Boar bristle is a stiffer bristle than badger hair and is an economic choice. Due to the stiffness they can be used to exfoliate the skin at the time of shaving. The main issue with this type of shaving brush is that the bristles are quite brittle and prone to breaking.
Badger hair naturally absorbs water so when the shaving brush is combined with hot water and a quality shaving cream or soap, the lathering process introduces air and creates a warm, rich creamy lather that cleanses the skin, lifts the beard hairs and lubricates the path of the razor.
There are 3 different terms generally used to specify the quality of the badger hair used in a brush.
Pure Badger Hair – this is made using the most common hair from the underbelly of a badger. This is the economy grade.
Best Badger Hair – a good quality badger hair which is normally regarded as the benchmark standard of shaving brush manufacturers. It is generally darkish in colour. This creates a lather far superior to that resulting from the use of a bristle brush.
Silver Tip Badger Hair/ Super Badger Hair – this the most expensive and rarest type of badger hair. This is longer and softer than best badger hair and because it is also finer, more hair is required to fill the brush. Most silver tip badger hair brushes are handmade and filled, no machine trimming is used.
The synthetic brush offers an alternative to the traditional badger hair brush for people who do not wish to use animal products. They tend to be used in the least expensive brushes made and in general are worth about what you pay for them. However recent developments of synthetic materials has significantly improved the quality of some synthetic shaving brushes. The best synthetic shaving brushes currently available now approach the quality of silver tip shaving brushes.
The most popular handle is synthetic. It can be any one of many materials: nylon, plastic, micarta, or one of several modern composites. Advantages of the synthetics are moisture resistance, colourfastness, and breakage resistance. Wooden brush handles can split without appropriate care so should be allowed to drip dry in a “bristle downward” position after use.
Handles come is a variety of different shapes and styles and which one is best is down to personal preference, but an important decision should be the length of the handle.