What To Look For In a Shaving Brush
Master Barber, Michael Symeon, gives his tips on how to shave with finesse.
When it comes to morning ablutions, a traditional shaving set with the full accoutrement, luxuriant lathers and healing creams is the grooming equivalent of starting your day with brewed coffee, smoked salmon and eggs benedict at Fortnum & Mason. Just as you can do the job quickly and mindlessly with a supermarket razor, so too can you grab a convenience snack and a chain store coffee on the go, but it isn’t exactly an enriching experience for the day ahead.
There’s a misconception that shaving is a perfunctory task as opposed to a to-be-relished pleasure, and part of that comes with using the wrong tools. A handsome shaving set will not only elevate the process, but will serve to actually make it easier too.
The right shaving brush is a good place to start. But which to choose and how to use it? Truefitt & Hill’s Master Barber, Michael Symeon, shares his expertise.
Know your badger hair
“There are different kinds of badger hair”, says Symeon. “And the different types will do different things for your shave”. The categories here are Best Badger, which comes from the back and the belly of the animal, Super Badger, which is from just the belly, and Silvertip, which is from the underside of the neck. As you can imagine, hair from the back and belly is the most coarse, hair from just the belly is moderately soft and hair from underneath the neck is the softest. That is not to say that you should discount using a coarse brush, because these have their own benefits. “Many clients will opt for a coarse brush because it has exfoliant properties”.
Softer brushes, by contrast, will hold the heat more and this will serve to soften your bristles.
Choose your shape
“There are two different shapes of brush - fan and bulb - and these have an effect on your shave”, says Symeon. A fan shape will provide more coverage and load more shaving soap with ease, however, the bristles can fold as you work your shaving cream into a lather. With the bulb shape, the bristles tend to fold less, especially if you keep to the middle of the brush - its highest point. Look for density of bristles in both as the thickness stops the brush folding over on itself when you apply any pressure.
Care for your brush properly
Brush care is, according to Symeon, of paramount importance in preserving the life of your shaving brushes and keeping them in good working order. “A brush that has been glued should last a man 2 - 10 years, and a brush that has been hand-stitched should last 10 - 30 years, with proper care”, he says. Leaving your brush sopping wet is one of the main causes of brush damage; so opt for a shaving stand that allows you to hang it upside down to drip dry. Leaving it with the bristles up will mean that liquid and soap drip into the base and slowly rot the wood.
After use, rinse your brush with cold water, squeeze it, shake it of moisture and leave it to dry upside down in a ventilated room. If you’re travelling and need your brush to dry quickly, Symeon recommends drying it with a hair dryer, but ensure that you blow in the direction of the hair and never into the bristles.
Temperature is everything
A squeeze from a can of shaving gel might be convenient, but it won’t aid your shaving routine, says Symeon, because its cold temperature will only serve to close pores and harden your stubble. Instead, wet your brush in hot water, whip up the shaving cream in a bowl and apply it to your face using a circular motion. This will warm the bristles of the brush, soften your stubble and enable the soap to lift up each hair in preparation for the perfect shave.
Don’t rule out synthetic
Of course, the world of ecological awareness in which we now live brings new demands and Truefitt & Hill has responded with innovations in technology. This has led to the creation of a stellar range of synthetic brushes that don’t employ badger hair. Our classic shaving brushes, such as Truefitt & Hill’s Wellington Shaving Brush, have been recreated using specially developed synthetic hair. Those interested in a more environmentally friendly shaving solution may be pleased to hear that synthetic brushes have their benefits too. They dry out faster than their badger equivalents, which makes them perfect for gentlemen who constantly travel. Thanks to the latest advancements in technology, synthetic hair offers excellent water retention and the same lathering properties as real badger hair, so you don’t have to compromise on the quality of your shave when opting for this vegan alternative.
We may be the most historical grooming institution in the world, but Truefitt & Hill also knows how to move with the times.