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Question about brush pressure and splay

I'm very new to traditional wet shaving and just had a quick question about building lather and more importantly applying it to your face. I guess this applies more for bowl lathering. When I bowl lather how much pressure should I be applying on the brush? Should I see a good amount of splay in the bowl? Can too much force ruin the brush? I think maybe because I'm not used to using a shaving brush I've been fairly gentle with it, and was thinking maybe I should be using more pressure but am not really sure.

Also I feel that after I build a good lather, when I apply it to my face using circular motions it doesn't go on that well. I feel like I have to paint it on oppose to applying circular motions. How wet should my face be before I apply lather? How much force should I put on the brush when applying it to my face? Right now I'm using a Whipped Dog silver-tip with some Body Shop shave cream.

As always, thanks in advance!

Cheers,
Justin
 
When building your lather in the bowl, not much pressure is needed, but instead focus on buffing circular motions. With badger brushes, and particularly silvertip brushes, they do not have much backbone and often splay, as you mentioned, if you apply too much pressure.

I had the same issue about not being successful with circular motions on my face. I was having to use a painting motion to evenly distribute the lather to my skin. I decided to expand my horizons in the world of brushes and ordered a boar brush, a Semogue 620, to be exact. I switched from bowl lathering to face lathering. I find face lathering much more pleasant and no doubt saves time having to go from the bowl to face. I suggest that if you continue to struggle to build good lather with your current means, try a boar brush (after all, it won;t set you back nearly as much as some badger brushes out there!).

Badger hair brushes, in general, perform best with creams and soft soaps, allowing one to use painting strokes to apply a thick, rich lather. Boar brushes can be used for both creams and soaps of all kinds. These brushes will allow you to perform the circular motions that you often see in "how-to" videos, which exfoliate ad lift the hair shaft above the skin for a clean shave.

Brushes made with boar hair or boar bristle often have "backbone," which is the opposite of floppiness. Backbone allows you to apply pressure to the brush and for the bristles to not splay, as you may have noticed. It holds a firmness but this does NOT mean that the brush will feel prickly or irritating to the skin, as I know some badgers can be velvety soft. Boars can be very soft to the touch but still provide that nice exfoliation due to the rigidness of the bristles in the handle.

I am satisfied with my switch from a silvertip brush to a boar brush. Both brushes are fantastic but are simply different means of achieving the same result. To recap: badger provides super soft bristles but often splay with added pressure. Boar can also be very soft but has a nice backbone for added pressure and buffing motions, which especially shine for face latherers. My silvertip brush I bought was $65; my boar brush was $22, and I much prefer my boar brush over the badger.
 
Only minimal pressure is required when building lather or applying it to the face. When I build lather in a bowl I have virtually no splaying of the brush. I tend to use painting strokes on my face and there is some splay but little pressure.
 
Best practice is minimal pressure without splay. Your goal should be never to crush the brush and never to lose a hair from it.

That's easy to do with creams. But if using one bowl with the soap at the bottom, the tendency will be to crush the brush. That will cause the brush to lose hairs. So with a soap, I pour the water off the soap and then brush the puck with minimal pressure using a back and forth motion until the brush is coated with a slurry. Then in a second bowl I whip up lather with that slurried brush and circular motions, adding just a little water as needed, not pressing down on the brush at all. This whipping is where air gets into the lather, just like whipping egg whites with a whisk produces meringue. A big brush is very good for this because it has the size and action to really whip well. Even a hard soap like Tabac will yield a bowlful of cream in this way.

Basically, in step 1 the slurry you create from the soap is the equivalent of a shaving cream. In step 2 you're whipping up that slurry in a second bowl without the puck getting in your way.

I rub my face with hot water, paint my face first with the brush, then work the lather into my beard with swirls.
 
How your brush performs will depend greatly on the characteristics of its knot. A long-lofted and floppy knot will obviously open up more easily than a dense, short-lofted knot. In my experience, a brush will not do its job properly until the knot is opened up.
 
Moderate pressure, or minimal, not mashing, is for me. But there's no right way to do it and taking it easy on the thing is unlikely to help its utility or increase its life span in any meaningful way. If you want to beat it up, beat it up.
 
In the past I would mash my brush quite a bit to get it to splay, but I think the lofts were too short. I'm finding that a bit more loft and bloom off the brush naturally means I can use a lighter touch.

I agree with djh that you need to have the knot open up, otherwise you aren't going to mix the lather properly.
 
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