06 April 2011, under
Grooming; More Grooming articles...
By the hair of my chiny chin chin...
The biggest difference between wet shaving and the way most guys shave today is the use of a shaving brush. A good badger-hair shaving brush is the single most important ingredient in getting the perfect shave -- if you change no part of your shaving routine except to add a good shaving brush to the mix, you’ll be astounded at how much better and more enjoyable your shaves become.
Take it from a guy who used to use his fingers to smear cheap shaving gel on his face that smelled just like his deodorant – using a fine badger hair brush to brush high-end English shaving cream that smells like fresh-cut violets onto your face and neck isn’t just about treating yourself nicely after years of the ol’ slice’n’dice. It’s also the best possible way to prepare your skin and whiskers for the closest, most comfortable shave.
A shaving brush isn’t just a paintbrush for your face. A good brush – and the best brushes are made of badger hair and start at €25 – absorbs hot water and then, after you dip the tip of the brush into your tub (yes, not a can, but a tub) the brush releases and mixes the hot water with the shaving cream as you massage the brush clockwise and anti clockwise across your face and neck in a firm motion.
The combination of hot water mixing with the cream and getting beaten by the brush all over your face delivers a thicker, richer, more emollient lather that’s impossible to get with your fingers alone. A shaving brush also gently exfoliates, or removes the dead skin, from your face before shaving, which gets rid of anything coming between the blade and your whiskers. Finally, the clockwise and anti clockwise brushing lifts your whiskers and suspends them standing upright in the thick lather, which exposes the maximum whisker length to your blade as it skims along your face.
Genuine badger hair shaving brushes come in all sizes and hair types, costing anywhere from €25 for a basic pure-grade badger model to €250 for a monster-sized, high-end English hand-made job containing only the hair from the badger’s neck, which is said by some (though not by me) to be the finest and most rarefied expression of water-holding bristle known to man or badger.
Do you need a €250 shaving brush? Unless you’re Mr. Burns, the answer is no. I’ve gone through a lot of shaving brushes over the years, and as long as you stick with a genuine badger hair brush (cheaper brushes often use boar’s hair, which is much stiffer and pricklier than badger, and not nearly as comfortable on your face), the only things that matter are size and price.
Bigger brushes hold more water and tend to make better lather faster and more easily, but really, the difference in lathering between a small €25 badger brush and that crazy €250 giant is negligible as long as you know what you’re doing, which means that if you can soak a brush in a sink full of hot water for a second or two, dab some shaving cream on the tips, and then swipe it up and down on your face and neck till you work up a thick, opaque layer of lather, you know what you’re doing.
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