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Shave Brush Shedding

What is shedding?

From Glossary

A brush that keeps shedding hairs beyond the few that can be expected. Typically shedding several hairs each shave and not stopping.

This article uses "hairs" interchangeably with "bristles", and should apply equally to badger, boar, horse, synthetic, and mixed-hair knots.

Types of shedding

There are several different causes of shedding: some are harmless, and some might be dire omens for the health of the brush. With a new brush the most common cause is probably that the knot wasn't combed out well enough, and so there are loose hairs working their way out. These hairs are usually full-length, and sometimes bent like a fish hook. They weren't glued into the knot at all, and are simply held in by the density of hair around them. As the knot is used, they work themselves out and the brush seems to shed. Try combing the knot out: you might comb out a dozen hairs, and then it may stop.

Slightly more dire is a brush that is shedding broken hairs. This can be caused by rough treatment. Be nicer to the brush, and it may stop. Don't mash the bristles, back off on the really hot water, and back off on tight circular brushwork when lathering. Let it dry out, too. Use a light touch, and avoid twisting the brush in place. Towel-drying or shaking the brush dry should be just enough to remove dripping and allow for capillary action to remove water from the brush to evaporate.

Probably the worst type of shedding is when full-length hairs come out with glue attached. This indicates that the glue used for the knot is going bad, and the brush is not long for the world. On the other hand the brush may still lather well, and it probably has tens of thousands of hairs left. So it's probably good for another year or three of shaves, unless the decay of the knot accelerates.

What to do about shedding

If a brush is relatively new and seems to be shedding loose hairs, try running a comb through the knot several times. This will remove loose hairs that aren't glued down, and may put a stop to the shedding. If the shedding doesn't stop, or if you see glued hairs coming out, contact the vendor or the brush maker. You may want to collect the hairs or bristles so that you can take a picture for the vendor, or get a second opinion from folks on the brush sub-forum.

If a brush sheds broken hairs, soap residue may have built up inside the knot. Try cleaning the brush as described here: How to Clean a Shaving Brush.

If a brush is very old, the hair may be so dry that it breaks easily. In this case try applying hair conditioner to the knot. Work the conditioner into the knot, and let it sit for an hour before rinsing out the conditioner. Repeat as needed.

Finally, review your treatment of the brush. Avoid scrubbing it against a towel, or mashing it into anything hard. Avoid really hot water. Avoid tight circular brushstrokes. This doesn't mean that you have to treat the brush like fine china, but try backing off a little bit and see if it helps.

See Also

  • Discussion thread: [thread]236620[/thread]
  • Brush cavities: [thread]262251[/thread]

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