differs; which is why choosing the right material for the bristles is a very important part of your decision-making.

This is where the different types of shaving brushes come in, and they basically depend on what the actual bristles themselves are made of. These brushes are mainly used for wet shavers, or people who choose the more traditional method of shaving that involves either a straight or double edged safety razor. They are absolutely essential for wet shaving, and are a type of medium that you can not go back on after you use it for the very first time.

How a badger shaving brush works

High quality badger brush creating a rich lather.

The Four Types of Shaving Brushes They Make


1. Boar’s Hair Brushes

The cheapest type of shaving brush in circulation right now is the boar hair brush. It does not retain the water all that well, which ultimately leads to a less than optimal lather formation. The bristles feel harder than the badger and synthetic brushes, and do not give you that comfortable feel that you`ll come to love. After some use however, the bristled do get a bit softer but never come close to how a fine badger hair brush is. Primarily used in Italy, these brushes are in the $10 range and are easily available.

shaving brush made of boar hair

A red handle, boars hair brush.

2. Synthetic Brushes

These brushes are made of synthetic material and are probably the most durable of the rest. The ingredients used to create these is usually nylon, but some of the more expensive ones use synthetic fibers that closely resemble the finest badger hair. For people who love animals and vegans, getting a pure nylon shaving brush is the only real choice (which is a very respectable choice and one we recommend here at Malegroomings).

The quality is actually not that bad and it does come close to that of badger hair now, after being pretty poorly designed when they first came out. The kinks have been worked out since and there are some great synthetic brushes available on the market now. The price range for these varies greatly, from $10 to high $100s depending on quality.

3. Horse Hair Brushes

The horse hair brush is more rare and hard to find now, but are particularly preferred in Spain. The hair of a horse is of higher quality than a boar, but still not up to par with the badger. This type of brush can generally be avoided, as you can get a comparable synthetic brush instead or just go straight for the badger that usually costs around the same price.

4. Badger Hair Brushes

Now we have the best, oldest and most popular type of shaving brush, the badger hair. Wet shavers around the world love badger hair brushes, and they are the most sought out for good reasons. They work great for sensitive skin and they come in 4 different categories that they are generally classified by the type of hair that is used:

Pure Badger Hair:
The lowest quality of badger brushes, these brushes tend to have a dark brown hue and come from the belly of the badger. This type of hair is soft, but not too soft so some wet shavers actually prefer using it over the rest. These brushes are machine made and tend to cost generally around $12-$30.

Best Badger Hair: The next grade is best badger and it comes from around a quarter of the body of the badger. The color is slightly lighter than that of the pure, and the length is actually larger as well. This is because of the part of the badger’s body where it is derived from. These can range from $40-100 generally.

Super Badger Hair: Now we are getting to the highest quality of shaving brushes. The super badger has an almost beige hue and almost resembles a silver-tip brush. The hair is very soft and just barely a tier below the next type. These can go from anywhere between $70-150.

Silver Tip Hair: The cream of the crop, the silver tip brush is the highest echelon when it comes to brushes for shaving. It is the most expensive, of course, and definitely the most rare. There is an issue with its availability because the hair is acquired during the winter. This is because the hair on the neck of a badger is super soft and actually becomes silver colored during this season. They are almost always handmade and can cost you anywhere from $100 and beyond.

Now before we are finished, it is worth talking about the different types of handles that these brushes come in. Because this may seem like a cosmetic feature, their is a purpose of knowing about these because you want your handle to be able to be gripped well and not have be detached from the bristles after minor use.

The Four Types Of Shaving Brush Handles

The handle of the brushes are available in four customizable types. How you hold the brush is important and you don’t want it to slip off, so if you feel that you are clumsy then go for one that won’t break if you drop it. So take in all this knowledge and decide which handle will be better for you to maneuver before shaving.

1. Plastic Handles: This may seem like a cheap type of handle because it is plastic (plastic is cheap right?), but it actually is used in many expensive badger brushes. This surprising information is mainly because they do not break that easily and they are easy to hold while in the shower. They are durable and that is something that is important when it comes to your brush, so that is why they are widely used.

2. Wood Handles: Versatile and pretty cool looking, the wooden handle is one that you actually have to take care of. This handle can last you for a long time if you are careful, but you have to take into account the fact that wood does decay after a while. Keep it stored in your bathroom on it’s stand and don’t take it with you if you travel.

3. Metal Handles: Metal might be cool and great in other products, but for shaving brushes it really isn’t necessary. The metals used are usually brass, nickel, chrome, and sometimes gold. They need adequate cleaning and care if you want the finish to remain as new as it was when you bought it. Because of the metal, these brushes are heavier than they really should be and are therefore harder to use for creating lather and then applying it. If you really want a metal handle though, you can go ahead and get a brush with it as it isn’t a deal breaker. It’s really up to preference and what you feel is more conducive to your needs.

A shaving brush with a metal handle

A metal handle with some soap


4. Exotic Handles: The fourth and last kind of brushes are the most rare and even bizarre at times. The materials used are just like the name states, exotic. This can be anything from stag horn, laminated bone, bore tusks, or the ever so expensive ivory and tortoise shell. It really makes the shaving experience quite unique, but it is a pretty unnecessary cost to give for it. You’re not gaining anything that will make a difference in the way you shave. It is a cosmetic buy if anything.

That concludes this shaving brush guide, and as you can see there is a lot to know about them. It is definitely a necessary tool in your shaving arsenal if you want to actually make shaving a hobby rather than a personal chore. You will never forget the first time those soft bristles touch your facial hair and gently massage the shaving cream onto your skin…we sure haven’t!