Okay, so you’re ditching the electric razor and trying to set up your first shave kit. You’ve seen the pictures and you’ve read all the blogs – you’ve got your safety razor, your shaving cream, a shaving soap incase that doesn’t work out, and some heavy white towels to dabble the blood from your chin when you inevitably cut yourself. However, your decisiveness stops at the shaving brush. Which one is the best shaving brush to get? They all look the same! It’s all a little wooden nubby and some hair sticking out – they can’t all be THAT different, could they?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Brushes for wet shaving all come with their own little idiosyncrasies and differences in design and construction that will make all the difference in the application of your lather. With that in mind, we decided to check out the best shaving brushes that might fall under the radar – you can take or leave your Vulfixes and the rest, but these can do some serious good for your shave while not breaking the bank.

What to look for in a great shaving brush:

You’ll most often see shave brushes come in one of three major categories defined by the brush bristles: synthetic, boar hair, and badger hair. The increase in quality is almost always accompanied by an increase in price, but there is a Goldilocks-zone of getting great quality without breaking the bank.

Synthetic brushes are definitely the least expensive of the bunch, but there is a reason for that. The bristles won’t hold water as well as real hair, and your lather won’t be as rich. If you like the aesthetic, but don’t care about the actual experience of shaving, a synthetic brush might be for you. But if you’ve read this far, I doubt that you are the kind to settle for the least-expensive option. Read on, friend, and learn.

Boar-hair brushes might seem like a good idea at first. They’re less expensive than badger-hair brushes, and PETA doesn’t get all huffy if you use products made from an animal that makes Steve Buscemi look like a sex god. The thing is, a boar-hair brush will stink the moment you open the box, and it will continue to stink until the day you throw it out in favor of a badger-hair brush. You can’t wash it out. You can’t disinfect it. You can’t get rid of the smell. Even if you manage to handle the stink, boar hair is stiffer than badger hair. This will result in thinner, weaker lather. You want your lather to be rich and thick like Michael Moore, not thin and flimsy like a Michael Moore documentary. If you’re serious about getting a grown-up shaving brush, you just have to get a brush made from badger hair.

One thing about badger hair is that it’s soft and helps produce that lather you’re looking for. There’s no doubt about it: it’s the best material for a shave brush. However, while the brush material itself will not break the bank, there is still plenty of room for a gradation in price of brushes made from badger hair.

First, the part of the body the hair comes from affects the price. The natural sliver-tipped hair brushes will fetch a hefty sum. The hair itself might be considerably softer than, say, the hair from the badger’s underside, but the real cost is usually in the handle. Don’t bother with an ivory-handled brush, or anything that’s increasing the cost unnecessarily. The handle could be made of solid gold, but it’s not going to affect the quality of the lather at all – and that’s what really matters.

The main thing to consider is the difference between a “pure” and a “best” badger-hair brush. A pure badger-hair brush will be made out of real badger hair, usually from the underside of the animal, and it will work great. A best badger-hair brush will be made of hair from the back and sides of the animal. This hair should be softer and produce a better lather.

Our Picks for the Best Shaving Brushes:

Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush:

Some of you may want to start out small – there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. With that in mind, the Escali is a good fit. For one thing, it’s a smaller size than most normal shaving brushes, at least in that its knot of hair bristles is a little narrower so you can target your chin a bit more exactly. Escali brushes are made from badger hair, which is probably the best shaving brush hair to use – it’s really soft (almost too soft) but will absolutely feel gentle on your face. It’ll be a good investment for you.

The Escali in particular has a fairly stiff kind of badger hair, which will allow you to avoid the excesses of an extravagantly pillow-y feel on the face, and the simple wood construction is very nice and comfortable to hold, and will look great in your shave kit. What’s more, this brush is only $13, so you’ll be able to invest more money into getting nicer blades, razors, etc. It’s a really good budget starter to the shaving brush game.

SimplyBeautiful Basic 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush:

Another awesome badger hair brush comes from SimplyBeautiful, which boasts of a 100% badger hair shaving brush. To be fair, most badger hair brushes are 100% badger hair, but we appreciate the boldness of the claim. Like the Escali, this brush is nice and compact, but the brush head is filled a lot more densely than that one, giving you more surface area to work with. What this means is that you’ll be able to get a nice wet lather quicker, especially if you’re careful with application.

The handle itself is pretty cool, and very dramatic when compared to the other best shaving brushes out there – it’s a sleek black resin handle with no frills or excess, just pure obsidian sleekness. It looks like what Darth Vader probably uses to shave (if, you know, he could still grow a well trimmed beard under his robot mask), so if that element of drama appeals to you, go for it. What’s more, it’s just as cheap as the Escali at about $12, so you’ve got an awesome value for the cost.

Tweezerman Men’s Shaving Brush:

Now, while Tweezerman sounds like the kind of superhero you only call for if you have an especially bad splinter, the company makes some pretty amazing brushes for wet shaving. This one is also 100% badger hair (let’s face it, most of the best shaving brushes will be), and comes out in a nice big knot similar to the SimplyBeautiful’s.

The light wooden handle reminds me of a pool cue, but in the way that makes you think of old-school pool sharks and smoky bars – all that manly stuff. The design is nice and elegant, and the finish is really impressive to look at. On top of all of that, it’s a really comfortable grip when you shave – the most important thing to look at when figuring out your ideal brush is “Would I be cool holding this for 30 minutes?” If that’s the case, you’re in good shape – the Tweezerman is one of those brushes.

Parker Safety Razor 100% Black Badger Bristle Shaving Brush:

If you want something a little more futuristic and bold in look, the Parker brush is that cool, bold statement that is the answer to wet shavers who don’t want to feel like they own a saloon. The handle is a dark blue resin handle, with Parker’s sleek-looking logo in white on the front. If the Tweezerman looks like a pool cue, this looks like a bowling ball, but one of those ones on glow-in-the-dark night. (NOTE: This brush does NOT glow in the dark.)

Still, the 100% black badger hair (at least there’s a variation here; the look is very striking) gives you a nice, gentle feeling on the face without being too floppy, and it’s still a fairly cheap brush at about $25. Sure, it’s a little bit more money than some of the previous brushes we’ve covered here, but it’s a small price to pay for feeling like you’re getting a wet shave in the Matrix.

Diane Shaving Brush #9875:

Finally, here’s Diane. Diane’s one of the best shaving brushes because of its cute little compact design, its unique bristles (they’re bright blonde with a dark stripe across it, like you’re brushing your face with Pat Benatar’s hair) and the fact that it’s only $6. Honestly, if you’re starting out, you might want to invest in this one, because it gets the job done with very few frills – with luck, Diane could become your best friend.

Check out more shaving brush reviews from some friends of ours: