Best Shaving Brush 2017: Which One Is Right For You?
One of the most critical tools for any wet shaver is going to be the shave brush. A quality shave brush can have an insurmountable impact on how comfortable your face feels when you make the appropriate passes with a razor of your choice.
Whether you use a double edge safety razor, straight edge razor, or even a cartridge razor, a shaving brush will considerably up your grooming and shave routine.
But heres the deal:
There are a ton of shaving brushes on the market, but what one is truly the best shaving brush for you?
To help answer that question, we have put together this guide on selecting the right one that will work best for you.
From knot size to loft length, handle dimensions and more, we dissect some of the most popular shave brushes on the market today in order to give you a well researched and unbiased review.
Here is a summary of what we have found in our research:
Comparing The Best Shave Brushes On The Market
|Title||Muhle Silvertip Badger Hair Shaving Brush||Parker Silvertip Badger Brush||S.O.C. Cherry Wood Shave Brush by Semogue||Ambroley Best Badger Shaving Brush||Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush||Perfecto 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush||ShaveMaxx Silvertip Shaving Brush|
|Product Detail Page||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More|
|Dimensions||4.1 x 2 x 0.75 inches||2 x 5 x 2 inches||3 x 2 x 2 inches||3 x 2 x 2 inches||3 x 2 x 2 inches||4 x 1.5 x 4 inches||4.4 x 1.3 x 1.3 inches|
|Fiber Type||Badger - Silvertip||Badger - Silvertip||Badger - Two Band||Badger - Best||Badger - Pure||Badger - Pure||Badger - Silvertip|
|Generate Rich Lather?|
|Gently Exfoliates Skin?|
Of course before buying anything, its always best to understand what to look out for when picking up a shaving brush. Below we pick out some key qualities found in brushes in order for you to determine which one will work best for you and your morning shave routine that will ultimately help deliver a comfortable shave.
Components Of A Shaving Brush
When breaking down a shaving brush, there are three primary components that you should consider.
The loft length, knot size, and handle design. Here we will talk about each one a bit more further in detail:
Loft: The distance between the top of the handle and the tip of the bristles is considered the loft of the shaving brush. Generally speaking longer bristles will allow for a quicker lathering time due to the amount of shaving cream that they can contain. However, with a longer loft, much of the control is lost. Therefore if you want to just make a few minor passes with a razor to clean up a few areas that you may have missed, a long loft will be tough to get into the hard to reach areas. Of course contrary to a loft that is longer in length, a short loft offers maximum control but a longer lathering time.
While each may have its advantages over the other, its largely dependent on the preference of the wet shaver. If its your first ever shave brush, we would recommend trying out one that has a medium length loft size so you don’t feel overwhelmed on either end of the spectrum.
In addition to loft length, the backbone of the bristles may have an impact on the performance as well. A bristle that has a strong backbone may provide more control as opposed to one that is relatively soft.
Knot size: The knot is the area where the bristles are packed into the handle of the shave brush. Some shaving brushes are considered to have a dense knot and others may be a bit on the lighter side.
The biggest take away when determining a knot size is going to be the amount of lather that a shave brush can hold. Therefore if you are shaving a bit more of a surface area that goes well beyond just your face, a larger knot size would be preferred.
To note though, if you do decide on a shave brush with a larger knot size, it will require more shaving cream or shaving soap in order to be fully loaded. Therefore you will want to keep this in mind when determining excess waste of creams and soaps.
Handle design: While handles can come in many different shapes and materials, the largest factor to look out for is going to be the handle length. If you have larger hands, you will want to make sure you pick up a shaving brush that has a substantially longer handle.
A handle that is either too long or too short may be tougher to control. If you are looking for a point of reference, typically you want to have a handle that is no longer than the tip of your thumb to the center of your palm:
Fiber Types Found In Shaving Brushes
Now when it comes to fiber types that you use on a shaving brush, they are largely dominated by badger hair.
The reason for this is due to the rich tradition that is experienced within the wet shaving field. There are shaving brushes with other fiber types including boars hair, horse hair, and an animal friendly synthetic fiber.
Due to the popularity of badger hair, we will largely be concentrating on this fiber type within this review of determining the best shaving brush.
While here at Tools of Men we proudly prefer products that are sourced and assembled in the United States, badger hair unfortunately is not.
Virtually all the badger hair found in the full range of shaving brush types and grades is sourced from China.
Why is this?
In China, folks actually eat badgers. Being that a badger hair bristle brush requires the actual fiber from the badger, they are slaughtered for food and the left over badger hair is cleaned and then sold to shave brush manufacturers for production.
Even some of the higher end shave brushes that are assembled in Italy or England source the fibers from China.
One of the most confusing aspects that beginner shaving enthusiasts have about badger hair is the grades that it comes in.
Badger hair comes in four distinct grades and the price commanded from each one of those grades varies wildly.
While I go in much greater detail in a recent post about the different types of shave brushes, heres the high level overview on what you need to know:
1. Pure badger hair – The most common of all the badger hair fibers is also the cheapest shave brush that you can get. The low price point for this fiber type is due to the fact that the majority of the hair on a badgers body is considered “pure”. Typical cost for a shave brush in this fiber category is around $15. Its a great fiber for beginners who don’t initially realize the differences between this fiber and the higher grade fibers.
2. Best badger hair – A step up from the pure fiber is best badger hair. From a visual standpoint, best badger hair will appear a bit darker than its pure counterpart.
This hair fiber is substantially softer than pure badger hair, therefore won’t provide nearly as deep of a pre exfoliation when lathering. On the other hand, the soft bristles of this brush do retain more moisture allowing for a much more richer of a lather.
This fiber type is preferred by novice and intermediate wet shavers given its balance in the spectrum of fiber grades. Investment cost in this shave brush is typically around $25.
3. Super badger hair – Is a going to to be softer than both a best or pure badger hair grade. In addition to being softer, this badger hair grade also tends to be a bit thinner as well. This delicate fiber relies on a higher quality shaving cream or soap. Using an inferior product may lead to pre mature damage of the brush. Expect to invest around $50 for a shaving brush of this grade.
To help lengthen the life of this brush, a shaving stand is highly recommended, especially given its higher price tag.
4. Silvertip badger hair – The finest and softest of all the fibers is the silvertip badger hair grade. This fiber is sourced from the neck of the badger and will create an incredibly good lather. There are many faux silvertip brushes on the market that try to pass as being a badger hair of this grade.
However, a true silvertip badger hair brush will typically retail between $50 and $100. This brush grade is reserved for the wet shave enthusiasts who know how to draw out a good lather from a shaving cream or soap.
Since these fibers are so incredibly fine, much care should be given to the handling of the shaving brush. We recommend using a quality shaving stand for home use and a separate travel case for when you are on the road.
Essential Tools For The Perfect Grooming Routine
Getting the best shaving brush on the market doesn’t necessarily mean that it will deliver the most comfortable shave of your life. A proper shave brush needs a supporting cast of grooming tools in order to really shine.
Shaving Cream or Soap (required): While it almost goes without saying, a shave brush is dependent on a quality shaving cream or soap. When we say shaving cream, this isn’t to be mistaken for one that comes from a can. Instead, we highly recommend using a shaving cream that comes from a tube or tub.
These high end shaving creams, as opposed to one that comes from an aerosol can, typically contain a higher grade of ingredients. Most notably they usually contain carrier or essential oils that can both make your skin well nourished and moisturized, but also deliver that classic sandalwood barbershop scent reminiscent of yesteryear.
If you want to get up to speed on some of the latest shaving creams we reviewed, then you should definitely check out our reviews of the best shaving creams.
Much like a shaving cream, there are shaving soaps as well. These products are the quintessential shaving product that have been around for thousands of years. Unlike some shaving creams, all shaving soaps require a shaving brush for full use.
Whether you are using a shaving soap that is glycerin based or one that is triple milled, a shaving brush will draw out its full benefits to a richer and more comfortable shave. Just like for our shaving creams, we also reviewed some popular shaving soaps as well.
Shaving Brush Stand (optional – but strongly recommended): One of the most disappointing things that we see men do, is invest all this money into a great shaving station and somehow overlook a stand for their brush and razor.
A shaving brush stand will assist with both the long term performance of your brush and to help prevent the spread of bacteria.
First and foremost, a shave brush stand provides a house for your shaving brush that will help prevent it from being knocked over while resting on the counter. While a brush falling over seems relatively harmless, frequent falls may actually damage some of the bristles that may shed during the lathering process and ultimately loosen up the hairs within the knot.
While this damage is relatively minor, the biggest advantage of owning a shave brush is to properly dry out your brush after every use.
Remember, majority of shave brushes are made from actual animal fibers and are prone to developing bacteria at the base of the loft and in the general knot area. Therefore a shaving brush stand that holds the brush upside down will ensure that your brush gets fully dried out after every use.
The last thing that you want to be doing is spreading a brush full of bacteria over your face before every shave. Gross!
Pre Shave Oil (optional): The quality of the shaving cream or soap can dictate whether or not you need a pre shave oil. Pre shave oils, typically made of carrier and essential oils (usually castor oil as the carrier oil), provides a slick lubricating base prior to lathering on any sort of shaving cream.
A pre shave oil helps to not only provides a slick surface on your skin for your razor to easily pass, but also it will help in softening up your whiskers making for less tugging and pulling on the hair follicle when the razor (be it a double edge, straight, or cartridge) makes its appropriate pass. If you are looking for guidance on a excellent pre shave oil, be sure to check out our recent article reviewing some of the most popular oils.
Quality Razor Blades (important note): Whether you are coming from a background of using a straight edge razor, double edge safety razor, or even a cartridge razor, the quality of the blade has a large impact to providing a comfortable shave, and ultimately getting a clean cut on your whiskers.
Therefore if you use a straight edge razor, make sure that you use your strop regularly and that your blade is properly honed. Some wet shaving enthusiasts that use a straight edge tend to use shave soaps given their extra lubricating abilities over shaving creams.
If you currently use or are planning to use a double edge safety razor, we would recommend changing out your blades regularly. In addition to fresh blades, we also strongly recommend trying out a razor variety pack. Every mans whiskers are different and will of course react differently depending on not only the technique you use, but also the blade that is ultimately doing the cutting.
A great low cost variety pack to try out a few different blades is this one.
If you are planning on trying out a double edge razor for the first time and come from a cartridge based background, some men prefer to go with the 23C long handle by Merkur. This extraordinary popular razor is very similar in length and structure as your standard cartridge razor, which makes the transition easier. Another alternative to check out is the 34C HD by Merkur. The 34C HD provide an ample weight that glides effortlessly through your hairs. The 34C HD is one of the most popular razors among wet shaving experts. Lastly if you are looking for a brand that isn’t Merkur, the Edwin Jagger DE89L is a fine choice.
If you use a cartridge razor, we recommend simply swapping out your blade on a regular basis. If you don’t like making the large investment, it may be worth checking out Dollar Shave Club as they have some pretty low price plans available that will get a new blade in your hand regularily.
Review Process To Determine The Best Shaving Brush
In order to determine a quality shaving brush, we will break down the review process into four major components that will ultimately roll up into a single overall score. Each component of the review process are as follows:
Bristle Quality: When investing in a shave brush there are several different fibers out there as we eluded to earlier. However across all the fibers, there are some that simply perform much better than others. Therefore we look at the lather ability along with the general feel of the fibers. In addition, we see if the fibers help in providing a gentle pre-exfoliation that will loosen both oils and dirt from the pores along with their ability to retain heat and moisture of the shaving cream or soap.
Shave Brush Integrity: No shave brush should have fibers falling out of the knot with prolonged use. While some initial shedding is to be expected for a brand new brush, older shaving brushes should retain their fibers within the knot. In addition to the knot quality, we also will dissect the loft length and its backbone regarding the type of lather and control that is produced. Lastly we will discuss the structural integrity of the handle and the general grip.
Performance: One of the most important aspects to this review is going to be the shave brush performance when its being used in tandem with a razor. Does the brush tend to load rather well when using a shave cream? Will it support enough lather to last your entire shave? Will it help generate a rich lather that is both slick and ample cushion? We break down each component.
Peer Review: From both a qualitative and quantitative perspective we look at how the shave brush has faired for other wet shaving enthusiasts. On the qualitative side we explore the longer term use of the shave brush and its lathering abilities. From a quantitative side we look at the market price for this shave brush when compared to review scores at major online retailers.
Overall Score: Once each component above is examined for each of the shave brushes listed below, we then tabulate up the results to determine which brush will reign champion as the best shaving brush.
Muhle Silvertip Badger Hair Shaving Brush
This chrome-lover’s dream brush is definitely not for the faint of heart! With a high price tag, silvertip badger hair, and a finely crafted handle all make for a brush that you will be dying to add to your kit. While this brush isn’t made in America, it was made in Germany; where things are built tough and made to last.
Following along with that statement, the handle of this brush has a hefty weight to it. This is due to the excellent materials used. With a brass core that is nickel plated, the whole sturdy handle is then refined in galvanized chrome. While it may sound a bit too heavy to use, the overall weight is actually quite balanced. The only set back comes into play when the handle gets wet. According to some, the slipperiness with just water isn’t too bad, but if lather begins to slide down the handle it gets a bit tricky to hold onto. This is an easy problem to remedy just by slowing down the whole process and being careful not to slosh the lather around.
While the bristles may seem a bit small in the picture, just a couple of uses will have this brush blooming. Silvertip badger hair is soft and perfect for whipping up an excellent lather. You definitely will want to get a quality shave soap so that a brush like this can reach its full potential. Like all new brushes, a few hairs may escape the knot on the first use. But, even though the knot on this brush is a little small, there is no problem with prolonged shedding. This fact is so important when it comes to buying a brush of this quality. You do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a shave brush, just to have it fall apart in a year or two. Thanks to the excellent craftsmanship of Muhle, this brush will last you for a very long time. The best way to ensure your brush lasts is to always place it inside a stand. Even though this brush, unlike some with a rounded base, may be able to support itself just fine on the counter top there are multiple reasons why you wouldn’t want to actually go that route. Leaving a brush upright will trap water down in the bristles, creating a foul smell later on, and it does have the risk of being knocked over. Silver tipped badger hair is very soft, so any crushing of the hair would definitely damage its quality.
The total height for the Muhle shaving brush is 104mm. This is perfect for those who want a lot of control while shaving. Larger loft heights are better for lots of coverage, but the lather tends to be quite a bit messier. You can be sure that with the smaller brush, you won’t have lather clear up past your ears! The smaller size can be a bit difficult for those with larger hands, however. The base diameter is only 19mm, so if you prefer to have a larger handle to grip, you may want to check out something like the Parker Silvertip Badger Brush.
When you purchase any shaving brush, there may be a slight odor when first used. The Muhle shaving brush is no exception. However, this is nothing to be alarmed about. All that needs to be done is a thorough cleaning of the brush both before and after shaving, as well as hanging the brush bristles down in a stand. That way, all odor is washed out and the tool has a chance to completely air dry so that no bacteria will build up within the bristles. If these steps are followed, the odor will dissipate after a couple of uses and your brush will be fresh as a daisy for your next shave.
Everything about this brush really is spectacular, and unfortunately, quality means quantity; a quantity of money that is. Silver tipped badger haired brushes really aren’t the most suggested brush for a beginner, or perhaps even an intermediate, wet shaver. This is simply because of the high quality of these brushes. A beginner would do great with a pure badger hair brush because they are affordable and still get the job done in a relatively effective fashion. But, with the silver tipped badger hair, the price demands experience. For those of you who have this experience, this is truly one of the best brushes on the market.
Parker Silvertip Badger Brush
Parker Safety Razor is a family-owned company that has been making it easy for men to wet-shave since 1973. This silvertip badger bristle shaving brush is at or near the top of the line, and it represents Parker’s best effort at crafting an affordable shaving brush that’s indistinguishable from premium-brand brushes at three times the price.
Overall, the brush has a good balance and a dignified, almost stentorian appearance. Hanging from the stand Parker ships with your purchase, it definitely makes a handsome addition to your shaving station and a good upgrade for the inevitable day when your first 100% pure badger bristle brush wears out and needs to be replaced.
The product engineers at Parker have clearly put a lot of thought into designing this shaving brush’s handle. Made from synthetic horn – which feels exactly like the real thing and harkens back to the shaving brushes of the 19th century – the surface has just the right texture to let water run right off while allowing a firm, unshifting grip. The handle measures just under 2 inches, or 47 mm, and hits the sweet spot between longer handles with the power to whip your lather in the bowl and shorter handles you can palm like the top of a gentleman’s cane. Overall, the handle offers a good grip, good leverage, and good control while you’re lathering up.
Unfortunately, this brush comes up a little short in the loft, or the length of the bristles above the handle. Ironically, this is because Parker made the bristles just a shade too long for their purpose. The bristles’ 105mm length sounds pretty good, especially since a long loft makes for a soft brush, and what could be softer than authentic silvertip bristles? This extra length, however, adds little to the softness that wasn’t already there because of the high quality of the badger hair, but it does sacrifice a bit of backbone by setting the knot too far forward. If the bristles were set just another 10 or 15mm deeper into the handle, this brush would feel just as soft as it does now, but the knot would be a little tighter and the stiffer backbone would whip up the lather a little more efficiently.
A lot of shaving brushes hop from a 24mm knot diameter to a 26mm knot, without anything in between. Thanks are due to Parker for cutting this brush to a bushy 25mm knot that somewhat overcomes the shallow bristle placement by really grabbing the shaving cream and holding it while you’re lathering up. The knot is a little loose for aerosol creams, which means an awful lot of it stays stuck in the bristles and nowhere near your face, so it’s a good idea to only use this brush with a hand-whipped soap or quality shaving cream, which slides off of the bristles a little more easily and results in less overall waste.
Stop looking for better bristles than this brush offers; you won’t find them. As every wet-shaving man should already know, badger hair is the top of the line for bristles and comes in four grades. Silvertip is the top of this top-of-the-line hierarchy, and Parker has invested in a good pile of them for every brush in this line. Featuring a distinct black band and much lighter top, which gives the silvertip its name, this brush hardly needs breaking in before it starts feeling like a big, fluffy loofah for your beard. The authentic badger bristles are pretty tough, too. Expect to keep this brush in service until your fifth grader is in college, since a good silvertip usually has a 10-year life expectancy, versus the entry-level pure models’ 3-or-so years.
One of the things that keeps this brush healthy is a low shed rate. Of course any brush is going to drop a few fibers into your bowl on the first or second use, but this Parker Safety Razor silvertip shaving brush cuts that out right away and holds onto its bristles really well for as long as you’re using it. Look for the tips to fray a bit with daily use, of course, but even that just makes the already-soft tip feel even softer with age and wisdom.
If you’re investing in a high-end shaving brush that will hold you for the better part of a decade, why would you use a cheap aerosol shaving cream? Not only does a cut corner like that feel like sacrilege, it’s a waste for this brush. Remember that the bristles on this brush are extra soft and the knot tends to suck up the cream, so you’re definitely better off whipping up your own stuff from scratch. Try a soothing quality shave cream like Taylor of Old Bond Street, which we rated to be among the best shaving cream you can pick up.
Regardless of how nice they feel, most shaving brushes spend only a few minutes each day getting used and the other 23.9 hours hanging from a stand. Parker has thought of this, which is why they make two chrome stands that fit this brush like a glove. Both stands are almost identical, but one is designed to hold a straight razor on the back prongs, while the other is better for a double-edged safety razor. If a shiny new stand isn’t for you, or if you aren’t sure you want to go in for more equipment just now, you can stick to the plastic stand that ships along with this brush, though you’re definitely giving up a bit of old-fashioned class with the lighter, less shiny option.
If you’re not sure about this shaving brush, or if you’re brand new to wet-shaving, it’s probably a good idea to start a little smaller with a lower (and cheaper!) grade of pure badger-hair, which Parker also offers. Your best bet with this type of brush is to think of it as a trainer, or as a temporary solution, until you’re ready to go all in for the best Parker has to offer.
S.O.C. Cherry Wood Shave Brush by Semogue
If you have ever wanted to own a top notch shaving brush that will leave you standing speechless in front of the mirror- this is it. Semogue’s Cherry Wood Brush is one of the best brushes out there; but of course, it’s easy to understand if you need some convincing. Whenever it comes to buying an expensive product, it is best to understand how it is better than the next brush. Which is why you are here.
The first interesting element about this brush is in regards to its hair type. Typically, the high grade shaving brushed use what is called ‘silver tipped badger hair’. This hair is the very best of the badger, found on its neck, and makes a super luxurious lather. Fascinating enough, Semogue uses hair that is classified as ‘two band badger hair’. The differences between two band and silver tipped isn’t that far apart on the spectrum, but they are noticeable. For instance, silver tipped badger hair is top of the line and extremely soft, but it lacks a very stiff backbone. This means that you need to pack far more hair into the knot in order to get a good lather; therefore, a bushier brush. When it comes to two band badger hair, while it is also top of the line, this particular hair has a stiffer backbone. Brush makers will still need to back a substantial amount of hair into the knot to make a full brush, but the stiffer backbone makes a big difference in terms of exfoliation. Thanks to a stiff backbone, it takes less work to whip up a lather, and the hairs will provide a bit more scrubbing action than the typical silver tipped hair. Because of this fact, any man who likes to have some form of exfoliation before his shave will really appreciate a two band brush. However, those who don’t like scrubby brushes will want to lean more towards the soft silver tipped hair.
Secondly, the handle on this brush is very handsome. Made of polished cherry wood, the careful craftsmanship makes it one of the best looking brushes on the market. It is measured at 57mm which will provide a comfortable grip for the shaver. Due to the fact that this handle is made out of wood, there is no fear of dropping the brush while in use. The curves and notches provide excellent gripping points, and look fantastic to boot! There is no doubt that owning a Semogue brush will make your collection an absolute masterpiece.
When it comes to deciding on the perfect shaving brush, the amount of lather generated is everything. Semogue took this into consideration and made a perfect material choice with the two band badger hair. While some softer brushes have a hard time whipping up a lather, this brush does it without a second thought. Because of the strong back bone and the amount of hair packed into the 24mm knot (a great size for overall control) this brush is a champ at creating the right amount of stiffness for lathering up. Now, in consideration of this fact, you will want to invest more into the shave soap that you use. This is not because the brush wouldn’t be able to perform necessarily, however it is more for the sake of overall quality. A cheaper shave soap will not have the same quality of ingredients that say, eShave Shaving Soap would. If you are going to take the time to buy a very nice brush, equip it with the best so that there is no doubt your shaving experience will be perfect.
The final element that comes into play when reviewing this product, is the overall size of the brush. A 24mm knot is the ideal size for amount of lather pickup, and with a 57mm handle you won’t have to worry about an uncomfortable fit in your hand. Loft is the last measurement to consider, and you won’t be disappointed with it. The S.O.C. brush has a loft height of 53mm which is great for those guys who love to be in control. Shorter lofts are always the best choice for maneuvering through the hard to reach spots of your face. You won’t need to worry about an overabundance of lather, and it definitely won’t be creeping up your side burns. If, however, you are someone that likes to cover more service area in one pass with your brush, you will want to look into something that has a larger loft. This is because while a larger loft has less control, it can soak up a lot more lather and touch more parts of your face all at once.
Ambroley Best Badger Shaving Brush
Ambroley only offers one shaving brush through its website, but that brush has clearly been marketed to within an inch of its life. The company is clearly putting all of its shaving brush eggs into one basket with the Ambroley best badger men’s shaving brush, and what they’ve come up with is a mixed blessing for somewhat experienced wet-shavers looking to step up from their entry-level pure badger brushes.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the Ambroley brush is that it seems to have been designed by committee. The wood (teak?) handle is beautifully carved and capped underneath with a gleaming silver-colored pedestal, but there’s no retaining ring on the other end and the knot just disappears into a large gap in the front that leaves several millimeters of wide-open space between the edge and the loft. The stark black packaging was clearly designed by a gentleman of the old school, but opening the lightweight and, frankly, insubstantial container leaves you with an undistinguished paper-and-cardboard box that’s only fit for throwing out.
The odd combination of high-class and bargain-bin aesthetics doesn’t stop with the box this brush comes in. Amberly has designed this brush with a 1.75-inch handle that’s just a little too long for a comfortable fit in the palm, but just a shade shorter than the heftier 2-inch models that really grind up the flakes in your shaving bowl. With a slight change of grip, it’s pretty easy to get used to the compromised length, but it can take some getting used to if your experience has been with 1.5- or 2-inch brushes.
Apart from its intermediate length, the Ambroley best badger men’s shaving brush’s handle is a work of art. The wooden shaft bows out to the sides as if it was crafted from a miniature rain barrel. The metallic base shines like chrome on a muscle car, and a slightly stepped gradient cinches in the joint between the two with a wasp-waisted effect that makes hanging this brush on a stand as easy as slipping a wineglass onto an overhead rack. The handle’s walls are a bit thick, so it has more heft than a plastic or horn handle, which just feels natural for such a stout design.
The loft on this brush extends forward from the handle for a good, comfortable 2 inches. It’s hard to tell how deeply set the bristles are in the handle because the tight knot does funny things to the loft’s backbone, but the bristles definitely have enough bend in them to lay on a thick head of cream without multiple passes or pinching the base to squeeze a bit more out of the hairs. The bristles splay out near the top into a broad dome that is clearly intended for covering a lot of face in very little time. In keeping with the slightly too-long-to-palm handle, detail work is challenging with such a rounded tip.
Ambroley has chosen to bind this brush very tightly with a narrow 19.5mm knot. It’s just possible that this was done to stiffen the backbone and recreate the feel of the pure badger brush you were probably using before getting this one, or it might have been a deliberate choice to get a bigger top with less material. Whatever the reason, the Ambroley best badger men’s shaving brush keeps things really narrow near the base of the loft, but lets the whole knot open up as it goes until the top of the loft is wider than the handle below it. This configuration certainly has advantages; it gives you all the space in the world for whipping and retaining cream, and a single pass should cover your cheeks and neck with lather.
In choosing an intermediate grade of badger hair, Ambroley’s design team again seems to be hammering out a compromise. “Best” is the company’s in-house name for super- or fine-grade badger hair, which puts it exactly between the high-end silvertip brushes and the much more affordable pure badger hair models that other manufacturers offer. For fans of soft bristles and short break-in periods, Ambroley’s choice of middle-grade badger hair was a good one. Between the long loft, tight knot, and naturally soft bristles, an intermediate hair grade is perfectly appropriate for giving your face a nice, soft sponging.
The best-grade hairs do more than just feel soft – they’re flexible enough to describe really large circles in the bowl and whip up some lather in seconds. They also transfer noticeably more heat and water to your face than a pure-grade brush. Being a bit stiffer than silvertip bristles, they also transfer more of the taken-up cream to your face than a more expensive brush usually does, and shedding is minimal to nonexistent. All of which makes it odd and somewhat disappointing that the brush has been dyed with light tips over a dark band, as if in imitation of a silvertip, which promises very different performance characteristics. Caveat emptor, as it were.
You have your choice of lather with the Ambroley shaving brush. Aerosol works fine if you can stand it, but the quirky compromises inherent to this brush make it a champion soap mixer that’s good for both powder and flakes. Don’t skimp on the stand, though. The open handle front and lack of a metal retaining ring near the knot creates a perfect water trap that will take forever to dry if you’re setting this brush on its pedestal. Get a stand that fits, which is pretty easy for that stepped/fluted base, and hang this brush where there’s sunshine and a draft. If nothing else, a thorough drying between uses will greatly extend the brush’s life.
As befits an intermediate-grade brush, you have two perfectly respectable alternatives to using it. The first is to stick with the somewhat-stiffer pure badger brushes that you probably got started on, and the second is to really take the leap and get yourself a high-end silvertip model, neither of which are offered by Ambroley, unfortunately.
Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush
Lathering up before a shave with an authentic shaving brush is an old-fashioned comfort that men have enjoyed for over 200 years. The practice has fallen out of favor in recent decades with the rise of cheap, hand-applied shaving creams, but men who try out the somewhat anachronistic brush with a high-quality lather rarely go back to shaving with nothing but a slap of cream on their faces. It’s easy to see why – a good shaving brush conveys warm water to your face, which reduces razor burn and softens the bristles for cutting. The brush applies an even layer of lather all over your beard area, which makes for a more uniform shave on the cheeks and chin. It also gently scrubs off old skin cells for a quick exfoliation before the shave. These factors alone make shaving with a good brush an experience worth having at least once in your life.
The Escali 100% pure badger model is an excellent choice for an entry-level shaving brush. It has a good, thick knot of natural bristles that carry warm water to your skin and a superb balance between exfoliating stiffness and soft tips that evenly spread out the shaving lather over your whole face. The first few uses can be rough going, but once the brush is properly broken in the bristles’ tips soften to the consistency of a sponge that gently massages the skin and prepares your beard for the razor.
As its name implies, the Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush is made from pure badger hair that rises from a stout wooden handle in a dense thicket. “Pure” is the first grade of badger-hair quality, which explains this brush’s relatively low price point and its popularity among beginning brush enthusiasts. Virtually all of the potential drawbacks of the pure badger bristles are minor and temporary. A new brush will naturally shed a few loose bristles with the first few shaves, but it stops after that and should hold together for around three years without undue wear. Users sometimes report a faint and unfamiliar odor from a new brush, but the scent is never very strong and it fades after about the third use, especially if you use scented shaving cream and thoroughly wash the brush after each shave. Like boar-bristle brushes, which have long been a favorite among Italian barbers, pure boar hair can feel uncomfortably stiff at first, but the tips quickly break in and take on a softer, almost fuzzy texture while retaining the basic stiffness of new bristles farther down the loft.
For any shaving brush, finding the right knot width is an exercise in compromise. A very thick knot is stiff and durable, but it has trouble taking up a good head of shaving cream. Too loose, and you’ll get a loose, uneven smear of lather across your face. The optimum knot density is somewhere around 23mm, but you’re free to experiment with tighter or looser weaves. This Escali brush is a little tighter than more upscale brushes, at 20mm, but it isn’t far off from the ideal and still combines a good spread with a strong, resilient bundle of fibers.
You’re striking another balance when you choose for a loft length. Loft is the distance between the base of the bristles and their tips. The typical length for badger hair brushes is 50mm, or almost exactly 2 inches. Shorter lofts increase control and help you get at those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies on your jaw, while longer lofts are harder to control with a full head of lather. Escali’s brush is cut to the 2-inch standard length, but the relatively loose knot spaces out the bristles and gives a softer feeling than a tighter 2-inch loft usually does. The clubbed tip also helps balance a soft texture with ease of use by giving you a pointed tip, for precise application of shaving cream, with a broader fan of soft hairs for the larger patches such as on the cheeks and the area under the jaw.
Pay attention to the length and material of your brush’s handle. Synthetics are durable and generally waterproof, while wood and buffalo horn are traditional and very comfortable to hold. The Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush has a sealed wooden handle with a fine grain and smooth exterior that holds up well through years of humidity and moisture. The handle is unusually short for a beginner’s brush – just under 1 inch, or about 7/8 – but that can work to your advantage. A shorter brush handle fits less obtrusively in the palm of your hand and allows you to manipulate the brush’s angle with your fingertips. This makes it easy to work around earlobes and under the nose, where you definitely don’t want to slip and push shaving cream up a nostril. Longer handles are mostly good for mechanical advantage, since they put the same pressure on the tip with less effort. Stick to shorter handles like this one if you’re shaving yourself, and leave the longer handles to barbers who have to shave a dozen men a day without straining their hands.
Don’t use your Escali brush with dollar store shaving creams. The point of using a good brush like this one is to get a rich lather all over, which is hard to achieve with the most popular shaving creams on the market. Opt for something like Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood shaving cream, and you’ll notice the difference in texture and consistency at once.
The Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush shouldn’t be left on the counter to dry. That encourages wet spots to remain moist and can encourage the growth of mold, which ruins the brush. Instead, hang the brush on a stand to air dry evenly. This brush fits one of the slots on a Fento stainless steel stand, which also has a slot that perfectly fits a Parker safety razor and should complete your kit.
The Escali 100% pure badger shaving brush is altogether an excellent choice for men who are thinking of trying out a shaving brush for the first time, or who aren’t sure how much they want to invest in a new way of shaving. For an alternative, or if you’re just ready to upgrade to a more upscale brush at twice the price, try a silvertip badger brush from ShaveMaxx, which has very similar dimensions to the Escali, but much softer hair.
Perfecto 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush
Perfecto Shaving keeps a relatively low profile for a niche seller of men’s grooming supplies, but that hasn’t stopped the California-based retailer from commanding high sales figures on resale sites such as Amazon.com, where its 100% pure badger shaving brush occupies a top-seller spot among shaving brushes and other shaving accessories. This success is clearly driven by Perfecto’s effective blending of quality, aesthetic appeal, and price.
This Perfecto 100% pure badger shaving brush has a swart-black handle that’s easy on the eyes and obviously intended to match with whatever else is on your bathroom counter. It has gracefully curved sides that appeal to the same part of the brain that appreciates hand-carved chess pieces and the headlights of a vintage Rolls-Royce. Its perfectly flat bottom is a little awkward in the hand, but it’s totally stable resting on a counter or the edge of a sink. The bristles seem to have been left at their natural dark color, without any attempt to dye them to look like a higher grade of hair. Not only is this an honest thing to do, it means there’s no dye to run off or bleed with continuous use, as sometimes happens with low-end synthetics.
Perfecto clearly expects its customers to try grinding their own suds with this brush. The 2-inch handle is a bit much for inexperienced wet-shavers, though it has the heft and the leverage to really whip up a batch of foam from flakes. The handle is made entirely from real wood that has been carved, sealed, and painted to keep up its looks and shape with repeated dousings. The surface is smooth enough to wipe it clean with a damp cloth, or just give it a quick shake and let it air-dry.
This brush makes up for a slightly long handle with a beautifully cut loft that reaches almost exactly 2 inches forward of a shiny chrome ring that online pictures really can’t do justice for. The bristle length puts a lot of flex into the loft, which makes up for the relatively low grade of badger hair Perfecto chose for this brush. Badger hair – of whatever grade – is always really soft, but for a pure-grade brush, that extra bit of length is really nice to have.
Just as the lengthy loft strikes a balance with the long handle, so this brush’s 23mm knot is an exercise in opposing forces. The tight base gives the knot a good, strong backbone as a contrast to the general softness of the bristles, while the open, flared top of the loft seems custom-engineered to sweep up great daubs of cream and keep it near the tip for an efficient and smooth transfer to your face. The dome of the bristles’ tip is cut a little rough, so expect a few pokeys here and there until repeated use has frayed and softened the tips. Be sure to hang this brush upside-down to drip dry; its rounded design encourages water to run right out with gravity, but it will stay trapped near the handle if the brush is left sitting upright overnight.
Expect a subtle change in performance with this brush over the first few weeks you’re using it as the tips begin to soften with use. After the initial breaking-in period is over, you will definitely feel the advantage a 100% badger-hair brush has over boar bristles and synthetic fibers. Badger hair is as varied as the people who use it, but the fibers’ quality generally falls into four major grades. “Pure” badger bristles are at the bottom level, but you’d never know it from the soft, spongelike feeling this brush develops after a few months of daily use. The long loft helps with this feeling, since it reduces resistance to your stroke and doesn’t seem to be fighting with you over who owns the shaving cream.
Badger hair is usually pretty dark, and Perfecto has left well-enough alone for this brush. A broad, indistinct dark band bleeds up and down into the lighter tip and base, but the exact look of the loft varies with the individual brush, as you’d expect for natural fibers. Another unsurprising feature of using natural badger hair is the faint odor some users report for this brush. It isn’t strong enough to put anyone off, and it fades during the breaking in.
That breaking-in process is hard to describe in detail, if only because of the variation among brushes in this line. Some of them shed with the first few uses and then stop forever, while others drop a bristle or two every few shaves for the life of the brush. This may be caused by natural variations, or Perfecto could have quality-control issues at its Chinese facility. Either way, none of the literally thousands of Amazon reviews report that shedding is a major problem for them, and a little irregularity certainly hasn’t hurt the best-selling brush.
This Perfecto shaving brush is more forgiving than most brands if you’re still using aerosol cream or some kind of gel because of its broad, loose construction. These products are never ideal for wet-shaving, of course, but they work in a pinch if you’re trapped in the wilderness or something. Ideally, you’ll keep some Henry Cavendish Himalaya cream with your shaving kit to enjoy the feel of real shea butter on your skin. The hefty handle is also pretty good for whipping flakes, so you have a lot of options regardless of the commitment you’re willing to make to wet-shaving.
There’s no law stating that you must only dry your shaving brush from a stand, but it’s almost always a good idea. This brush, in particular, needs a stand that can hold it upside-down. The same loose knot that gave you so many options for shaving cream takes away your options for drying. Get a stand or get used to soaking the bristles in vinegar to kill the mold left by trapped water.
If you’ve found your ideal range with Perfecto, but you don’t want to follow the crowd and buy a best-seller, you can try out a very similar brush from House of Saxon. This brush is made with the same grade of pure badger hair, but the wood-and-chrome aesthetics of the brush are way beyond the stark simplicity of Perfecto’s model.
ShaveMaxx Silvertip Shaving Brush
There is nothing better than beginning your shave with confidence, knowing that your tools will do the job well. When it comes to silver tipped badger hair brushes, there is nothing better at guaranteeing lifted hair for a maximum close shave. With softness that is going to mop up a generous amount of foam and a sturdy handle, this brush by Shave Maxx is a tool that was designed with perfection in mind. Arriving at your door in a modern black box, you’ll definitely be anxious to break this brush in.
There is however, a few downfalls of this product that need to be addressed. While, yes, the hair that is used in the brush is 100% silver tip, the craftsmanship leaves a little to be desired. A high quality, hand-made brush will have tightly packed hairs that produce very limited hair fall out as its used. Clean lines and a solid handle should complete the package for a high priced shaving brush. When it comes to Shave Maxx’s brush, there are a few elements that keep it from rising to the very top.
The first thing to consider is, that while the hair used in this brush is very high quality, reviews have noted that quite a bit of fall out takes place throughout the life of the brush. This is a normal occurrence for a new brush that is being broken in, but when it occurs over an extended period of time that may mean the knot is not packed quite tight enough. Although this is a bit worrisome, the loose hair can be mostly avoided with proper care and drying of the brush. Always be sure to hang a shave brush upside down on a drying rack to avoid nasty smells and crushing the delicate hairs.
Secondly, a high quality brush is usually marked by its handsome finish and perfect craftsmanship. That’s why you’re paying the big bucks right? For quality and confidence in a well-preforming product. So, when looking at the make of a high end shaving brush, there obviously shouldn’t be any of the adhesive visible outside of the handle. Assumedly, most of the products made by Shave Maxx would not have this problem, and often one or two “bad eggs” will make it out onto the store shelves. To give this company the benefit of the doubt, we will say that the negative reviews towards such adhesive being visible, applies to only a few of the many brushes released.
Besides these two minor aesthetic flaws- a few falling hairs and some visible glue- this silver tipped badger hair brush does an amazing job of lathering up any brand of shaving soap! With a shorter loft height, you can be sure that this brush will have excellent control over where the lather touches your face. It has densely packed hair that allows the perfect amount of soft resistance for whipping up your shave soap into a luxurious lather. When it comes to picking out a shaving brush, it is important to recognize what type of control you want to have. Longer loft means less control; shorter loft means more control. If you are the type of person who likes to have plenty of control with lots of foaming potential, then this brush will definitely be your style.
When it comes to the handle, there isn’t much information about the make of it; which may come as a turn off to some people. In purchasing such an expensive brush, it is always beneficial to have the materials listed on a product page; however, the handle for the Shave Maxx brush looks very appealing. A dark wood with blonde highlights makes up the body of the handle. The dimensions for this brush are 4.4 x 1.3 x 1.3 inches which will fit comfortable in the palm of your hand. To add a little dimension and flare to the bottom of the brush, Shave Maxx has decorated it with a round metallic disc that will feel very secure in your hand and create excellent support for vigorous whipping as you work for the perfect lather.
Something to keep in mind when it comes to considering a new brush for your set is the amount of exfoliation you may be looking to get. Exfoliation is great for the skin because it helps to remove any left-over dirt or sweat from after a shower, and loosens the hair follicles to make sure you get a clean shave. Because the bristles used to make a 100% silver tipped badger brush are extremely soft, you can’t expect to get much exfoliation out of them. Regardless of what the product description may say, if you are seeking a good rub down for your face, you will want to purchase a shave brush made from either pure badger hair or even good badger fur. While neither of those are the top quality of hair, they do tend to have stiffer backbones, which will then result in a better pre-shave exfoliation session.