When looking at some of the best shaving brushes on the market, you will nearly always see badger hair reign supreme…
…and with good reason!
Badger hair not only performs incredibly well in a wet shaving environment, but it also can whip up a luxurious lather that is second to none.
Now in this article we aren’t going to try and convince you that badger hair is on par with boar hair, nor are we going to tell you that boar hair is quickly going to surpass badger hair in a few years time, it’s not.
Instead, the goal of today’s article is to simply discuss the two types of shave brushes, where they make sense in a man’s medicine cabinet, and if you should even consider a boar’s hair brush in the first place (hint: yes).
The Rich History Of The Badger Hair Brush
Traced all the way back to the 1750s in France, the shave brush was a staple used in barbershops.
With handles made from valuable materials including ivory, gold, and tortoise shell to name a few, shave brushes were (and still are) a status symbol among affluent men.
If you have never applied shave cream with a traditional shave brush you are truly missing out, not only on the amazing lather and downright comfortable application process, but also likely a much better shave as well!
Terms Of A Shave Brush Are The Same Whether It’s A Boar or Badger Hair Brush
Before we get into the nuances of both these shave brush types, we first want to get all the men reading this up to speed.
Not only will this allow you to get a much deeper and richer appreciation for the brush, but it will help you with product selection should you decide to buy one of these at some point in the near future:
Knot – The knot is the area where the fibers are packed into the handle and are secured. Generally speaking, a dense knot will not only be more expensive, but will likely perform better when applying shave cream.
The reason is that a densely packed knot will be able to retain water (the key ingredient to generating a lather), that can make even subpar shave creams (or soaps) perform much better.
Loft – The loft of the shave brush is the length between the knot and the tip of the bristles. Loft length can vary from one shave brush to another. Longer lofts can typically make it easier to perform wider strokes of the brush as the bristles will splay further.
Shorter lofts will give you a bit more control over the application of the shaving cream.
Backbone – The backbone of a shave brush refers to the fibers themselves. Brushes with a firm backbone will need to be pressed a bit harder to the surface of the skin in order to get a full application. Typically brushes that have dense knots will coincidentally have stiffer backbones.
Handle – While old school shave brush handles were made from exotic materials, today’s shave brushes are largely constructed from sustainable materials including wood, acrylic, metal, etc.
Like loft length, shorter brush handles offer greater control over application. Longer handles may offer greater comfort when generating a lather in a mug or for men with larger hands.
Price Comparison Of Badger vs Boars Hair Brushes
When looking at these two fibers, it can be a bit tricky to compare these in a fair manner. The reason being is that badger hair brushes come in several different grades, whereas boar’s hair is very rarely disclosed (sometimes you may see top or premium – but this is largely marketing jargon).
What does this mean?
When looking at a badger hair brush, don’t be surprised if you find a silvertip badger brush with a price tag north of $100 bucks.
However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a pure badger hair brush could only set you back about $15 to $30 dollars.
Boars hair brushes on the other hand all largely stay under $20 (even for the premium offerings) – making it great for those men looking to adopt the traditional shaving regimen on a budget.
Backbone Of Boar vs Badger Brushes
One of the great things about badger hair brushes is that they offer a terrific balance with their backbone.
With silvertip fibers being incredibly soft, a densely-packed knot will allow the fiber to still have ample backbone to draw up enough load from a shave soap.
Contrary to the badger hair brush, boar fiber is known for its rather stiff backbone.
Some wet shaving enthusiasts are turned off by this property as the fiber can feel a bit too stiff – especially if they previously used a badger hair brush.
What does this mean when applying a shave cream?
Too stiff of a backbone in a fiber will make it tougher for the brush to bend to the contours of your face.
Therefore, when applying shave cream around the jaw line or near the nose, a boars hair bristle won’t be as uniform in application and ultimately may make for less than supple skin prior to shaving.
Ultimately a boar bristle will feel much more rugged than that of a badger.
Shave Cream Lather Of Both Boar And Badger Hair
As we eluded to a bit earlier, when it comes to the shave brush, developing a rich, warm, and thick lather is everything.
A lather that doesn’t lubricate your skin or create a warm and insulated layer of shave cream will yield a very poor performing shave.
With a badger hair brush, the ability to retain water is second to none.
A fiber capable of great water retention will allow it to generate a foamy and rich shave that will feel amazing.
With a boars hair fiber, they simply don’t retain water at the same rate.
This not only requires much more work on the end of the user to try and generate an acceptable lather, but it may also require reloading of the shave cream or soap during the process.
While heat retention may not seem like a big deal to most, if you are making two or even three passes with a double edge safety razor, heat retention becomes an issue.
For most boar’s hair fibers, they will completely lose any signs of heat after a few short minutes.
However, with a badger brush, you can expect the shave cream to still be acceptably warm after 5 to 10 minutes of the initial load.
What Should You Go With – Badger Or Boar Hair?
Both shave brushes have their place in the pantheon of shaving accessories.
If you don’t mind spending money on performance, then you should go with a silvertip badger hair brush.
It simply performs much better than any other shave brush on the market – boar’s hair included.
Now if budget is a concern, then your options become a bit more muddied.
While a pure grade badger fiber can definitely perform well, when compared to some of the premium boar’s hair fibers, their performance will be very similar.
What we would recommend in this scenario is to simply skip on both and go with a slightly higher grade of badger hair – best or super.
You will typically find these fibers for only a few dollars more and will likely perform exponentially better for most men.
Badger And Boars Hair Aside – It Means Nothing Unless You Get A Shave Cream
Whatever you do, don’t use a shave brush with a canned gel or cream.
While there is nothing technically stopping you from doing so, an upgrade to a more traditional shave cream is in order.
Even widely adopted brands like Taylor of Old Bond Street or Proraso can make a heap of difference when it comes to overall shave comfort.