One of the things that the modern man no longer seems to make time for is a traditional wet shave. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of you reading own an electric razor and it’s probably safe to say that those of you who do wet shave use foam from a can and razor with multi-blades that cost as much as large gin & tonic!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing both the tools and techniques to help you discover the art of a traditional wet shave. Don’t worry, you won’t have to switch to a Sweeney Todd style cut-throat razor in order to get that smooth as a baby’s bottom feeling but you will need to sacrifice a little time. Like all good things in life, a good shave cannot and should not be rushed. Ideally you should allow around 20 minutes but that said, with a little practise you can shave that down to a mere ten minutes, please don’t tell me your face is not worth ten minutes in the morning! So, the first thing to consider is the shaving brush.
Traditional Badger Shaving Brushes
Badger Hair has been used for more than two centuries to make the best shaving brushes; in the past it was the preserve of the wealthy, now it is available to all. Badger hair is quality graded according to the appearance and softness of the hairs; the ascending classifications are Best, Super and Silver-tip. The price of a brush will depend on the quality of the hair and the amount of it used in the brush. You can expect to pay anything from £15 to £100 for a quality brush that should last a minimum of 10-15 years – it is an expensive resource and the highest standards of quality control are used when the hair is sourced. The hair is cleansed and sterilised to ensure that it is not only clean but performs to meet user expectations.
Why Use Badger Hair?
Badger hair is different to many types of fur – like human hair it absorbs water and it is this characteristic that makes it perfect for shaving brushes. The lathering process whips hot water, soap and air into a warm foam that cleanses the skin and lubricates the path of the razor. Water is the key element in a good shave and the more a brush can hold, the better the lather and shave will be. The fine tips of the hairs help to make a smooth and creamy lather and the exceptional softness of badger-hair cleanses the face gently, giving a comfortable and reliable shave. As mentioned, there are three main types of Badger Hair, let’s have a closer look at them:
Best Badger Shaving Brush – this is an excellent quality of pure badger hair. It is normally regarded as the benchmark standard. The hair is harvested from the majority of the pelt, including the belly. It is generally darker in colour although the colours of individual hairs vary from grey and brown to black. This quality helps creates a lather far superior to that resulting from a synthetic bristle brush.
Super Badger Shaving Brush – this is the finer hair from the back of the badger, it is longer and softer than ‘best’ badger and because it is finer, requires more hairs to fill a brush. This high quality grade of badger hair is reserved for hand filled brushes. Visually, Super badger displays a distinctive black band capped with pure white tips and is presented in a natural fan shape, using the natural hair ends to create the shape and softness.
Silver Tip Badger Shaving Brush – this is the highest quality of all. The finely graded and sorted pure badger hair is the softest, rarest and most expensive badger hair; with natural untrimmed silver tips, it is the highest quality available worldwide. The pure colouring of this hair is enhanced by careful hand grading and filling. Using long hair from the neck of the animal, it is ultra soft, flexible and will provide years of luxurious shaving.
Looking after your shaving brush
A badger hair brush is a natural product that, with loving care, should last ten to fifteen years. When you get a new brush it is quite natural for a few loose hairs to come away from the brush in the first few weeks; these are shorter hairs that did not quite reach to the glue in the base and this should not be a cause for concern.
Wet your brush thoroughly before each use, dip the tip of the brush into the shaving cream or soap and lather gently using a light circular or up and down motion; when applying the shaving cream or soap do not apply too much pressure, causing the badger hair to splay. The longevity of a quality badger hair shaving brush is directly related to the care and respect it is given. The lifespan of the hair may also be affected by using some of the commercial branded shaving products of which many contain alcohol and shaving oils.
After shaving, rinse the brush gently but thoroughly in clean water, flick the excess water away and place the brush in a stand with the hair pointing down. If you do not have a stand, leave the brush pointing up rather than horizontal, so that air can get to all the hairs and dry the brush naturally.
Natural hair that is left wet can develop mildew; try to avoid enclosing a wet brush in too small an enclosed space. If you keep it in the bathroom cabinet ensure that it has sufficient space to dry. If you shave away from home and keep your shaving brush in a travel tube or kit bag, give it an opportunity to dry as soon as you can.
No matter how carefully you look after your shaving brush it may, from time to time, require more thorough cleaning. For this you will need to purchase some household Borax Powder from an ironmongers or chemist.
- Mix some Borax in a small container with enough water to make a thick paste
- Rub the paste into the hair of the brush gently and work it down to the base of the hairs. Leave it overnight
- Rinse thoroughly with warm water