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Choosing your first shaving brush


The shaving brush is a tool to create lather. A budget priced brush can be a good tool. An expensive brush isn’t necessary or desirable for a first brush. Lathering is a skill that can be learned with almost any shaving brush.

  • Price: For many of us, price is the first concern. There are good values in almost all price ranges.
  • Use: For a first brush, an ‘all rounder’ is recommended ... a brush that will work well with creams and soaps, for bowl lathering and face lathering.

Type of bristle/hair


A naturally tapered boar bristle will take a while to break in and begin to bloom. The tip ends will split and become less stiff and much softer, producing great lather. The stiffness will remain in the bristles and work very well on soaps or creams. A cheaper boar bristle brush that has had the tips cut to shape will not break in as well, remain fairly stiff, and be more difficult to use for lathering. The best value in a first brush is a quality boar bristle.


There is no standard terminology for badger grades. For our purposes, we’ll divide badger into three qualities.
  • Pure badger, the lowest quality of badger, is usually inferior to a good quality boar brush. Often the tips are trimmed to shape the brush. This removes the very softest part of the hair and leaves the brush with a coarse feel.
  • Best badger has soft tips and great knot density. Soft enough for face lathering, firm enough for soaps. Great all round brushes. Best grade hair typically offers the most bang for the buck for a starter badger brush. These brushes can cost 4-5 times as much as a quality Boar brush.
  • Super, finest and silver tip badger generally have even softer tips and better water retention than the pure or best grades. In general, these brushes are superb for face lathering.

Horse Hair

Horse hair brushes are created with the mane and tail hairs of the horse. The animal is not harmed in the making of the brush. A quality horse hair brush can work with soaps or creams. These brushes are not as common as boar or badger brushes. If you are sensitive to animal use issues, this brush may be an option.

Synthetic Brushes

These range in quality from stiff nylon bristles to a faux silver tip “Fibre”, with many different grades and qualities between. Some brushes labeled as Imitation Badger are not synthetic bristle, but contain other animal hair in imitation of badger hair.

Selecting a Knot

  1. Shape: A bulb or fan shaped top is a good start. Flat tops are interesting, but too specialized for a first brush. A fan shape generally feels larger on the face.
  2. Size: As a starting place look for a 20-24 mm for a boar brush, and a 19-22 mm for a badger brush. If you have a large face and large hands, choose a larger brush, if smaller, choose smaller.
  3. Density: moderately dense knot will produce a good lather with creams or soaps. A more sparsely packed knot will be floppy and difficult to use with soap. An extremely floppy brush will be difficult to use for any type of lather. A brush with more density and/or more backbone will be better for use with soaps.
  4. Loft: With a similar knot size, a longer loft will usually result in a softer brush. Boar and horse hair brushes usually have a higher loft than badgers. A short loft brush will feel scratchier on the face, and not hold as much lather.

Type of Handle

Wood, Synthetic, Stone, Metal, etc. Wood is the most traditional, and with care it should not split or crack. Synthetic handles, whether molded or turned are very resistant to any damage from water. Hollow synthetic handles are less comfortable than solid handles. The weight of a handle can give a nice balance in use.

Brush Size

Look for a medium size brush, considering the handle and the loft, rather than a monster, a travel size, or a tiny brush. Larger brushes and smaller brushes require a more refined technique than a medium sized brush, and can be frustrating to use in the learning process.

Overall recommendation

A quality boar bristle brush will give the greatest value for a first brush. If you spend 4-5 times that much, you can get a good quality best badger.

We have recommended certain models of Boar brushes, and a certain model of a Boar/Badger blend. For the other brushes, we have recommended certain brands that we consider good values. If you choose a handle and shape that you feel comfortable with, you won’t be disappointed in your first brush. These brushes and brands are listed in no particular order.

A great first brush can be purchased for $9 - $30.

! Brush
Boar--Vulfix #28
Vie-Long- any model
Boar/Badger blendVulfix 404 Grosvenor
(Boar/Badger blend, not straight badger)
HorseVie-Long, various models
Boar/Horse blendVie-Long, various models
Synthetic Brands
Some synthetics are well above $30
Body shop
-Taylor of Old Bond Street
Best Badger Brands
Most quality best badgers start at about $40 and can go above $200
-Savile Row
Edwin Jagger

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