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But why would you care about using a shaving brush and what does using it properly really mean?
I’ll try explain by sharing with you a personal experience.
I remember the first time that I used a shaving brush, almost 17 years ago. It was a handmade boar bristle shaving brush with a wooden handle that belonged to my father.
Since I hadn’t told my parents up till that moment that I started shaving -mainly to avoid my mother’s comments, I decided to take things in my own hands.
And it was a complete failure.
I put way too much shaving cream on the shaving brush and started building lather on my face without hydrating the shaving brush and my face well enough.
Long story short, instead of lathering my face it seemed as if I built something on it. It felt as if I had a thick layer of dry cement on my face. I couldn’t even open my mouth.
That was embarrassing…
It was the last time that I used a shaving brush or shaving cream to shave and never touched any of these for at least 7 years.
This kind of experience motivates me to share with you the best way to use a shaving brush and do it well enough so you can enjoy a nice close shaving session.
It’s not really hard to use it, but it surely needs some practice to make your shaving routine more easier and irritation free, and why not, enjoyable.
Why would you want to know how to use a shaving brush in the first place
Using a shaving brush isn’t all about building lather on your face for wet shaving.
A shaving brush offers you other things that you wouldn’t realize.
Don’t you believe me? Here are a few examples to satisfy your curiosity:
1. Opens up your pores
2. Massages and exfoliates the skin
The soft bristles of the shaving brush together with the lather and the circular moves, softens your facial hair and exfoliates the skin removing dead cells.
3. Raises the facial hair and you get a closer shave
By swirling the brush on your face, the shaving brush reaches deep in your facial hair roots, raising it enough for your razor to cut it as deeply as possible, giving you a close and comfortable shave.
4. Reduces skin irritation
As indicated, when you use a shaving brush you exfoliate your skin, clean up your face and apply lubricity due to lather. All these contribute to reducing the chances of skin irritation or getting a razor burn to minimum. Unless you really want to give it a try and get one.
When you build up lather with a shaving brush, you only need a small amount of a good shaving soap or cream to get rich lather that gives you this excellent, pain-free shave. It surely is more economical than using your hands instead.
In the long term, it will save you hundreds of dollars as opposed to using any other type of lathering methods and products.
6. Relaxes you
There are certain things and activities in my life that clear up my mind and make me relax.
And using a shaving brush is one of them.
It’s part of the wet shaving ritual. You’re fully focused on what you’re doing at that moment and you enjoy every single step.
From the moment I put some shaving cream and start swirling the brush, my mind shuts down and think nothing else except how to build up this nice rich lather in my bowl.
It’s probably the mesmerizing circular motion that you do that empties your thoughts and relaxes your mind from all this stressful lifestyle.
I’m telling you … Get a shaving brush!
7. Builds up lather
Well, that’s why you chose to use a shaving brush, right?
If you didn’t have any shaving brush, you wouldn’t be able to shave with rich lather from shaving soap or shaving cream. Would you?
Does it matter if it’s natural or synthetic shaving brush
The use of a natural hair shaving brush doesn’t have any difference compared to a synthetic.
Technique is the same, preparation and post-shave care is similar.
The only thing that changes is how fast each brush will give you its best from the moment you buy one. And I’m explaining what I mean.
When you buy a new synthetic shaving brush, you can start using it right away and it’s going to give you the same latherability right out of the box and will continue giving you the same results, no matter how many times you use it.
This isn’t the case with natural hair shaving brushes.
Due to the fact that we’re talking about natural hair, it takes some time to break in.
Wondering what does this mean?
When you first buy a natural shaving brush such as a boar or badger hair, the brush has a very strong smell.
Apart from getting rid of the smell, natural hair brushes take some time until they reach their maximum softness and latherability and might take 10-20 uses before you get the best of out each one of them.
So, what are you going to do with a new shaving brush?
There’s a way though to shorten the breaking in period by using a small trick that requires a few simple steps to follow.
- Take your new natural hair shaving brush out of the box and wash it with dawn soap or hair shampoo.
- Soak the brush in small bowl with water and and dawn soap and leave it in for a few hours, like three or four.
- Take the brush out of the bowl, remove the excess water. Build lather on your shaving brush and let it sit on its handle during the night.
- Wash the lather off with warm water and your shaving brush is ready to be used. Smell is no longer a problem (or is it?) and the shaving brush is much softer than before.
But don’t get discouraged if you don’t do any of the above steps.
Even if you don’t do anything to break in your shaving brush fast, this will happen naturally sooner or later anyway. It really depends on how much funk you can stand when you first buy a boar or badger shaving brush during your first few shaves.
Besides the breaking in period, using a shaving brush differs among different types of brushes.
Usually synthetic brushes are very soft, while boar brushes have good backbone and soft tips. Badger shaving brushes on the other hand, are considered softer than boar brushes with softer bristles and softer tips, depending on the grade of badger hair you already got.
Shaving brush suggestions to practice
If you’re starting out with wet shaving and you’d like to practice lathering with a shaving brush, I included a few of them to choose from which I personally tested already and they are relatively inexpensive. Later on, you can purchase more expensive brushes when you master the technique and ultimately, get the best shaving brush within your available budget.
Start out with a synthetic or boar and if you can invest a little bit more money, go for a badger hair shaving brush with a grade of best or super badger (silvertip gets too expensive for beginners). I personally found pure badger (which is the lowest grade) kinda poor in terms of latherability and water retention.
Synthetic hair shaving brushes
Boar natural hair shaving brushes
Badger natural hair shaving brushes
How to use a shaving brush properly to wet shave
Before you start using a shaving brush, you need to make sure that it’s ready to be used.
For this reason, we’ll start off with shaving brush preparation, continue with techniques to build lather and complete with lathering on face. Everything in 9 simple steps.
Let’s get to it!
Get a mug or bowl and fill it up with warm water. It doesn’t have to be boiling hot.
Place your shaving brush in it and make sure the entire brush is sinked in.
Synthetic shaving brushes don’t need too much time to get ready for lathering. This is mostly the case for natural hair brushes.
Leave the brush in for a few minutes to soak. I usually take a shower in the meantime instead of waiting so that my facial hair gets softer and ready to shave. I highly recommend it.
After a few minutes, the hair of the shaving brush will be softer and lathering will be much easier to build. That said, let’s get to lathering.
Take the brush out and squeeze the hair of the brush so that excess water goes away. You don’t have to apply too much pressure. Just enough until the brush is moist but it doesn’t drip water.
Now, depending on whether you use shaving cream or lathering with a shaving soap, there’s a small difference in building lather.
Using a shaving cream
While the shaving brush is wet, push your finger on the top of the shaving brush in order to create a small cavity in the hair. This is where you put a dime size amount of your favorite shaving cream.
Swirl the brush on top of the shaving soap while it’s a bit wet for four to ten seconds until you get some soap on the brush.
From now on, it’s the same process no matter if you’re using soap or cream.
Start making pumping motions in your bowl for four to seven seconds. This helps the shaving cream and water to mix and incorporate air in the lather.
After that, swirl the brush in your bowl/mug to create lather. Building rich lather usually takes 30 to 90 seconds depending on your technique, lathering product, shaving brush, hardness of water and where you lather. Combine pumping and swirling motions to get best results.
Now that you build up lather in your bowl, it time to learn how to use the shaving brush on your face and that is, lathering your face.
No matter what kind of lathering product you choose, in principle, there are two moves that you will be doing with your brush on your face. Swirling and painting.
Let’s get to more specific details.
When you first apply lather on your face, make sure that your face is thoroughly wet.
Next thing you want to do is start swirling the brush across your entire face without applying too much pressure and continue doing so for 10-15 seconds. This way you are thorough with lathering and you also exfoliate your skin with the circular moves.
Next motion you do is painting, in the same way Daniel Son from Karate Kid painted Mr. Miyagi’s fence.
Up… Down… Breathe in, breathe out.
Once you have plenty of lather on your face, you want to smoothen it up a little bit so you get ready for the closest shave of your life.
This is particularly useful when your beard is a bit long and you want all your facial hair at a particular direction so you cut it with your razor effortlessly.
Get the best safety razor you’ve got and start shaving!
Once you complete one pass with the razor and you want to do a few more for a clean shaved face, repeat the 2 motions that we talked about before, to lather your face again.
Make sure that your lather doesn’t get dry while you shave. If this happens, pour a few drops of water in the lathering bowl and start swirling until lather gets thinner.
Using a shaving brush is quite simple isn’t it?
Post shaving, brush maintenance
Learning how to use a shaving brush properly doesn’t only refer to the shaving session and preparation. It’s also important to remember that a proper post shaving maintenance of a shaving brush is necessary so that it gives you many shaves over the years to come.
Wondering what can you do with the shaving brush once you’re done shaving?
By the time you finish, you need to rinse the shaving brush thoroughly. Do this well enough so that there’s no lather left and only clean water runs through the hair of the brush.
Besides rinsing it with water, I usually fill the shaving bowl with clean water and start swirling the brush in the bowl to get rid of any lather it might left on the hair. Rinse the water in the bowl and repeat until the brush is thoroughly clean.
Next thing you do is squeeze the excess water and if you want to take it one step further, use a towel to dry the hair as much as possible.
Once you’re done with the cleaning and wiping, you ideally want to hang the brush in a well vented location. Try not to make it sit on its handle or put it immediately in your toiletry kit.
And I’m explaining what’s the idea behind.
When you hang the brush, it allows the (natural) hair to dry properly. By hanging it from a shaving brush stand, moisture doesn’t stay in the handle where the natural hair is tied.
I’ve heard cases for shaving brushes that got rotten because they weren’t drying properly and this is the case with shaving brushes that sit on their handle to dry. Even if this has low chances to happen to your brush, why risk it anyway? Get a good shaving set or just an inexpensive shaving stand to give your shaving brush as many years as you can.
When is your next shaving session then?
There you have it!
I hope this post gave you a good idea how to use a shaving brush from beginning till end.
As you’ve seen already, it isn’t something complicated.
Nevertheless, knowing how to lather with a shaving brush isn’t enough and you need to pay special attention on the way you use and maintain it. This way you’re not only working on your technique but you also take care of your wet shaving tools to accompany you in your shaving adventures for many years to come.
As always, I look forward to your comments and feel free to ask me anything.
Is there something missing here? Do you know any other way to use a shaving brush (for shaving)?
Image Courtesy: flickr.com/practicalowl