[Note from mantic59:] This is the second in a series of six posts about a new generation of synthetic hair shaving brushes that have started to appear on the market. The first post is HERE. In this post GDCarrington shares his comments about four synthetic brushes:
1. What synthetic brushes did you test for this project?
I tested four synthetic brushes over a sufficient period of time to constitute a solid testing regimen and they are as follows:
- Franks Synthetic Brush
- H.I.S. Shaving Brush
- Muhle 33 K 257
- Muhle 35 K 252
2. Have you used synthetic brushes prior to 2011? What did you think of them? What strengths and shortcomings did you find?
Yes I had used one before 2011. Before 2011 I purchased an Omega White Nylon Syntex Brush. I was not impressed. It would not hold water sufficiently. It had too much backbone. The lathering from that brush was marginal at best. The only strengths with that brush were two. Number one, it would dry out quickly and number two it could stand up to higher temperature water well.
3. Do you find significant changes in the new generation of synthetic brushes? How would you describe the changes you found? What advancements did you find, if any.
The tips tend to be much softer than the old white nylon synthetics. Some are still harder than Silvertip badger but some are very close to being as soft or even softer than Silvertip badger. They do hold water better due to the new fiber tips that are soften. They tend to be more efficient with product (soap / cream) usage because the fibers are uniformly solid versus hollow with small (micro) cavities for natural hairs. The newer synthetic brushes create lather far better than natural brushes. The newer synthetic brushes do not absorb product as natural hairs do. Because of this, they are more efficient especially with bowl lathering than equivalent natural brushes. They will apply lather to the face smoothly. They still retain, based on the solid fiber, quick drying and higher water temperature tolerances.
4. Are there brushes that stood out for you in your tests? Why?
The H.I.S. shaving brush stood out for several reasons. The first is that it was the softest synthetic brush I tested. It rivals my Silvertip Badger and may be slightly softer. It is a large brush, but because synthetics do not bloom it remains a very usable size, and is now tied most efficient brush I have in my collection. The knot size, loft and density of fibers allow this brush to create a large amount of lather. There has not been a time where there has been much more lather than I needed using the same amount of product as with my natural brushes. The H.I.S. shaving brush, as currently priced, is the best brush on the market on a performance versus price basis.
The new Muhle 33 K 252 even though it is a more expensive brush at over $100 U.S.D. also performed at the level that the H.I.S. synthetic performs at. It looks and feels more like a badger than the H.I.S. and has a much better appearance. This brush is now tied for the most efficient brush I have in my collection. The knot size, loft and density of fibers allow this brush to create a large amount of lather. There has not been a time where there has been much more lather than I needed using the same amount of product as with my natural brushes.
If you are looking for high performance at a budget price, the H.I.S. is the best path.
If you are looking for high performance in a brush that is a true badger look alike, the Muhle 33 K 252 is the best path.
5. In what areas did you find new synthetic brushes most improved? Where do they need further improvement?
Here are the areas in which synthetic brushes have improved.
They have improved in terms of looks in which they are more like natural brushes visually. Some almost visually would pass as natural if sitting next to another natural brush. They are softer at the tip and provide excellent backbone. They are more efficient and apply lather much better than ever before. For bowl lathering, I like them more than my Simpson Colonel X2L, Vie Long Zurito, and Omega Boars. All the naturals are excellent brushes, but the new synthetics in my opinion beat the naturals for bowl lathering.
Here are the areas in which synthetic brushes need improvement.
The very area that synthetics excel over naturals are the areas that also need improvement. The fact that synthetic dry so fast is because the fiber is solid and uniform whereas the natural hair has small pockets that can hold water, and product as well. This in my opinion makes face lathering a little different than using a natural brush.
When I face lather with my Simpson or my Vie Long, I can dunk the brush in the water, shake off the excess and apply the brush to my face and generate the lather with just the water on the brush and the soap. I generally do not need any more water for a three pass shave plus a head shave.
Now when I use the synthetic brushes, the breech opens out a little too easily allowing water to flow out the brush too quickly. Shaking, even gently, reduces the usable water in the brush rapidly. So when I begin to face lather it is better to have less water on the brush and while generating lather for the first pass, gently dip the brush into just enough water to allow the lather to fully develop. Then there is plenty of lather for three pass shave plus a head shave. The synthetics that were better at holding water after shaking were the H.I.S. and the Muhle 33 K 257 and 35 K 252 because the softer flayed tips. This H.I.S. and the Muhle 35 K 252 held water even better because of the brush size and density of the fibers. I can coax the H.I.S. and the Muhle 35 K 252 into performing a full three passes and a head shave without having to add more water after shaking.
Some say that the fibers need to be further developed to mimic natural hairs to hold water a little more efficiently. If the fibers are changed too much, however, then the synthetics will lose their fast drying advantage. Overall, I prefer the fast drying advantage to remain with the synthetics.
Brushes of all types have a series of strengths and weaknesses and so a tradeoff is made by the user based on user preference and usage patterns.
6. In your opinion, are there areas where further testing is indicated? Please describe.
Yes, I think that more testing can be performed. I think a challenge of total water and product usage is in order for synthetics versus natural brushes in terms of allowing the user to have only a limited amount of both water and product to use to generate lather and to measure the lather produced by volume.
7. Do you have any summary comments regarding your findings? Would you recommend them to others?
As I stated earlier, all brushes have a series of strengths and weaknesses. It is up to the user to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each brush to determine the brush that is right for each user. Now for decades the choices that have dominated the discussion have been Badger, Boar and Horse. All of these solutions have a single commonality. They are from natural sources namely animals. Now based on the developments over the past couple of years, synthetic knots and fibers have come into their own. They are now at a level of sophistication and robustness, that they can and do compete in every way with the natural products. This provides the traditional shaver with one additional choice in the arsenal of available products. In the grand scheme of things, it is always better to have more choices and these new synthetics provide some excellent choices. Would I recommend them to others? Yes. I have and I do recommend them for both new and experienced traditional shavers.