- Shaving brushes make it easy to work up a good lather for shaving, especially if you’re using a hard puck of shaving soap.
- The Edwin Jagger pure badger brush is our top recommendation for any man who’s looking to add a bit of luxury to his wet shaving routine.
- If you’re looking for the best shaving soap or the best safety razor to complete your shaving kit, check out our guides.
More and more men are discovering the simple joy of traditional wet shaving, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them. You may have already completed the first part of your wet shave journey – selecting a good blade – but after you’ve already upgraded your routine with a double-edged safety razor, your next step is to hunt down a high-quality shave brush.
A good brush is an essential part of your shaving ritual. When used with a good soap or cream (one that, unlike canned foam, is made for wet shaving), a nice bristle brush is the key to getting a rich, creamy lather that lubricates your face well for a smoother shave. Your brush is used both to generate a proper lather and to apply it to your skin, and the bristles of the brush, arranged into what’s called a “knot,” also help to soften and stand your whiskers up before your razor does its thing.
Ideally, bristles should be soft enough at the ends to not feel scratchy or prickly on the skin, yet feature good rigidity or “backbone” so that they’re not too floppy to work up a lather. The purpose of a brush is also to transfer heat and water to your face, and the different kinds of bristles each have distinct properties that help or hinder this. Shaving brushes are thus categorized by their bristles, which come in four main types:
- Badger: Badger hair is the generally the softest bristle material used in shaving brushes and is further broken down into four grades (in ascending order of quality): pure, best, super, and silvertip. “Pure” badger bristles come from the belly, “best” bristles are the finer and softer hairs from other parts of the badger’s body, and “super” bristles are softer still. “Silvertip” bristles are the rarest badger hairs that are naturally white at the ends, are extremely soft, and have excellent water retention and lathering capabilities.
- Boar: Boar is less favored by wet shavers, at least in the United States and England, but nonetheless remains the second-most popular brush material in use today. Boar brushes aren’t graded by bristle quality like badger hair and are considerably less expensive. Boar bristles are also noticeably stiffer than badger hair – something favored by many shavers and ideal for hard soaps – but boar is unique in that the bristles split at the ends over time to result in a soft brush once properly broken-in.
- Horsehair: Horsehair is the least common animal material used in brush knots and is somewhere in between boar and badger bristles when it comes to softness and pliability. Horsehair brushes are very popular in Spain, and high-quality examples typically hail from that country. Horsehair is a great “Goldilocks” option on the rigidity spectrum for shavers who find boar bristles too stiff and badger too soft.
- Synthetic: Shaving brushes made with synthetic bristles are growing in popularity and have gotten much better in recent years, with modern examples boasting impressive softness and flexibility (although never as good as animal fibers when it comes to water retention). Synthetic bristles are the best option for anyone looking for an animal-free brush as well as those who are allergic to animal hair.
Although the bristles are by far the most important component of a shaving brush, there are other quality considerations. Good handle construction and a solid handle-to-knot connection are important for comfort and longevity. Poor construction here may result in the handle separating from the knot due to the moisture eroding the glue that’s holding the bristles. A poor-quality knot will also shed bristles excessively. However, almost all animal hair brushes, especially badger, exhibit minor shedding at first which is normal.
All of our recommendations are, of course, well-made with high-quality bristles and nicely-designed handles. With all brushes, no matter the materials used, you still want to invest in a good drip stand that orients the bristles upside-down after use so moisture evaporates properly and doesn’t soak down into the base of the knot. Spending a little extra to ensure you get a quality brush and a solid drip stand will greatly extend the life of your bristles for years of regular use.
Here are the best shaving brushes:
- Best badger bristle shaving brush: Edwin Jagger best badger shaving brush
- Best boar bristle shaving brush: Omega boar bristle brush
- Best horsehair bristle shaving brush: Vie-Long horsehair brush
- Best synthetic bristle shaving brush: Fendrihan synthetic brush
- Best silvertip badger bristle shaving brush: Maison Lambert silvertip badger bristle shaving brush
Updated on 1/7/2020 by Jen Gushue: Updated links, prices, and formatting.
The best badger bristle shaving brush
- Edwin Jagger
Edwin Jagger’s mid-sized shaving brush has an excellent build, a timeless design, and soft badger bristles that produce a rich lather and feel great on your skin.
Badger bristle brushes remain the favorite choice among wet shavers, so it’s only fitting that our top pick should fall into this category. It’s easy to see why the fur of these little animals is so popular. Prized for its softness and water absorption, badger hair seems purpose-built for shaving brushes owing to its great feel and ability to quickly work soaps and creams into a velvety lather without a lot of effort.
Not all badger hair is created equal, however. Like the term “genuine leather,” “pure badger bristle” means very little, denoting only the lowest grade of the animal’s fur. If you’re going to go cheap, go with a boar or maybe a horsehair brush. If you want the softness of badger bristles and don’t want to pay out the nose for super or silvertip, then stick with “best badger.” This grade of bristles hits the sweet spot between quality and price, and our pick from English company Edwin Jagger exemplifies this perfectly.
The Edwin Jagger best badger shaving brush has a medium-sized handle and loft (referring to the height of the knot) and its bristles cleave towards the middle range of softness and rigidity. This results in a brush that lathers extremely well with creams and softer solid soaps, but it’s perfectly suitable for harder soap pucks as well without requiring too much extra wrist work. Badger brushes like this one are also the best choice for shavers who like to make a lather directly on their face rather than in a mug or bowl.
Nothing’s perfect, and the Edwin Jagger best badger brush does have a few minor quirks. First, the bristles shed a bit at first, but this is normal and temporary. Second, as an animal product, the brush has an aroma to it when you use it the first handful of times. Think of a “wet dog” sort of smell. This eventually fades and is not quite as pungent as that of a boar brush (something I can personally attest to).
But those quibbles notwithstanding, the Edwin Jagger best badger brush is an excellent choice for any wet shaver looking to upgrade his routine. It’s made in Sheffield, England, just like Jagger razors, and includes a must-have drip stand. This makes the price tag very attractive (a brush stand usually sets you back around 10 bucks by itself) given the quality of the brush’s bristles, its excellent construction, and its “just right” mid-range size and softness.
Pros: Best badger bristles hit the sweet spot between rigidity and softness, made in England, great water retention, the mid-sized loft and handle are ideal for most users, and it includes a stand to properly dry and extend the life of your brush
Cons: Badger bristles shed more at first than other animal fibers
The best boar bristle shaving brush
Italian design, quality materials, and an unbeatable price make the Omega Professional boar brush the best choice for budget-conscious buyers.
Although badger hair is typically the most highly regarded material for shave brushes, boar bristles can still claim the silver medal and have some distinct advantages. In fact, boar bristle brushes are still heavily favored by many men in Italy, a country where old-school barber-style wet shaving never really went out of style. The stiff bristles are great for solid soaps and are especially ideal for whipping up a rich lather in a mug or shaving bowl.
If you’ve already dipped your feet in the world of wet shaving, then you may have noticed a couple of Italian brands that stand out. Proraso is one such Italian company that makes a wide lineup of highly-regarded shaving soaps, creams, balms, and aftershaves (I personally use and recommend Proraso’s menthol shaving soap and cream), but the biggest Italian shave brush manufacturer is Omega.
The company today offers boar, badger, and even synthetic shaving brushes, but being the most popular choice among Italian wet shavers, boar bristles remain Omega’s bread and butter.
I’ve been using the Omega Professional boar bristle brush myself for a couple years now, having replaced my old badger brush. I opted for boar as I like the ability of the rigid bristles to build a great lather with solid soaps which I typically favor. The low price point didn’t hurt, either.
I especially love the way the boar bristles have broken-in over time while remaining rigid. This didn’t take long. After just a few shaves, I was already noticing the bristles splitting at the ends. My well-used brush is now surprisingly plush at the tips without becoming a fluffed-out mess that’s too delicate to use with hard soaps. It’s a big brush, too, at over five inches tall, so it feels great in the hand and the knot holds a lot of lather.
One final note regarding boar brushes: Wild hogs tend to cultivate a certain musk. I’m sure pigs find it alluring, but humans do not. I never found the Omega Professional brush to be offensive, but a mild aroma was noticeable for a while before eventually dissipating altogether. Now, my brush just smells like my soap.
If you find the initial odor bothersome, however, then wash the brush out with shampoo a few times or lather it up with shaving soap and let it sit overnight before washing it out.
Pros: Rigid bristles break in nicely with regular use, great for hard soaps and for making a lather in a bowl or mug, sheds less than a badger bristle brush, made in Italy, a large and comfortable handle, and it’s an unbeatable value
The best horsehair bristle shaving brush
Hailing from Spain, the Vie-Long 12705 horsehair shaving brush is a fantastic and 100% humane “middle option” for those seeking something in between badger and boar bristles.
Horsehair is something of a niche choice in the world of shaving brushes yet retains a vocal crowd of dedicated fans. You’ll find quite a lot of them in Spain, in fact, where horsehair brushes are still favored and manufactured today. Horsehair represents a nice middle ground between boar and badger bristles, featuring some added rigidity over badger while being a bit softer and easier to break in than boar.
Given the suitability of horsehair for shaving brushes, you almost wonder why it isn’t more prevalent. It also offers one big advantage over other animal materials in that it’s entirely humane: Boar and badger bristle generally come from dead animals, while horsehair is taken from the tails and manes of living horses. This makes horsehair a prime option for buyers who may have ethical concerns regarding boar and badger bristles but don’t want to use a synthetic brush.
The top maker of horsehair brushes today is Vie-Long, based in – you guessed it – Spain. The unique color of the horsehair and the different handle materials of Vie-Long products create a distinct style that sets these brushes well apart from those of pretty much all other brands. Vie-Long manufactures its excellent shaving brushes in Valencia, and the striking 12705 is a prime example of Spanish flair with its mid-brown bristles and rust-colored acrylic grip.
Horsehair is known for its durability and springiness, featuring impressive backbone relative to badger bristles while feeling noticeably softer on the ends than boar brushes. This blend of rigidity and flexibility makes the Vie-Long 12705 a great alternative to other natural brush materials if you want something more pliable than boar bristles yet more suitable for hard soaps and mug-lathering than a plushier badger brush.
Being cheaper than most high-quality badger brushes, the Vie-Long 12705 hits another sweet spot – price. Note that the handle on the Vie-Long 12705 is a bit small, but this won’t be a problem for most users as its squarish shape helps considerably with grip.
Expect an initial odor and shedding period with horsehair, roughly on par with those of a good badger brush, both of which should cease to be a problem after a handful of shaves.
Pros: The horsehair inhabits a nice middle ground between boar and badger bristles, it’s crafted in Spain of quality materials, the hair comes from living animals, a very attractive bristle and handle color, and it’s cheaper than most badger brushes
Cons: The handle is somewhat small
The best synthetic bristle shaving brush
Synthetic bristles have improved radically in recent years, and the super-soft Fendrihan shaving brush proves this with its excellent performance.
Once the bane of the wet shaving world, synthetic bristle brushes have come a long, long way. Before, shavers who required synthetic materials (perhaps due to allergies or a desire for animal-free products) had to suffer with stiff, scratchy nylon, but thankfully, newer material technologies have allowed for radical improvements over the past few years.
Old-school wet shavers used to turn up their noses at synthetic brushes, but times have changed. New synthetics like the Fendrihan shaving brush are capable of offering a feel similar to badger in softness while still providing enough backbone to whip up a great lather. One advantage, too, is that synthetic bristles tend to hold up better in the long-term and shed less than animal fibers. Nor do they put off any initial odors to be dealt with.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Fendrihan brush when you pick it up (other than its striking appearance) is how soft the bristles are. The tips are almost cotton-like, and when you feel them, you’ll wonder whether the brush has enough stiffness to actually lather properly. Don’t worry – it does. It’s not as good for hard soaps as boar or horsehair, but the soft synthetic bristles of the Fendrihan brush get the lathering done and feel fantastic on the skin.
Another thing to mention about the bristles is their color, one which you’ll almost never find on natural hair brushes. The black color with white/grey tips has become quite popular in the wet shaving crowd in recent years due to its unique appearance. The Fendrihan brush is made in China (as most synthetics are), but this is one case where that’s not a worry, as the best tuxedo bristles actually originate from certain makers there – no quality concerns here, especially at this price.
Of course, every brush has its disadvantages and quirks. Synthetics are no different. Unlike animal hair, these bristles don’t absorb any water, so frequent re-wetting is required. This becomes something of a balancing act, as too much water turns your lather into a bubbly slurry, but it’s not a problem once you get into a rhythm. On the plus side, synthetic bristles dry out quickly after you’re done and are extremely durable, so you can expect to enjoy your Fendrihan shaving brush for a long, long time.
Pros: Soft bristles that feel and lather much better than older synthetics, solid quality with a nice handle design, sheds less than natural hair, a unique and classy look, and it’s considerably cheaper than all but boar brushes
Cons: Holds less water than natural bristle brushes, and it’s not ideal for harder soaps
The best silvertip badger bristle shaving brush
- Maison Lambert
Those who demand the best should settle for nothing less than authentic silvertip, and the luxurious Maison Lambert badger bristle brush is a fantastic choice with a price that won’t leave you reeling.
Saving the best for last brings us back around to the venerable badger. As mentioned in the introduction, badger bristles come in four grades, with silvertip being far and away the highest quality. It’s also the most expensive, as these super-soft bristles come from the head and neck area of the badger. This fur has a dark band below the tips which are white or “silver” – hence the name. Silvertip bristles are prized for this distinct color pattern as well as for their unrivaled softness and pliability.
Silvertip badger brushes range in price from $60 to as high as $250 owing to the rarity and unique characteristics of the bristles. Of course, you don’t need to spend nearly that much to get a good brush – our other picks attest to that – but when you want the best, then the luxurious feel of a silvertip brush is worth the money. However, as wet shaving has undergone a bit of a renaissance lately, newer companies are throwing their hats into the ring with their own high-quality and competitively-priced options.
One such upstart is the New York-based Maison Lambert. Maison Lambert first built its name on its organic shave soaps but also offers an excellent and remarkably affordable silvertip brush. The genuine silvertip badger bristles feel downy on the skin, yet retain a great backbone, working up a lather is no problem and the brush needs very little (if any) breaking in. Draw your fingers across the tips and you’ll know immediately why silvertip bristles are so revered among veteran wet shavers.
A silvertip brush should also have a handle that looks and feels the part and Maison Lambert does not disappoint. The chrome and horn-look acrylic handle on this brush is one of the most striking we’ve ever seen, putting it in a totally different league than the plastic and wooden examples that dominate the market. It not only looks fantastic, but the hefty grip feels great in your hand and its extra weight provides excellent balance without being awkward or tiresome to wield.
Equally attractive is its affordability compared to similar products. Plus, the Maison Lambert shaving brush comes with a drip stand, making this easily the best value to be had for genuine silvertip badger bristle. Wet shavers even ten years ago would have brawled in the streets to get their hands on a quality silvertip brush at this price. If only the best will suffice for your face, then make the investment to level up your shaving ritual. Your skin will thank you.
Pros: Luxuriously soft genuine silvertip badger bristles, a gorgeous and great-feeling acrylic and chrome handle, includes a drip stand, and it offers incredible value for a high-end shaving brush
Cons: The smooth chrome and acrylic grip can get slippery when soapy
Check out our other great shaving guides
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