Shaving for the first time – whether your beard or your head – can be a difficult experience. Whether you were taught or learned all on your own, you’ve almost certainly found a method that works for you each and every time you pick up your favorite razor.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? But what if there was a way to enhance your shaving experience beyond using a shaving cream and razor alone? To find a better shaving experience, you’ll need to reach back to a shaving tool you probably associate with your grandfather.
That’s right, it’s time to add a shaving brush to your pre-shave regimen!
Using a shave brush may seem simple enough, but there’s certainly a right way and a wrong way to use it – just like a razor! In this article, you’ll learn about how to use a shaving brush, as well as some tips from current lathering brush users regarding proper maintenance and care for your new favorite shaving tool.
In addition, you’ll learn about the differences between several popular types of shaving cream brushes, each with their own unique benefits when it comes to providing you an even closer shave.
Once you make the switch to a shaving brush and begin using it the right way, you’ll never go back to shaving without it. So, step up to the mirror, grab your shaving brush and favorite shaving cream, and get ready for the best shave you’ve had in years.
A Quick Guide Using a Shaving Brush
For those looking to learn how to use a shaving brush on the fly, I’ve compiled the main steps for proper usage right here. In just a few steps, you’ll be shaving using a time-honored method that will leave your face smooth and irritation free:
Step #1 – Wet your face with a hot towel in order to open your pores.
Step #2 – Ready your shaving soap or shaving cream by placing it in an appropriate bowl or tin.
Step #3 – Ready your shaving brush by placing the bristles in warm water.
Step #4 – Prepare your shaving soap or shaving cream by applying the wet brush in order to create a lather.
Step #5 – Lather your brush and apply it to the face or head.
Step #6 – Shave!
Step #7 – Clean off your face or head, leaving time to properly care for your brush (see our shaving brush maintenance section for more information on how to do so).
How to Use a Shaving Brush – A Detailed Guide
Shaving has always been a slow, meticulous process – and not to its discredit! Just as a craftsman shapes his clay into a magnificent statue, you two must take time to attend to every edge and detail on the masterpiece that is your face and head. Though shaving with a lathering brush may add a bit of time to your shaving process, you’ll quickly see that this added time investment will pay dividends for your looks.
Follow this process for using a shaving brush carefully and you’ll be well on your way to the smoothest, least irritated post-shave skin you’ve likely ever experienced.
Step #1 – Wet your face with a hot towel. This is a time-honored method that old-fashioned barbers have long used to relax their customers and prepare their skin by opening their pores.
If you have a favorite shaving oil,this is a good time to apply it as well in order to minimize your razor’s friction later on.
Step #2 – Ready your shaving soap or shaving cream. As with regular shaving, make sure your favorite shaving lubricant is close at hand. While you can use traditional shaving cream with your shaving brush, many experts recommend using shaving soap instead. This is because shaving soap more effectively lathers up when applied with a shaving brush.
If you are using shaving cream, place some of the appropriate material into a small bowl.
If you are using shaving soap, either leave the soap puck in its tin or place it into a small bowl (you may even choose to buy a specialized dish called a shaving mug built specifically for this purpose).
Step #3 – Ready your shaving brush with warm water. Fill a small bowl with warm water and place it somewhere in reach (you may need it during the remainder of this process).
With your shaving brush in hand, place the bristles into the water and soak them for several seconds. Ensure that all of the bristles are soaked properly. Once you’ve done this, remove the brush from the water and shake excess water from the bristles. The brush should not be dripping wet when you move to the next step.
Step #4 – Prepare your shaving soap or shaving cream for application. Many first-time users are quick to ask how to lather shaving soap with their new brush. The process is fairly simple, especially given the convenience of modern shaving soap and shaving cream canisters.
If you are using shaving cream, this step will likely not be necessary (unless you are using a non-foaming cream). If you are using shaving soap, on the other hand, take the wet shaving brush and begin to work it around the surface of the soap puck in a circular fashion. Do so gently, so as not to damage the fragile bristles.
Quickly, a soapy lather should begin to form. Work up a bit of a lather, adding more water if necessary (though more water may also thin out the mixture). In all, you won’t need much soap lather, especially if you use a quality soap.
Step #5 – Lather your brush and apply it to the face or head. Cover the head of your brush with the soapy lather and begin to apply it to the appropriate surface in a circular motion. Be sure to cover the entire space that you intend to shave in order to prevent added irritation. If you have longer hair, this application will also help to raise up individual strands, making them easier to shave off.
Step #6 – Shave! This step is simple enough. Simply grab your favorite straight razor or safety razor and begin to trim your facial or head hair.
Step #7 – Clean off your face or head and brush. Once you’ve finished your shave, rinse and dry your face as you would after a regular shave. Be sure clear off all excess shaving soap that may have become trapped in the remaining hair or beard follicles.
Just as you care for your face and head after a shave, be sure to take some time to care for your shaving brush as well. Jump to our section on shaving brush maintenance to learn more.
Types of Shaving Brushes
Not all shaving brushes are made alike. In fact, one of the biggest differences between individual shaving brushes is the composition of their bristles. While most any kind of shaving brush can complete the task of moving soap lather to your face, only some brushes can go above and beyond when it comes to gently messaging it into your hair and pores.
In general, there are five different types of shaving brushes - each with unique properties that help them excel at what they do and help to provide you with an excellently smooth shave.
Synthetic Bristle Shaving Brush – Generally the most affordable in the pack, these entry-level models make a good brush for those just learning about the benefits of using a shaving brush for the first time. Though the bristles tend to be a bit shorter, they provide a medium degree of stiffness for a quality application process.
Boar Bristle Shaving Brush – Like a wild boar itself, these bristles are stout and strong. As such, these models are built to last the longest and provide optimal flexibility when it comes to reaching tough spots on your face or head. Because of their stiffness, these bristles are also the best at opening your pores while you apply the soap lather.
Pure Badger Bristle Shaving Brush – Though the lowest grade among badger brush types, these models remain a cut above the rest simply by virtue of their badger hair origins. In addition, these badger brushes tend to be the most affordable among its cousins, as well as one of the best performers when it comes to stiffness. If you are learning how to use a badger brush, then this model is for you.
Super Badger Shaving Brush – Colloquially known as “super badgers,” these models are the option of choice for at-home shavers who value a soft application while remaining sturdy long term. When someone asks, “What’s a badger brush?”, this is often what they are referring to. Though they tend to cost a little more, these brushes are truly an upgrade over synthetic and boar hair brushes.
Silver Tip Badger Shaving Brushes – Hands down, the best of the best when it comes to shaving brushes. High-end barbers exclusively use these models because they provide unparalleled comfort and performance. Though they may set you back $45 or more, you can bet that you won’t find a better shaving brush experience then these. By far, the best we've used is the Parker Safety Razor Silver Tip Badger Brush.
Tips for Shaving Brush Maintenance
Shaving with the help of a shaving brush has been around for some time. But modern masters have perfected the art, including finding the best ways to care for one’s own shaving brush. Shaving brushes are made from delicate quills, often from animals, so they must be treated well and properly maintained or else they will quickly deteriorate.
Here are a few of these professional tips to keep your shaving brush at peak performance for many shaves to come.
Tip #1 – Never use water hotter than you can endure after a few seconds on your brush. Like your hair, water this hot will break down the bristle’s structure and cause them to degrade quicker.
Tip #2 – Don’t sterilize your brush. Your shaving soap is plenty sterile enough and the sterilization process only goes to degrade your brush’s bristles further.
Tip #3 – Be sure to not mash the bristles. This can happen while making the soap lather or when applying the lather to your face. In either face, mashing causes the bristles to bend and break.
Tip #4 – Shake all excess water from your brush after use. Water left on the brush can engorge the bristles, causing them to denature and hold soap lather less effectively.
Tip #5 - Properly dry your brush entirely. Use a soft towel to gently dry all of the bristles. Never store a damp shaving brush and never leave your shaving brush out to air dry.
Tip #6 – Clean your shaving brush every now and then. Follow appropriate cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure soap and mineral build-up doesn’t decrease the brush’s functionality. In general, a solution of white vinegar and water should be appropriate (though don’t leave your brush in this solution for long).