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Tricks & Tips to Using Shaving Brushes

Old-fashioned they may be, but there’s a reason that the humble shaving brush has been a staple of men’s grooming since the eighteenth century. Sure, you’ll need to invest a little more time on your morning routine, but the benefits are too great to ignore.

Using a shaving brush results in a rich lather that’s just impossible to achieve with a shaving foam. The brush lifts and softens your facial hair, letting the razor gently glide over your face -- ideal if you’re seeking a smooth-faced look.

Not only that, but a shaving brush gently exfoliates your face. As more and more men are learning the importance of good skincare, this can save you a lot of money on exfoliating products. And honestly, taking the time for a good shaving ritual can be relaxing and meditative -- a great way to escape the stress of a fast-paced lifestyle.

However, there are so many on the market that it can be difficult to know where to start. And how do you use the dang thing anyway? Don’t worry -- we’ve put together a guide to tell you everything you need to know within five minutes

Basic considerations:

The first thing you’ll need to think about is the shape of your brush. There’s some terminology we’ll need to go through first:

LOFT: This refers to the height of the bristles. A higher lot will retain soap and water better, but longer bristles break easier and aren’t as good for exfoliation. However, long lots are often better for sensitive skin.

KNOT: This refers to the amount of hair in the handle. Sturdier or fan-shaped brushes have larger knots.

HANDLE/OVERALL HEIGHT: This is largely a matter of personal preference. You’ll need to choose a handle size that fits well in your hand. Handles can be made of wood or plastic -- coated wood or plastic tends to last longer.

FAN VS BULB LOFT: A fan loft is more efficient -- it covers more of the surface area of the face, so it’s a great option if you want a brush-quality shave when you’re busy. Bulbs, however, can take more pressure and are better for men who want to massage their face more firmly.

Got all that? Next, we’ll take a look at bristle options.

SYNTHETICS VS REAL HAIR: Usually made from nylon wool or polyester, synthetics have three main advantages over real hair -- they break less, they’re cheaper, and they’re better for those concerned about the animals involved.

Otherwise, they don’t retain soap or water quite as well as real hair bristles. This means that shaving can take more time, as you’ll have to re-soap the brush pretty frequently.

BADGER HAIR: The Rolls-Royce of shaving brush bristles, badger hair has many advantages over its synthetic cousins. They provide the best lather out there, retain head and water, and they just feel better on your face, making them perfect for men with sensitive skin.

Badger hair brushes come in several subtypes. At the lower end, pure badger hair is slightly stiffer, and better for exfoliation.

Super badger doesn’t fight crime with his squirrel sidekick -- the term refers to premium hair with a much softer texture.

Super badger is also kind of a misnomer, as silvertip badger hair, coming from the back of the animal’s neck, is the best out there.

BOAR HAIR: Boar hair is nowhere near as soft as badger, but this can be a good thing. They lather far more quickly than badger brushers, and they can withstand more pressure -- excellent if you have dry skin in need of exfoliation. Plus, they usually last longer.

HORSE HAIR: Horse hair brushes fell out of vogue after WW1 due to an anthrax scare, but they’re back in a big way (and super-virus free). As the hair is cut from the mane or tail, they’re better for the animal-conscious, and they lather pretty well.

However, there’s a pretty distinctive scent after the first few uses, so be sure to wash your brush thoroughly.

How to Use a Shaving Brush:

So now you know the brush for you -- what do you do with it? Let’s break this down step by step.

  1. If you’re not rushing and can wet your face with a hot towel, do it -- it’ll open your pores and help the soap or cream go on smoother for an unbelievable post-shave feeling
  2. No time for towels? Simply wet the brush with hot water.
  3. Get some cream or shaving soap and, with a circular motion, work it into a lather using the brush. If you have particularly sensitive skin, it might be best to do this in a bowl with hot water rather than putting the brush directly onto the bar of soap or into the bar of cream. Unfortunately, shaving foam is no substitute -- it’ll just clog the bristles.
  4. Apply the brush to your face using a circular motion. If you’re looking to get that dead skin off, use a little more pressure.
  5. Shave using your razor of choice -- including a wet electric shaver if that’s your preference.

Ready to take your shaving to the next level?

Increasing numbers of men are getting serious about shaving. When it seems like the pace of modern life is getting faster and faster, it makes sense to slow down and look at the shaving rituals of the past, when men were free to take their time.

You’ll need to keep it slow and steady with an old-fashioned, steel handled safety razor, but your dad certainly managed it, and the sharp, titanium blades make for a real close shave.

While safety razors are making a comeback, the popularity of old-fashioned, cut-throat or straight razors has skyrocketed. Whether it’s the frontiersman feel, precision shave or the almost guaranteed avoidance of razor-burn, millions of men now feel that a straight-razor cut is well worth the time investment.