Shaving brushes — natural or synthetic hair?

Your guide to the different properties of natural and synthetic shaving brush hairs

Muhle shaving brush heads natural synthetic fibres

There are several factors to keep in mind when deciding which natural or synthetic brush type might best suit your needs.

For hundreds of years, men had only ever used sponges to lather up their shaving soap. Then, in the 1750s, a revolutionary and highly effective new way of lathering was introduced by the French — the shaving brush.

Despite the rather more recent inventions of the electric razor and the aerosol can of shaving foam, the numerous benefits of traditional wet shaving have maintained a high demand for shaving brushes, with the current market offering a wide range made from both natural and synthetic materials.

When deciding which of these natural or synthetic brush types might suit your needs best, there are several factors that you might want to consider.

Muhle Germany manufacturing in-house fibres premium

Mühle develop premium synthetic fibres in-house, specifically designed for wet shaving.

 

Natural badger hair 


Pure Badger

Pure Badger is the most affordable grade of badger hair, and can be found on the majority of the animal’s body, including the back.

The dark hair shafts tend to be thicker and coarser than other badger hairs, and provide a vigorous massaging and exfoliation effect.

While Pure Badger brush heads don’t hold as much water as the higher grades of natural badger hair, their strong backbone provides a swift and sturdy lifting of the whiskers, and is beneficial when lathering up harder soaps.

The excellent heat retention capacity of pure badger hair also means that the brush head stays warmer throughout your shave, which opens up the pores and provides a more comfortable shaving experience. 

Pictured: Mühle's Vivo Pure Badger Shaving Brush in Plum Wood 


Best Badger

Often taken from the stomach area of the animal, Best Badger hairs are lighter, finer and more flexible than Pure Badger ones.

Their finer quality and greater length means that each Best Badger knot can be more densely packed, and denser knots are much quicker to lather up.

The fine hairs don’t require trimming at the ends either, making their tips softer than those of lower grades of badger hair — and the softer the hair, the better the capacity for water retention.

Overall, Best Badger fibres combine a firm, strong backbone similar to that of Pure Badger with a level of softness which approaches that of the luxuriously soft Silvertip.

Pictured: Wilde & Harte's Eltham Badger Hair Shaving Brush


Silvertip Badger

Considered by many as the crème de la crème of natural hair for the making of premium handcrafted shaving brushes, Silvertip Badger is sourced from the supremely soft yet fibrous hair on the animal’s neck and muzzle. Its limited availability makes it more expensive and sought-after than lower badger hair grades.

Silvertip Badger brush heads can be distinguished by their shimmering silver-coloured bristles with a distinctive black band running around their mid-section.

Their semi-circular shape is created by hand-binding, and, as the tips do not require trimming, they retain their natural softness and massaging effect. An especially flared bristle load also means that they are very quick to lather up.

Because Silvertip Badger hairs are longer and finer than other types, they create densely packed brush knots which are exceptional at retaining water, and therefore provide a firm, rich and more emollient lather.

As with other natural hair types, this premium grade of badger hair is outstanding at retaining heat.

Pictured: Mühle's Kosmo Silvertip Badger Shaving Brush in Bog Oak
 

Synthetic hair


Black Fibre

Black Fibre brushes provide a superbly soft vegan alternative to those made with badger hair, making them highly recommendable for sensitive skin.

As well as their softness, these synthetic fibres offer a sturdy and non-porous texture, so they react especially well to loading and splaying when lathering up.

Whereas natural hair will have variance even within the same hair grade, synthetic fibres provide superb shape retention and consistency. The heat resistance capacity of vegan fibres also means that they are able to withstand higher water temperatures than natural hair.

Given that synthetic brush heads are quicker to dry than natural ones — and the maintenance required to clean them is generally very low — they make ideal travel companions.

Pictured: Mühle's Liscio Black Fibre Shaving Brush in High-Grade White Resin


Silvertip Fibre®

Silvertip Fibre® brushes are made using premium-quality vegan fibres, developed in-house by Mühle and specifically designed for wet shaving. 

The PETA-approved bristles are processed by hand and combine all of the advantages of synthetic fibres — including shape retention, heat resistance and a very quick drying time — with superbly soft tips and a flexible yet firm mid-section, making them ideal for gentle massaging while also providing the necessary backbone for more vigorous splaying and lathering.

Silvertip Fibre® brush heads also tend to be more hard-wearing and durable than those made of natural hairs, and their fine bristles form a densely packed knot. This property, along with the non-porous texture of the bristles themselves, ensures a luxurious lather which forms very quickly and with a smaller amount of shaving soap or cream than required when using natural hair brushes.

Pictured: Mühle's Edition No.1 Silvertip Fibre Shaving Brush in Carbon
 

Quick guide to natural and synthetic shaving brush hairs


The scale is from 1-4, with a 4 being the highest:

 

Pure
Badger

Best
Badger

Silvertip
Badger

Black
Fibre

Silvertip
Fibre

Dries quickly
(portable)

2

2

2

4

4

Retains heat
(opens pores)

4

4

4

2

3

Retains shape
(aesthetics)

3

3

3

3

4

Retains water
(good lather)

3

4

4

2

3

Softness
(comfort)

2

3

4

4

4

Quick lathering
(convenience)

2

3

3

3

4

Exfoliating
(removes dead skin)

4

3

3

2

3